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.

India Today - - INSIDE -

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.

AR SU­MANTH KU­MAR Photographs by

(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.

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