A fictional account of the Indian art world attempts to demystify the world of contemporary art here

There are some stories that have to be told and Artist, Undone by V. Sanjay Kumar is one of those. An outsider who became an insider to the art world by sheer accident, Sanjay felt compelled to tell the tale. It was the poetry of Arun Kolatkar which actually egged him on. The art world was in any case calling out to him.

What followed was a book, probably the first fictional account of the Indian art world— which doesn’t do a spill-it-all take on it but introduces it to a layman who has no prior knowledge of the art business. Chennai-based Sanjay does it through Harsh Sinha, a character that takes after Sanjay’s own life. Like Harsh, he is a corporate guy who takes a plunge into the art world and learns the nitty-gritty of it along the way. “Actually, there is a bit of me in every character,” says Sanjay who switched over from the software business to the art world. And now, he is the Director of Sakshi Gallery.

Art is an integral part of his life and Sanjay hasn’t been able to keep it away even in this project. Of course the subject itself is art, but the treatment too is on the similar terrain. It seems like a dreamscape where different scenes are being played out and though they are all connected, they can be read and understood as separate stories too.

The story is slow but with a flow, oscillates between past and present and vice-versa, becomes a diary at times, a dialogue with the self or just random ruminations. The wit keeps the plot, which is not so rigid, going. “It’s the characters who take the story forward. I like to see how the characters develop,” says Sanjay adding that his characters — Roongta, Harsh’s colleague, Manoj Tyaagi a guy involved in a scam, Gayathri, Harsh’s wife and Newton Kumaraswamy are fashioned on real people who can be identified. “And with characters like these in this world, it’s hard not to write about the art world. It is such a fascinating world.”

Sanjay’s entry isn’t as dramatic as Harsh Sinha whose life changes after he suddenly buys an art work of Nataraj Sharma ‘Fat, F**and Forty’ but it was nonetheless a chance encounter with an M.F. Husain painting gifted to him on his wedding. While Harsh ventures out into the market to sell off the Rs.27 lakh painting that has changed his life, Sanjay got into it in a bid to find out the real worth of the painting and in the process finds out it is a serigraph and not a painting. He is intrigued by the art world for two reasons; firstly for the aesthetics and secondly the commerce part of it. “The latter is imperfect, illogical but interesting. The market is small but fascinating because of how it marries commerce with something that’s difficult to define or explain,” explains Sanjay, who has also included the images of real art works into the book. While the book took a year and a half to complete, Sanjay spent almost six months getting permissions to publish the images of the paintings.

The book published by Hachette India was out during this year’s India Art Fair in January, it will have a formal release in Delhi at The Oberoi, Gurgaon, on July 7 by Kiran Nadar of Kiran Nadar Museum of Art. It has been launched in Chennai, Mumbai, Baroda and after Delhi, the artist plans to release in it Kochi.

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