Tuesday, Jun 19, 2018 | Last Update : 05:44 PM IST

A tale of two indian art fairs

THE ASIAN AGE. | ALKA RAGHUVANSHI
Published : Feb 15, 2018, 2:14 am IST
Updated : Feb 15, 2018, 2:15 am IST

Evenings saw performances by folk and traditional artistes too so that there was an attempt to see the arts as a complete whole.

 The tempo could have been kept more buoyant with enough media coverage and advertising.
  The tempo could have been kept more buoyant with enough media coverage and advertising.

Comparisons are odious but unfortunately inevitable sometimes. Now that the euphoria about the two art fairs namely the India Art Fair and the Kala Mela that were running concurrently, is ebbing, it is probably time to assess the situation of the fairs and their economic and art and aesthetic roles and how far they have come to achieve them.

I personally preferred the Lalit Kala Akademi organised Kala Mela for many reasons: First and foremost that it was organised by the autonomous apex national organisation of Indian art and not some foreign multinational. I am patriotic enough to want our people to make the right attempt even if they falter a bit rather than some swashbuckling multinational playing with our mindsets and sensibilities.

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In this case it was genuinely better for many reasons. Since the Kala Mela was targeting the artists for its stalls and not galleries, it was far better in terms of its participation fee structure, the stalls were affordable, the division of space was judicious, accessibility was immense as it was in the heart of town, it was happening at IGNCA another big art institution so there was synergy there too, the buyers could actually speak to the artists without gallery intervention and request for site specific works and sizes. This also ensured that the art was more affordable in terms of pricing points. There were no entry fees either.

Evenings saw performances by folk and traditional artistes too so that there was an attempt to see the arts as a complete whole.

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The flip side was that on the day President Ram Nath Kovind came, there was a lot of action and activity, subsequent days there were long spells of lull as with any show. But I liked the idea of having it over two weeks so that enough time was there for the public to experience it. The tempo could have been kept more buoyant with enough media coverage and advertising. Still administrator LKA Krishna Setty deserves kudos for carrying the idea through in a very systematic manner.

The India Art Fair on the other hand is essentially a galleries’ affair for only they are in a position to afford the steep participation fees. A major problem is that there seems to be a major shift towards promoting western sensibilities of art. It has been bought over by a German company and the Indian and foreign galleries chosen by its promoters for participation are the ones who toe this aesthetic line. I have a problem with that for the simple reason that Indian art is already going through a tough time as far as survival of artists is concerned, by promoting sensibilities that are evidentially not Indian will only result in further alienating Indian art from its potential buyers.

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There was little that was Indian there so why bother calling it India Art Fair? Entry tickets at Rs 600 were steep, in fact the promoters would have made a killing on the entry tickets alone. The NSCI grounds where it is held does have metro connectivity but it remains a fact that it is in the southern most corner of the city and from where one parks and gets in is a long walk — almost like any big city airport — except I wonder if it is required? Unfortunately even this was not adequately publicised.

As it is one is fed up of Indian architects and interior designers bringing in cheap Chinese and South East Asian (read Thai and Balinese) art in heaps and decorating even high end homes with it, and this mind you when they make their clients spend several lakhs on furniture, fancy wall papers and finishing including gold leafing, how come they all want to skimp on the last and the most evident part of the wall —what is on its foreground rather than what is the background! The same people who don’t bat an eyelid when buying several five lakh rupee beds each, want to put some cheap Chinese churn-out of two thousand rupees on a gold leafed wall. I can only shake my pretty head in horror!

Why can’t the design incorporate the paintings as a part of the larger whole so that there is aesthetic synergy and our art gets support? For art to become part of the domestic landscape to leave a better cultural imprint aesthetically speaking it needs support from within us Indians. This will actually go a long way in ensuring the survival of the modern Indian art and its creators. This will also mean that the architects can give a certain direction to what is Made in India reaches India and Indians. Are all the stakeholders of the arts: artists, government mandarins, corporate giants with CSR budgets, architects, interior designers and most of all, the end users or consumers on the same page? I wish you were…

The writer is an art writer, curator and artist and can be contacted on alkaraghuvanshi@yahoo.com

Tags: india art fair, lalit kala akademi