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ARTONOMICS: When money meets art

Anybody who has a nose for smelling money is taking an active interest in art today, finds Archana.

india Updated: Dec 05, 2006 14:31 IST
Archana (HT City)
Archana (HT City)

It is a million dollar discovery — the Indian art world has not only unearthed the colour of money but is also probably on its way to total integration with the international market forces.

From small investors linking with local galleries to mutual fund managers with linkages abroad and pension managers arriving with portfolio plans — anybody and everybody who has a nose for smelling money is taking an active interest in art today.

Appreciation, actually: This interest is not just about learning the difference between paintings of MF Husain and FN Souza.

Above: A Painting by FN Souza

Below: A painting by Jogen Chowdhury

: It is much deeper — it is about understanding an artist’s worth and the appreciation of this worth over several years, translating it into money and presenting it as one of the options to investors, on the same wavelength as real estate and gold. It is also about enlightening the artist about his worth and how he can multiply it for favourable returns.

The launch of art funds over the past one-year or more and recently, the arrival of the Artist Pension Trust in India, are pointers in the direction. The new language may seem garbled for that generation of artists, which struggled long enough to bring contemporary Indian art to this stage.

It is the Gen Now that is elated. Says artist Dharmendra Rathore, “The interest of money in art was expected. When the economy is doing well, all sectors were slated to benefit and now it is the turn of art.” That is a far cry from the struggles of MF Husain, FN Souza, Tyeb Mehta and many more.

Thota Vaikuntham, one of the top league artists, had recalled in an earlier interview, “My wife never wanted our children to take up art professionally because of the hardships I had to go through.”

It definitely doesn’t mean that the struggles are over. Even the new age artists like Manish Pushkale, Samit Das, Mithu Sen, and others have tales of toil to relate. Too much moolah The debate on whether this sudden influx of money will be good or bad for the placid waters of art has just begun. There are issues of quality and ethics involved.

Says art promoter Sharon Apparao, “The society today is speculative. When we started, it was not about money. Money is welcome but it is bringing along unethical practices as people without any understanding of art are trying to move things only by money power.”

Advises artist Kanchan Chander, “Instead of investing in art funds, it would be better if people invest in art but wisely.” The business of art may take time to settle but the canvas of contemporary Indian art would never look the same again.

First Published: Dec 05, 2006 13:40 IST