State of the Art

There are mixed reactions as artists and gallery owners come together for a mega-project for the Commonwealth Games

Organised by the Lalit Kala Akademi and sponsored by the Cultural Ministry, an ambitious project to feature a 100 artists and 11 galleries to come up with artworks that have sport and the Capital as their muse, is already underway. The project, set around the Commonwealth Games, has plans of not just hosting exhibitions, but also of mounting hoardings worth Rs 50,000 around the city.

"The Commonwealth Games Organising Committee is an entity unto itself and has different ways of functioning, hence we had to take it upon ourselves. This association marks a cementing of public-private partnership and an acknowledgment of the important role played by the private galleries in the furthering of Indian contemporary art," says Ashok Vajpeyi, chairman, Lalit Kala.

The artworks to be featured in the project cover a wide range of topics. On one end of the spectrum is artist Ranbir Kalekar's vision of the CWG: A mixed media painting titled Conference of Birds and Beasts. In this work the heritage of the city has been pushed to the back while the nightmare of unfinished urban structures loom large. Birds and animals populate this desolate landscape. "These 'creatures of the wild' are all from Delhi and I have invented a fable of them holding a conference on the outskirts of the city, because they too are being made homeless like the hawkers who have been evicted. Things don't seem to be in very good shape in the painting but it also has a seductiveness," says Kalekar, one of the 10 artists to showcase their works at Nature Morte gallery. The gallery will also feature photographs by Ram Rehman and Gauri Gill, media work by Mithu Sen, an installation by Probir Gupta and Jaganath Panda, besides works by Thukral and Tagra.

Painter Yusuf Arakkal who is showcasing at Sunaina Anand 's Art Alive gallery has painted a little street child balancing a football on his head, depicting hope. "He wants to be like Beckham and the fact that the Commonwealth is happening in India, gives him hope," says Arakkal. Art alive will also feature Krishen Khanna, Anjolie Ela Menon and Jogen Choudhury.

With just 53 days left for the event to take off, some of the participants are a little anxious about the time frame required to execute such a huge project. "I am going to reserve judgement about how this is going to turn out. It's exciting, but I don't want to be too hopeful or too negative about it," says Peter Nagy, owner, Nature Morte. "I'm happy that 11 galleries are coming together as a collective at such an important event. One will be worried till the show is mounted but only in a constructive manner," says Anand. Rameshwar Broota, who is showing alongside other senior artists like Arpita Singh, Gulammohammed Sheikh, and Atul Dodiya, says, "I think the money spent has to be in proportion with the results; it shouldn't be exhorbitant. On the other hand, it's good that people from other countries will be visiting to our city to know India is not only about cricket." His work features a digitally manipulated photograph of wrestlers titled The first Grip. "It features maps of several countries of the world, some recognised, others that are not. It looks at the construction of nations," he says.

Parul Vadhera of Vadhera Art Gallery is upbeat about the project though. "In addition to the sporting events, most visitors will want to experience various aspects of Delhi's rich heritage. This exhibition will provide a great way for them to engage with India's leading contemporary artists," she says.

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