Art “Appreciation”

Yesterday I happened to attend a small session on Art Appreciation, the write-up for the session indicated that I would be able to appreciate art works better after attending the session. It was an interesting session but what came out was not the appreciation of art but the appreciation of the “Value” of art. The speaker spoke briefly about the characteristics of an art piece like lines, shape, colors, texture, mood etc, after which it was all about the high dollar figures associated with the famous paintings and painters. And the amounts mentioned were atrociously high, for you to hold your breadth and think, why do they command such a huge price, and who benefits out of these crazy auctions. I asked a lot of questions (hope the lady pardons me for that) and these are some of the insights I got:

1.Artists are classified in various categories like Brands, Blue chips and young artists. Brands are names like Hussain, Anjolie Menon, Raja Ravi verma, who have the capability of raise the price of a piece by just putting their signatures on the art piece. You will probably not get a ‘Brand’ art work for anything less than a Crore. Blue chips are probably tomorrow’s Brands, and they would cost you anything of 50 lakhs plus. The younger artists are the one who are either promoted by famous auction houses or art galleries, and hold a promise to be a blue chip or a brand in few years. They sell at various prices depending on who is grooming them, who is promoting them and how they able to build an aura around the.

2.Every artist have a per sq cm rate at which they sell their art pieces, and this rate though not publicly published, is well accepted and acknowledged in the art fraternity. The per sq cm rate goes up usually once a year and the average rate of hike is in the range of 10-15% (sounds like rent rates), but for popular artists it goes up with every big auction.

3.An artist in his / her productive years can do anywhere from 150 to 200 art works per year. Now it seems difficult to imagine that you pay crores for something that was done in a couple of days, but then it may not have been done completely by artists himself, but by his students who develop a similar style as the artist.

4.Most artist start by doing landscape paintings, which is observing something and depicting it as such on the canvas, and move to figurative, which is depicting the human figures and emotions and then finally to abstract work, which is sometimes the expression of their experiences in life. Interestingly most of the figurative work is usually done on a particular community and tribes, where the artist would go and spend time with the tribe and then paint his observations / associations.

5.Once the art work is sold, the artist actually do not directly benefit from the premium that the work demands, so they end up disowning their own work at times ( I thin some royalty based model needs to come up here, otherwise its all the traders who are making money at the cost of artists)

6.The percentage of fake art being sold is very high. Some of the renowned galleries give an authenticity certificates for the art work, but that does not ensure authenticity.

7.Just like the world of writers and poets has the concept of ‘ghost writing’, art world also has the concept of ‘Ghost Painting’, though they do not call it so. Ghost painting would mean that I do the painting, but no one knows my name and hence would not pay any price for my work, while you are a renowned name, so you put your signature on my work and sell it as yours and pay me a base price for the work. Something like outsourcing but without credits. But what is interesting is that despite the huge prices that the art works command, we really have not heard any controversies around the ownership of the work, or am I being ignorant?

8.In last 5 years, the investments in stocks have given a return of 200%, real estate 210%, and Indian art a whooping 1200%. Not sure about where the data comes from, but the lady insisted that if you invest in art, the value can only go up, rate of growth of value can vary, but it can never ever go down. Need to check that out with some authentic data

9.Some popular websites like Saffronart, auction art online and are set to replace the real world auctions.

10.There are Art funds that invest in Art and give you a return on your money

While comparing the negatives and positives of the increasing value for ‘Art’, she said the sad part is that Art is becoming a commodity and people are buying it only as an investment, just like they buy a piece of land or a stock and are not really appreciating the aesthetic value of the work, and people are not investing time in understanding the art, or connecting with the art. But at the same time is it not true that Artists go out and do a PR activity to highlight their products and the crazy prices that people are paying for them. My final question that I still need to answer is to make money out of Art, does one really need to appreciate art, does one have to be an artist, or just be a smart investor who launches an art gallery and then promotes the artists groomed under its umbrella in the right way and in the right markets?

Anuradha Goyal