February 26, 2009 9:22:55 pm
Artist Mithu Sen is giving away free paintings to those who write her a love letter
In April 2007,as the art world raked in the riches of a booming market,painter-sculptor Mithu Sen made an audacious offer Send me a letter of love and Ill gift you a free painting in the medium of your choice. At the time,Sens canvases,too,had touched the stratosphere. I wanted to protest the commercialization of art, she explains.
Sen now culminates the journey with an exhibition at Khoj,an arts organisation based in Khirkee Extension,where pink rooms with soft lighting display not only the notes of affection that trickled in from across the world over two years,but also gift-wrapped paintings that have been lined up for pen friends. The Free Mithu project relied on the concept of gift, taking it beyond the commercial value of the object. It draws on the ideas developed in the book The Gift by Lewis Hyde. The price of my paintings is the love that I have received from my friends, says Sen.
The tokens of affection came in various form two diaries,a box of mangoes,a sweater and even a shared lemon cake. I received 104 letters and three are on their way and 31 are pending, she adds happily. Among the writers was a man who insisted
I write down the words myself as hedictated them and another who let his passion flow through e-mail but refused to send a hard copy.
Her own gifts range from drawings on paper,drawings on a wall,hair sculpture,hair embroidery,tattoo and poems in Balinese. The project has enabled me to map psychology, she says. Three friends refused to take artwork in return for their letters while several others insisted their best return gift would be if I take a break from work and rest.
Among those who received a painting and a hug was Shweta,who had expressed her feeling for Sen by making an etching. I thought that was the best gift one artist could give to another, she says. As the gift-wrapped artwork disappear,Sen adds that last-minute letter writers can still pick up a painting. Visitors to the show are leaving notes for me in a box. Three writers will be gifted a work through a lucky draw to be held on the last day of the exhibition, she says.
The Free Mithu exhibition is being held till February 27.
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