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Master of all?

Masters, the new art gallery in the City, hopes to fill a gap in the art scene by bringing the best of foreign master artists. Will it define for Bangaloreans the measure of good taste in art?



Madhav Maharaj: showcasing `superior frames'

SO, WHAT'S in a name, you ask. Edward Said could tell us a thing or two about that. But, perhaps, we need go neither so far nor so deep. Look at what we have: two white men, touted as messiahs of art, arrive in town with the self-avowed aim of brining to us the best and the finest of (European and American) art and frame making. In order to do this, they set up a gallery of frames and mostly inconsequential reproductions. They name their gallery Masters.

What's in a name?

Visvambhar Streisand a.k.a Sri Maharaja a.k.a Madhav Maharaj (said to be cousin to the dazzling Barbra Streisand), the gallery's promoter, and Jefferson Carr (curator, Spectrum Galleries, New York,) graced the invitees with their presence and words when Masters opened its doors to a preview recently.

Speaking about the gallery, the saffron-clad Swami said: "With many years of experience, and with degrees in fine arts, our artists are experts in their own style and know the authentic techniques and intricacies of the world's most desired and renowned forms of artwork and fine oil painting on canvas." The artists, he also explained, were all foreign and the technique of oil on Belgian canvas, the best.

The Swami's noble attempt is to fill a gap in the art scene in India, brought to light by a "detailed audit" of art galleries done by them, which indicated that "... many galleries in the country did not feature consistent work and that the paintings were highly priced".

So, as Masters graciously prepares to bring us originals (and original reproductions) from these foreign master artists, let us prepare to hold out our hands for the bounty. Let us prepare to subsume our cave paintings, the murals on our temples, the work of several generations of our modern painters (many sell in the West for sums that can hold their heads up to the price of many a contemporary American or European artist) into the darkness of unrefined Indian sensibilities.

The New York curator, Mr. Carr, who the invite had promised would " introduce you to the nuances of fine art", though jet lagged, spoke for full five minutes and more. Of how he had come to the art scene in the 1980s as an employee and within the year had become an owner himself and how he had, at the moment, branches in about 20 American states. Since about half the speaking time was taken up in naming those states, one assumes that to have been a clue in prising out those promised nuances. Perhaps, Masters might do another audit to see just how many got to those nuances.

Masters is also showcasing "superior frames", which are to be sold separately or with their paintings. These are frames made out of the best woods (naturally), such as cedar, oak, and pine, with hand-moulded campo or Italian clays worked into them and then gold leafed. Some attractive specimens of frames, with crystal clear mirrors, take up one floor of the gallery and one imagines that the frames might be the more important attraction of the gallery, which is promising frames to order too.

Another possible attraction is the fact that Masters also promises customised painting, where one can "capture his favourite moment on canvas, the selected photograph by a client is sent to a carefully handpicked artist for the painting. The completed canvas is then shipped back into India."

Part of the proceeds of Masters gallery will go to fund educational projects, homes for the aged, medical clinics, animal shelters, and other philanthropic and social activities through the Sri Chaitanya Charitable Society. What the coming of this "international" gallery (said to be the first of its kind in India) mean to the Bangalore art scene is yet to be seen. Perhaps, it will make Bangalore the metro of art in India. Perhaps, it will define for Bangaloreans the measure of good taste in fine art.

Perhaps not.

KALA KRISHNAN RAMESH

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