Audience urged to go beyond established names from Bombay Progressive Artists’ Group and take a chance on new talent
LAST TUESDAY’S GUEST SPEAKER HAD AN Oscar moment.
Long after Gaurav Bhatia, MD, Sotheby’s South Asia operations, had finished his talk on the meaning of cultural capital, he was still fielding questions from members of the audience.
His time was up and but the audience’s engagement with him continued and had to be cut short by PP. Rtn. Ashish Vaid’s vote of thanks. A similar system is followed at the Academy Awards ceremony when speakers stretch their vote of thanks beyond the allotted time and are drowned out by the orchestra.
Lesser known fact – Bhatia was left fielding questions on art even as he left the hall half an hour later and was chanced upon by members in the lobby. A few questions also arrived for him on email the next day. Perhaps the guest speaker would revise his opinion on Indians lacking passion for art but instead urge them to put their money where their heart is?
Bhatia expounded, in his talk, that cultural capital consisted of the social assets of a person that promoted social
mobility in a stratified society.
As citizens we could build a better India together and contribute towards its cultural capital. We had a rich history
and heritage, but how many of us had contributed to it, he asked. Bhatia is an opinion leader in art and luxury and
has been published across international media. His opinion is derived from a long-standing experience with Indian art
and its patrons past and present.
Bhatia pointed out the urgency in actively sustaining Indian heritage before we turned into relics of a has-been
civilization overcome by westernisation and frantic about foreign travel and global fusion. It was necessary to promote the next generation of artists too as the ones presently famous had started out being new too. In this way,
legacies could be sustained and new ones created as well.
In the race of doubling GDP, cultural growth was being neglected, he emphasised. Quoting Mahatma Gandhi, he said, “There is more to life than simply increasing its speed’. Bhatia believed, from his experiences, that Indians underestimated cultural capital and the value of art and culture in society.
Museum visits were not a part of our upbringing, so much so that any one could count, on one hand, the number of times most Indians would do a museum visit: once in school, once when his/her children went to school and may be once more with the grandchildren. Museums were seen as dark and boring, and too complex unless one understood colloquial language. However, abroad, museums were the order of the day.
After this wide difference between the museums in India and abroad, Bhatia pointed out that modern buildings which had turned to into modern-day museums such as the Taj Mahal Hotel, had some of the finest artworks of India’s biggest artists. As such, Taj was the pioneer of art collection and its promotion. About 2 lakh people who stayed at the hotel were exposed to this art every year at no additional cost.
Nationally, however, the current budget reflected the marginalization of art in financial planning. Despite all the
darkness, there was a ray of hope with citizens like Sunil Munjal (Serendipity art festival), Sanjay Reddy (GVK, CSIA), and the Jindals who had adopted Hampi and more.
In order to create responsible citizens sensitive towards art and culture, education was key. Bhatia also brought
notice to the facts comparing China and India in terms of culture.
Bhatia called out to the audience to support contemporary Indian art, give their heart to museums, promote the traditions of India because we were what we consumed.
He continued to appeal to members and collectors of rich art to visit as many art exhibitions and auctions as possible, discover and learn about artists and follow their passion.
There was no deeper pleasure than living with a beautiful work and creating your own legacy. A society without art was a society bereft of national identity, he said.