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A Souza? What's the discount?

Kishore Singh 

Kishore Singh

Oh dear, it's another year, already, when INDIAN ART DID NOT HAVE A TURNAROUND and, therefore, a recovery. [Quick, smelling salts please, I'm having a panic attack.]

The Sensex rose 30 per cent, Modi became prime minister, Make in India became a policy, but the art market continues to remain BELOW 2008 LEVELS. Why is this happening to me?


Mrs Sharma bought a Rs 80 crore farmhouse, her son had a Spain wedding, her daughter gave Louis Vuitton handbags as return gifts on her birthday, yet Mr Sharma bought god pictures from a framing shop in Lajpat Nagar instead of a Husain. Or even a Vaikuntam. ARE THESE PEOPLE MAD?

A gallery owner I know made three resolutions this new year:
Sell art.
Sell art.

SELL ART.

But no one was listening.

Collectors haven't stopped cackling. Because they no longer buy art, they HAGGLE for art.

The most oft-heard word in the art lexicon is discount. Not how much a painting is worth but how much is the discount? You have a Souza: What's the discount? You want to sell a Tyeb: What's the discount?

Remember the arbiters of taste who proclaimed that there is GOOD ART and BAD ART. That was then. But now there is hardly any art. Kalyug is upon us. It must be when you paid Rs 8 crore for buying art in 2007, but had to sell it finally last year for just Rs 3 crore. Better than having it lie in your basement. Better than your friends laughing at your - ha! ha! - "investment".

Artists found themselves with so much free time, they became redundant.

Mothers pushing their children for careers in art - this was when paintings were selling with the paint still wet on the canvas - now said, "Maa ka dudh piya hai to artist kabhi mat ban-na."

Car sales fell, then rose, then fell, and rose… Fashionistas bought more bags and shoes, and then some more. The real estate sector was buoyed by a bubble before it sank, but more Rs 100 crore homes sold than before. The art market was stagnant, then dipped, then became stagnant, then dipped…

The neighbours bought a Bentley, a second home in Goa, but only a silkscreen print of an unsigned Swaminathan. THAT ISN'T HELPING THE MARKET, YOU MORON.

The fake market suffered somewhat more than the art market. Why buy a fake at a third of the price when you can get the real thing for the same price?

Visitors stopped coming to openings for the free booze in case they were trapped into buying something they did not want. Unverified tales followed of galleries that sent out BYOB invitations - that's BRING YOUROWN BOTTLE, in case you didn't know.

Everyone wanted to know how everyone else was doing, whether anything at all had sold, whether the market was growing, what the new year would bring, and DID YOU KNOW THAT NO ONE BOUGHT A SINGLE WORK ON THE FINAL DISCOUNT PRICE AT THE LAST EXHIBITION.

A barter economy came into existence, so artists exchanged works to give the impressions their works were moving. At a party at home, artists kept asking each other if they had been "paid" for their installations at the biennale - the one in Kochi. They also wanted to know what to expect from the India Art Fair.

Because this is 2015, surely things WILL CHANGE. Everything will get better. Acche din will come. AMEN.


Kishore Singh is a Delhi-based writer and art critic. These views are personal and do not reflect those of the organisation with which he is associated

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First Published: Sat, January 03 2015. 00:06 IST
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