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Tuesday, Oct 26, 2021
Outlook.com

Aesthetics Of Deceit

A skewed logic drives the Indian art mart—proliferating fakes determine an artist's stature

Aesthetics Of Deceit
Aesthetics Of Deceit
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53
The American had no idea who the silver-haired man sitting next to him on a plane out of India was. Thrilled about a work of contemporary Indian art he'd bought, he showed it to him, saying it was by "some artist called Husain". A smug smile must have carved itself on his neighbour's face: M.F. Husain had no trouble recognising his work. But that smile faded at second glance: it was a fake. Just as there's more 'Scotch' in India then Scotland ever produced, there are more 'Husains' floating around than the octogenarian artist could paint in three lifetimes—despite the speed with which he churns them out.

Imitation, they say, is the best form of flattery. And Husain must be the most flattered artist in India: he's the most faked living artist. He's not the only one, though. There has been a dramatic increase over the past two years in the number of fakes inundating the secondary art market. Gaitondes, Ram Kumars, Tyeb Mehtas, Razas, Ganesh Pynes, Anjolie Ela Menons, Souzas, Akbar Padamsees, J.S. Swaminathans appear to be tumbling out of studios, even garages it would seem. Ladies in long cars cruise galleries with a 'Tyeb Mehta' or a 'Gaitonde' under their arms. Men with paintings do the rounds of galleries, dealers and buyers—just as carpet dealers. Some gallerists and dealers have art students or unsuccessful artists on their rolls turning out copies of the works of the 'hot' artists of the day. Sons and daughters and friends of the Most Wanted Dead Artists ensure their 'works' don't dry up. Fakes are increasingly being spotted in the catalogues of auction houses.

"The surge in the number of fakes has to do with the growth in the market and the high prices the works of some contemporary artists fetch," says Arun Vadehra of Delhi's Vadehra Art Gallery. Fakes have become good business. After Tyeb Mehta's triptych Celebration went for an...
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