Two of his art works have sold for Rs one lakh each. But Shambu Kumar, 25, is more relieved than happy: he can finally pay his college fees.
“I had put all my money for procuring the material. So, this sale will really help me cover all my expenses. This year has been really good for a student like me; this kind of money is a huge encouragement,” says the final year student of Master of Fine Arts (MFA) at the College of Art, even as he attends to queries from excited buyers at the college's annual students' art show that ended on Thursday.
But Kumar is not the only one to have reaped the success of a “good year”. There's Daina Mohapatra, whose two huge canvases on “lesbianism” have sold for a whopping Rs 1.5 lakh each.
“I worked on these from the drawings that I sold for Rs 30,000 three months back. Last year, my works sold for just about Rs 25,000. It's good have finally got my due, keeping with market standards,” says the 25-year-old MFA student from Orissa.
Mohapatra and Kumar are amongst the 200-odd students who were displaying their work at the 55th annual art exhibition at the college. And at least 30-40 per cent of them have got their red dots — that signifies a sold work — already, with most crossing the Rs 50,000 mark, a definite high from last year.
“Last year only 10 per cent of the students managed to sell. This time the market seems to have matured; people are not only buying, but they are also learning to appreciate the art,” feels Professor Abhimanyu VG, artist and Head of Department, Painting.
Obviously, it's a reflection of the art boom outside of the college premises that's making inroads into the lives of the students like Sayaka Arase, a final year student of Bachelor of Fine Arts from Japan, who's sold two of her works for Rs one lakh. Or friend and batchmate Sandeep Jigdung, who has had offers from a gallery and an independent collector, before the show itself.
“An art collector, who had seen my work last year, has been buying my stuff ever since. This time she picked up two my paintings for Rs one lakh, which is a good price,” he says, as he strikes a pose with his canvas, for a photograph. “Even the seniors feel we are a lucky lot,” says the 28-year-old from Assam, “selling a painting above Rs 50,000 is still not so easy, they say.”
But who are these big budget buyers? Says Neeraj Goswami, artist and a College of Art alumnus, “It’s mostly art collectors and investors who want to invest in young talent or can't afford the big names. Also, there's a certain recession in the industry, the masters aren't selling well now.” But big galleries, however, he says, are still cautious buyers unwilling to take risks.
With such smaller players getting into the market, there's also a peculiar trend that students have been noticing — bargaining. “Sometimes they tend to treat it like a vegetable mandi,” says a student, not wanting to be quoted.
Adds Priyanshi Jain, a final year student of BFA, “Though I am happy I sold there works for Rs 85,000, the works he picked were part of a series, which he couldn't buy.”
But does this early initiation into the commercial aspect of art bother the college authorities? “We don't interfere with pricing or what they do outside the college, as long as they fulfill their syllabi and extracurricular requirements. Students need to gain this experience, so that they are prepared once they pass out,” says M Vijayamohan, principal, College of Art.
Goswami, who remembers his Rs 500 sale in 1983-84, has a word of caution, “Things have changed a lot since my time. These youngsters need to digest this success and not get carried away.”