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Retain an open mind to appreciate all forms of art

It can sometimes be resident in human nature to resist, and in similar vein, to adapt and change as demanded by the situation.

gurgaon Updated: Nov 30, 2018 15:09 IST
art,art and culture,gurugram
A woman takes a look at a photography exhibition in Chandigarh. (HT File )

I’m on one of those super long-haul flights to NY. Fifteen-plus hours in the sky. I fly this, and similar sectors, far too frequently. Till a few years ago, I would spend most of these hours grumpily and dour-faced. It wasn’t on account of any physical discomfort. It was rather simply that I felt it was an atrocious waste of time, without connectivity and my seeming incapacity for accomplishing any productive activity. Somewhere along the flight path however, perhaps on account of coming to terms with the fact that such long tenures on airplanes was a given aspect of my professional life and that I’d best make the best of this, I came to appreciate the benefits and the brighter side of these flights.

I now look very gladly forward to boarding long hauls in particular. For one, I came to train myself to be able to complete any writing activity (as with this week’s column, and many from previous weeks as well), emails, professional reports and personal letters. Written words tend to flow like second nature as soon as the flight starts taxiing. The fact that we are now connected to the internet while flying is more a bother, than pleasure, since the biggest plus of such hours is the relative isolation and rest they potentially can offer. If anyone had told me a few years back that I would become such an advocate for well-beyond-half-your-day-in-the-sky experience, I probably would’ve found that wildly amusing, and wholly unbelievable.

The reason I’m writing about the complete u-turn, as it would appear, is to reflect upon the manner in which one’s appreciation for art, in light of remaining actively engaged, can also encounter a dramatic change. The number of clients who wouldn’t look beyond realism, a predictable place to start, are now active collectors of abstracts is a direct testament to this fascinating curve.

We’ve also witnessed the reverse. As with, for instance, an ardent collector of Gaitonde developing an interest in a series of dark, brilliantly telling portraits by Bikash Bhattacharya. It can sometimes be resident in human nature to resist, and in similar vein, to adapt and change as demanded by the situation. It is with this change that we evolve, unravelling greater depths of the self.

A constant requirement within the art domain, the one requisite we keep pushing our clients towards, is to allow yourself the room to widen your horizon in context of the works, artists and media. Do not settle into the comfort of viewing only the familiar styles on known turf. If you think performance art is a load of bunkum, push yourself to witness the work of the leading practitioners, ideally over the course of a year, at the very least. I’m certainly not suggesting that this active engagement will win you over, with your rebirth as an active ambassador of this genre a year hence. It’s as likely you’ll only feel all the more certain about your disinterest in it, but having explored it duly will allow you to appreciate the art form and the creative position of the artists.

Despite being an art professional, I am as guilty of being resistant to the new-age, settling more at ease with the conservative and classic. Though it is part of my work profile to view as much as possible—I’ve already visited over two dozen art fairs around the globe and countless museum shows in 2018, and I’m on my way to the final round-up of the year—I too, find myself holding back on viewings which I don’t necessarily enjoy. It, however, is essential to remember that the most potent art of the contemporary order will be a reflection of the times they are created in. Being a patron of the arts, it would be prudent to stay connected with this universe as it continues to grow and find expression via media, form and style, in manners that might be alien to one’s sensibilities. Retaining an open mind, freeing some time on your schedule, and asking the resident expert or artist every question that comes to mind when encountering these works would be the ideal route forward.

You never quite know, just like I’ve come to enjoy my long-haul flights, you might well be on your way to becoming the most powerful collector of video art in the world.

(Arvind Vijaymohan is the CEO of Artery India, a financial data centre focused on Indian art sales globally)

First Published: Nov 30, 2018 15:08 IST