Colour Scheme

Promotional appearances and marketing strategies invade the art world as more artists shrug off reticence for social visibility.

Written by Vandana Kalra | Published: May 8, 2012 2:45:04 am

Promotional appearances and marketing strategies invade the art world as more artists shrug off reticence for social visibility.

He is reportedly Britain’s richest living artist. Also one who,according to critics,received too much too soon. The shock-horror installations with dead butterflies,skulls and animal corpses were perfect attention-grabbers but skeptics argue that Damien Hirst’s art of marketing contributed to his speedy rise to stardom. In early ’90s,it was his patron Charles Saatchi who “made” his reputation and Hirst led the show from there. Art was not just for white walls but also on Absolut Vodka billboards.

Popular culture patterns often get replicated internationally. If Subodh Gupta is the “Hirst of Delhi”,it is not without reason. Parallels are drawn between the two not only because of the humongous art installations,but also because Gupta,like Hirst,has managed to become the subject of headlines. He is a brand—not a marketing genius like his counterpart in the West,but someone who has not ignored the need for promotion either. He may be no party-hopper,but neither is he away from public glare.

A familiar face at prestigious art openings the world over,shutterbugs have spotted Gupta even in the front row at Manish Arora’s fashion shows in Paris. Last month,he announced the emerging artist award for Glenfiddich in Delhi. “He wanted to project himself as an international artist and worked towards it. He is extremely talented and was also at the right place at the right time,” says Renu Modi,director of Gallery Espace,who hosted Gupta’s first solo in 1993.

Almost two decades later,Gupta is a globally recognisable name. His success graph ran alongside the rise of Indian art,where strategy,and not just talent,meant globalisation. He represents a group of skilled artists who have received international acclaim — walking the fine line between overt publicity and social absenteeism. “Jitish Kallat,Jiten Thukral and Sumir Tagra are artists par excellence,and at the same time,they pitch themselves correctly,” states a gallerist.

Adds Bhavna Kakar,director of Latitude 28,“Galleries do their bit but artists also need to take an initiative to build their standing. They would want to be associated with a particular social segment.”

While funds are reserved for exhibitions and openings,guest lists require meticulous planning. “Correct positioning is a combination of promotion and projection. The target clientele is a consideration. There may be no immediate benefits but one has to think long-term,” says Kakar.

The India Art Fair is a prime example of how to build a positive image. Four years since its inception,the number of international participants at the annual event has risen from two to 45 and thronging its lounges are high-profile collectors and museum officials from across the world.

Last year,founder Neha Kirpal and her team rejected over 100 applicants. “We want to maintain a certain quality,” notes Kirpal,who spends several months travelling around the globe to generate awareness about the fair.

Though she has representatives in London,Malaysia and New York,it was her visit to Hauser and Wirth,and White Cube that led to participation of the two London-based galleries this year.

Publicity has become a staple of the art world. “In the competitive market,branding is important. It is imperative for an artist to talk,” says Modi. What is important is a right approach,as excessive publicity could backfire. “Being too approachable might make one seem available all the time,whereas being difficult might be judged as arrogance,” says Kakar.

Another gallerist adds,“There was a time when Paresh Maity and Sanjay Bhattacharya put in a lot of effort to market themselves. Some artists even attend multiple openings on one evening during the busy season. Others are seen at parties around town. Self-promotion is important,but real success requires substance.”

Self-promotion in art is hardly a secret now with so many books telling you how to do it. Constance Smith has penned Art Marketing 101; there is Jonathan Talbot’s The Artist’s Marketing and Action Plan Workbook and Susan Abbott’s Fine Art Publicity. Inspiration isn’t hard to find either. “MF Husain marketed himself beautifully. His work was powerful and so was his persona,” notes Modi.

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