It has been great to witness how Delhi’s art consciousness has evolved over the last few years with the proliferation of private art collectors—many of them now from the salaried class. As Alfred North, the famous English mathematician and philosopher once said, “Art flourishes where there is a sense of adventure,” I find this ‘sense of adventure’ now percolating deeper into the collective consciousness of Delhi than ever before. The sense has provided an element of confidence that is allowing the mainstream Indian to appreciate mainstream Indian art. How else does one explain the success of the India Art Fair? I see that sense in the slow build-up of regular visitors to Kiran Nadar Museum of Art. When we installed Subodh Gupta’s iconic Line of Control in 2012, it was one of the first instances of Delhi witnessing installation art of such dimensions. Today, people are realising that art was much more than brush strokes on canvas. The previous year witnessed remarkable exhibitions that have addressed diverse trajectories of the modern and contemporary India. The India Art Fair animated the scene with expanded viewership, with discussions on art trends, curatorial workshops and art from all over India being showcased in Delhi. While the market is still recovering, Indian artists are generating new ideas, content and techniques. As a result, the sphere of art activities has widened, and artists and curators are thinking out new ways of engaging the art audience.
There is no dearth of emerging talent and there has been a lot of emphasis on curating exhibitions of the works of younger contemporaries. Equally, retrospectives of artists who have remained rather sidelined in the history of Indian Modernism, are being revisited and their contribution is being reexamined. A lot remains to be done for the visibility of art in Delhi, much more in other parts of India, as cultivating viewership and an appreciation of one’s art and culture is important for the sustainability and encouragement of the arts and artists.
The main objective behind a museum is of bringing visibility to the diversifying art practice; come to think of it, art is a relatively small phenomenon in a culturally and historically-rich country like India. The impact of Indian art globally and in India will get a solid push if we have more venues for its access. Few national museums aren’t enough. I see the need for many more such ‘spaces’ as sites for the confluence of ideas and creative thoughts, rather than mere galleries. These spaces need to become places for confluence, through curatorial initiatives and exhibitions, school and college workshops, art appreciation discourses, symposiums and public programmes. There is a need to bridge the disconnect between art and the public and enhancing museum-going culture in India. Is India’s political class listening?
Nadar is Chairperson, Kiran Nadar Museum of Art.