Your next online order — a canvas

Sujatha Narayanan of the Thinking Hats Home Gallery. PHOTO: M. VEDHAN  

Rakesh Kumar, a retired collector of art, wanted a specific watercolour, but couldn’t find what he was looking for until he spotted a work by Bijay Biswaal a few months ago on the web. “I clicked on it and it took me to {founded in 2013}. I hadn’t heard about the concept of online art galleries till then, so I was speculative about the size, colour and texture. I decided to take the risk and placed a request to buy the work,” he recalls.

Rakesh bid a “ridiculous price” that was far below the market value of the artist. “I immediately got a call from the gallery; they patiently explained to me how it works, and we came to a consensus,” he says. He made his first buy.

Online art galleries work well for people who like art, but don’t know where to start. Of course, there are the physical galleries. But sometimes, they can come across as elitist places, catering to a select group, which knows and talks art, says Manisha Lath Gupta, founder of IndianArtCollectors (founded in 2005, it collaborates with galleries across India, includes over 5,000 works of masters and emerging artists, and gets around 1,000 visitors per day). “We can’t blame the galleries. They would be wasting time giving a tour of artworks to someone who cannot shell out the money to buy the pieces on display. However, when it comes to the web, you can browse through the collection of masters, from the comfort of your couch,” she adds.

The best part is there is no pressure on the visitor to buy. “And while one can see around 50 artworks at a time in a physical art gallery, online, they can check out thousands of works. This helps them make an informed choice, chips in Vishal Singhal, co-founder of ArtZolo, which gets around 450 visitors per day.

“Though we can’t compare the scene here with Sotheby’s and Christie’s {auction house giants}, online art is definitely picking up in India. If someone is buying my work, they can read about my 50 years in the field through reviews and write-ups, and check out my selling price internationally and across different sites. There is no need of an interaction with the artist as was required before,” says renowned artist R.B. Bhaskaran, well-known for his ‘Cat’ series, who has been associated with city-based Monsoon Canvas Art Gallery (started by Thomas Chacko and Rama in 2009), besides Saffronart, Osian’s — The Auction House and Art Deal among others.

However, on request from the buyer, most sites facilitate an interaction with the artist, and attach a certificate of authenticity along with the work. Celebrated artist S.G. Vasudev feels that it is important to know the artist’s thoughts behind the work. “If I am buying artwork, I would like to see the painting myself, feel it and explore it, and talk to the artist,” he says. His works are up on several online galleries, bought by anonymous buyers.

Many sites maintain a blog that explains art trends, gives tips to look after expensive artwork, how to make investments and resell art. There are live chat windows and art consultants on board for assistance. And if you are looking to buy art for home decor, there is always the ‘Room Preview’ option, where you can change the colours of the wall virtually to check what suits the artwork. “However, there is a small challenge — how can you be sure the colour you see on your phones, laptops or iPads is actually the colour on the canvas? It is okay if the buyers know the artists and his works well, but otherwise, this aspect has to be taken care of,” adds Bhaskaran.

Online portals try to tackle that by making sure the pictures are of high resolution and shot in good lighting. Art curator Sujatha Narayanan, who runs the Chennai-based Thinking Hats Home Gallery (started in July 2015), gets requests based on the photos of the curated works (of artists like A. Viswam and Muralidharan Alagar among others) on her Facebook page. Almost seven out of 10 enquiries get converted to sales, she says.

There is also a price difference in the artworks when they are bought online. “While high-end galleries sell works at a high commission, since there is no establishment as such for us, the price is pulled down for customers,” says Thomas Chacko of Monsoon Canvas Art Gallery. “Most of the enquiries we get are for works below Rs. 30,000.”

Ranjith Boyanapalli, an employee at a private firm, bought as many as six works (by artists like Sharmi Dey, Anupam Pal, Nithya Rajesh) online last year alone. “I don’t go for the masters because I don’t have that kind of money, but there is a pool of creative works which are good,” he says.

With more people opting to buy in the bracket of Rs. 10,000 and Rs. 30,000, the market works best for emerging artists. “There are around 1,500 art students passing out from colleges every year, but where is the space for them to display all their works?” questions Anu Bharara, director of Best College Art (founded in 2011), which gets as many as 1.5 million clicks every week. “We have on an average five artists and 10 buyers registering with us every day. In Chennai alone, we sell at least one artwork every three weeks,” she adds.

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Printable version | Apr 17, 2021 9:33:29 PM |

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