Hampi Art Labs: A new residency and cultural hub amidst Karnataka's iron-rich terrain

Residency director Meera Curam says, “We are hoping to make this a space where critical conversations about contemporary art can happen.
Hampi Art Labs: A new residency and cultural hub amidst Karnataka's iron-rich terrain

It’s the colour of burnt orange all around. It is a hue that is unmissable when you are in Toranagallu in Bellary, Karnataka, thanks to the iron-rich land. The newly inaugurated Hampi Art Labs (HAL) near the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hampi boasts the same colour palette. The expansive nine-acre space by the JSW Foundation is spearheaded by founder Sangita Jindal and her daughter Tarini Jindal Handa, the creative director. The concept is to primarily work as a residency. There are five large studios that will host as many artists every quarter, selected from an open call.

Residency director Meera Curam says, “We are hoping to make this a space where critical conversations about contemporary art can happen. This is where artists can come and work without any expectation. Sometimes you may not have anything at the end of three months but just a very strong concept and multiple prototypes or ideas which you may not have the time to develop here but can take back with you. We want the artists to go off the beaten paths.”

Inspired by the surrounding landscape, much of the building structure mimics the organic shapes and fluid forms carved by the Tungabhadra River that flows through the region. “As the founder of Echo, one of India’s first collected design galleries, I wanted to bring in what we try to achieve there with design, craft and art making. We adopt and create new lenses and unique languages to revisit Indian craft heritage through contemporary design. In the same way, I have tried to make the overall philosophy of HAL to be experimental, inclusive, and fluid in design and in vision,” says Sangita Jindal.

The space has been designed by Mumbai-based Sameep Padora from studio sP+a. Tarini Jindal Handa was also involved in the design conversation. The project itself has been in conception for over four years.

“We wanted to do something to give back to the world of art and culture,” says Handa. The site location incidentally was completely barren and did not have any vegetation, or features.

“We were looking at a reference point to develop the project from and being in the proximity of the incredible ruins of Hampi, its boulders and its riverine landscape was the starting point. The river in some sense became a metaphor for movement through our site and each of the buildings became the riverine landscape seen here,” says Padora.

HAL serves as a space for large-scale work and will be a production facility that the JSW Foundation will support. The inaugural exhibition—Right Foot First—on till May 31, showcases works from Sangita Jindal’s personal art collection and includes works of artists like Ai Weiwei, BV Doshi, Dayanita Singh, Tushar Joag and Zarina Hashmi, among others. HAL is a space that comes with a charm like no other as it makes art accessible, inclusive, and open for more people to enjoy and interpret in their own unique way.

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