Focus shifts to art galleries

Syed Zafar Mehdi

MF Hussain’s women sinuously peep out of the imposing canvas commanding a price in crores. Anjolie Ela Menon’s artworks sweep you off your feet and Jatin Das’s pieces simply leave you mesmerised. Art can do wonders to your senses, and what better place than an art gallery to experience a new high through the realm of colours, forms and mediums.

Art scene in city has moved beyond the traditional cultural hotspots like India Habitat Centre (Visual Arts Gallery), India International Centre (IIC), Alliance Francaise et al now. Many art galleries in South Delhi are increasingly becoming the talk of town.

With art galleries mushrooming, art has assumed the status of serious business now. Whether it’s a prospective buyer thinking of investing in a piece, an art lover checking out new stuff, or simply a college goer trying to while away time usefully, the scene at various galleries is quite exuberant. The market for contemporary Indian Art has grown enormously in recent years.

The 25-year old Vadehra Art Gallery at Defence Colony is a prominent name in the international art circuit for its concerted efforts in introducing Indian art to the western world. “We are in the art business for over two decades, and we have been witness to progression of art through many ups and downs,” says Sonia Belani, manager with Vadehra Gallery. She feels these art galleries are driven by the motive of raising awareness about art and doing business in the process. “India is the toast of world right now, including art. Markets have opened up and price is also steady, which is attracting foreign customers to our galleries,” she adds.

Vadehra is famous for having heralded the trend of active collaboration between private and public art sectors.

Gallery Espace in posh New Friends Colony is a popular haunt for art buffs in South-east Delhi. The gallery has a stock of F N Souza, S H Raza, Himmat Shah and Baptist Coelho besides other art biggies. “We promote contemporary art, and organize exhibitions and fairs on regular basis. We see lot of youth flocking to our gallery all the time to check out new arrivals,” says Shveta Bhanot, Manager at the gallery.

Gallery Espace was established in 1989 by Renu Modi with an exhibition of autobiographical works of MF Husain, modern India’s most celebrated artist and one of the founder members of the path-breaking Progressive Artists Group

Founded in 1993, Hauz Khas Village based Delhi Art Gallery houses numerous mini galleries showcasing a very comprehensive selection of 20th century Indian art. “We believe in owning the works in which we deal, and have with us the entire or at least exhaustive collections of most important Indian modern artists over the decades,” says Kishore Singh, Head – Exhibitions & Publications.

The gallery is popular among scholars who come here for research. “They use our library facilities, curate shows and look for trends and themes in the works of early modern to modern to senior artists of over a hundred years,” says Singh.

Aryan Art Gallery in Defence Colony is into buying and selling artworks, besides evaluating works, preserving and restoring them. It sources art for all leading auction houses like Christie’s, Sotheby’s, Osians, Saffronart, etc. Pramod Makheja of South Extension II, who is a regular at Aryans has a word of praise for their collections. “They have the best of art collections, which is a sheer treat for any art buff,” says Makheja.

But there are some galleries who have hit the rough patch in last two years. Sanjay Sachdev of Domus Art Gallery at Hauz Khas Village has no qualms in admitting that his gallery hasn’t sold a singe art work ever since recession hit the market. “We are into an unorganized sector, where there is no security. The truth is that business is the over-riding factor for all art galleries, and in last few years majority of art galleries have shut down,” says Sachdev.

(First published in Hindustan Times)