This week, I had the good fortune of being able to see two important shows in Kolkata. The first was held on November 20th at the Birla Academy of Art and Culture and was the preview of a retrospective of veteran artist Rabin Mondal’s paintings and drawings. Organised by Dialogue, an organisation known for promoting interfaces between art and literature, the preview also saw the release of Rabin — a Retrospection, an anthology of selected writings on the artist.
Present at the inauguration, were Sankha Ghosh, poet and litterateur, Soumitra Chattopadhyay, theatre and film personality and Pritish Nandy, poet, journalist, film and media personality. The show also saw friends, well-wishers and at lovers taking their fill of the wide range of works being exhibited. I enjoyed seeing Rabin’s pen and ink drawings, which I had not seen before. Dating back to the period between 1993 and 1995, in these very special works the artist had created a unique texture with pen and ink. The Orgy Series is Rabin’s most recent work and these works are among the largest at the show, with Orgy-5 being the largest. This particular series created in acrylic or oil on canvas is also notable for the artist’s splendid use of colours.
The second show was the 3-day CIMA Art Mela that opened on November 23rd. The show brought into focus the work of a wide variety of artists and as announced earlier, the pricing was really affordable. The works were priced between Rs 500 and Rs 25,000. The mela opened at 11 am and with the word having got around about the unbelievably low prices of the works on sale, there was a steady stream of visitors at the CIMA Gallery. It also brought in art lovers from the film fraternity, particularly Victor Banerjee, a known connoisseur of art. Having run his own art gallery, Victor can be counted among those who know and understand art. He is said to have enjoyed himself thoroughly at the mela and has been quoted in a leading daily as having remarked, “There still are too many talented people in Calcutta. I wish them all the best.” It made me stop and think. In actual fact, Victor being the art lover that he is, had hit the nail right on the head. He had summed it up perfectly, implying that the prices on the art works were much too low.
I must hasten to say that art melas are a wonderful idea and are doing a splendid job of giving upcoming artists a platform. But it also highlights the fact that prices have to be really low to be able to sell a painting in Kolkata these days. Also, while the lower rates are fine for the younger lot, any artist who has exhibited before would either not participate, or have to reduce the prices for his art works, making them much lower than usual. So while I do think that the Mela is a splendid idea, it may just not work for everybody.
(The writer is a winner of many advertising design awards and a painter of repute)