Sham And Genuine Art

Friday, January 26, 2007 Dr. Vishaal Bhat 0 Comments

An art collection and its display have become status symbols, particularly for the nouveau riche for many of whom art is akin to Greek and Latin as they do not even know that visual art is a human activity that can be grouped under painting, sculpture, and architecture.

That styles of painting include mannerism, impressionism, abstract expressionism, post-impressionism, abstract art etc; architectural styles include baroque, rococo, romanesque, norman, gothic, early english, etc. That modern art such as cubism makes mincemeat of traditional forms.

This apart, replication is the basis of learning. If one visits the ruins in Hampi and Aiole, students can be seen sketching the temple structures, monuments and getting inspired by the exemplary fine art. Unfortunately, ancient treasures and artefacts find a place only with international art dealers. Smugglers of “repute” remain unchallenged by the archeology department.

Fakes are being sold as orginals. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. We can get from scrap brass utensils, mould-casts of different images of gods etc made by families proficient in this trade. If one wants to make money by cheating, as was revealed to me, one has to dip these in pure castor oil and bury them under the earth for 3 – 4 months. Take them out as they gather greenish fungus, dust them, tag them marking them “artefacts” and price them between Rs 25,000 and Rs 50,000.

Those who bemoan the sapping of Indian politics of its energies by politicians eager to promote their own interests over those of the nation should take a close look at the world of Indian art. A cabal literally controls the domestic market, subverting critics and blackmailing galleries, refusing to allow space to others. Such is their manipulative skills that domestic prices have long ceased to serve as an indicator of the true value — in monetary terms — of Indian art. Collectors who made the mistake of being misled by domestic price tags and intellectually corrupt art critics are now owners of what would be referred to as “penny stocks” in bourse jargon.

Consider granite. Most of it is as old as the earth’s formation. Carvings at Mahabalipuram shore temple, can become treasures only if they are in black granite. Buy one, break a leg or hand and or disfigure it, put it on a pedestal and it may fetch thousands of dollars.

Even carbon dating will not reveal age! We are back to square one so far as art is concerned. Let prudence prevail.

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