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,informally asking if they could trademark his idea. The idea was that of auctioning art on Twitter.

Written by Zaira Arslan | Published:May 4, 2012 1:32 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,informally asking if they could trademark his idea. The idea was that of auctioning 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 and group shows at a number of locations — including the Kohinoor Hotel,Andheri — in what could be standard practice for a young and relatively new artist. Then,he 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 didn’t give up.

“Initially,I just put up the picture and didn’t tweet too much,so many people didn’t even know about the auction,” he says. This was last December. In January this year,he tried again — tweeting regularly this time — and the auction was a success. Since then,Ranjit has been consistently auctioning art on Twitter — usually every second week — drawing attention of more art enthusiasts each time.

The process goes like this: 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 its starting price. The duration of the auction is mentioned — usually five to six hours — and then,every hour or so,he brings the auction to the notice of his followers — whose number has crossed 700 by now. As and when people bid for the painting,he updates through tweets and when the auction closes,names the winner.

Interesting as the idea is,it only works for smaller paintings,he says. “You have a better chance of selling a bigger work at an exhibition than on Twitter. If you’re buying a work that is going to cost you around 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 than at an exhibition or a fete,like the one held at Fellas Cafe,Khar,last month,in which he also participated.

Canvases,however,are not the only things Ranjit paints on. “I paint on shoes,T-shirts and bags,too,” he says. And occasionally,on jeans —ones that he’s seen wearing from time to time when he’s exhibiting his work. At the moment,the shoes,T-shirts and bags that he paints are done on a commission basis — and what he paints on them is chosen by the client. But he plans to launch his own line of these items very soon.

Apart from painting,Ranjit also holds art classes at home and during the academic year,teaches at the Crestar Creativity Centre,a studio in Pali Hill that hosts classes on drawing,painting,photography,cartooning,carpentry and calligraphy for children.

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