We book holidays online in minutes. We buy diamonds on impulse. We nonchalantly swipe our credit cards at boutiques. Yet, when it comes to buying art in a gallery, most of us are debilitated by insecurity, assuming that serious art is for professionals. However, as Indian artists gain in confidence and popularity, it's getting far easier to find a work that speaks to you. And, for much less than you would expect. Just to make it easier, here’s some advice from a cross section of the city's art experts
Viji Nageswaran, Vinnyasa Premier Art Galery
Your love for the work is what is important. You must love it. That way there will be no regrets.
Viji talks of how the constant flow of ambitious young artists ensures a rich and fluid contemporary art scene, giving buyers plenty of options. “In the South, people have always invested in land and gold. Now they invest in art too,” she says, adding: “Yes, it's unpredictable. But, so is every investment. With art, you can see it and enjoy it every minute.”
Her test for a good painting is fairly simple: “My heart has to say yes. I look at the colour flow, the form, the vibrations… I don't pick up any work with negativity — even if it is a very good piece. Because, I can't wholeheartedly ask someone to buy it.
Technique? “Whether it's realistic, modernistic, colourful or abstract, we all look at art through different windows. Use your hard-earned money for a painting you love. A painting that grows with you.”
Achuthan Kudallur, Abstract artist
I must like it. If it's derivative — influenced by another person's work — I won't buy it.
“Youngsters have now started buying art,” says Achuthan, discussing how buyer profiles are changing. “This began with the IT sector a few years ago. But, they were the most gullible people — the first targets to sell to, and people took advantage of the fact that they were not familiar with art.”
Achuthan says only experience can teach you how to spot a great painting. So ask for advice if you're planning to spend a lot of money on your first acquisition. “There are some mistakes seasoned buyers won't make — they know exactly what to pick.”
His tips are practical. “Check if the work has been stored well by the gallery.” Direct sunlight fades paintings, and an air conditioner's blast can affect watercolours. “Get an authentication certificate from the artist.” He also recommends taking the painting down to check the back. “Ensure no paint has seeped through, otherwise in the long run the canvas will become weak.”
Sarala Banerjee, Sarala's Art Centre
If you have utilitarian mind, art is never an investment. If you look at it from an aesthetic point of view, it always is.
Sarala stresses on the importance of buying art you enjoy, instead of blindly following trends. “That's what's caused this greed-driven market,” she says, adding “it defeats the purpose of art”.
She suggests you look at the bio-data of any artist whose work you are planning to buy. “Look for steady growth; a good education base; which galleries they have had shows at…”
After all, the art scene has a fair share of people who survive on gimmickry. “If you give them a piece of paper and pencil they will not be able to prove their skill at all… If you look at history the best artists are always initially technically perfect. They developed their skills, then started to experiment.” As an artist you need make your own language — that's what's important, she says.
Sharan Apparao, Apparao Galleries
Wait. Young artists need a few years to develop a style, a value, an ethic.
With art becoming more affordable, Sharan says people are slowly beginning to accept it as a lifestyle product.
Buying a great painting doesn't happen by accident. While it is important to pick a painting you enjoy looking at, Sharan suggests you also do some research. “Choose an artist that's going places,” she says, adding: “I look at the artist's personality, as much as technique. They have to be committed. They have to last…”
While artists straight out of college might be a bargain, Sharan suggests you wait for about four to five years before your buy their paintings. “They need to develop a style and have some standing if you're going to buy their works as art. And, to do that takes time.”
Pick a tradition you connect with. “And, make sure it's timeless.”