Virtual galleries like TAP and Prinseps are the latest additions to the art world
Online shopping for art is not a new beast. In fact, art portal Saffronart (launched in 2001) announced their whopping sale of ₹35 crore for a 1974 Gaitonde painting at their 300th auction held earlier this month. With the wine and cheese evenings at galleries becoming almost non-existent during the pandemic, the entire art market has migrated to an online experience that is undoubtedly two dimensional.Starting afreshLaunching a new venture in these difficult times appears almost scatological and yet, Prinseps, an online auction house launched in 2017, is all set to open their new season with a virtual gallery and auction sales this November. “The luxury market relied heavily on the shopping experience of consumers at luxury stores or malls,” observes founder-director Indrajit Chatterjee, adding, “This traffic has reduced dramatically. We feel we are ideally positioned to offer the same experience via our online platform so we are aggressively pursuing it.”
Waswo X Waswo’s The Observationist at Leisure in a Stolen Garden
| Photo Credit: Latitude 28
Ranjit Hoskote, poet, cultural theorist and curator, says that there can be no substitute for being in the physical presence of the artwork. However, online galleries have amplified our access to collections across the world. “We may never visit Saturn or Uranus, and rely on space probes to relay impressions of these planets to us, do we not? Let’s approach online viewing in the same spirit,” he suggests. The idea is to present buyers with a wide price range between ₹10,000 to ₹10 crore. The piece de resistance is a 16-carat antique cushion-cut Burmese ruby ring (₹56 lakh). Also on offer are idyllic landscapes on canvas by Atul Bose, who sprung to fame through his association with Academy of Fine Arts in Kolkata, and whose delicate, small-format nude studies have sold at Sotheby’s.
B Athaiya, Prayers, Oil on Canvas, 1950
| Photo Credit: Prinseps
Oils on canvas and watercolours from the estate of Bhanu Athaiya — the first Indian to win an Oscar (costume design for Richard Attenborough’s 1982 Gandhi) and the only woman artist who was friends with the Progressive Artist Group — come up for auction for the first time in almost 70 years.Stronger togetherMeanwhile, galleries are grouping together to make it easier for the harried collector to browse for art. The Art Platform India (TAP), which went live on September 2, is a partnership of around 13 galleries from across the country, who have come together to accent their visibility. They hope to appeal to a wider audience with a choice of works, with the follow-ups being done on a personal level. “During the lockdown I realised we all needed a collective effort and that was how the idea of this platform was born,” says Sharan Apparao, of Chennai’s Apparao Galleries, who is showcasing the work of artist Alwar Balasubramaniam, known for playing with the dualities of presence and absence.
Alwar Balasubramaniam, Limited from Unlimited II, 2000
| Photo Credit: Apparao Galleries
“This format accessibly brings the latest in contemporary Indian art to viewers in the comfort of their own homes,” adds Bhavna Kakar, founder-director of Delhi-based Latitude 28. They are currently hosting Waswo X Waswo’s exhibition of ‘staged’ hand-painted photographs made collaboratively with Rajasthani miniaturists Rajesh Soni and Shyam Lal Kumar. “The primary market becomes more transparent online and helps buyers make informed choices,” shares Tunty Chauhan, director, Gallery Threshold. Showcasing artists like Anindita Bhattacharya, V Ramesh, Indrapramit Roy and Rahul Inamdar, the Delhi gallery focusses on art ideas and discourse. While the online space has been well received by most, there is an expectation and a yen that younger galleries and those located outside the metros would also get to dip into the collaboration. A general criticism floating around the art vine is that the same names appear to crop up even online. “One would have expected that an online presence would shift focus a bit from the city-centric galleries and artists,” concludes Kolkata-based curator Nanak Ganguly.