The art of inclusivity

Updated: Jan 16, 2020, 22:32 IST | Dalreen Ramos | Mumbai

Calcutta's acclaimed CIMA Art Mela comes to Mumbai for the first time with pieces by veteran and emerging artists, all under one lakh

Paresh Maity, watercolour on paper, 2019
Paresh Maity, watercolour on paper, 2019

Please do not touch' is not an uncommon signage. But it can be intimidating to spot one, especially in an area that by definition should be devoid of any restrictions — the art world. In 1993, Rakhi Sarkar set up the Centre for International Modern Art (CIMA) in Calcutta. About 10 years ago, she started a fair for affordable art, to make the neglected middle class part of the collecting community and thus, shake off the inhibitions that are associated with entering gallery spaces. At the same time, Sarkar wanted to build the next generation of collectors.

Anwar Chitrakar, Bengal patachitra, watercolour on paper, undated

"The response was overwhelming. We had queues extending to the streets and people lining up with their savings from provident funds for a piece of art," the cultural connoisseur recalls. Thus, there was no looking back and the CIMA Art Mela made its way to Delhi. Next week, it finally heads to Mumbai at Worli's Nehru Centre Art Gallery. Sarkar has plans to make this a nationwide affair, starting with South India next year. The middle class, she explains, was not always left out of the equation until this millennium. "In the 19th century, art occupied space in the homes of maharajas but come the 20th century, it was supported by the intelligentsia. When prices escalated thereafter, art was wiped out from the public domain. That's what disturbed us."

Jayasri Burman, pen and ink on paper, 2019

The mela took off as artists, both veteran and emerging, began giving small format work. So, CIMA wasn't just erasing the distinction between high and low art but also connecting young entrants to young collectors with disposable income. The Mumbai event includes the works of Jogen Chowdhury, Madhvi Parekh, Arpita Singh and Prabhakar Mahadeo Kolte — the range diversified across styles and mediums. The display boasts of a salon-style structure where artworks will be mounted and not framed.

Lalu Prasad Shaw, conte on paper

The collection is tailored for the city, too. "Delhi and Calcutta have very traditional tastes. Mumbai has always been avant-garde. It's a little westernised and sophisticated. One can expect the works to reflect this funkiness, tongue-in-cheek," Sarkar shares. All works will be priced between R5,000 and R75,000, exclusive of the 12 per cent GST. Her advice to new entrants in the art market is to first decide what they like. And if on a budget, then graphic art is relatively cheap. "You can then develop a focus: a particular artist, medium or style. You need to love what you buy because you have to live with it."

Rakhi Sarkar

ON January 23 to 26, 11 am to 7 pm
AT Nehru Centre Art Gallery, Dr Annie Besant Road, Worli.
CALL 24964676

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