Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A heart-breaking experience

Subhash had some work @ Tarang which is this Indian arts and crafts store in Jayanagar. He told me a lot about it and thought I'd like it, so he took me along warning me that it was going to be an hour long meeting and I might get bored. Now, I am one to find something or the other to pass time, so I am usually not worried about getting bored and so I tagged along.

We ended up spending more than 2 hours there. And its near impossible to describe the beauty of most of the creations we saw there. I felt proud for being born here, in India, I also felt ashamed for abounding in ignorance about the so many different things that are great about Indian art, both at the same time. Confused? Yeah. Tanjore paintings, Kalamkari work, Brass artefacts, Bronze artefacts, paintings done on this marble slabs, paintings that looked life-like, the list is endless. How to describe so much beauty?

Well, but that is not the point of this post. Here is what we bought at the store, three sets, one for me, one for my mom and one for Subhash's mom :)

What do you think those are? Coasters? Yes, thank you. And how do you think they are made?

Now, I challenge you to guess.

No? You give up?

Well, here goes..

That is right! All the colours in that painting are got from real gem-stones, powdered to fill the space as a colour. The thing is so small that the amount of detailing in it is mind-boggling.

OK. So what is heart-breaking about that you ask?

Can you guess how much it cost? Labeled MRP was INR 300. THREE HUNDRED ONLY!!!

The way we undervalue our artists is what broke my heart. Now I am guessing, this guy is at least the second middle-man between the artist and us. So how much could the artist have gotten for this?! 20 INR per piece is a higher side estimate that I can make.

I felt crestfallen. People with such talent. And working for a mere pittance. Why do we undervalue our own art so much? Apparently the same set gets sold at the Bengaluru airport for 1600 INR. Yet, the money really doesn't go to the artist. It goes to the shopkeeper in the airport (well, considering he has to pay unbelievable amounts of rent in the airport, he probably needs profits of that scale, but hey!), who has done nothing but buy it off the shelf at Tarang.

What needs to be done is pretty clear. We need to create a market for Indian art, different kinds of art, and there are plenty. Need to make it that "desired" thing which people will pride on possessing. AND will be willing to pay a price for, if not a premium.

Whenever I go into public service, I know what I can do and whom I can do it for. Till then I am determined to encourage such masterpieces in whatever little way I can. Either buy it for myself or get them as gifts for friends.

So next time you are in a fix about what to gift someone, try this. Or this. Maybe even this?

And chuck that bouquet :)


Kishan said...

This is sheer exploitation of the artist's ignorance and an insult to their efforts. I wouldn't be surprised if that same stuff would be sold for hundreds of dollars over here and artist makes just hundreds of rupees.

DivSu said...

@Kishan, I agree. Which is why I was so sad when I was buying it. Very, very sad.

dharmabum said...

i have also fond artwork that i thought was usually priced quite highly, but it could be due to my inherent lack of appreciation for the arts, that you seem to be endowed with.

also, i feel it is inherently due to the economic conditions of a good majority in this part of the world - people seldom look beyong the actual 'usage' of the commodity, and would be willing to pay only for it. art, after all, is a luxury, no?

belated deepavali wishes to you :)

Anonymous said...

btw, do they happen to have any nice wall hangings:)..the ones I found at Lepakshi were highly priced..I agree with dharma on the lack of appreciation part...

DivSu said...

@DeBum -- Thanks, I hope you had a good Diwali.

@Anonymous, yeah they do have wall hangings. I will update the post with the link for wall-hangings.

I am not a great connoisseur of art myself. But even for a novice, I can see the beauty of the art. Apparently if you look under the microscope for some of the paintings you can actually see brush strokes which are very fine and achieved by using squirrel hair (I think).

Yeah, its not a "usable" thing so it never deserves a deeper thought for a majority of people, I agree. But even those of us that buy stuff don't spare a thought for the artists is what I feel. Hmm..

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