Olaf Van Cleef, counselor on high range from the Cartier group, is in Chennai currently, preparing for his art exhibition in Pondicherry from March 1 to 4. In a chat with exchange4media, he expressed his desire to reach out to as many people as possible through his art, and conveyed his willingness to enter the commercial, mass-produced-art space, in order to bring the magic of art within the reach of more people.
The artist within the celebrated designer is of a different genre. He said, “Some brands have been doing this rather successfully. I am talking about brands like Swatch, it brings out an artist’s collection in limited edition each year. People should be able to live with an appreciation of art. Then again, in countries like India, I observe that selling one very expensive piece of work is easier and so people don’t want to get into the mass-designer type. We should make it less expensive so that more people can afford it. I would be happy to be a leader of that.”
He explained that in the Indian system, where custom made jewellery and furniture were the norm for the elite, the market was not ‘very open’. He also observed that in India, in categories like diamonds, about 70 per cent of the total audience were aware of the nuances, while in Europe or France, it was only the women who understood the stone.
A greeting card with an intricate abstract stood out from his paintings in its format. And we asked him, sensing an opportunity for taking art to reach more people, affordably. He said, “I am open to mass produce it, because I want it to reach more people. It is not about the money. I want more people to see and enjoy my art.”
With an innate understanding of Indian audiences born of several visits and numerous interactions with connoisseurs of art and jewellery in the country, he observed that it would take years for a foreign designer to get the pulse of the Indian market right.
“An Italian with a gold chain, white pants, red shoes, and yellow shirt is very common in Italy. In France you’d call him crazy. For Europeans, India is not India, it is like Stockholm, Paris, Madrid, Athens, all in one. The tastes, the flavours are very different from region to region, the jewellery we see in Orissa is very different from that in Pondicherry. Also, people here appreciate good work, detailing, but they also know the price of the work,” elaborated Van Cleef.
For a man who has been consulted by the royalty of several countries before they decide on their Cartier since 1982, and himself a descendant of the Van Cleef dynasty, he is an abode of simplicity. And he is looking to expand to cover wallpaper art, art in the bathroom, and even clothes on stage.
The bottom line is art, not for art’s sake, nor entirely to massage the artist’s ego; but to add aesthetically to lives of people by gaining their appreciation.