Online art shows boost sales but lack 'vibe', say art lovers

Art aficionados can't wait for exhibitions and shows to begin in full swing
Last Updated 25 February 2022, 10:21 IST

The beginning of the year, when the mood is upbeat and the winter sun is inviting, is usually a boom time for art with a slew of fairs, shows, and events being held in India and globally.

These are elite dos with high ticket sales, where celebrity artists, buyers, critics, voyeurs, and fans show up to savour the masterpieces and new talents on display.

Since the pandemic, however, all this has changed. The India Art Fair, one of the most significant art events, has been tentatively moved to the end of April, as have many other art showings.

Delhi-based gallerist Nidhi Jain says a cancelled or postponed event is always a setback. In January, she temporarily suspended a Ravinder Dutt solo show at the Bikaner House, Delhi, after readying the installations and organising a wine and cheese evening for the Who's Who of the city. The show will now be held at the same venue from March 11. She was also fully prepared for the now postponed Art Fair.

However, Jain said, there was no gloom on sales which did robustly on online platforms. With people confined to their homes and unable to travel, eat out, or shop, she surmises that the wealthy probably had surplus money to invest in art and beat the pandemic gloom.

"While you can always have a virtual show, the lack of a physical showing is still a loss for the whole fraternity because translating the entire language and emotion of a show into a virtual one is difficult. It can never have the same vibe," said Jain.

Sunaina Anand of Art Alive Gallery in Delhi had to postpone a tripartite show—"Life is a Theatre" by Sakti Burman, "The Garden of My Soul" by Maite Delteil and "Games of Life" by Maya Burman.

"Post covid, both virtual and real shows will be the norm for the art world," said Anand. "During the pandemic, art lovers went online in a big way to buy even high-price masters. Everyone is still adjusting to the new trend of online viewing, but we are all eagerly waiting for physical shows to resume." The tripartite show will now be held from April 15-22 at Bikaner House, Delhi. Kanchan Chander, a senior contemporary artist, worked throughout the pandemic and sold some important works online.

"I was lucky that I could work because my studio is at my home. During the first lockdown, I was offered a virtual solo show by Art Heritage Gallery on Artsy's online portal. The show was well-received by critics and viewers, and the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art acquired a 5 X 9 feet triptych that I had executed. My son, Pallav (also an artist), sold quite a few works on Instagram as they were reasonably priced, and lots of young, upcoming art collectors were investing in art."

For Chander, however, the thrill of an actual art show cannot be replaced by online exhibitions.

"Art is very personal, and seeing a painting is everything. As an artist, real interaction with buyers and fans, conversations, and the excitement of an art fair and art events is so critical to the psyche," said Chander. "Art online may get you the sales, but the inspiration, the joy and the vibe will always come from meeting and sharing. I can't wait to see my work exhibited at an exhibition where people see and discuss it with me over a cup of coffee."

(Shashi Sunny is a lifestyle, celebrity and travel feature writer who has worked in a senior capacity with leading publishing houses)

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(Published 25 February 2022, 10:21 IST)

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