Some people rent luxury cars to set themselves apart for a special occasion. Others rent a tuxedo. But the latest trend is renting art.
The Art Bank, set up four months ago by curator Adeshwar Puri in New Delhi, allows companies to rent paintings, including “master works”, for three months to a year. It is perfect for those companies that want to project a creative, sophisticated image, but whose knowledge of art may be limited or who cannot afford to buy works from eminent artists. Puri says he has 1,000 paintings—including works by approximately 100 Indian artists—which run the gamut from classic to contemporary, conservative to shocking.
Currently, the Art Bank’s collection comprises 25% up-and-coming artists, 50% middle-level artists, and 25% famous artists, including names such as Maqbool Fida Husain. In addition to paintings, the Art Bank also offers photo prints, sculptures and functional pieces such as furniture.
Puri came up with the idea after he visited an art trade show at the Chinmaya Mission in New Delhi recently, where more than 80 Indian artists were represented. He realized he could set up a database of artists, including those who do not have a platform to display their work.
The way this works is that an interior designer and the art curator meet potential clients to review the space and choose colour schemes and art themes. The consultants then refer to the databank and recommend five artists and give the client a CD portfolio of the options available.
The artist receives a 20% commission from the rentals.
The good stuff
We decided to sample the service the company offers and had Puri visit the Mint office in New Delhi.
He was thorough and thoughtful with his suggestions, taking into account the size, shape, lighting and colour of each room. For one of the smaller conference rooms, he suggested using just one simple medium-sized photograph. “I would like an apple against these orange walls. A simple photo is a must here so that it does not distract those in a meeting,” he said. He added that people from every age group can identify with an apple because it is non-controversial.
In the reception area, Puri suggested using a series of smaller photographs. According to him, small art pieces would be necessary because the distance between the lounge chairs and the wall was not enough to view a larger piece. He suggested younger artists, such as Amit Narain, who use bright colours. “Vivid hues would look great against the bright walls,” said Puri.
In the newsroom area, he was keen to break the monotony of white walls with scenery paintings by artists such as Shivaji Sheth. “Nature pieces would de-stress workers,” he said. Along another wall, he suggested using a series of abstract paintings of the 12 astrological signs by artists such as Asha Gulati or Smiley Puri. The logic: “These pieces would be liked by everyone in the office because they form the basis of a relationship between the employees and the artworks.”
The paintings come in a variety of sizes, and because a client can switch paintings every few months, the space can be refreshed.
In case an organization is wary of hiring an expensive piece of art, there is an insurance option. For example, a Husain painting can be fully insured for a one-time payment of about 2% of its value.
Last month alone, the Art Bank rented out about 200 paintings, said Puri.
While this option is great for companies, the Art Bank is not yet encouraging individual hirers, as it does not make commercial sense to rent on such a small scale, said Puri.
Another drawback: There is no central gallery where potential clients can sift through all the paintings in person. Digital browsing is still the standard, which takes away from the often important tactile interaction with art.
Rates are reasonable. To hire paintings for the three areas that Puri saw at the Mint office would cost the newspaper Rs10,000 per month. Generally, prices per painting range from Rs500 per month for the work of up-and-coming artists to Rs5,000 per month for a famous name such as a Husain.
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