Clark House is celebrating post-impressionist artist Abdul Aziz Raiba’s 90th birthday, which was on July 5, with a legal twist. When an owner of four Raiba paintings from the 1960s called Clark House to share his desire to resell the paintings, the gallery agreed to exhibit his works, but on one condition — that the artist would receive 20 per cent of the sale proceeds. This laid the foundation of the exhibition, AA Raiba: Droit de Suite | Artist’s Resale Rights.
So far, legislation in India does not stipulate that auction houses, galleries, collectors and dealers need to pay a portion (5 per cent) of the sales proceeds in secondary sales to the artist, unlike in many foreign countries. Today, many artists who have tie-ups with galleries and auction houses get their fair share on resales, but there is no clarity on this practice.
“We hope that enough awareness is drawn to organise artists to lobby for legislation in India on the lines of laws that are present in the European Union, the UK, Australia, and the US,” explains Sumesh Sharma, one of the curators of the show. He adds that 90 year-old Raiba, who lives in a one-room flat in Nalasopara, does not receive any royalty on any subsequent sales of his work in the secondary market. Born in 1922 in Temkar Street, Bombay Central, Raiba’s work reflects Cloisonnism, a style of post-Impressionist painting with bold and flat forms separated by dark contours. In Raiba’s works, the use of light is akin to that of miniature paintings. He blurs out the horizon and instead illuminates intended subjects, giving them a three-dimensional, sculpted quality.
Along with the paintings based on the theme of erotica, on display are documents, laws and agreements that ensure the residual right of an artist in every subsequent resale or rental of his/her work, as found in other parts of the world, and importantly, American-born art dealer Seth Siegelaub’s The Artist’s Reserved Rights Transfer and Sale Agreement 1971, which was drafted to solve the inequities that artists faced in the US.
What does the term Droit de Suite mean? The exhibition includes documents that explain this term, which literally means the art proceeds right. It is the right of artists to receive royalty on subsequent sales of their works if it exceeds a certain amount. “I am happy that I will receive a per cent of the sale proceeds. It feels like my art has been show respect,” says Raiba.
The magic of jute
Raiba pioneered the technique of stretching jute on a board to use it as a canvas. He also devised a method of priming the stretched jute, using techniques learnt during his training to be a muralist at school. He created a white sticky solution of white clay paste, gum adhesive, water and ground bricks. The gum adhesive would act as the binder and bring out the colour. It took 15 layers of application before the stretched jute turned into a canvas