With the nouveau riche running after signature art works at auctions, some artists are plagued with a dilemma—should they sell their creativity to collectors who truly appreciate their work, or to those who can afford to flaunt another canvas in their living rooms?
Palette Art Gallery director and fashion designer Rohit Gandhi said: "I try to keep the prices lower than what I have been asked to because I want to sell the works to collectors and not to ignorant buyers."
Artist Jogen Chowdhury, who flew into Delhi recently for colleague Paresh Maity's book launch, agrees: "That is a wise thing to do."
"Collecting is about wanting to possess a work of art. If we think only about the investment then the relationship with art is lost."
"A collector is driven by passion. He must have that feeling of holding his breath with a mix of expectancy at the thought of one or two fantastic bargains that may fall in his lap. He should also experience a sense of enrichment instead of a gloating satisfaction," says Chowdhury, who loves to collect works of art.
But the art scene across the country is changing—works are being picked up for much more.
Artist Riyas Komu's works that sold for Rs 300,000 last year, got picked up for Rs 900,000 this year. At the auction of Maity's watercolours, two of his works fetched Rs 100,000 each. They had been bought for Rs 500,000 a year before.
"We wanted the bids to be more realistic, we wanted the works to go to collectors because this money was going to be used for philanthropy," said Chaudhry, a Maity patron.
In real terms, the loss is bigger. Maity's watercolours fetched $ 65,000 at Sotheby's, up by last year's $ 35,000.
"How can auction prices determine market prices? An auction price is not realistic and galleries must not hike prices according to auctions. It is unrealistic and it is not healthy for art," Maity says.
Gandhi feels it is passion that spurs him into buying art. Pointing towards a sculpture by Ravinder Reddy he says, "I bought this Ravinder Reddy head for Rs 200,000, but why would I sell it? It is for my collection."
The art circuit is clearly hit by wheeler-dealers, who have changed equations in the art mart. Unlike international auctions, where beginners rarely win against experienced buyers, the art scene is seeing a frenzy of buyers who know little about art, but jump on to the bandwagon of art for investment.
At the watercolour exhibition, Maity's China seascapes done with an exquisite feel for oriental sunset light on a quiet sea, reminiscent of a bit of China and a bit of India, cost the collectors only Rs 100,000.
"That is the essence of being philanthropic," says Chowdhury. For him it was an auction with a heart, untainted by commercialism.