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Are we ready to go bold?

Though there is a good market for bold artworks abroad, Indians are yet to accept them openly because of a number of reasons.

art and culture Updated: Feb 19, 2012 01:30 IST
Namya Sinha

Do bold and provocative art works sell in India? This is one question that is sure to start a debate in the art scene in the country. While a nude portrait of a woman by artist Francis Bacon sold for 21.3 million pounds at the Christie’s auction in London on Tuesday, on the other hand, Delhi has been witnessing vandalism of the exhibitions that try to display bold and erotic paintings.


Recent examples of such exhibitions being sabotaged include those of artists Balbir Krishnan and Pravan Prakash. While Krishnan’s art exhibition was on homoerotic paintings, Prakash’s artworks comprised of bold paintings of Bollywood celebrities. “There is a big market for nude paintings and other art forms. In fact, they are amongst the biggest sellers. There is no artist in my knowledge that hasn’t done a nude painting in his or her career. Works of artist Rameshwar Baroota, who does a lot of nude work, sell at very high rates. It is just a small section who protest to all this, just because they want publicity,” says Krishnan.


“I work on the pop up art form that is very direct. There is still time before it becomes popular. Though the overall response to nudes and erotic art has been always good and they are popular, people still prefer to buy forms of artworks that are not very obviously provocative and revealing,” says Prakash.


However, the facts of the matter come out in the figures, as out of the 19 paintings in Prakash’s ‘bold’ exhibition, he has managed to sell only three paintings.


Art experts feel that bold works are not at all popular with Indians and it will be a long time before they gain acceptance. “In India, bold and nude artworks are generally bought by private collectors, otherwise the markets for such works is abroad. People are nervous in displaying these works in a public exhibition, as they might evoke extreme reactions. Pre-modern India had lots of erotic artworks, but with modernity, a Victorian prudity set in and a small section took it to another level,” says Alka Pande, art advisor and curator.


A lot of people don’t go for these artworks, as they are considered unsuitable for private homes. “Many people are not comfortable buying these kind of artworks. With children and servants around the house, people don’t know where to put up such paintings. The maximum number of such artworks are bought by gay men, who are much more comfortable putting them up in their homes. Often, such artwork becomes a part of a collector’s collection and rarely lands up in a family home,” says Alka Raghuvanshi, art curator.