Is there a collector’s code?
Photographer Dayanita Singh recently completed a home project that used copies of her works. This highlighted a question – how to exhibit art? The art world responds
We live in a post-modern, post-Duchampian world, where technology allows us to reproduce almost anything, both artistic and personal. We can recreate concepts and modify the arrangements and assemblages of artworks once they have been “collected”. However, when this is done without permission and artistic consent, it brings us to a very thought-provoking discussion in the age of NFT: what are the ethics and when is it not acceptable to do so?
On January 15, photographer Dayanita Singh caused a flurry on Instagram when she questioned (in good humor) Mumbai-based interior designer Ravi Vazirani for making copies of her artwork Box of Shedding – l one of five unbound books she made, each with 30 picture cards held together in a wooden structure – and displaying it in her client’s house. Imitation is perhaps the sincerest form of flattery, but she was not flattered. (While displaying a work of art is separate from copyright, it must not interfere with the integrity of the work or compromise its intent.)
While Vazirani did not comment when Hindu weekend contacted him, he immediately responded to Singh, deleting his post and making the required changes. “The problem is not the display; it is totally the prerogative of the collector. But to modify the artwork? To make copies? That’s the problem,” Singh shares. “However, in this case, I believe they actually didn’t realize what they were doing; they just got carried away.
If Raja Ravi Varma’s oleographic press (launched in Ghatkopar, Bombay, by the artist in 1894 to print copies of his work for mass consumption) has taught us anything, it’s that bringing fine art into in the realm of popular culture is perhaps the best way to make an artist a household name. However, not all artists are comfortable lending their images – or, if they do, they would like to go through their parent gallery to oversee production.
So we asked some of the art world for their thoughts:
Photographer and writer
“Dayanita’s artwork allows you to change the cover, if you own two boxes, which means she has given her audience/collectors the freedom to collaborate. But collaboration is not about changing the whole concept of the work of an artist. She created the box so that her images could be viewed one by one. It is a collection presented as a single object. Collectors would not dream of buying an art installation and breaking it down into pieces, or duplicating it and exposing it. This would hold true whether or not they understood the underlying concept. [Vazirani’s project] indicate that photography is not considered a serious “art”? I would argue that there is still a sense of less than in photography, fueled by the proliferation of images, among other factors, and that is something that needs to change.
Director, Vadehra Art Gallery
“The exhibition of works of art must as much as possible be done in consultation with the artist. It can sometimes be as simple as a diptych painting meant to be hung together. If an artist intends for a work to be installed in a certain way, that is the right and respectful thing to do. Also, the copyright of the images still belongs to the artist, even if he is no longer alive. Permissions must be taken for reproduction of images, whether in printed form or for use in art memorabilia [the gallery’s shop sells products like limited edition prints, cushion covers, books and calendars]. If the artist is not there, then we ask the family or the trust.
Freelance photographer and founder of Art Dose
“I’m all for allowing people to experiment with imagery in different formats and mediums – and the display of the work may be the prerogative of the collector – but artists’ intellectual property rights and copyright laws must be respected. [in India, the copyright law is valid for 50 years, after which, unless the image is copyrighted to a particular person or association, anyone is free to use the image].”
curator-director, Espace Art Centrix; she also works in interiors
“When installing an assemblage or an installation at a client’s, I inform the artist and we have a conference call. In some cases, the artist even traveled to install the work himself. After all, it’s a signed work and not just a “design piece”, and we’ve never had a problem since communication and consent are inherent in the process. »