Monday, March 7, 2011

To be a Rat or a Pied Piper is the question: On ‘The art of collecting’ at the 2011 India Art Summit, New Delhi

The Speaker’s Forum at the ‘India Art Summit, 2011’, in the stately Pragati Maidan, flagged off the event with a conglomeration of artists, curators, writers as well as critics who discussed and deliberated upon the nodal issues in art and art practices. Art collection was a significant topic in the forum and was led by Mr. Anupam Poddar , leading members of the Devi Art Foundation and Mr. Swapan Seth, managing partner, and directors, Henry S Clark.

Swapan, a passionate art collector, began by establishing an interesting juxtaposition between two types of collectors namely rat and pied pipers. “Rats breed on buzz while the pied pipers buy instinctively and are courageous. Rats follow blindly while the pied pipers buy ideas and acumen,” he said. Swapan himself has rarely bought his works from the galleries. “I acquire 99% of my collection online.” He believes in experimenting with his collections and has included young artists like Pushkar Thakore, Atul Dodiya, Natraj Sharma, Abhishek Hazra, Nita Dubey, and Aisha Shutoy in his collections. Notable amongst these is the work of Suchita Gherot titled as 1000 tears, in which the artist had collected a solution similar to tears and filled in 1000 bottles labeling a different expression to each bottle. Apart from installations, Swapan has an interesting collection of Iconic photographs of Madonna, Hussain etc. “I love collecting photographs with iconic moments,”! A self-proclaimed techno geek, he is in awe of the creative possibilities of the “I – Pad” technology.

Anupam Poddar followed, with collections of his mother, Lekha Poddar’s work and presented his own too. According to him, “Good collection is based on many factors like courage, the work, mediums and the idea explore,” However, despite his intent to buy the works of unknown artists, ironically, his range of artists collection included the big artists like Subodh Gupta, Anita Dubey, Sudarshan Shetty Rashid Rana , Sonia Khurawa, Susanta Mandal, Ganga devi Bhatt to name a few. Along with the gigantic installations of a dinosaur by Susarshan Shetty, there was also a unique collection of textiles and videos, as were many paintings and installations by various other artists seen in the offices at Devi Art Foundation, Gurgaon. Interestingly, both the presenters also displayed a collection of the works of Pakistani artists. “The work happening in Pakistan at this level is remarkable,” insisted Anupam, while answering one of the questions from the audience.

So is there an ‘art’ in collecting? Well, there is, obviously a strong artistic impulse, when one chooses to collect, since one has to be courageous enough to believe in the artist especially when the artist is young and a new entrant in the art world. One has to be receptive enough to new ideas and be prepared for some of them to not work at the end of the day. So the question that was left behind for the art collectors was, does it pay to be a rat or a pied piper? Well, the truth is the rats are the ones who rule the Art Market but somehow the pied pipers too, do manage to get their share, in a win-win situation for all. Long live the Arts and the Art collectors!

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