Monday, 25 January 2010

The Big Bazaar.

The conflict of survival and sustaining one's art practice is an old story for artists the world over. There are many good artists who never quite catch the eye of the big time cultural "talent scouts", and who themselves cannot find their way into the circuit of patronage directly, because their personalities may not incorporate the "in your face/notice me" attitudes. The power games of the "little galleries" are often the ones that are the most tedious to observe these days, because their posturing as "promoters" of art is nothing more than hogwash really. Everything is about the big S word. Sell-Sale-Saleable! Take it off the wall if you must, because the attitude is really that of a shop, and the exhibition merely becomes a cover-up to the trader mentality that lurks dangerously close under the skin of these young art dealers.

Which is a real pity. Because I think that the "little galleries" have such a big role to play. I think the best example that we had in India was Lakeeren Art Gallery in Mumbai in the 90's. A small gallery run by Arshiya Lokhandwala, it remains a water shed as a space that introduced some of the most interesting and new ideas from young artists. It was successful because she gave to them the freedom of presenting work with no preconditions of size, style, medium or any such nonsense. Young and enthusiastic herself, Arshiya took risks without too much of a fanfare; and the genuineness with which she operated was reflected in the lack of pretentiousness of the art that was exhibited during that time.

Today every one wants a winner; but the winner is really the cash pot that is being "sniffed" as the treat at the end of the trail. Young artists cannot all be winners instantly. The pressure to live up to being able to deliver these "great art works" is killing the natural process of learning, that needs to ramble and meander a bit. Artists need that time where they can experiment after college, and it is vital that we have people in the art world who can recognise this, and offer belief and sponsorship, patronage and opportunities; so that we do not loose really good artists merely because we never gave them a fair chance to grow to know themselves better.

It requires true dedication from those "little galleries" to be faithful to their young artists and dream their dreams with them. It cannot be that the economic stability of the owners shuts out the reality of the artists that they deal with. It is this dislocate that cannot ever make for relationships between an artist and a gallery to be magical and stand the test of time.

I am one of those rare artists who has had extremely special relationships with every gallery that I have worked with. The gallery that I work with today spans a twenty years relationship that is close and caring in nature. My art is not a mere commodity for them; I am somebody whom they nurture and whom they belief in.

I think this is the real equation. Get it right and it holds a truth that is indescribable, but which has a pulse that is alive.

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