Business Standard

THE GOOD LIFE

A sup­port group for over­looked art

- Ran­jita Gane­san Asian Art · Arts · Art Styles · Chandigarh · Mumbai · Arte · India · Vadodara · Santiniketan · Vadodara · Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda

Gur­jeet Singh had just quit his teach­ing job at a school in Chandi­garh and started a res­i­dency in Bar­oda when the pan­demic knocked his care­fully laid plans awry. But the 25-year-old artist is ac­cus­tomed to piec­ing things to­gether again. To make his con­tem­po­rary soft sculp­tures, he com­bines child­hood mem­o­ries and per­sonal strug­gles with scraps of cloth left over from his mother and sis­ters’ sewing. Now, back in his home in Pun­jab’s Al­gon Kothi vil­lage, Singh is pur­pose­fully re­con­struct­ing his art prac­tice. What is driv­ing him is a new-found de­mand for the pieces.

Singh is among a num­ber of vir­tu­ally un­known con­tem­po­rary artists who are making art on the pe­riph­ery of the tra­di­tional art mar­ket but whose works are ac­tu­ally see­ing the light of day. They can thank Mum­bai-based Carpe Arte, started by art con­sul­tant Natasha Jeyas­ingh in 2017 for this. With its main ac­tiv­ity of con­duct­ing gallery hops and stu­dio vis­its grind­ing to a halt in the lock­down, the group is as­sist­ing strug­gling artists with sales. It shows the art works to its fol­low­ers — both emerg­ing and sea­soned art en­thu­si­asts. Work­ing pro bono, the group is specif­i­cally seek­ing out in­de­pen­dent artists who have promis­ing prac­tices but do not have the back­ing of gal­leries.

All works are priced at ~5,000 or un­der. Vi­raj Mithani, an artist who leads walk­throughs at Carpe Arte, notes that this “seemed like a fair thresh­old since peo­ple’s in­comes have stalled so they would not im­me­di­ately part with larger sums”. A new se­lec­tion is posted to the group’s In­sta­gram “feed”

(@carpeart­e­of­fi­cial) and “sto­ries” twice a week, and in­ter­ested buy­ers are put in touch with the artist. At last count, they had sold 214 art­works over eight weeks, rais­ing over ~9 lakh for some 74 artists. (They ex­hibit and take en­quiries only on In­sta­gram.)

Mal­abika Bar­man, who trained at San­tinike­tan and at Ma­haraja Saya­ji­rao Univer­sity of Bar­oda, dipped into her masters’ port­fo­lio and found tak­ers for

15 of her del­i­cately de­tailed etch­ings and aquat­ints.

She is now making a se­ries of sketches about her tra­vails liv­ing alone in lock­down which she hopes to re­lease soon. “Gal­leries tend to have re­stricted and par­tic­u­lar choices, so artists work­ing be­yond those spec­i­fi­ca­tions don’t al­ways get a chance,” she ob­serves. This has been her first taste of sell­ing works quickly, get­ting val­i­da­tion from strangers, or even giv­ing in­ter­views.

Be­cause the works are af­ford­ably priced and eas­ily ac­cessed, they are draw­ing in­ter­est from maiden buy­ers too. “I of­ten visit gal­leries to view art but for a first-time buyer, the leap to buying at gal­leries seems some­what in­tim­i­dat­ing,” says Deb­o­rah Rosario, a writer work­ing in the ed­u­ca­tion sec­tor who ac­quired three pieces in the sale. In­trigued by the process, her mother also chose one for her­self. “While my fam­ily is not al­ways able to ac­com­pany me to art shows, this In­sta­gram cu­ra­tion of In­dian art per­mit­ted them to en­ter the ex­pe­ri­ence of con­tem­po­rary art,” adds Rosario.

Sid­dharth So­maiya, an artist and avid col­lec­tor who picked up half a dozen works, in­clud­ing char­coal sketches by Rad­hika Kacha and He­mant Dhane’s wa­ter­colour ab­stracts, la­bels the ini­tia­tive “dis­rup­tive”. “These are young artists who are tech­ni­cally very sound and have a good road ahead in their ca­reers. You get to be an early ‘pa­tron’ to them.”

Although con­ceived dur­ing the na­tion­wide shut­down, Carpe Arte hopes to de­velop this ini­tia­tive “by artists and for artists” into a new mar­ket par­al­lel to the tra­di­tional. “There are a lim­ited num­ber of gal­leries to be­gin with, and they keep busy with their ros­ter of artists,” notes Mithani. “It is the same with mu­se­ums too.” He sees a need to bring vis­i­bil­ity to more di­verse prac­tices which have not got the start they de­serve. Be­sides its own con­nec­tions with young artists, Carpe Arte is also re­ly­ing on artists to rec­om­mend their peers.

Tak­ing a leaf out of that book, sim­i­lar mod­els of sales have been launched by Danfe Arts, a tour­ing art gallery of Nepali art­works, as well as Young Art Sup­port, which aims to help stu­dent artists across In­dia. When Mum­bai opens up, Carpe Arte’s mem­bers will have their own prac­tices to at­tend to, but they in­tend to give a fixed set of hours each week to cu­rat­ing lesser-known artists. Says Mithani, “This is the be­gin­ning of a move­ment to in­crease vis­i­bil­ity.”

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 ??  ?? ( Clock­wise from far left) Ex­am­ple of a work by Gur­jeet Singh; Ko­mal Mistri’s paint­ing El­e­gance is Frigid; Mal­abika Bar­man’s etch­ing and aquatint work; Jay­eeta Chat­ter­jee’s wood­cut il­lus­tra­tion, Yel­low Jour­ney
( Clock­wise from far left) Ex­am­ple of a work by Gur­jeet Singh; Ko­mal Mistri’s paint­ing El­e­gance is Frigid; Mal­abika Bar­man’s etch­ing and aquatint work; Jay­eeta Chat­ter­jee’s wood­cut il­lus­tra­tion, Yel­low Jour­ney
 ??  ?? ( Above) Gur­jeet Singh; Mal­abika Bar­man
( Above) Gur­jeet Singh; Mal­abika Bar­man

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