A Mysterious New Art Work

Kripa Bhatia | Updated on January 27, 2021

On display: Every morning the public who came to see the art work would view a new and a different composition within the same frame   -  ILLUSTRATION: KRIPA BHATIA

A mysterious new exhibit has been the centre of attraction at the gallery of Modern Art. This art work has been up for six months, but continues to stir controversy. The artist behind this work is extremely popular. So, there have been mixed reactions from the public. There were many who admired him and all his works, no matter what the subject of his art was. But others called him a mad man and said this work was a mockery of art.

The first day when the art work took home at the gallery, it appeared like a painter’s rag, smeared with blotches of paint. But every night, the artist would add new elements to the canvas and every morning the public who came to see the art work would view a new and a different composition within the same frame.

The interpretation

At first, art critics claimed that the world had been blessed with a new abstract expressionist genius, and compared the artist to Jackson Pollock. Simultaneously, there were others who openly dissed the work. In the next few weeks, as the artist started adding new elements to the painting, people’s interpretation changed too.

One day a torn bed sheet, a mounted goat and a worn-out tyre were found sticking out of the frame of the art work and people immediately associated it with Robert Rauschenberg. The artist was praised to the skies by some for his mature sense in pop art. Yet others spat on the art work and hurled abuses at it. Then, on another day, when people found a beautiful teacup on the canvas, the artist was compared with Mary Cassatt. Later, as moss started gathering around the cup, the public alluded to Méret Oppenheim, claiming the artist was making a feminist statement. Thus, day after day, the art work started gathering and crowding itself with empty paint bottles, rags, toothpicks, empty medicine strips, a torn pillow case, tissue papers, used tea bags, banana peels, worn-out shoes, rusted wires, discarded CDs and every possible junk one could think of. And with every new element came a roar of applause and praise, or an even bigger outrage from the public and media.

The mystery revealed

The artist who had stayed away, isolating himself from all the controversy and the media for six months, now suddenly announced a public appearance at a press conference. The calm and seemingly pensive artist sat down facing a mixed public that was scowling, admiring, abusing and awestruck. Finally he spoke in a simple, reassuring voice, full of wisdom and maturity.

“You wanted an art work from me. But what I have given you is my autobiography. I have allowed you to walk into my process of creating the art work. Typically, what you get to see in the gallery is a finished piece of art. Seldom does that even suggest how the artist conceived and created it. So, I decided to reverse it and present to the world my process of work and the time it took in creating the actual hidden art work.”

Self-perpetuating art

With that the artist revealed to the public a strikingly original piece of art. The older one was replaced by the new art piece in the gallery. But now the public viewed the art work and took back much more than what it suggested on the surface. Still, the interpretations were varied and vast, though the self-perpetuating quality of art had been realised.


Kripa Bhatia lives in Mumbai, and her debut book for children ‘It’s About Our Existence’ is forthcoming from Tulika

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Published on January 27, 2021
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