Friday, January 16, 2009

A refreshing Art Initiative—Religare
With a flood of interest being generated in Indian art, paraphernalia of art is growing albeit in a non organised tipsy fashion.
Normally the world over there is a clear distinction between art museums and art galleries. The museums often owned by state are supported by the private capital from donations or gifts of money or/and works of art. The private galleries operate on the unitary principle of profit. Art galleries use the fundamental of high profit generation for their operations. They have research departments that keep tracking pricing/popularity of individual artists, they scout for fresh talent, research on future graph of artists to invest and hold inventories of works of art, collaborate with art auction houses and art Funds, carry out documentation on art and artists for different genres, media, period etc, they work to create durable relations with substantial interest art collectors, they help to build theme specific collections for individual collectors, they help to reshuffle the existing portfolio of art of collectors, help in the valuation and authentication of art works, they seek suitable art curators for upcoming exhibitions, they plan their art calendar for medium and longer terms periods, they work out their media plans for art promotion.
A very important function of private galleries alongside profits is to educate and create awareness and interest about art in general and in specific art works of artists with fresh creative expressions. This they do by mounting exhibitions and learned writings on art. They also organise interactive sessions with art loving public and the collectors, Organising lectures and seminars involving experts from the field.
Is it for money alone that one should look for art related activities? Yes and no. First let’s consider art as investment value. The systematic, expertise based investments in art require market transparency, information flows, a fair pricing mechanism and a developed art infrastructure in which competitive art market exchanges can take place. These and many more questions require answers generated by art market players who have an honest commitment to art related activities. This will help more people to look at art as an investment in their asset portfolio.
But art is also cultural repository of a society. It is what we pass on to the future generations to be proud of as a national and sub-national entity. To nurture, to educate to be proud of our art and to keep in good health the art works is responsibility that goes alongside the investment value of art.
Religare is a welcome entrant to the art market field. Its business interest is in financial services. Its main area of interest is in Retail, Institutional and Wealth management. It has put its signature in international finance through its subsidiaries and strategic joint ventures. Thus Religare is suitably placed to launch an initiative in art with its background in asset management. It can integrate its other asset classes with art works and help to build a synergy for the much needed art infrastructure services.
Religare has launched with professional acumen Religare Art Initiative a multi pronged initiative. Mukesh Panika heads this Initiative. RAI is planned to be a multi layered art hub housed in very avant garde space in Atma Ram mansion in historic Scindia House in the Outer Circle of Connaught Place New Delhi. The interior is designed to have multiple art related activities including substantial space for a gallery. An area of 10,000plus square feet sounds very encouraging for this art hub.

It’s New it’s Different
What struck me were the unusually imaginative and creative interiors. Looking up on ceiling you find sausage shapes meandering (I am sure they are airconditioning ducts) about. From floor sturdy flat iron pillars with nuts and bolts rise up more like the support pillars on tin sheeted old railway platforms all over India. The raw touch of the space adds an art brut feel to the interiors. To me the interior recalled Fernand Léger tubular industrial machine art. The interior looks like a roving installation and breaks the space and reduces possible monotony. The visual movement in space is created by the use of glass walls. You can visually reach out to spaces and your curiosity moves your feet onwards. The viewing space also climbs up like a mountain trail and offers an individual personal communion with the art work. The restaurant is enveloped by exhibition space and you will be able to combine the aroma of an espresso with equally strong art that Religare is betting on to serve as a main course. The resource centre will be useful to seek references to artists and their works and all that concerns art. Thus what I said in the beginning about the distance between galleries and museums, Religare Art Initiative attempts to bridge it. They are not just a gallery but aim to combine functions normally devolving on museums. It is a new concept for India since they intend to enrol artists, art lovers, researchers to be members of a new art fraternity and work as it muscles and sinews and of course it heart and brain.
The first of the exhibition they launched is called Outer Circle synonymous with location of the place but also carrying a double entendre in reference to the art of the young upcoming artists that is showcased. They have decided to include varied forms and media of artistic expression namely paintings, photographs, sculptures, installations, video from 16 of the upcoming artists. Seasoned experts Alka Pande and Mukesh Panika are the curators for the maiden exhibition running through October 2008.
Need for logistics
The other day while talking to some art collectors we happened to focus on the problems being generated in art field. There appears to be a lack of really creative artists in sufficient numbers to create a more broad based art collection. A few names circulate from gallery to gallery and while the new art shops deal in a kind of calendar photo pictures probably debasing the aesthetic tastes of collectors.
Secondly every person who is worth a couple of visits to art exhibitions swears that he is an art expert, dealer, consultant, advisor, curator. A gentleman who left his pen pusher’s job to hold exhibitions called up an artist friend and requested him to grace the opening of the exhibition since he had one of his works in the show. My friend on arrival discovered that it was another artist’s work who shared first name with him and this art expert did not know his B’s from P’s. A lot of drift wood and flotsam appears when river rises. I hope Religare team knows that, with a fine reputation and professionalism of mother organization to back them their job is cut out fine. They will have to work overtime to create a neat, transparent art space so that the dead wood is swept aside and a new synergy is created in art.
Bon Voyage!!
Viktor Vijay