Whether Mamata Banerjees ability to say a thousand words via the canvas is as prodigious as a Razas, a Husseins or a Souzas would be as subjective a matter as the understanding of art itself. However, the fact remains that a Banerjee is now a treasured acquisitionthe price tags for some of the West Bengal chief ministers works have soared from a mere R10,000 in 2005 to R 3 lakh in 2013. What is interesting is how the appreciation in the paintings prices seems to have trailed the mercurial Trinamool Congress (TMC) chiefs career graph in politics. In 2005, in the first public exhibition, the paintings were priced R10,000-20,000. Banerjee was then seen as a wildcard in Bengal politics. In fact, the very next year, TMC suffered a near rout in the state elections. But by the time of the next exhibition, in 2007, she had already gained considerable political capital, having spearheaded the anti-Left campaign in the aftermath of the Nandigram and Singur incidents. At that showing, some of her works were priced at R1 lakh and above. In 2011, just before the assembly elections in which her party swept out the Left Front government after an uninterrupted 34 years in power, at their third exhibition, Banerjees were commanding impressive tags of R1.5-3 lakh!
If posterity traces the provenance of these paintings, in most of the cases, it would lead to the doors of Bengals industrialists. Whether the prices have anything to do with the latters discerning eye for fine art or were meant to ease access to the mercurial chief minister is just a matter of conjectureat least until the CBI completes its probe of the alleged R1.8 crore purchase of a Banerjee painting by Saradha scam accused Sudipta Sen. For now, the only thing that Banerjee and her party would probably focus on is that they dont paint themselves into a corner over the debate on the merit of her art and the price it commands.