Open Eyed Dreams, the city’s latest art gallery, which opened recently, is playing host to its debut show, ‘Double’

Dilip Narayanan is a man in a hurry. Even after fulfilling his dream of starting an art gallery, Open Eyed Dreams and holding a sleek, stylish and very international in quality debut show, ‘Double’, he has, he says, “a lot more to learn from art.”

That his rather short stint of four years in the field has not been a deterrent to holding a professional, classy show is

proof that he is a fast learner, quick and intelligent. That his love for art is prime and his sense of sussing out the market even better. Otherwise why would anyone open a gallery in Kochi that already has ten art galleries?

Room for art

Surprisingly, he says, “There is room for more. I chose Kochi because my investors are here. There are people here who buy art. Kerala has a very sound market.” And vibrant, energising art that’s now sold in cold cyberspace needs buyers, sellers, and facilitators along with collectors, appreciators and lovers of art. It needs more and more art galleries, more shelf space as market demands.

A self-confessed promoter of art, from Kozhikode, Dilip’s passion for the subject is driven also by the returns the art mart is getting him.

“Of course I am passionate about art otherwise why would I leave a lucrative career in IT and come away,” he says to a calling that has today fructified into his open eye dream of a gallery and of a business which is bullish.

“Yes, people are really waking up to art. The happiest thing is that the younger generation, the ones in their mid 30’s have started putting their money in art. So they are really powerful. For me this is 100 per cent business but there is no denying that I love art. Art has come up only through money. Another important development over the past four years that I have seen is that the regional tag is fading. Now we are addressing the international market. We have an international audience.”

And take a look at ‘Double’ and you will know how international in theme, technique, use of colours and craft the works are. A show by 16 young artists, 12 sponsored by Dilip have indeed put up a good show. The canvases are big, a market demand, the styles are driven by the buyers, the skill and talent belong to the young men and women who are blossoming as artists in a time when the canvas is changing and changing fast.

“See the liberalisation in the works; feel the energy,” says Dilip and continues, “the outlook is changing in all businesses. Till now the Indian art market has appreciated only 33 to 35 per cent maximum. And the remaining market is still there to open up. This is encouraging young entrepreneurs to enter the art market. Initially there were only the traditional collectors, like Chemould, Alkazi, Vadera, Pandole. They were really into art in the seventies. Now the IT executives are into art. The Internet has given it an exposure as never before. Very soon international art will be here and Indian art is almost international.”

So is it because of that that our artists are playing to the gallery, imitating international artists?

“Well, you can’t say imitating but yes influenced. When the young crowd comes imitation won’t work. The new buyers are very discerning, very powerful.”

Explaining how small the art fraternity really is says Dilip, “Look at the number of kids coming out of art institutes, a maximum of 200 or 250, as compared to the number of doctors and engineers, IT professionals that pass out every year. The artists are very few.”

And the share in the art pie? “If you put your money behind a work you get more satisfaction. If you put a Swarovski you enjoy the space more. It is the difference between crystal and glass. You cannot compare. I have learnt a lot from art and am really enjoying, it’s my life. I devote a minimum of 12 to 16 hours a day to art.”

And on the Kerala scene where he began and where he has chosen to root his business venture. “In comparison to literature, movies, sports the Kerala artist is everywhere, even internationally. Fine art professionals are the real ambassadors.”

And the economics of it all that beats logic, he questions incredulously, “When singers charge so much, when sportsmen charge so much to endorse why not artists. In Kerala we didn’t start talking art and we have started discussing the negative side of the art market. They are not bothered about art itself. Culturally society is keeping away from fine arts. They are happy with film stars, mimicry artists and players,” he says scathingly.