15.10.12

Titian on a trolley


Would you buy a Monet or a Degas while looking through bedsheets and curtain rods? Is art not as much about living? Costco has once again started selling original works. Listed under ‘Fine Art’ in the Home and D├ęcor section, its supplier Greg Moors has justified it with the “art for everybody” argument.

Is art for everybody? Or, rather, is everybody for art? ‘Lived’ art hardly ever falls in the same category. You would not take a naked Yoko Ono and John Lennon home, would you? Or that bottle of turd?

Much of fine art becomes finer in the refinement it acquires over time and, alas, with its market value. The bidding at auction houses like Sotheby’s and Christie’s gives it the requisite snob value. Moors does have a point when he says that at galleries “the deal is more important than the customer” whereas in branded supermarkets “the customer is more important than the deal”. So much so that you can get a full refund within 30 days.

Now, I do have a problem with this. There could well be many arrivistes who will buy a painting to show it off, display it on their walls as they get their tacos and cheese ready to be served with fairly decent discounted wine, and when they have dusted the crumbs from the table, they’d probably sit down with their guests and talk about the merits of a Chagall or more likely a Picasso, because everybody knows Picasso. The younger members of the family will take pictures to upload on their social networking accounts. It’s a “hey, dude, dats kewl” moment. It would be fine if they kept the art work. Chances are they’d take it back, get their money from the counter, pick up some Wrigley’s and the ‘deal’ would be over.
 
This is not to suggest that the snotty ones have any real appreciation or sensitivity. I sat in one such house with a large painting from the Mother Teresa series by M.F.Husain. There was fine crystal on shelves flanking it, and there was a lot of wastage and obvious demonstration of wealth. This seemed like a contradiction to me. But, then, the artist did not create this as charity. The buyer bought it because it was an asset. Art has become a great investment.

I believe that the two ends of the spectrum alienate people who might appreciate art best. I like the ambience of art galleries. The high ceilings, the strategic spotlights, the frames, the canvas, the space. The hush. As though it is a prayer hall. The going afar to get a perspective and then drawing close to smell the acrylic, the paint, to discover that the waves don’t look like waves anymore. They are blue blotches, like bruises. Then to squint over the signature, even if you know who the artist is. It tells me something more. The sidelong glances as others watch and watch you watch and you watch them right back. We are sharing something. Or maybe not.
 
A painting cannot be shared. It is not a pizza.

So, Costco and the rest may sell art, but how many people will buy it? I have purchased prints, that too by unknown artists. I liked them. I would not reduce some fine artists to labels, but if couturiers have exclusive boutiques that are often ‘by appointment only’, I would most certainly want to dignify art.
 
For me, just looking at these works, appreciating, critiquing them, is enough. Must I own what may have already laid claims over me?  

© Farzana Versey

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