Indian art is all over the newspapers these days - from the financial pages to 'Page 3'. And artists are rubbing shoulders with cricketers in the celebrity space. Recently I visited a couple of art shows where a few young artists from Gulbarga were exhibiting their paintings, but unfortunately they neither received any press coverage nor did the show see many visitors. It makes one wonder if art is as much about hype as talent?
Art, in the past, has been as much in the news for its controversies as for its culture. If Husain's horses were a rage at one time, its rage of a different kind now that's throwing the limelight on him. Art shows have been dragged from galleries to courts to chat shows on the telly. How many people buy a piece of art because the artist is featured on 'Page 3' all the time? Is the price linked to the creative potential or is it proportionate to the artist's celebrity status?
On the one hand, you have artists who have become permanent fixtures on Page 3 and flaunt their celebrity status, and on the other, there are celebrities turning to the paint brush in a bid to 'diversify their creativity'. Then, you have artists who are dogged by controversies. Every move and stroke by Husain is covered extensively by the media. Whether you like him or not, the fact remains that you cannot ignore him. Similarly, whether he returns to India or not, the hype surrounding his every word and gesture will ensure he stays in the limelight and commands the same high price.
Suchitra Krishnamurthy is another case in point. Every time she picks up the paintbrush, the media goes into a frenzy. Sometimes, it seems no one really cares or even sees what the art looks like. Celebrity previews are well-attended and from what one hears, it is easier to translate footfalls into sales here. Owning an artwork by an artist who is famous and well-known is seen to be a reflection of status and good taste. After all, we all revel in name-dropping. Plus, celebs sell their art for amounts that would make even senior artists turn green with envy. Being a socialite or an artist who is well-connected has its benefits, it ensures media interest and is a great aid to marketing art.
Maybe we can call it 'glamour art'. All said and done, the 'star' value will be reflected in the value of the painting, so be prepared to shell out a bomb.
(Published in Bangalore Mirror)