Colour me green

Georgina Maddox

Richie Rich overhears that his millionaire dad was ‘wiped-out’ and so the poor little rich boy organises a charity auction to help. The Riches are appalled when they come home to see their prized Rembrandts and Picassos selling for as little as US $5 to the grotty neighbours.

The business of a charity auction was rather ironic since one hardly ever saw prized art works selling for charity. In fact, at one point, artists were palming off their worst paintings for charity. However, the bullish art market has meant that the quality of art being sold for a cause has improved; increased visibility means that artists cannot afford to give substandard work.

The city is witnessing three charity auctions in quick succession, where the auctioneers’ gavel comes down for a cause: Mobile Creches and Save the Children India is being hosted by Gallery Beyond with a collection of 108 contemporary artists, Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) has biggies like Akbar Padamsee, Gieve Patel, Paritosh Sen and VS Gaitonde going for their environment driven Mission Greenscape 2 and the Concern India Foundation, that annually hosts its auction-exhibitions is getting an assortment of established and emerging artists together for their event this March.

Pheroza Godrej, vice president of the BNHS believes that artists have always supported the cause. “Since we complete 125 years and have many upcoming projects, like our Wildlife Educational Centre in Mumbai and Delhi, the Bird Migration Centre in Tamil Nadu and the Clam Protection Project in Lakshwadeep, we need to garner funds,” she explains.

“Artists usually give good work, some are generous enough to donate all the money to charity but with the rising demand on their livelihood they get fifty per cent of the sales,” explains Godrej. The auction previewed at the Jehangir Nicholson Gallery, NCPA, last evening.

Joie De Vivre is Gallery Beyond’s fundraiser that features contemporary artists like Abir Karmakar, Bose Krishnamachari, Julius Macwan, Kim Kyoungae, and Moderns like FN Souza and Jogen Chowdhury. “Supporting the children of migrant construction labourers is important since they are some of the poorest of the poor in Indian cities,” says Vibhu Kapoor of Gallery Beyond. Currently Mobile Creches operate 22 centres throughout Mumbai and reach out to 4,000 children each year. “However, it’s estimated that almost 80,000 children live on construction sites in Mumbai, so we have a long way to go,” says Mini Kocchar, president of MMC.

Mortimer Chatterjee reports that with the Indian art scene doing so well other sectors cannot help but benefit. “In 2003, US $4.5 million worth of Indian art was auctioned. In 2006, the figure rose to US $170 million. In this auction they have artists like Sudarshan Shetty and Rajesh Pullawar, Gigi Scaria, who also work in new media. While you’re buying their paintings from Concern India, do look at their more experimental works,” says Chatterjee who presented a talk before the upcoming auction.

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