Painting a colossal canvas
ART EXHIBITS IN THE CITY ARE MOVING OUT OF THE ENCLOSURES OF A GALLERY AND SPILLING ON TO HOTELS, MALLS, BEACHES AND EVEN THE RAILWAY STATIONS.
Art is moving out of galleries, on to malls, hotels, beaches and even the railway stations of the city.
BY SARANYA CHAKRAPANI
Rooted in culture, Chennai has never shied away from passionately remembering its political stalwarts and ethnic heroes. Every motorist rummaging his way through the dreary peak hour traffic has found his visual relief in the Equestrian statue near the Gemini, the stunning Triumph of Labour and the outraged Kannagi, provoked and frozen, at the Marina.
After generations of such proud expression, our present-day artists, well-travelled and bred on the idea of seamless art, have come out and pushed the envelope further by using the medium to bridge gaps between the common man and the art industry in what is touted to be India’s largest art fair. In 2011, these bright minds gave us the first edition of Art Chennai—an annual weeklong fixture, representing the best of modern and contemporary art in parks, railway stations, IT parks and malls— besides galleries and five-star hotels. The next edition of Art Chennai is set to take place from February 8 to 16 and the organisers plan to make it bigger, with multiple venues, more interesting public spaces, more varieties of art and performing arts.
“Art has been a vital part of our history. It has created civilisations. After Independence, we may have found our way into modernity, but artistically and culturally, we haven’t grown enough. Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata have taken art to public spaces. Kerala has its own Biennale in Kochi. With Art Chennai, the idea was to make art accessible to all the people. The sensibility is already there. It will grow only if you widen the scope.” says Sanjay Tulsyan, convener of Art Chennai. Internationally, parents and children have found entertainment outdoors, at parks, museums and even roads, which are lined with eye-catching installations. These works have created cities, important landmarks and helped in
tourism too. In our society, one of the reasons why many believe art carries with it an elitist notion is the distance that is created between the medium and the common man, feel curators.
Tulsyan believes the most effective way to break this impression is by organically taking art to people and making it a part of their everyday life. “When the city is being planned, artists, curators and gallery owners should be called to bring in an art pool in public spaces, on a permanent or a programmed basis. But for this, incentives from the government are crucial. We have to ask ourselves, what is the kind of happiness and interaction do we get in the public places, where we spend such long parts of our day?” he says.
The good news is that Tulsyan’s vision could well be beginning to take shape, with the foresight and initiative of a handful of art collectors and curators in the city. Luxury hotels like the ITC Grand Chola have shown an interest in hosting exhibitions featuring famed artists like Akbar Padamsee, Jogen Chowdhury, Suhas Roy and Trostsky Marudhu at the hotel premises. The funds from its past exhibitions have been used to aid non-profit organisations like Indian Community Welfare Organisation (ICWO), Concern India Foundation and Self Help Enterprise (SHE).
Director of Gallery Veda and art enthusiast Preeti Garg, decided to mark her gallery’s first anniversary, which coincided with Park Hyatt’s, with a meaningful milestone—a permanent gallery space inside the hotel premises, where she could showcase some the best of talent through commissioned artwork that would blend with the muted, classy ambience of the hotel. “People don’t realise that
LUXURY HOTELS LIKE ITC GRAND CHOLA HAVE SHOWN INTEREST IN HOSTING EXHIBITIONS FEATURING ARTISTS LIKE AKBAR PADAMSEE, JOGEN CHOWDHURY AND MORE. THE FUNDS FROM THE EXHIBITIONS ARE USED TO AID NGOS ICWO AND SHE.
certain artwork is created for a bigger space outside of the gallery. I try to remove this mental block and also showcase some spectacular Indian art on a platform that attracts people from around the world,” she says. Titled Wonderland, Gallery Veda’s show at Park Hyatt features some of India’s most respected women artists—Seema Kohli, Arpana Caur, Shipra Bhattacharya, Nilima Sheikh, Jayashree Chakraborthy and Jayasri Burman. The collection is an aesthetic mix of paintings and sculptures.
Also working towards bringing the best of national and international art to the general public in Chennai is Vijay Choraria, a Mumbai-based collector, who has joined hands with the Phoenix Market City here to bring home works of acclaimed international artists, under its art programme, Art C.
Art C showcases videos, posters, sculptures and photographs in the passages and atriums of the mall. It is supported by art experts such as Diana Campbell-Betancourt and Eve Lemesle. “The fact that big names are supporting us fosters our credibility. Though we don’t sell any of our art, the idea of featuring celebrated artists like Leslie Thorton and William Kentridge is to spark that interest in people towards path-breaking work from across the globe,” says Vijay.
(Left) An art installation displayed on the Marina Beach during the second edition of Art Chennai, 2012; (Above) A woman walks past an artwork at ITC Grand Chola.