expression of an artist
Lala Rukh Selim is an established sculptor. As painter she has a keen eye, reflected well upon her canvas and in her criticism of the field she has observed for years, first as a student and now teacher at the Faculty of Fine Art, University of Dhaka.
“Art” she believes “has no intrinsic value. Its assessment is what society denotes to it. No one collects art for art alone. It is a representation of one's social symbol and expression of his/her financial strength.”
Appreciating art has also never been apolitical, or philanthropic. It is deeply rooted in the social fabric as an expression of social prowess. But it is equally true that set in the realm of art we find our cultural identity.
Despite being a nation of merely four decades, the artistic traditions of this land have been much older and art as a cultural expression has been here for centuries. Yet, it is still a luxury but the growing interest in art, especially from the young earning population gives this field much promise.
“Comparing the situation to what it was 20 years ago, the trend is positive. The market is more dynamic and has created a value for art,” believes Selim.
For the aspirant connoisseur she has but one word of advice.
“One must understand the language of art. It's akin to classical music. The love is acquired through repeated interaction and experience. The will and desire to understand is also very important. A keen beginner must expose himself to various experiences.”
One look at the local scene and the buoyancy is evident. Galleries have opened up to cater to this growing market, books are more easily available and periodicals and catalogues are there for easy reference.
But as far as creative output is concerned, Selim is a purist. “An artist should be independent from the market. His thoughts and creative exuberance should reflect his feelings, his state of mind. An artist should work with creative freedom.”
Art has no boundaries. Picasso was influenced by African traditions; Henry Moor reflects an Egyptian stimulus. Yet their work is appreciated throughout the world, their message well understood. As the national scene is exposed more and more to the international arena economically as well as culturally, we can rest assure that our local influences will make its mark. And the appreciation for art will be more widespread.
By Mannan Mashhur Zarif
economics of art
Back in the early sixties, when the market for art was gradually developing here, foreign collectors showed keen interest in the Bangladeshi art movement. Fifty years later, the interest is now more nationalistic. The market is buoyant but has not reached its optimum level.
There is a correlation between art and the economic status of a nation. As the nation gains financial strength, buying capacity of people increase, giving them the opportunity to invest in expensive, creative pursuits.
“If we look at neighbouring India, we observe that the nation has an affinity for art and culture,” said Goutum Chakrabarty, renowned painter and owner, Galleri Kaya.
“The Indian scene is dominated by financially sound non-resident Indians. They invest in this arena, some patronise particular artists. So far such initiative is lacking here.”
The current art scene is promising not only from an economic perspective but also from a cultural point of view. Different exhibitions are now being held throughout the year, showcasing works by renowned masters and new artists alike. A conservative estimate puts the annual output of the market at Tk.15-20 crores.
Artists have now made the national scene from regions away from Dhaka like Chittagong, Rajshahi and Khulna, despite the fact that the movement is primarily Dhaka-centric.
“Although galleries have now opened their doors to cater to the desires of the market, most pieces are still being sold through private treaties. In western countries, the galleries and artists come under a financial contract that gives exclusive rights to the gallery for showcasing and also dealing in the work of the artist. Such contracts are non-existent in Bangladesh.”
Exhibitions, which are now frequent on the national scene, gives a platform for the aspiring artists and also provide a window to disseminate the work of painters. For established names, it reaffirms their position, and provides a peek into their creative brilliance.
Art in Bangladesh is still cheap. Young budding talents are there, and though the works of masters may seem exorbitantly expensive, they are still cheap compared to the international market. This gives young connoisseurs the opportunity to build collections, spending a relatively small amount.
This may not happen outright, as art requires patience, but one can surely build a collection over the years.
“There are two ways of dealing with the matter. Either you have a deep pocket and pick everything available in the market. Or you be bold and steady, be selective in your purchase. Both systems work, depending on your financial strength and knack for the passion.”
For the aspiring buyer the market is there for a solid investment. Wise judgement and patience ensures a great return.
By Mannan Mashhur Zarif
Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed
Location: Gallery Winners and Galleri Kaya
Special thanks to Lala Rukh Selim, Goutum Chakrabarty and Syed Durjoy Rahman.
Collecting art, much like collecting anything else, starts with liking. Geared with knowledge and appreciation, love one day turns to passion.
Many of us who collect art do so for decorating our homes. Although frowned upon by many as 'living room collection' this is possibly the starting ground.
Not everyone is destined to be a connoisseur possessing a detailed piece of art history. Some may only be satisfied with a few works, hung sparingly across the apartment; the pleasure of looking at the prized possessions more gratifying than the tag of a 'connoisseur'.
You may be an avid reader of art critics in national newspapers, in the galleries you spend hours looking at pieces by contemporary artists as well as famed names just for the pleasure of it, knowing fully that they are beyond your reach.
The Internet has come as a blessing to you and you spend hours downloading images of great works. And of course you own a few pieces yourself. You may think otherwise, but if this is the track you tread you are on the right path.
For the novice, here are certain considerations that you might take into account before plunging in to make your first buy.
Buying for pleasure
If you like landscapes don't spend on abstracts. It's as simple as that. If your interests are varied, try to focus and be selective in what you buy. It is better to be comprehensive rather than sketchy.
Don't spend your entire yearly budget on a single piece. You never know when something else may come up. Fix a budget and then go along.
Oil colours tend to be more expensive than watercolours and prints may be by far the cheapest. Yet, the whole dynamics may change depending on the works and the name associated with the work.
Size does matter
Initially buy what you find is easy to handle. A well-preserved work of art will appreciate in value no matter how small. Recent trends across the world - and Bangladesh has been touched by this positive trend - is that preservation is the key. Many seasoned collectors refuse to buy works done on poor quality canvas or paper.
Framing is also a key consideration before making a purchase. Buy from renowned dealers who are well versed on the concepts of preservation. Although this may require a premium, it should be well worth it.
Time is of essence when it comes to buying works of art. If a piece or name you have a knack for comes up in the market, buy! You may not get a second chance. But as a beginner you must be careful, do your research and if possible take the opinions of collectors who have more experience. That is not to say that you should be easily swayed, but it is important to make a considered decision.
Some artists will appreciate in value, others may not. You must have an eye for detail, be armed with information before making a choice. But don't be overwhelmed by names; the key is 'liking'. However, as time passes by you will learn to appreciate what you may not do so at this moment.
What's in figures?
A common question asked by many, "How many works do you have?" The question, however, is irrelevant. Any collector worth his salt knows that its quality that is of importance, not quantity.
Bangladeshi art is still cheap. Depending on what you want to buy it is still possible to build up a collection that is representative of the art movement here. Start today, and after twenty years, you may be proud of your collection no matter how small or large.
To sum it all up: be bold and buy with your head and eyes, paying no heed to ears.
By Mannan Mashhur Zarif