Artists seeking publicity claim faking of their works: Neville Tuli (Interview)

January 23rd, 2009 - 1:50 pm ICT by IANS  

Amitabh BachchanJaipur, Jan 23 (IANS) Neville Tuli, chairman and founder of Osian’s Connoisseurs of Arts - the country’s biggest private art auction house, feels that the lack of authentication of art works in India leads to faking while many artists also claim that their works have been forged to gain publicity. “Works are not authenticated and art still comes without receipts. This allows room for art to be faked. Moreover, many artists like to claim that their works have been faked to seek easy publicity,” Tuli told IANS in an interview.

Tuli, one of the sponsors of the Jan 21-25 Jaipur Literature Festival, has brought to the event “Bachchanalia: The Films and Memorabilia of Amitabh Bachchan” - the maiden publication of the Osian’s Centre for Archiving, Research and Development (CARD).

“The book covers almost everything about the superstar. It is our endeavour to make people fall in love with books, especially colourful biographies again,” he said.

According to Tuli, wealth generated through commerce based on art and culture should be ploughed back into ventures that further the cause of creativity.

“From creativity flows knowledge, which in turn generates wealth. This wealth must be ploughed back to create basic or lasting heritage,” he said.

Excerpts from the interview:

Q: The art fraternity was rocked by a show of fake works of S.H. Raza on Jan 18 in New Delhi. Is the problem of fake art assuming a grave proportion?

A: Show me one thing in this world that is not fake. Even relationships are fake. Only 15 artists command the market. Think of the millions of artists who are trying to get a toehold. The top ones sell for Rs.10 million but the lesser-known ones barely manage Rs.10.

The market here has no underbelly - people deal in cash and the concept of cataloguing is yet to catch on. Works are not authenticated and art still comes without provenance certificates and receipts. This allows room for art to be faked. However, the fake market is still miniscule.

People in this country do not how to authenticate the art works that they buy. Moreover, many artists like to claim that their works have been faked - they are like charlatans, seeking easy publicity.

Q: Is the art market reeling under the impact of the meltdown?

A: The whole system may be going through a slump but art is holding out much better. People have sold rubbish during the boom, but the meltdown has distilled the market.

Saleable art has a history of only 110 years. The century has churned out thousands of artists every year but in reality only 15 or so artists command 80 percent of the market. These 15 do not get influenced by changes in the money market.

Q: You have just launched your design and publishing wing. What spurred it?

A: We launched our design and publishing wing on Jan 3 with the biography of Amitabh Bachchan, co-authored by Bhavna Somaaya. The book covers almost everything about the superstar. It was our endeavour to make people fall in love with books, especially colourful biographies, again.

We researched Bachchan’s cinema in the context of Indian and world cinema. The names of the movies appear as the masthead on each page and the parallel history of his films runs along the bottom of the page as context. The seeds of “Bachchanalia” were sown by Somaaya in her first book “Amitabh Now and Forever” in 2001.

We have 50 books on art and popular culture to our credit. Our publishing and design section is a natural extension of the cataloguing that we do.

Q: How would you describe Osian’s? What is its credo?

A: Do not call it an auction house or an archive. We have built an institution - perhaps the country’s largest - with sponsorship from the government. It is a $250 million company now, which operates on a cost-subsidised framework.

The auction house generates wealth by sale of art and related material. The archive spends it on enhancing knowledge pools. It took us at least 20 years to build the platform.

Q: What is it that binds creativity and commerce?

A: From creativity flows knowledge, which in turn generates wealth. This wealth must be ploughed back to create basic or lasting heritage. If you can sustain creativity long enough to make it institutionalised without transforming yourself and compromising on your ideas, you have got a head-start.

Q: Is it difficult to balance the two?

A: No, it is not difficult to balance the two. I have an obligation to share knowledge bases effectively with the world. That is the reason I am funding this literature festival - where one is supposed to get to know something about writing and authors.

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