Everybody loves money

Updated: Nov 13 2005, 05:30am hrs
Clad in a striped shirt and trousers, Tyeb Mehta appears nonchalant. He rarely ventures out. He is shy and does not want to talk about himself or his art. He wears his achievements lightly, be it his work, Mahisasura, which fetched a record price of Rs 6.96 crore at the Christies auction, or the numerous laurels he has won.

He is also the winner of this years Dayawati Modi Award for Art, Culture and Education which will be bestowed on him on November 17 in Delhi. It comprises a cash award of Rs 2.51 lakh, a silver shield and a scroll. Excerpts from an interview with Sulekha Nair:

Indian artists and big money dont go together usually. How did you feel when Mahisasura created a record at Christies

Everybody loves money. So why should artists be excluded Art has always thrived on patronage. Earlier, maharajas and temples patronised artists.

In the 20th century, the trend is different. I did not receive a penny for Mahisasura. But I am glad that it created a record as it bodes well for contemporary Indian artists. When I started painting, my generation of painters had no exposure. There were no exhibitions.

One painted for the love of it. I come from a business family which was into film exhibition. Those days, most people aspired to be doctors or engineers. I went to Sir J J School of Art to become an art director. I met Raza and the others from the Progressive Artists Group and went on to become a painter, instead. I thought, and so did the others of my ilk, that if our painting was not going to fetch much, so be it.

Almost everything Indian is becoming a big favourite abroad. How come

I think, at any given point of time, the sensibility of your work is accepted. I dont understand music. But over a period of time, hearing the raaga, I can understand and accept it. The same goes with paintings. It is not about how much you explore as it is about how much the others are willing to receive. What is important is that people are willing to invest money on Indian paintings. That is good.

How do you evaluate your work

I feel no artist should be compared. Every work should be seen for itself. You commit yourself to your work and do it. An artist is the final judge and the first viewer of his work. I will not put out anything that I am not happy with. I feel good about what I have done. There is the pleasure of knowing that I have been able to do this.

There is tremendous exposure to the creative arts today. Would you have liked to be born during these times

(Laughs) No. I feel one tackles the time that one is born in. You do what you choose to do, well. The realisation that one has done what one set out to do is enough.

How would you like to be remembered

I would be happy to be known as this guy who did an honest job without compromises.