Introduction to art

Art isn’t elitist or prohibitively expensive always. If you are a newcomer to the art scene in the city, here’s how to find your way around.

Koramangala resident Suman Bolar, communications consultant and creator of the Foodtravelbangalore blog is a fairly new art enthusiast. Her passion for art started with a visit to the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC about five six years ago.

Right lines art gallery

Right Lines Gallery at Indiranagar. Pic: Reshmi Chakraborty.

“I did not know that looking at the photograph of a painting and looking at the real thing on the wall were such completely different experiences,” Suman says. That visit started an interest in art that has seen Suman and her husband visit galleries and develop much more than a fleeting interest in museums.

In a little over than a year’s time Suman says they have acquired works by Gurudas Shenoy, JMS Mani, Lokesh Kalinga and upcoming artists like Shivu to grace the walls of their home. Suman’s experience isn’t very different from many people who always thought art was an elitist indulgence or meant for the very rich but were proven wrong as they were gradually introduced to it.

Bangalore has been home to some well known names in the art world like Yusuf Arakkal, Balan Nambiar, SG Vasudev, Paresh Hazra, Rekha Rao among others. There are galleries showing both conventional as well as cutting edge work in the city.

The National Gallery of Modern Art, Palace Road, opened its doors in Bangalore recently and here you can see works by legends like Raja Ravi Varma and Amrita Sher-Gill among others. It works as a good introduction to some of the Indian art, say experts.

Art historian Lina Vincent Sunish, who has worked in the Bangalore art world for almost nine years says the average Bangalorean does visit art galleries. “For instance, in an art complex like Chitrakala Parishath, you see the general public who visit and go around looking at the artworks, with a definite sense of aesthetics.”

“It is common for young working couples and people not otherwise familiar with art buying works within the range of Rs 10 – Rs 20,000, many to beautify newly purchased homes,” Lina adds.

 Tips from the pros

  • The best way to learn about art and all its aspects is to look around. Visit galleries and shows. The more you see, the more your understanding develops.
  • See different kinds of work to figure out what you like and respond to.
  • Ask questions when you visit galleries, however simplistic these may sound and read up more to get an idea about mediums and styles.
  • Art novices are usually drawn to realistic, figurative or landscape art rather than abstraction. Though there’s no pattern to it, say gallery owners.
  • If buying, go for work you react to in a positive way.
  • Get information on the artist you plan to buy from the gallery. Find out about his background, the kind of shows he’s done and what the gallery thinks of his future.
  • If buying for investment, remember that the quality of work is as important as the signature.

Raj Dutt, co-owner Right Lines Art Gallery in Indranagar, thinks people are slowly becoming aware. Raj corroborates this saying, “We see a lot of students, housewives and working people at Right Lines who come looking for art when they have a little bit of money saved up.”

She also mentions that events like Chitra Santhe (held on January 31st this year), the annual art fair, has helped in breaking the barrier in people’s mind about art. “It has made art accessible,” she says.

Educate yourself

If you’ve had a recent introduction to art and wish to familiarise yourself more with it, the common advice seems to be look, look and look more.

Raj thinks that anyone who is keen to know more about art should first see as much as they can. “Visit as many galleries as you can to get a hands-on experience,” she suggests.

“I taught myself as I went along,” says Suman, who by her own admission did not know the difference between oil on canvas or acrylic when she started. The idea is to start visiting galleries and getting acquainted with the different works on display, she says. “This is the best way to figure out what kind of work you actually like.”

Public relations consultant Samyukta Raja and her husband thought of “checking out art” to add colour to the walls after moving into a new apartment in Whitefield. Since then, a hooked Samyukta has acquired three artworks, two from galleries and one from an Indranagar art store that was holding a moving out sale. Samyukta says she initially felt a bit hesitant to walk in galleries and ask questions, especially if she had no intention or the budget to purchase.

Gitanjali Maini, owner of Gallery G on Lavelle Road, however, says, “Galleries in India are far less intimidating than in the West.” She thinks affordable art galleries like hers have broken the snobbery value of art and has made it accessible to all.

If you wish to take the learning to another level altogether, you could educate yourself by visiting a place like the Art, Resources, Teaching Trust (ART), an art resource centre in Shantinagar.

“People can use the library to get a little background on the artist or a particular medium,” says Lina, who thinks this can make people feel more comfortable establishing a relationship with art and also gain some knowledge and develop an opinion.

“There are plenty of websites that supply artist profiles with images and a market rating for those interested in the investment aspect,” she adds.

Art appreciation workshops are also conducted in the city for those interested in the details. Right Lines Gallery conducts a 16 day program called ‘Introduction to art’ with well known artist MG Doddamani.

Raj says the profile of participants has varied from students to housewives to retired people. “All of us have an artistic side,” she believes, “Most just don’t have the time to be in touch with it.”

How to go about it

“Usually, they are paintings (canvases and paper works) and not sculptures, photography or printmaking that sell,” says Lina, adding that newcomers in art collection are often drawn to realistic, figurative or landscape art rather than abstraction.

Right Lines Art Gallery

Right Lines Gallery conducts a 16 day program called ‘Introduction to art’ with well known artist MG Doddamani. Pic: Reshmi Chakraborty.

“We are still most comfortable with canvases and paper,” confirms Gitanjali.

Suman, who has some abstract works by Lokesh Kalinga says whichever type the work is, it has to speak to the person. “I don’t understand anything of abstracts but it’s speaking to us at some level,” she thinks.

Gallery Ske on St Mark’s Road is known for its contemporary art collection, which includes video installation, slide shows and sculptures. A staffer, Bharati, says that they have found people do take to video art and other different work.” A lot of young collectors are interested and people are more open to accepting new art forms,” she feels. At Kynkyny Gallery on Infantry Road, many first time buyers are people who actually enter the gallery cum store to look at furniture and then get hooked onto the art on its walls. “People do buy different works like G Subramanian’s collage art,” says a staffer at the gallery.

It doesn’t always break the bank

Contrary to what many people think, buying art doesn’t always break the bank. In fact, according to people associated with the art world, most galleries in the city, like Right Lines, Time and Space, Kynkyny, to name a few have works that range from the very affordable to very highly priced.

Samyukta who says her purchases so far include works by lesser known artists candidly adds that she was “hugely surprised” when she started visiting galleries.

“I always thought art was expensive and was surprised to see works even in the range of Rs 5000 to Rs 7000 at some places.”

Suman started her collection with the line drawings from the Badami series by JMS Mani. “We couldn’t afford the paintings from the series at that time but the line drawings appealed to us and were affordable,” she says.

If shelling out Rs 15-20,000 at one go seems impossible, iArt Gallery on Lavelle Road even offers an easy installment option! “We have many salaried professionals buying art from us and to make it easier and affordable for them we came up with the EMI option,” says Rajesh Sadhwani from iArt, which has shown works by Srividya G, Milan Nayak and Sangita Sarkar among others. He thinks that in today’s bad economic scenario, few salaried people would be comfortable putting Rs 50,000 on a painting.

“We offer them the option of buying by paying a 20 per cent deposit with the balance payable over 11 months,” says Sadhwani, adding that they also offer the option of renting art for a minimum of six months. “We have sold many pieces through the EMI option,” he adds.

The final investment

There are a few things everyone asks the new buyer to keep in mind.

“A simple positive response to the work is probably necessary for someone who wants to buy for reasons other than investment,” Lina says, cautioning that, “If one is not responding to the work at all, how much ever one reads about it is not going to help.”

Dheeraj Barua, who bought geometric paintings by hearing-impaired artist Ganesh Shetty, says he has no idea whether it is an investment or not. “I love the work and everytime I look at it I see something different, that’s why I bought it.” It’s a feeling Suman identifies with.

If you also have investment in mind, then galleries can usually help in the choice. “First timers usually go for a combination of affordability plus investment potential,” says Gitanjali, who suggests that people “trust art galleries you interact with to recommend artists.”

Most galleries guide people through the process if they are interested in buying. A new entrant especially is usually shown every artist and given details like the medium used, background, and future of the artist and whether the painting’s market value is likely to go up. People are also asked to do their own research.

iArt’s Sadhwani says that they usually evaluate art for their clients. “There are various methods of evaluating such as by medium, size, artist, the artist’s history and background, the kind of shows he has done, his individual style and how he connects with the customer.”

“For people who have a good budget, I’d say do not put all your eggs in one basket. Go for a mix of works, like one oil, one acrylic or any other medium,” he suggests.

Local Flavour

Bangalore has been home to some well known names in the art world like Yusuf Arakkal, Balan Nambiar, SG Vasudev, Paresh Hazra, Rekha Rao among others. There are galleries showing both conventional art as well as cutting edge work in the city.

The National Gallery of Modern Art opened its doors in Bangalore recently and here you can see works by legends like Raja Ravi Varma and Amrita Sher-Gill among others. It works as a good introduction to some of the Indian art, say experts.

According to galleries, buyers in Bangalore do not just restrict themselves to artists living in the city, though there is a fair amount of interest in the works of younger artists doing works that span the range from conventional art to works in new media. Some of the younger artists selling well include Shankar Kendale, Doddamani, Suresh P, G Subramanian, Devaraj B, Prakash Babu, Shirley Mathew, Jasu Rawal, M S Murthy, Nagure, CF John, NS Harsha, among others.

Among those doing experimental work or photography are Shantamani Muddiah, Ravi Kashi, Champa, Biju Joze, A Balasubramaniam, Surekha, Parbhavathi Meppeyil, Krishnaraj chonat, Babu Eshwar Prasad, Murali Cheeroth, Aziz as well as Shibu Arakkal, Mahesh Shantaram, Pallon Daruwala and Vivek M.

(Information courtesy Lina Vincent Sunish, Dr Premilla Baid, Nalini Malaviya)

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