Monday, January 13, 2014

EDITORIAL - Will Subodh Gupta's Exhibition at the NGMA turn out to be a Chai, Samosa, Jalebi Affair?..


Will Subodh Gupta’s Exhibition at the NGMA turn out to be a Chai, Samosa, Jalebi Affair? 
( Artist Subodh Gupta with his work: Photo courtesy Livemint)
The National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi seems to believe in giving surprises to the Indian art scene. The pattern that this national institution has been following for the last few years is quite interesting and peculiar: if there is an important exhibition, retrospective or survey show or group exhibition organised by other institutions in collaboration with the NGMA, people get the information regarding this just a few days before the opening. Most of the NGMA openings, as it is a government institution, therefore come under the Ministry of Culture, Government of India, and are considered to be a serious state affair and a few important officials generally attend the opening. Protocols are followed and if some VVIPs like Sonia Gandhi or Dr. Manmohan Singh are expected to be there in the opening as chief guests, the gallery and its premises assume the nature of a highly guarded fortress. Result, except for the well established and immediately recognised and recognisable artists, the general public and the young art enthusiasts avoid attending the opening functions at the NGMA. Though it is not a rule, often at the NGMA the opening ceremonies turn out to be a senior citizens’ affair.
I do not intend to criticize the NGMA and its administration categorically. There have been occasions when people came and attended the opening or commemorative functions of their own accord, with or without information well in advance. In such cases, either private agencies are involved in the production of the exhibition or the people involved in the production or curation of the exhibition have general acceptance in the cultural constituency, or else the exhibition in question has already been talked about by many as its opening in another city had created a sort of expectation amongst the city’s art loving public. National Gallery of Modern Art does not serve wine at the opening functions as it is the national policy; no government organizations serve liquor in their functions. But the buffet of snacks laid out during the opening at the NGMA is quite filling. Still people are not generally attracted to the opening functions at the NGMA in New Delhi.
A Subodh Gupta exhibition, titled ‘Everything is Inside’ curated by Germano Celant is going to be opened at the NGMA on 16th January 2014 at 5.40 pm. A large scale Subodh Gupta show, whether you like his works or not is supposed to be a large scale spectacle, which is going to be a talking point of the city at some stage. It is not that Subodh Gupta’s works are very rare or not seen in the public domain for quite some time. In 2013, we had got one of his big sculptures installed at the foyer of the Kiran Nadar Museum. Subodh Gupta, though hailing from Patna, is Delhi’s own artist. But the NGMA sends out the invitation by emails on 11th January 2014, just five days before the opening. I consider it as institutional arrogance. While the private galleries, whenever they have an important show, send out ‘save the date’ mails a month before, and then follow it up with further information through various mediums including the social networking sites, NGMA prefers to give a surprise to the people; they announce the important shows a few days before the opening. How do the authorities expect the people to attend the opening function? Or is it a ploy to keep the people at bay and make the opening a suited and booted affair with high end art players rubbing shoulders with each other without feeling guilt at seeing the outcastes and strugglers in the art scene in the vicinity?
Whatever be the case, I would like to tell the authorities that it is absolutely not right. A major show should be opened with sufficient build up programs in the city. People should get some glimpses of the show and also the public should be educated about the artist and his works in a slow and steady build up and promotional programs so that the public gets curious about the artist and the show. This will result in the streaming of people to the gallery, if not for the opening, in the following days. Who is Subodh Gupta? We all know that he is one of the most important artists of our times. But, what about his popularity vis-a-vis that of Arvind Kejriwal or Shah Rukh Khan? Do a quick survey amongst the public in Delhi and try to find where the artists stand today in the graph of popularity. To our shock we would see that most of the people are unaware of the artist; let us face it. Art is a very small sphere and our celebrities are celebrities only within that sphere. Outside that they are just ordinary people. But as cultural players and makers of a new visual culture and related discourses, they are not less than the film stars. If you counter argue that film is a popular medium and art is not, then why complain when people do not take interest in art, why do outreach programs? 
While writing this editorial, I look at the website of the NGMA, New Delhi. There is no information regarding this show. Is this how one major show going to be presented? Getting a few articles published in the newspapers just before the opening will not make sense; yes, they do only to a limited section of the society. Let us take how the Anish Kapoor show was received by the city’s public a couple of years back at the same venue. Ask any Indian in the street, all of them do not know Anish Kapoor. But a few of them knew at least during that time of the exhibition because the build up that the show got in Mumbai was so big that by the time it reached Delhi it had become a highly expected show. And now let us take the example of the Atul Dodiya show. Yes, Atul’s show was mediated by a private gallery. Still I would say the show was a flop, mainly because the people did not even know that his retrospective was on. The case was slightly different when Sooni Taraporewala and Ketaki Seth exhibited here. But we should know that it was rightly timed with the Delhi Photo Festival, which would definitely bring in a niche crowd. Subodh Gupta’s show is also a well timed one. On 30th January 2014, the sixth edition of the India Art Fair will open in Delhi. People from all over India as well as international art players would come to attend the fair. In their itinerary, definitely there would be Subodh Gupta’s show. In that case, I would argue that this large scale show is not for the city, it is for the guests.
The NGMA has a facebook page. Please spare some time to visit this page. You would see only invitation cards posted there. There are thousands of pages of public and private bodies, individuals and collectives where they post invitation cards. But the NGMA is expected to keep its social network page as vibrant and live as possible because in today’s world, facebook page and websites are the real mediums for reaching out. What kind of image are you giving away to the national and the international community about our premier national institution for modern and contemporary art? Things could be done. But for that you should have a decentralized approach. The concerned people at the top of the institution should change their mindset and rusted work culture. There should be a young team that makes build up programs and reach out programs for the NGMA. There should be adequate advertisements, reach out programs, film screenings, metro-rail based advertising strategies to push the image or the artist amongst the public. Every Londoner remembers the face of Damien Hirst or Francis Bacon or Shakespeare because in large posters their images are distributed in the tube stations, especially when important shows come. There should be hundred and one strategies to make a show important, an artist important to make the people feel that they belong to them. Look at the average age of the people who work at the top level at the NGMA. I do not want to comment on it. Instead, I ask you to find out for yourself. Age brings experience. But if the experience is not cosmopolitan and daring, it is absolutely useless.
Do you want your NGMA openings to be a Chai, Samosa, Jalebi walah affair or your city’s event in which you all take pride? Imagine a scenario in which people from Meerut, Bagpat, Hisar, Biwani, Ballabgarh, Faridabad, Gaziabad, Lucknow, Patna, Rachi, Bhopal, Kolkata, Imphal travel to Delhi and queue up to see the show of Subodh Gupta or in that case any other artist living or dead, on the first day itself. Have the authorities heard of blockbuster shows? Do they know that two collateral events for the India Art Fair at the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, Delhi have already been publicized, event information posted in the social networking sites, emails for saving date sent out three weeks in advance? Things can change, if you really want, dear NGMA. If not, people will change you, sooner than later. That’s what we have just witnessed in the Delhi assembly elections. 



Simply Strokes

Hudco Art Gallery, New Delhi presents a group show along with Black Mango, titled, ‘Simply Strokes- Vol III’. The third edition of the show will display a plethora of interesting paintings and sculptures by the artists from all over the country.

The participating artists are, Akshay Verma, Gaurav Mangla, Madhur Tyagi, Neeraj Rawal, Radhey Shyam, Sanyogita Palande, Shrishti Agarwal, Sudarshana Chakravorty, Sunita Lamba, Timsi Gupta, Vijay Kharkar.
The show is to preview on 15th January 2014 at 5:00 pm and will be on view till 20th January 2014.

Translucent Video Art Festival

Translucent Video Art Festival, an initiative by Chameleon Art Projects with its focus on experimental video / cinema is on at Sunaparanta Goa Center for the Arts, Goa. This festival aims at building a platform for video art in India, encouraging the practice and building a deeper and uncompromised understanding for it, especially for the emerging artists of the country.

Having previewed on 7th January and on till until 14 February 2014, it will take the form of an expanded event, screening over 45 videos / films by eminent Indian artists. This will be in conjunction to the exhibition, “Rebirth of Detail” curated by Kanchi Mehta at Sunaparanta Goa Centre for Arts, Panjim.

On screen are some brilliant video artists from India, who have indulged in experimental film making in the past and have been exceptional, starting from Tyeb Mehta, Sukhdev, Pramod Pati, Vijay B. Chandra, etc.

The works of Rafeeq Elias, Shumona Goel & Shai Heredia
Grandmother India (Kurnal Rawat, Anand Tharaney, Sameer Tawde), Manjunath Kamathm, Sahej Rahal, Amol Patil, Asim Waqif, Aaditi Joshi are on show on 14th January 2014 between 6:30: and 8:00 pm.

Mumbai Lifelines
(work by David Daniel Talegaonkar)
Nehru Centre, Mumbai presents 'Mumbai Lifelines', a painting exhibition which brings together the works of 14 artists who came to Mumbai around 1.5 years ago. All of them had a common aim - presenting a tribute to the magical city of Mumbai. They studied various moods and subjects of the city under the renowned artist, Mr. Vasudeo Kamath.

The participating artists include Anand Mahajani, Shrikant Kashelkar, Umesh Kavle, Sunil Pujari, Daniel David Talegaonkar, Amol Pawar, Kailas Vinayak Anyal, Sharad Tawade, Kishor Nadavdekar, Uday Palsuledesai, Vikrant Shitole, Pankaj Bawdekar, Sahebrao Hare and Ajay Patil.

The show is on view till 13th January 2014.

The Great Rooted Blossomer

India International Centre, New Delhi presents a show titled 'The Great Rooted Blossomer' - an exhibition based on the life of C. D. Deshmukh. 
On the display will be selected photographs, cartoons, letters and extracts from Deshmukh's autobiography and other books. The exhibition will be curated by Dr. Aparna Basu.
The show begins on 14th of January and will be on view till 22nd January 2014.

( News reports by Sushma Sabnis)

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