‘ART, NOT ONLY FOR elite and in­tel­lec­tual’

Ritu Sharma, Di­rec­tor, Na­tional Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA), feels that there is a need to bring back peo­ple to art; just get them in front of the trea­sure, and they will or­gan­i­cally dis­cover its story

Millennium Post - - Mp Around Town - RITU SHARMA

“Ohh! its right there? I never no­ticed. I cross the In­dia Gate al­most twice ev­ery­day?”

This came as a rude shock the first time I men­tioned about NGMA to a col­league. I was un­able to fathom the del­uge of this re­sponse, and my ears awaited for the next few days, till at least all my ac­quain­tances were ap­prised about my change of pro­file. Even amongst the vis­i­tors and spe­cial in­vi­tees (who were not di­rectly in­volved with the art world and came for var­i­ous rea­sons) ev­ery­one swore to have crossed the in­sti­tu­tion al­most ev­ery­day but never paid a visit be­fore.

“Since you are here, now we will come,” was the stan­dard re­sponse. Not that I mind be­ing the Pied Piper for the cause, but the con­cern in my mind lin­gered. And there be­gan my jour­ney – a look­out for the rea­sons of a premier or­gan­i­sa­tion of na­tional im­por­tance not be­ing on the agenda of Delhiites and es­pe­cially the do­mes­tic tourists. Rum­mag­ing through the plethora of rea­sons in­clud­ing – ‘Isn’t modern art only lines and cir­cles. It’s just not pos­si­ble to re­late to it?’, ‘I think its mainly for the rich peo­ple to sell and buy. For me, even my son can draw those ge­o­met­ri­cal fig­ures.’, ‘Isn’t it only for the art in­tel­lec­tu­als. I would feel an il­lit­er­ate there.’, ‘It is the high-flier world. I can’t han­dle their ar­ro­gance.

I cant make much out of ab­stract art.’ ‘What do I do star­ing at a paint­ing?’to quote just a few.

The core con­cern of all these so-called ‘non art peo­ple’ was essen­tially only one. Isn’t art only for the elite and the in­tel­lec­tual?

Art in var­ied forms has been an in­te­gral part of hu­man jour­ney on this planet. It has held our hands through the dark of the caves. It gave us a voice when there was no lan­guage/script. Even when there arose the di­vides of rich and poor, it carved its own course in both the lands. Be it the minia­tures of Ma­hara­jas or the draw­ings by the trib­als. Art and the quo­tid­ian/ a com­mon man’s life were in­ter­twined in a cre­ativ­ity ful­fill­ing sym­bi­otic re­la­tion­ship.

So where did they fall apart? From what point did the paths got sep­a­rated?

When and why did it move out of liv­ing ar­eas to the walls of rich and in­tel­lec­tu­als? Why is the modern art un­re­lat­able? One of the core rea­sons is the em­bark­ment of its jour­ney into ex­per­i­men­ta­tion.

Con­tem­po­rary In­dian art has been the prod­uct of cul­tural con­fronta­tion with the British and also the yearn /en­deav­our to en­gage with the out­side world. And the con­stantly churn­ing wheel hasn’t rested. In fact, the pace has quick­ened with a vengeance post in­de­pen­dence owing to over­whelm­ing ex­po­sure and op­por­tu­ni­ties, which were fur­ther geared up by the on­slaught of glob­al­i­sa­tion. Much has changed in the process be­yond the realms of tra­di­tions a com­mon man could re­late to.

The stan­dard con­fines of the term ‘Art’ are be­ing shaken. Not just the fact that the sub­jects of paint­ings have pro­gressed from im­ages and fig­ures to ab­stract and un­known, the medium it­self has opened its arms to print, pho­tog­ra­phy, vis­ual me­dia. Gal­leries, the abodes of art, are find­ing it in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult to dis­play the vivid imag­i­na­tions.

Ex­per­i­men­ta­tion it­self is mak­ing it in­ac­ces­si­ble, how­ever, the fault is not with it. Ex­per­i­men­ta­tion is in­te­gral to the growth of art, it is the par­al­lel ed­u­ca­tion for these rapid changes which is not trace­able on the pic­ture. Art does not form a part of our ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion, our draw­ing room tete -a-tete, folk­lores or any­where in the rou­tine of daily life. A stand alone trip by a school of 500 hun­dred kids throng­ing a gallery for a quick two hour visit doesn’t make it re­lat­able. The ba­sic prob­lem is of com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

Un­like a movie or a story where they speak di­rectly to you, art is a con­tent soul. One needs to spend time with it, time with no bounds. un­like cin­ema, dol­ing you out with its mes­sage in repet­i­tive for­mat, art needs an ac­tive in­ter­ac­tive di­a­logue.

It car­ries a dif­fer­ent nar­ra­tive de­pend­ing on the in­di­vid­ual. Every soul can carry out its in­di­vid­ual jour­ney with art. For such sub­lime process, some con­nect and com­mu­ni­ca­tion is needed. That is the need of the hour.

Need is to bring back the peo­ple to the art…just get them in front of a trea­sure, they will or­gan­i­cally dis­cover its story. Need is to re­move these bar­ri­ers and throw open the gates to one and all...for whoso­ever has it in him will find his soul­mates. Need is to make them feel it’s theirs, and art will au­to­mat­i­cally em­brace them.

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