Saturday, November 12, 2005

A pleasure for the soul

The Indian Express Home > Front Page Saturday, November 12, 2005
INDIA EMPOWERED TO ME IS When art, the custodian of a nation’s culture, gets its due
Our policy of public art spaces has done much to keep alive the spirit and creativity of a fledgling artist alive. Look how booked are some of the Capital’s galleries at the Lalit Kala Akademi, India Habitat Centre or India International Centre. This is a contrast to the West where several artists die unsung, sheerly for lack of places that encourage the art, regardless of whether it makes money or not. Certainly, much has gone right with the way art has been patronised and nurtured in our country. Some, like I, have reaped the benefits of it. But I can’t be oblivious to those who couldn’t and why it is so. As an artist, I feel those forces that go into the making of the cultural fabric of our country need to be strengthened. I will start with the museums. Because it is museums through which art reaches people. When India became free, this need was felt and it was proposed that apart from a national museum, there should be museums in our states.
The hurt of the hour is that most of the good art is being hoarded by NRIs (contrary to opinion, actual foreign buyers or international media glare is yet to arrive). And it has become a prey thing by galleries which, by rigging prices and creating hype around it, have made it a fashion to judge an artist’s value by the price he/she fetches. Mere merit seems to have taken a rest. Behind it goes much exploitation of the artists, whose work is hoarded by galleries at a pittance than than its authorised price. Artists get little out of it. If there had been acceptance of my proposal, we would have filled our museums and the artists would have got their rightful share of it.
All of this may sound like lamenting, especially when you read every morning about the astronomical prices artists are getting. Even if that were true, what I say means that the artist should also get a part of that high price. The UNESCO has laid down a law which stipulates that an artist should also enjoy his share of an increased price that a gallery gets. I am afraid this often doesn’t happen with private galleries. And artists would rather not complain for fear of losing favour with the gallery. More than just being a pleasure for the soul, art is a vital keeper of a nation’s culture. It is important we look into the issues I’ve raised. Wouldn’t it be truly wonderful when families, friends, students can include a tour of our museums as their weekend plan and come out of these refreshed and inspired?

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