Wednesday, April 21, 2010
The Art Of Selling Art - Renuka Sawhney
Renuka Sawhney is the young and sprightly Director at the The Guild Art Gallery. With galleries in New York and Mumbai, The Guild is one of the leading galleries showing the works of emerging and established Indian Contemporary Artists. Despite a stake in the world of Art, or perhaps because of that very reason, Renuka is an everyday style icon. She epitomizes the modern, dynamic woman who mixes work with pleasure with élan and make it all seem so effortless. I have known Renuka for a couple of years, though our interactions have been very rare due to geographical distance. But that’s what internet is for, isn’t it! So I caught up with the zesty lady and cornered her with a few questions I had been dying to ask her for a long time. Here are the snippets.
Shotcouture: You're a Mumbai girl. Did growing up there contribute to your perspective on culture?
Renuka: Not really. At least not when I was living in Mumbai. It seems that we see culture only when once removed from it. A case point, I spent most of my time in India dressing and emulating western ideas of clothes and dress and style, but once in New York some of that ideal lost its charm, in some ways one can’t really distinguish one’s self if all one does is imitate. It is only recently that I have started to come back to an Indian sense of clothes. For example I try and wear saris when I can, use more color, and Indian designers, and harem pants from Janpath in Delhi are just one of the ways that Indian culture tends to seep in to my daily life. Of course, given that I deal in Indian Contemporary Art, it is in some ways inevitable that I come back to that culture, in more ways than one. There is definitely something to be said for Identity within displacement.
Shotcouture: What activities did you enjoy as a girl growing up in India?
Renuka: Golf mostly alongside with deranged antics at school and college.
Shotcouture: What inspired you to enter the art world as a profession?
Renuka: The Art world is a family business. My mum started the gallery in 1997, and of course one of my first jobs at the gallery was to serve food at the openings. So I went around for a good year going, ‘Hello. Would you like some chips and dip?’
My mom, Shalini, of course had always been interested in Art and it takes a great leap of faith to start a business, and for me to join her in building a world class gallery alongside our artists is a tremendous honor.
Having said that I always wanted to be an astronaut (delusional I know). I must mention here in terms of having a fixed idea very early on in terms of profession is slightly optimistic; having said that my best friend, Prutha is the most optimistic of them all. She spent a good 10 years telling everyone she wanted to be an architect and it is a testament to her perseverance and her single mindedness that she is now a practicing architect in new York, and I couldn’t be prouder of her. On a side note she also runs a blog on NY street fashion.
Shotcouture: Do you have a favorite artist or artistic style?
Renuka: I have a lot of favorite artists, not so much of a favorite style, though I may be partial to collage and video works. Lately though my collection has shifted from canvas and paper works to video, photography and installation works, especially those that draw several multifaceted perspectives together to frame interesting questions, not necessarily any answers.
It is a function of these mediums I think that allows for several interpretations of a single work, and allows the artist a certain amount of flexibility in terms of the language used.
Shotcouture: The art world is perceived as stuffy, while you have a fun, outgoing personality.
How do you balance the two?
Renuka: The Art world is what you make of it. To me it has never been stuffy, more exciting and interesting and fun in many ways. The Art world has always been perceived as for the Elite, which is not the case, but to me it has always been a vibrant space where the creative comes alive.
As for me I fit in easily enough, so there has never been a conflict in those terms.
Shotcouture: Your personal style is very individualistic and quirky. What are your style influences and who are your style icons?
Renuka: Prutha Raithatha (Best friend for eons) first and foremost would be a huge influence, she still is.
Other than that mostly Art and artists are influential, and just like any designer will tell you, almost all inspiration comes from varied sources, so it is the same with me. I am blessed that I live with Art and meet with so many artists, so one tends to learn to draw from different perspectives and ideas.
Besides these, I almost always spot something from people from the streets and individuals who change the small details of their clothes to create a different effect, all of it fun and interesting. So the best thing is to keep looking and observing how people use their clothes and style to set themselves apart. Some of it works and some doesn’t but with practice one can usually tell what will work, or not.
Shotcouture: Who is your favourite designer and what are the 3 most coveted items in your closet?
Renuka: Hmm that is a tough one. I usually love everything Manish Aurora does. I recently found a great designer in Dubai, Essa, fabulous stuff, very flowy and very chic. Of course he again draws from a wide variety of sources, from North Africa to the Middle East to Japan.
I also love the smaller Indian designers, but my ultimate indulgence and ultimate sin is Parsee lace saris! I have only one of those and have somehow missed getting more in Bombay, but my God they are to die for. The most sumptuous colors and the most delicate lace, it is incredibly sinful to wear one of those.
In terms of coveted items, I would list the following:
I have a gorgeous Manish Aurora dress, 2 fabo Essa dresses and a pair of dominatrix Burberry sandals that I simply LOVE and not sure who would covet my sarees, but I recently got a double paloo saree from Satya Paul, extraordinarily difficult to wear but oh so very worth it!
Shotcouture: What comes first - Fun or Art?
Renuka: Art and Fun, one and the same.
Renuka steals the show at her Art Gallery
EDIT: The two Awesome pictures of Renuka on the top have been loaned by the lovely Prutha Raithatha. Check out more pictures of Renuka on Prutha's blog www.donotshoeme.blogspot.com
All pictures taken by the very talented Shraddha Borawake.