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The different colours of Rupee

columns Updated: Aug 25, 2010 18:31 IST
Amitava Sanyal
Amitava Sanyal
Hindustan Times
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Two starkly divergent happenings rocked the art world a couple of years ago.

Contemporary British artist Damien Hirst broke the record for single-artist auctions by selling 223 of his works for a staggering and reportedly stage-managed $198 million. At about the same time, a global recession sunk the prices of just about everything else - hitting a low blow that most artists are still smarting from.

This curious phenomenon is at the heart of Arushi Arts' latest show, titled rather directly as 'Paisa Paisa, Money Money'. It forms the second part of Arushi's annual exhibition of emerging artists, 'Harvest', and showcases about three dozen commissioned works.

"When I sat down with curator Amit (Jain) a year ago, this subject was at the top of the mind of every artist and gallerist," says Payal Kapoor, owner of Arushi, adding with a laugh: "It still is."

When Amit Jain of Navsar, an organisation that promotes artists, set about commissioning, he got 60 responses.

"Many contacted us hearing of the concept," says Jain.

Apart from half of those, the final list of 40 includes works by Adeela Suleiman of Karachi, Anthony Lanzenberg of Paris, Alex Guofeng Cao of New York, Jeong Hyun Sook of Seoul and Daniele Buetti of Zurich.

And oh, there's a silk-screen print signed by Mr Hirst of London.

How did that get here?

"International artists aren't all that pricey - that is, if you go to the right dealer. We got in touch with most of the foreign artists directly - and the Hirst, we bought."

To Kapoor, the international contingent represents the coming of age of art in India.

To the artists, however, the theme meant various things.

Their responses can be classified into three broad sections - depictions of currency (Lanzenberg's brilliant note in which the words and numbers are absent), what money gets (Joydip Sengupta's sly triptych including Mayawati's garland of notes), and moralistic tales of what it can lead do (Snehashish Maity's busty cheergirl blocking the view of small cricketers at the back).

If the preachiness doesn't attract, one hopes the dark humour suffusing most of the works will bring in what the show is all about - money.

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