What's in an award?

Last Updated: Fri, Dec 07, 2012 21:00 hrs

pLast evening at Urban Housing Minister Kumari Selja&rsquos residence the Dayawati Modi Stree Shakti Samman was claimed by artist Seema Kohli a decade after it was won by fellow artist Anjolie Ela Menon In the intervening years the award had been given to women from different fields but the distance from Menon to Kohli maps the latter&rsquos importance &mdash and popularity &mdash at a time when the art economy is in a near-crippled state Kohli&rsquos market though has remained strongppIn a similar coincidence the Dayawati Modi Award announced the previous week also went to another popular artist Paresh Maity &mdash previous claimants from the art field being Anish Kapoor and Tyeb Mehta both celebrated giants Is the award therefore a recognition of Maity and Kohli&rsquos increasing mass appeal or does it place them on a par with their previous recipientsppWhile the jury is out on why &mdash and how &mdash artists are nominated and chosen for various awards how much does it really matter especially when the reference is to privately-instituted honours and not the National Awards given out by the Lalit Kala Akademi In recent years we have seen the establishment of the Skoda Prize for Indian contemporary art that comes with the attendant razzmatazz of big prize money and the attention of the world art fraternity in attendance at the India Art Fair with which it coincides The Raza Foundation too instituted an annual award for artists starting in 2001 but recent winners have been hard to put a name to while earlier recipients made more news and were showered with attentionppHow much do these awards benefit artists Measuring such gains can prove difficult because they depend to a large extent on the artist in question In the case of the Raza Foundation and particularly when Raza emsa&rsquoabem was resident in Paris it provided an international platform for the artists whom he also mentored Among those who stand out are Atul Dodiya who hardly needed the validation Sujata Bajaj who has built on that association and created a name for herself and Manish Pushkale who similarly shared the spotlight with his mentor saw his fortunes rise but whose meteoric rise could not be sustained by the market Similarly the Skoda Prize proved beneficial for Mithu Sen who was in the news with her work and managed to leverage the buzz while the current winner Navin Thomas remains little heard and mostly still unknown To contextualise further the Lalit Kala and the government&rsquos Padma awards have almost no bearing on an artist&rsquos market but are important when it comes to participation in particularly international museum programmes and for long-term recognition and validitypp How much should an artist worry about these awards Acknowledgement is an important facet of an artist&rsquos work and prizes therefore indicative of that achievement That Krishen Khanna was awarded a Padma Bhushan only as recently as 2011 is hardly indicative of his market standing and certainly had little bearing on his prices though the recognition however late in coming is welcome That his contemporary F N Souza received no laurels from the government though hardly deterred either his international reputation or later his marketppKohli and Maity receiving the Dayawati Modi awards therefore seen from that prism provide a moment of reflection &mdash and satisfaction &mdash a vote of encouragement for their work a time for them to savour the publicity and bask in the adulation Tomorrow when they return to the loneliness of their studios the applause will keep them going for longer than mere financial rewards mighthr pp alignrightstrongKishore Singhstrongem is a Delhi-based writer and art critic These views are personal and do not reflect those of the organisation with which he is associatedemp

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