Salesman on Social Media

A couple of months ago,one of the most well-known galleries in the United Kingdom wrote to Jai Ranjit,a young Mumbai-based artist,asking if they could trademark his idea.

Written by Zaira Arslan | Published:May 4, 2012 2:30 am

A couple of months ago,one of the most well-known galleries in the United Kingdom wrote to Jai Ranjit,a young Mumbai-based artist,asking if they could trademark his idea. The idea was to auction art on Twitter. The artist turned down the offer.

The self-taught abstract artist began painting five years ago “on the advice of a friend”. Since then,the 24-year-old has had two solo shows at Art Entrance Gallery in Kala Ghoda,Mumbai,and several group shows — in what could be the standard practice for a young and relatively new artist. He then decided to try something that hasn’t been attempted before.

Last year,he decided to use Facebook to sell his art. Making an album of some paintings he wanted to sell,he gave each a starting price and put them up for auction. “But that didn’t go too well,so I decided to back off,” he says. Months later,he attempted the same thing on Twitter. The trial run didn’t attract too much attention. But he was not ready to give up. “Initially,I just put up the picture and didn’t tweet too much,so not many people knew about it,” he says. This was in December last year. In January,he tried again — tweeting regularly this time — and the auction was a success. Since then,Ranjit has consistently been auctioning art on Twitter,usually every second week,drawing the attention of more and more people.

The process: he tweets about upcoming auctions a day or two before the event,following which,on the day of the auction,he puts up a picture of the painting and the starting price. The auction lasts for five to six hours. Every hour,he brings the auction to the notice of his followers,whose number has crossed 700 by now. As and when people bid,he updates through tweets and names the winner as the auction closes.

Interesting as the idea is,it only works for the smaller paintings,he says. “You have a better chance of selling a larger work at an exhibition than on Twitter. If you’re buying a work that is going to cost you Rs 10,000 or more,you would want to sit down with the artist and talk about it,and not buy it off Twitter,” he reasons. Nevertheless,he places the chances of his smaller paintings being sold on Twitter higher.

Canvases,however,are not the only things Ranjit paints on. “I paint on shoes,T-shirts,jeans and bags too,” he says. At the moment,he does it on a commission basis but he plans to launch a line of these items soon.

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