Not everyone can afford a Zainul or a Shahabuddin. For most of us, these works of art are only available on the walls of important exhibitions and proud galleries. But just because someone who does not have that amount of money allotted for art surely does not mean that he or she cannot be an art collector.
There are various places one can visit in order to buy artworks without putting too much pressure on the wallet.
The key thing to remember here is that your prime target can be students. Since they are yet to become famous and skyrocket their prices, you can usually get a good deal buying art from them.
Of course, when we talk of students, we are talking about students of Charukala, Dhaka University.
And the students of Charukala do provide that opportunity. Chobir Haat for example, is a market just opposite Charukala. The market runs only on Fridays, and the most buzzing time is the evening.
On the other hand, Zainul Mela is another place that you must go to. Also arranged by Charukala, the annual fair is held at Charukala, from 28 December to 30 December.
“Seven departments of the Faculty of Fine Arts participate. It is a very busy and lucrative market, especially since the New Year is only a day or two away. Prices can be very reasonable. Also, the variety of artwork is huge. If you even bring Tk.100, you can get something or the other,” Sadia Sharmin, a student of the institute, says.
Chobir Haat and Zainul Mela are even better if you are good at bargaining. These are possibly the most attractive places to buy artwork at extremely reasonable prices.
On the other hand, you may tot around DCC Market in Gulshan 2 and UAE Market in Banani. The shops and galleries provide many awe-inspiring works of art. Prices vary to a large extent, though. “We have paintings worth Tk.1000 as well as paintings worth Tk.200, 000 and even more,” says Ikram Uddin from Tivoli Art Gallery.
Hence, these galleries have artworks both inexpensive as well as expensive.
Inexpensive is a relative term, of course. And when you are dealing with things like art, words such as “cheap”, “reasonable” and “inexpensive” become very vague (and sometimes offensive!)
If you think you bought yourself a masterpiece for a bit less than what you thought it should cost, you go home happy. On the other hand, depending on the quality of art and the budget of the buyer, a Tk.50, 000 painting can mean expensive.
But yes, if you are talking of a lower range or a mid-range budget, a keen eye and a little bit of bargaining power can help you strike the right deal.
Aziz Supermarket in Shahbagh is another place for art lovers. It hosts a few shops that feature lucrative sculptures, masks and craftworks.
The variety and genre of art is of course very wide. You have masks, various craftworks, sculptures and paintings. There are sub-genres within genres, like water colours, oil paintings and so on.
Each type of artwork has a separate range of prices. Given the size of the painting and all other variables are constant, an oil painting is more expensive than a watercolour painting.
Sculptures are rather expensive. “Sculptures are yet to reach mass appeal in Bangladesh. The price is high and the long time needed to complete a sculpture makes the market less productive. Add to that the fact that many people in Bangladesh do not like to display a statue in their homes,” Sajib Paul, another student of Charukala, said.
Even in a place like Zainul Mela, one may not get a sculpture at a cheap price. The material with which the sculpture is made is also a deciding factor of the price. “Of course, a sculpture made of clay is less expensive than one made out of metal,” he continued.
On the other hand, craftworks like masks come relatively cheap.
As an art collector, you may wish to direct your interests in one particular category; and along with factors such as your taste or fascination towards a genre, category, era and so on, money can be a deciding point too.
But no matter what kind of budget you have, and no matter what genre you choose, the key to becoming a good art collector boils down to one thing: knowledge.
Study about art in great detail. Take art appreciation courses. Know about the greatest artists over different time periods and learn about their works. Go to galleries and exhibitions frequently.
“You need to know the '-isms' well if you wish to judge the quality of art,” Paul further said.
Without gathering knowledge about eras like Renaissance and having in-depth knowledge about feminism and other thoughts and movements, it can become hard to understand art.
Sure, you may say that you do not need to “get” an abstract painting, the sheer beauty or inspiration of a work may be enough to bring out the wallet, but if you do it too often, you are merely window shopping!
There is no way out. You have to know about art in vast detail. Interestingly, this is more important if you are on a tight budget!
If you have a generously extravagant budget instead, you could afford paintings and sculptures of the Gurus, and not worry about the quality -- the brand will take care of that. But most of us don't have that luxury. When you buy a painting from a student, you need to know about its quality, and in order to do that, you need to know art.
Still, if you do want a security blanket here, look for someone -- perhaps an art faculty member -- who can refer you to a bright student. Try to identify emerging artists -- since they occupy the middle ground between famous artists and newcomers, they offer great artworks at reasonable prices. Check an artist's profile -- how many exhibitions has he attended? For how many years has he been selling his work? What are his previous milestones?
Guilt should probably exist -- you are scrutinising the artist, whereas, one may argue, you should focus on the artwork, not the artist! But at least checking the student artist's previous work is wise if you want to hire in commission.
Who knows, if you are skilled in identifying talent, you may even end up buying a reasonably priced painting from a junior artist, who, 15 years later, may well turn out to be the next Shahabuddin.
By M H Haider
Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed
Location: Winner's Creations Ltd