Wednesday, 7 April 2010

The carrot and the stick game!

Lee Hayan is a young Korean art student who is currently on the cusp of completing her undergraduate painting course, from the faculty of Fine Arts Baroda. She was approached by Vidha Saumya who was deputed by Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke to organise/curate(?!) a show of young artists for an exhibition titled April Salon. This young art student was extremely ethical in all the subsequent communication with the gallery; talking with both Vidha Saumya and Usha Mirchandani over the phone repeatedly about all the details she needed to know; and promptly attending to all that they were asking for, despite being in the middle of her final examination. The cost of the framing (done professionally at Harmony Arts of Baroda), and the packing of the work in a proper wooden crate, plus the cost of the Gati courier service; was all borne by this young student.

Well what's all the fuss about, you may ask. Well, when Hayan went with all her enthusiasm to attend the opening of this show, she was in for a rude shock. The set of ten match box works, beautifully box-framed ( I know because I have seen them myself), were no where to be seen in the exhibition! Well if that wasn't a heart stopping moment for this young art student, Ranjana Steinruecke just minutes before the show opened, authoritatively asked her to reduce the pricing of her works from Rs. 7,500/- each ( which includes the gallery commission and all other overheads) to Rs. 3,000/-.
When Hayan requested that she preferred not to do so as this was the agreed upon price with Usha and Vidha, she was rudely told off by Ms. Steinruecke and informed that if she did not bring the price down then even if someone was willing to purchase it at this original price, she as the Gallery director would not want to sell it for that price! Where the logic in this lies only pretty Ranjana will ever know!

Hayan was sent packing with her set of ten beautiful works because of the whims of power.

That you humiliate a young person you seek out to invite yourself, seems rather a strange modus operandum!

The moral of the story is that young enthusiastic and vulnerable art students are preyed upon by greedy galleries who want to jump into the "grabbing game", (even before students complete their degree courses!), to adorn their walls with "new finds" like trophies from a hunting trip. These galleries of course, make it out that they are the imperial lords and ladies of aesthetic judgement and power brokerage, and that these young art students or fledgling artists should cower in fear and respect, before them. What a sham!

Perhaps it is not inappropriate to remind such galleries that good will is a much better currency for the longevity of transactions that are not fly by night.

I remember the exquisite finesse and courtesy that Mr. Alkazi of Art Heritage, Pheroza Godrej of Cymroza and The Daruwala's of Sarla Art Gallery extended to me when I was the "new find" in the art world in 1984. What is the greatest pity is that many of these smaller galleries posture at being human in their approach, but too many turn out to be sharks.
Carrot and stick games are boringly transparent and shameful. It is a sad day to know how desperate are some galleries that they care so little for the simple and basic precincts of decency.


  1. Many galleries (including the one you have mentioned) don't have the basic decency of even giving a second glance to a gallery visitor if the visitor doesn't fit their parameters of an 'art lover'. The parameters, obviously are set upon the exterior where a Gucci bag wins approval over a non Gucci one.

    I remember going for a well known artist's show that was organised by a popular Delhi based gallery at Jehangir. On asking them the price of a work that I had really liked, they looked at me as if I was a worm and haughtily told me that I couldn't afford it.

    Whether its a budding artist or a budding art collector (not investor mind you), many galleries still seem to be way too snooty and impolite with this set.

  2. After reading your post of 17th October 2011, I could not help coming back to this one...indeed you are privileged to share a relationship of mutual trust and confidence with Sakshi Art Gallery...So Cheers once again