By Madhusree Chatterjee
New Delhi: Galleries in India are moving beyond mere selling of art. They are now integrated spaces which teach art, conduct residencies for artists, sell handicrafts and even offer a quick bite to the tired soul.
Their number is steadily rising in the capital and around the country, with both private and public support.
A new integrated art hub here is “1QA”, a sprawling green acre next to the famous Qutab Minar monument. The space will open April 13 with a multimedia exhibition, “Roti Kapda, Makaan”, featuring art by 23 artists at the in-house gallery Ojas Art.
It has been developed by the Ramchander Nath Foundation, a non-profit organisation for promotion of arts and culture. The premises, earlier occupied by the Indian cottage industry, has a handicrafts and jewellery shop and a manicured garden with performance and outdoor display space.
It will add to the existing amenities with living rooms and a cafe to attract tourists who throng the adjacent Qutab Minar and the Mehrauli Archaeological Complex.
” ‘1QA’ has exhibition space, design space and a crafts shop with a garden that will be my USP in winter. I want to host culture shows and anything related to art, fashion and design,” Anubhav R. Nath, the owner of Ojas Art, told IANS.
“One cannot go on spending from the wallet. My revenue generating outlet at 1QA will the art store, O Shop, an extension of our family’s traditional business of handicrafts and jewellery.
“I will charge nominal money for gallery space. I am looking for partnerships. It is not complete philanthropy and I am not over-committing myself,” Nath said.
And it’s part of a trend.
The Religare Arts Initiative, which started as a 360-degree platform with an exhibition space, cafe and souvenir shop at Connaught Place, has scaled down since it moved to Saket to focus on just the business and education of art, a source said.
Religare gave the country some of the innovative concept art projects by turning the urban milieu of Connaught Place into an interactive art space.
Lyla Rao, head of client services of the Religare Arts Initiative, says: “Integrated art spaces are feasible in India today.
“However, they require an approach that goes beyond the conventional functioning of art galleries. The focus of a 360-degree platform is to nurture all dimensions of art,” Rao told IANS.
“Given the recent robust development of the Indian art sector, we can expect to see an exponential expansion in the years to come. This continual growth will soon lead to a situation where integrated spaces draw most of the traffic.”
While conventional art practices currently dominate the field, “the rise of a more discerning audience will perforce demand a more invigorating art space”, Rao added.
The success of integrated arts models like the government-run Lalit Kala Akademi with its books division, Epicentre (Gurgaon), Cholamandalam Artists village (Tamil Nadu), Bharat Bhavan (Bhopal) and artist Jogen Chowdhury’s Shantiniketan Society for Visual Arts can be attributed to “multiple resource pools, diversification of business models, government backing and occasional foreign fundings”, a leading gallerist in the capital told IANS.
Curator and managing editor of Art & Deal, Johnny M.L., said: “It is easy to start a multidisciplinary arts platform, but sustainability is one thing. The developers of ‘1QA’ are businessmen – they are not drawing their wealth from art. For them it is an extension of social responsibility.”
“One need not look at such initiatives as money-making projects. They are private spaces and people walking in should know there are restrictions. But they should be located in strategic locations to attract footfalls. Integrated arts hub was a trend started by the government agencies.”
The government has been aggressively promoting integrated art and culture spaces for the last two years to commemorate Rabindranath Tagore’s 150th birth anniversary, a culture ministry official said.
“We don’t have individual spaces for performance art, interactive art, art education and residency programmes in the country. We have a few museums which are homogeneous spaces,” gallerist and art curator Bhavna Kakar told IANS.
“Galleries have to double as integrated spaces to cater to all aspects of art, including archiving. It, however, fits into the galleries’ scheme of things.”