2017: When art broke out of gallery walls and went public

By Trisha MukherjeeNew Delhi, Dec 28 (PTI) Art has traditionally beenused as a medium of expression but conversations have oftenbeen restricted w...

By Trisha MukherjeeNew Delhi, Dec 28 (PTI) Art has traditionally beenused as a medium of expression but conversations have oftenbeen restricted within the four walls of a gallery, cateringonly to a niche audience.

In 2017, however, public art took on a life of its own --breaking down walls of confined spaces and spilling out to thestreets, making the art experience accessible to all.

So the 142-year-old Sassoon Docks, housing one ofMumbai's oldest fish markets, became a vibrant canvas and anold barge in Goa was transformed into an art space during the2nd Serendipity Arts festival.

Earlier this month, designer and artist Manish Aroraembellished Mumbai's Jindal mansion with yards of cloth,hand embroidered and printed, as a symbol of love and peace.

Walls in public spaces became canvases for those lookingto expand their creative spaces, whether at the ghats inPushkar or a Delhi Metro station wall.

"It is a wonderful message in today's times of conflictand uncertainty, and public art can do this beautifully andmeaningfully," said Gaurav Bhatia, managing director,Sotheby's India.

The increase in the number of public art events in thepast year explains why the need for such installations goesbeyond merely beautifying the spaces they occupy.

St+art India's initiative at the docks, for instance, wasaimed at reviving Mumbaikars' interest in a forgotten part oftheir city, with graffiti and shows telling stories ofcommunities like the Kolis, the Banjaras and the HinduMarathas.

In April, the non-profit organisation tied up with DelhiMetro Rail Corporation to give the Arjangarh Metro station anartistic makeover with illustrations of indigenous birds andanimals found in the country.

Stations on the newly launched Magenta line are alsobeing painted in themes representative of their surroundings.

Similarly, Orijit Sen's installation maps Goa's MapusaMarket, while touching on issues like GST and demonetisation.

According to Tushar Sethi, director of Astaguru, anauction house, art has the capability of triggeringrevolutions with an impact.

The power of art in the public realm lies in itsinevitability, the fact that it can't be missed by anybody inits vicinity.

"It can portray a powerful and moving statement to adiverse audience in an instant...," says Sethi.

Arvind Vijaymohan, chief executive of Artery India, anIndian art market intelligence and advisory firm, adds thatpublic art's growing visibility and presence is a developmentthat was "highly overdue".

"It is a strong tool in sensitising the public at largeto the importance of art in everyday life, and very cruciallyimproves the visual landscape of our urban spaces," he says.

The recently opened sculpture park in Jaipur's Nahargarhfort is one such example of a tourist spot evolving into aninternational art space.

"It shares and celebrates diverse international creativeexpressions and is a wonderful tourist attraction – a fineexample of how state governments can patronise contemporaryart," Bhatia says.

A strong focus on cultural value marks the resurgence ofthe Indian art market in the past year. This is likely tocontinue in the years to come, he adds.

The other trend in the country's art scene in 2017 wasthe shift in collectors' interests from the big five -- V SGaitonde, Tyeb Mehta, M F Husain, S H Raza and F N Souza.

It's not that the legends are fading, it is that artistslike Bhupen Khakhar and Arpita Singh are also making waves.

Bhatia notes that 2017 saw international institutionswake up to the exciting Indian art scene and the inclusion ofIndian modern and contemporary artists.

From Khakhar at Tate and Nasreen Mohamedi at Met Breur toa retrospective of Nalini Malani at the Center Pompidou, theyear was clearly a success.

The leading records set in 2017 include works by BhupenKhakhar (Rs 9.41 crore), Manjit Bawa (Rs 5.05 crore), JogenChowdhury (Rs 3.19 crore) and Ganesh Pyne (Rs. 2.83 crore).

But Sethi refuses to equate this shift with a"metamorphosis".

"Only 30 odd artists from the modern segment are stillbeing constantly pursued," he says.

While there is optimism about the overall Indian market,the digital art sector is yet to make a mark.

There is rising interest in new media practices andexperimentation aplenty, but digital art still has a long wayto go before it gets mainstream, feels Vijaymohan.

"Digital art will remain relatively niche. In the Indiancontext, this is even more sharply evident as ours is still ata comparatively early milestone," he says.

The lack of awareness and exposure in the Indian artmarket space and amongst the audience is also to blame for theinconsequential growth of digital art, says Sethi.

"The transaction of this segment is less than 2 per centin the grand scheme of things and therefore digital art stillhas a long way to go before it is considered a significantsegment of the Indian art market space," he says. PTI TRSMIN.

This is unedited, unformatted feed from the Press Trust of India wire.

Related Stories

No stories found.

The New Indian Express