Monday, 17 October 2011

By the back door entries....

Almost everyone who desires to buy art in India wants to by-pass the gallery system to skip paying the commission! Surendran and I are among a rare handful of artists who choose to only accept projects and invitations that will be handled by the gallery that represents us. We do not have any contractual agreements signed with our gallery that binds us legally in any way; yet our own discipline demands a stringent adherence to these self- imposed ethics because we believe this to be a correct professional attitude within which to conduct our art practice.

Anyone who is familiar with the Indian art community should be aware of how each artist chooses to operate. Therefore it is surprising and rather amusing too, that Surendran and I are repeatedly approached by independent clients with offers  to negotiate  deals with them directly, with the expectation that  the gallery that represents us will play no role in the management of the project on offer to us. We are very clear in our  communication regarding the role that we choose for our gallery to have within all projects that we undertake, and find it irksome that people somehow don't quite believe that we prefer this as a personal choice.  In  executing works of art, and especially major projects, there are far too many factors of management involved that are cumbersome and impossible for an artist to handle alone. A gallery system is the scaffolding that allows for an artist to remain undisturbed from having to deal with the logistics of dissemination and commerce, and in fact safe guards both the artist as well as the client equally.

Indian art entrepreneurs need to become more savvy in their understanding of the relationship of the artist with their galleries. To presume that if they wave foreign clients and talk big money that artists will therefore compromise  their principles and ethics seems to suggest that they have no idea how organised a sector the art world is fast becoming. No international artist of repute anywhere in the world will negotiate projects without an agent and/or a lawyer present. It is time for the art entrepreneurs to please take stock of the current frame works of art management in India; and come to terms with it. My advice to them is to also  do their home-work please, and know the artist they are approaching. That way we can all quash the silly ping-pong communication and cat and mouse games played, and get on with our own agendas. You know it is true......that's the way....aha, aha,.....I like it....aha, aha! 


  1. Its fine for an established artist like you to stick with you gallery/representative.. To some one who isn't as established, its a matter of earning his/her bread no? If I am not a very wealthy guy and want to buy your art, is it a sacrilege if I come to you directly because going to a gallery costs me 33% more? Not everybody is an 'Investor'

  2. It is true that we often under-rate the value of the go-betweens, agents or managers,
    whose job is to get the best value for their clients, be it in the field of sports, art, films, modelling, business negotiation, fact in almost all domains, these intermediates are vital for successful ventures...
    So Rekhajee, cheers to your 'partnership' with Sakshi Gallery, I hope to see your works on my next visit...this time I'll call up before to make sure that they are not packed away to make place for another exhibition!

  3. Namya: Ethics is a personal issue. However there are norms of conduct within all professional worlds that exist; and which need to be adhered to within any society. This is true for the area of an art practice too. If any artist, established or otherwise, is represented by a gallery, then back-door transactions are certainly unacceptable. Art today is an organized sector in India, and must hold transparency and accountability; and be respected as doing so. An artist may certainly sell their own work as a business module of self-employment. However here too, the dignity of transaction lies solely in one's own hands. As an artist I have turned down many lucrative offers because they did not prescribe to the guidelines of ethics that I hold as imperative to all that I do. On the other hand I have contributed as an artist, 100% earnings to organisations, individuals and causes right from the beginning of my career, when my own personal economy was very uncertain. Each of us therefore will have to determine those personal guidelines that hold meaning and value for us as individuals. However, in my book of reasoning, the territory of ethics is not a space I am willing to compromise on.

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