The year that was

(By Nalini S Malaviya)

It’s that time of the year, once again, to look back, reflect and evaluate how the art scene progressed through the year. Art activities unfolded quite hesitantly this year with most of the auctions showing average results, while some fared very poorly, as well. Although, during the art summit, sales picked up but then became sketchy once again during the later months. Fortunately, the last Saffron Art auction which happened a couple of weeks ago, performed really well under the circumstances. The highlights of this year in terms of auction reults have to be the exceptional amounts fetched for works by Jogen Choudhury at the Sotheby’s auction and Manjit Bawa at the recently held Saffron Art auction.

In Bangalore, the art scene was quite diffident with very few exhibitions being organized by galleries. On the other hand, there was a phenomenal rise in self sponsored shows with many self taught painters exhibiting their works at rented spaces. Incidentally, most of the bigger artists preferred to defer their shows until next year or at least to the later part of this year.
In effect, one came across a lot of poor and average quality works, and repetitive ones by the same painters. Still, there were some interesting works for instance, digital collages by Sudarshan Shetty, photographs by Atul Bhalla, Gigi Scaria, Vivek Vilasini, installations by Sakshi Gupta and a few other group shows with a list of artists too long to mention here.. Interestingly, the art activity was quite feverish through the year even though sales in the primary market were practically nil. While, some galleries have started reporting an increase in sales (where buyers are primarily from outside Bangalore), others are yet to see any noticeable difference.

In a way the recession helped in putting things in perspective, for instance many artists realized the futility of compromising on quality, or how over production could lead to a lowering of their market worth. During this phase, most speculators lost a lot of money as many had hoarded art in order to create an artificial demand and to inflate prices of a few select artists. Also, investors who had bought art blindly on the advice of unscrupulous galleries and dealers, learned their lesson, albeit the hard way. One hopes that the experiences that one went through during the lean period will help buyers and investors in the future to be able to make better judgment when it comes to art.

(Published in Bangalore Mirror)