Bahar Dhawan Rohatgi on Affordable vs Emerging Art
HOW DO YOU EXPRESS ART IN YOUR TERMS? WHY IS IT STILL AN IMPORTANT PART OF THE SOCIETY?
Art is food for the soul. It exists even when and where language fails. All forms of art, whether it be poetry, visual art , music , dance, exist to fill the space of what we cannot say explicitly. It is the physical manifestation of our reality, a sum of all the things we are. Hence, I feel it should be taken as seriously as one takes themselves. Art exists in tandem with our own existence, not aside it. If you can separate your art from the rest of your life, your hearts not in it and you are really missing out. Even if you ignore it, art is everywhere. It couldn’t be more true to say even in willful abstinence and bsence, art is present from a distance in all our lives.Personally, I feel art cannot not be detached and the intentions of the artist will manifest in the artworks. We feel connected and part of community and want to honour it, not to be separate from it. Creating gives a sense of pure bliss and unparalleled satisfaction. It is the most intense excitement one can come to know. There’s not a moment I’m notcompletely engaged, right there at brush-point, as I have no idea where this path will lead and what subtleties, risks, and skills will be demanded of me to get there. Art helps me unravel. No matter how out of focus the picture in my mind, painting helps me unravel each strand patiently. Unravel and then bind together. It makes me recover my world. As an artist, I watch the world from a completely different perspective: which is beautiful, thrilling, and mysterious. I feel more alive than ever.
SINCE WHEN ART HAS BEEN YOUR PROFESSIONAL LINE?
(TIP: DEFINE YOUR JOB PROFILE AND YEARS OF EXPERIENCE, NUMBER OF EXHIBITIONS TILL NOW)
I always had an appetite within, for creativity. Even while managing my legal career, (I was a Senior associate in the prestigious Law firm, Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas &Co. since May 2010 until May 2015) I had been creating art and selling since 2012. A few sales took place when I was in my University. Winning art competitions through school and colleges, sketching and painting occasionally, art was always in my DNA but life had its own plan. Often I would get an urge like a bolt from out of the blue to paint, but deadlines and work commitments would always take precedence. I would often imagine myself being in an artist’s studio, going wild on the canvas and would often stop sleeping after work hours to quench the creative thirst and paint away. The breeding ground for the artist in me was at my law firm itself as many associates and partners at the firm had started investing in my works. Friends would call me ‘Lawyer by the day and Artist by the Night’! Eventually, after five years of practice, I knew I had to stop juggling. I challenged myself to put up my first official exhibition and test the waters before I took the plunge. My debut exhibition in May 2015 luckily was a great success. After this, there was no looking back. I have been a part of several shows ever since. I am currently displaying my work in an ongoing group show at the Indira Gandhi International Terminal (T1).I just completed a Business of Art course from the YWLP and DAG, Modern; the first art course of its kind for understanding the market & business of Art, taught by Indian and global leaders.
ABOUT MY WORK:
I like dabbling in different interests, It makes my work very responsive. I also don’t like giving a wide gap between the different works I do. It gives my artwork a certain urgency it would lack if it were a permanent prolonged venture. I love exploring subject matters, for instance: women are a recurring feature in my work as I am a socially alert feminist. Off late, I feel morphing and deconstruction of form has become a very important part of my works which can be seen in the abstracts and owls etc. I create. I enjoy working with different mediums, paper, rubber, resin, cement, fevicol, sand etc My work is heavily influenced by the Cosmos and galaxies, landscapes and my experiences from traveling. I also paint a lot from the visions in my dreams. My legal experience has only helped me streamline and embellish my thought process, while being innovative and versatile. It has helped me immensely in appreciating daily experiences and drawing inspiration from conversations which ignite the mind while meeting interesting people, hearing their life experiences and gauging their points of view. As a result, I am creating art, which is diverse, meaningful and has an innate sense of storytelling. This ability to do something new each time has helped in both my personal and professional life. I feel blessed as my works have also been collected by some top collectors of the Country, big Corporates, plethora of private clients including NRIs, Swedish and US nationals. While painting, I also feel responsible contributing to the art community by furthering art law practice in India. I strongly feel with apposite legislation,there will be transparency and accessibility. With a systematic dedicated approach, I am certain that in future we will be looking at great valuation for artworks and increased investor confidence in the art market.
1. Solo show for private viewing in 2013 in collaboration with Delhi food tours for an expat event.
2. Debut show : ‘Voices from the subcontinent’ at House at Heirloom from 21 May to 20 June 2015.
3. Exhibition by Verssage in association with Kotak Mahindra Bank, Panchsheel branch in August 2015.
4. ‘Masters, Mentors and Proteges’, an exhibition of fine arts and sculptures in association with Indus Bank and Antiquana at Indigo- 27 and 28 November 2015.
5. Current show: Group exhibition at VIP lounge of the Indira Gandhi International Airport organised by Gallerie Nyva . March – May 2016.
6. Group exhibition by Indian woman artists in association with Verssage for charitable organisation”Woman of the Element trust&” at the Select City Mall, Saket, New Delhi March 5-6, 2016.
7. Participated in the Luxury Fest in New Delhi in April 2016.
8. Participated in the show organised by the Global art Hub in New Delhi between 8-10 April 2016 celebrating Masters, wherein I was the only young Indian Artist selected to exhibit my works alongside the biggest names in the Art Industry.8.
9. Triptych Parade, in association with Artylesque 7-8 May 2016 at Gallery 1AQ, Mehrauli, New Delhi
• On the cover of the feature done by Indiatoday on the 10 most promising artists in Delhi-NCR in April 2016.
• Featured as the ‘Artists on the rise&’ feature in Mailtoday in April 2016.
• My journey of a lawyer to an artist was also featured by the leading online magazine LBB,Delhi in April 2016.
• Featured in a New York based travel magazine titled "Upward Magazine" in March 2016 as the person of interest where I spoke extensively regarding my Influences and places in India which inspire my artworks. The Magazine is also available on the I Tunes and App Store as ‘Upward Magazine’.
• Featured amongst some very successful women on 6 March 2016 of Times Life, the Sunday features supplement of The Times of India, the country's highest circulated English daily which published a story headlined ‘What’s your kind of strength' on page 02 of t he National edition.
• Featured in Hindustan Times HTCity on 9 February 2016 for speaking about the importance of social media for an artist.
• Featured in the Times of India and HT City as the upcoming artist after my Debut exhibition in June 2015.
• Homegrown online website http://homegrown.co.in/the-stories- of-inspired- young-indians- who-chose- their-dreams- over-stability- vol-iii/
• Amongst the 12 Young achievers under the age of 35 by Primo privilege (Privilege Programme for members in Delhi) in January 2016. http://primoprivilege.com/PrimoStoriesDetails/1/30/Primo Incredibles– -Bahaar- Dhawan-Rohatgi the video is available on this link –
HOW DO YOU DEFINE THE CONCEPT OF EMERGING ART AND CONCEPT OF AFFORDABLE ART?
(TIP: DIFFERENTIATE BETWEEN BOTH OF THEM IN YOUR OWN EXPERIENCE)
There is really no straightjacket formula or definition that can be attributed to the two concepts. The ‘Affordable’ term is so subjective, a perspective that can vary from person to person. For anyone who respects an artwork and enjoys it, would not consider a work worth Rs. 30 lakhs expensive especially since it is a unique piece of asset. On the other hand a person with the same means, who does not treat art any different from a piece of furniture, would shudder at the thought of spending 3 lakhs for the same work but would not bat an eyelid before buying a car worth the same amount, even though it is a depreciating asset. Having said that, the perception of ‘affordable’ art is regularly referred to art being created by the younger artists. This does not mean that the work is inferior from the masters, but simply based on the price in the market they command. Personally, I feel the young artists are fairly open minded, hence, being projected as artists whose work is affordable is not an issue. The problem lies with perception. The term ‘affordable’ should not be perceived in a manner which has a negative connotation. It is important to understand that in the world of art, where bad art has no fixed definition, where the same work can increase or decrease in value due to market driven forces, quality of work does not usually correlate to the price it demands. Many extraneous factors play an important role apart from the talent of the artist in valuation of an art work. Use the term ‘affordable’ prefixed to anything and you objectify the product as a sale commodity. So long as it facilitates sales, no problem. However, art being viewed as a mere commodity for sale gives rise to its own problems, especially in absence of set factors for determination of price. It is a nightmare, because every one wants the ‘best deal’ and although unintentional, gallerists, dealers and artists often find themselves trapped in the glorified flea market situation, facilitating the gradual undermining of the value of the artwork, in order to effect a sale. On the other hand, you prefix the term “emerging” to an artist, suddenly you create value for the artist and his artwork, we are viewed as young fresh blood, creating something new and different, contributing to the society and culture. When spoken as ’emerging’ artists, there is an element of respect and faith bestowed upon us. At this point, sales feel like a mere consequence because we are seen in a different light and so is our work. There is promise in every new work, without it being viewed as a run of the mill product for sale. In the long run, an artist establishes itself due to the brand it creates for the artworks and not because the work is considered ‘affordable’.
WILL YOU PUT YOUR ARTWORK UNDER OR WITH THE GALLERY, THAT PUT “AFFORDABLE” TAG TO ATTRACT MORE CUSTOMERS?
As I see it, it works in our favour if our works are considered affordable but being branded as an ‘Affordable Artist/ artwork’ is a myopic approach which is used to facilitate sales and immediate gains and can have its long term issues until our artworks command astronomical prices in reputed auctions. Hence I would urge anyone who takes serious interest in nurturing or promoting any artist, to project us as Emerging Artists. In any event, the price tag speaks for itself . Having said that, personally, I will be happy to associate with a gallery who believes in my work and I would not interfere in how the work is being marketed.
WHY ARE THE ARTWORKS CATEGORIZED IN THE FIRST PLACE? WHY DO YOU THINK IT’S A NECESSITY THAT THE CATEGORIES AND TAGS ARE PLACED ON THE ARTISTS AND THEI ARTWORKS?
Sometimes, it is important to target a different or wider audience. In such situations branding like ‘affordable’ and ’emerging’ help creating a perception that works are accessible to a wider audience than a select few from the elite crowd. I once heard some collector joke that ‘not all of us are repeated offenders’. Now it makes perfect sense. Most people want to surround themselves and their homes with art that appeals to them but get intimidated by the prices. Only a small percentage people are passionate enough to turn into collectors and aggressively acquire work. One has to make special efforts to approach people who have a limited appetite for art as non-collectors would not go looking for the art unless the offers are attractive. In order to expand the market and audience, new methods have to be adopted, including categorizing artworks based on style, price range, period etc to get noticed and pique peoples’ interest. It was reemphasized in my “Business of Art” class how as humans we all are wired to notice what is different, hence, branding, categorization and tags have become important. Bit by bit, India is undergoing a cultural awakening, which is happening in the grimy fringes rather than the glamorous centre monopolized by the Masters. The rigid schedule of opening parties/ previews, exhibitions held in hushed, intimidating environments are on their way out. India is luckily fast moving towards the casual atmosphere where there is less distance between the artist and the audience. This has been made possible only because of the approach of creating a perception and branding art as being accessible, less intimidating, more relatable and yes, affordable.