Stranger than Fiction

Stranger than Fiction

V Sanjay Kumar, Director, Sakshi Gallery, Mumbai on his second book, Virgin Gingelly and on stories from the art world.

V Sanjay Kumar on his second book, Virgin Gingelly and on stories from the art world.
V Sanjay Kumar on his second book, Virgin Gingelly and on stories from the art world.

You were a businessman before you invested in art. How did you move from being a newcomer in the art world to basing your first book on it?

The art world is a fascinating place and artists are very different from those you meet in the business world. At some point, I wanted to write a book that would be set in this space. Around five years ago, I sold my software business and I had time to try my hand at writing. Very soon the process of writing itself became a reason to write.

Your first novel Artist, Undone was about a man who spends a fortune on a painting and doesn’t know why. Why do we not see novels based in the contemporary art world more often?

Artists have been characters in fiction for decades though not very often. Apart from artists, the art world has other players such as gallerists, critics and curators. And then there is the art market which practices a unique form of commerce. The starting point for my book became an outsider, who stumbled into the art world, and his journey had all these elements working on him in various ways. It’s hard to say why the art world has not been popularised by books; perhaps the reality itself is so strange that it pre-empts fiction.


Virgin Gingelly is about a sense of belonging to a city. How did you choose Chennai as the backdrop of your second book?

The question I am asked all the time is ‘Where are you from?’ The answer keeps changing. I felt that there was enough material for a book. So the main character, like me, belongs to the baniya community in a neighbourhood full of Tamil Brahmins. I picked characters who are termed ‘misfits’ as well as the ‘typical’ — runaways with bombs and teenagers coming to terms with their sexuality. The book also touches on issues such as reservations, regional differences, patriarchy, and sexuality.

Will you write on art again?

There are many stories that are waiting to be told in the art world. It is a rich source and I would like to tap into it again. I have been buying works of women artists in India and overseas. Their concerns are different, what affects them is unique and their voice has a distinct tenor. Perhaps, this could be the basis for another book.