Revolving canvas of rent-an-art

Written by Garima Pant | Updated: Apr 11 2010, 06:01am hrs
For some, it has been a profitable venture, for others, it has not even resulted in a single enquiry. Art on rent has been an idea that caught the imagination of certain art entrepreneurs, but success on this canvas has been spotted at best and a blank canvas for others.

Asheesh Sethi, president, Noshe Group, which recently set up Anyah!! (those exclamations suit the name just fine!), claims it will make contemporary art available at affordable rates. And, probably it is this affordability factor that will draw art lovers and rent art by the month or quarter, and the number of paintings one chooses to hire. Fractional ownership is, indeed, finding a new territory to expand in.

While scouting for an art work for my house, I discovered the work that I wanted was costing me more than the total value of my newly constructed house. It was then that I decided to bring art to an art lover at an affordable price, says Sethi. We offer art on rent and replace regularly, as the client wishes. If a corporate house is to buy a work of art, they are stuck with it. On the other hand, we can change the paintings ever few months, he adds.

But before you get excited about renting a Husain, there are limits to the concept. We have eight to ten young artists to work for us, explains Noida-based Sethi. And he stresses the artists are comfortable with this as their works are displayed. Rents for the canvasses start from about Rs 3,000 per month per work, says Sethi. He, however, clarifies that the rent depends on factors such as size of the paintings and the time taken to produce it.

As for the preferred genres, abstracts are what hotels, guest houses and corporate houses prefer, Sethi says, adding, Acrylics are preferred as they are less expensive than oils. Right now, canvasses are all Sethi deals in.

Internationally, the concept has been in vogue for the past few years, with leading names such as Minneapolis-based Art Rent and Lease, New York-based Prop Art and UKs Art for Business. A nascent segment still, experts are hesitant to put any estimate on the size of the market or make predictions about its future potential.

Art for rent, however, is not new. In India, Art Bank, set up by curator Adishwar Puri four years back, claims to have had a successful run.

The business has been good ever since I began and have managed to double my turnover every year, says Delhi-based Puri, who has a collection of 2,000 works. He was inspired after visiting an art bank in Holland and began his venture focusing on big corporate houses, hotels and banks. He declined to name any clients.

While for Puri it was a win-win proposition, the rent-an-art initiative by the PBC Art Gallery in Delhi has not managed to get even a single enquiry till date. The gallery began its initiative six years back. Neha Bajaj, head, corporate communications, PBC Gallery, feels there are hardly any takers for the concept in India. This non-profit gallery that sends its proceeds towards environmental causes has about 100 works of art in its kitty. Though we publicised in a big manner, we are yet to find a client, says Bajaj. They still have the initiative running, but have no specific rent structure.

Sethi feels its the lack of proper marketing that has affected the popularity of this service. Sunaina Anand, director, Art Alive Gallery, also feels the concept of rent an art is unworkable in India. It has to be an extremely organised setup if it has to be successful, she adds. Insurance hassles, loads of paper work and a high-risk factor are associated with art works of prominent artists. Maybe if they are low-price artworks, the art-for-rent concept may find takers, says Anand.

Restricted to the corporate sector, the segment has been focusing on the younger lot. Puri even has plans to offer international art. In the pipeline is a proposal of exchanging artwork with international art banks. Talks are on with the Netherlands government to encourage this cultural exchange, he says. An initiative that could give the much-needed impetus to this segment.