ISLAMABAD - Once a layman visited an art gallery to attend the painting exhibition of abstract art. Having not been able to make any head or tail of the displayed stuff, he returned home all confused. While pensively pondering over what he had seen, a funny idea struck his mind. He took a tin can, threw it in the middle of a road to get it mutilated by the running traffic. After the can lost its shape, the man painted its mutilated cross sections in different colours and displayed his 'art work, entitling it as 'A Masterpiece in Accidental Design, in an art exhibition. To his utter surprise his 'masterpiece grabbed the first prize. The above-mentioned example seems thoroughly congruent to the prevailing context regarding arts. Almost everyday, this scribe and dozens of culture correspondents of different dailies receive a bunch of invitations from art galleries with the insisting requests to attend the launching ceremonies of some 'masterpieces of their blue-eyed artists to bring them to light. However, despite extensive publicity, exaggerated press previews and massive projections, the scanty number of visitors at art galleries depicts that something is going wrong so far as art is concerned. Unaffordable prices of the paintings, lack of quality work, elite outlook, selected audiences and art as a tool to signify status symbol, form some of the reasons why a common man stays at bay with art galleries. Over the last few years, dozens of art galleries have mushroomed in the Capital but none of them has been a crowd earner that is able to attract general public. The paintings that are displayed for sale are usually too expensive to be purchased. Such paintings, even if they carry the most common or ordinarily portrayed art stuff, range from minimum price of Rs 5000 to hundreds of thousands of rupees. Secondly, the elite segment of our society tends to visit painting exhibitions for social get-togethers and interactions, with least regard to the art. Such exhibitions are 'reserved for a class. General public is not encouraged to attend paintings exhibitions, as the framers of such occasions are aware of publics poor-purchasing power. Thirdly, the paintings exhibitions cater for the moneymaking needs of artists instead of aiming at flourishing art in its true essence. Lastly, the young and amateur artists are often marginalized while the graduates of selected art colleges of Lahore and Karachi are given undue precedence over others. The big names in the art always call the shots even if they cease to produce something extravagant. Giving her version about the existing circumstances, Nageen Hayat, Director Nomad Art Gallery said that the authority of prescribing the prices of paintings vested in the artists and not in the art galleries. Its the artist who sets the prices of his/her specimen, we can only advise him/her to be considerate towards public, she said. Nageen said economic recession had hit the common man hard and people did not buy those paintings that were expensive. She said that Nomad Art Gallery was actively arranging workshops and training programmes to promote young artists. Mussarat Naheed Imam, Director, National Art Gallery (NAG) while talking to TheNation, signified the societal dilemma pertaining to apathy of common public towards visiting art galleries. People are apprehensive towards visiting art galleries, they take these galleries as an 'alien terrain. Our invitations are open to all but even then people dont bother visiting us, she observed. Mussarrat agreed that some artists were setting skyrocketing prices for their paintings. We keep trying to convince the artists to lower down the prices. There should be separate sessions between the managements of art galleries and the artist whose work is to be displayed, regarding the lessening of prices, she suggested. The Director, however, did not agree to the statement that amateur artists were sidelined. These days several art galleries are promoting youngsters. We too, are trying our best to promote arts. People need to support us, she added.