Don't confuse "affordable" or "reasonably priced" with "cheap" says Anurag Sharma of the capital's United Art Fair (UAF), who aims to inculcate the art-buying culture in the country by targeting those who have never done so.
As the second-edition of this artist-driven fair kicks off on Saturday, emerging talent from home and around the world will gather under one roof to celebrate artistic creativity.
"Our target audience is people who have never bought art. There are many people who have a five lakh rupee sofa in their living rooms but not an original piece of art that would cost a mere Rs.5,000 ($80). Bare walls can be made to look beautiful with original artworks and this needs to be ingrained into the minds of people," UAF director Sharma told IANS.
"The culture of art should flourish in the country. A liking for art has to be inculcated from childhood. There should be a habit of buying original art pieces and appreciate them. One has to live with art, grow with it and get addicted to it. It is a good addiction to have," he maintained.
Connecticut-born Peter Nagy, who is now based here, is the artistic director of the four-day fair is. Working with him are a team of five curators who, along with Nagy, have discovered artists and are coordinating the event: art historian Alka Pande, photographer Ram Rahman, crtic Meera Menezes, curator and critic Heidi Fichtner and writer and curator Mayank Kaul. They have hand-picked the 284 participating artists only after examining their promising creative skills. The event will take place at Pragati Maidan till Tuesday.
"In the first year, the idea was to give everyone a platform. But now there will be a stringent process for the artists to be a part of this event. It has become more of a filtered-year and there will always be a set of 250 artists participating in it," Sharma said, adding the fair will focus on a variety of disciplines like paintings, sculpture and photography but will also accommodate work from the folk and tribal art genres.
"Today's inexperienced artists will be the future of tomorrow. But they need a platform to showcase. They present their solo exhibitions and if someone likes it only then they will get a place to display. But what happens to those who don't get a platform or a chance," questioned Sharma, who began his career as a courier boy in 1992 and then launched his own company UAPL. It was from here that he began handling art for big galleries and art fairs.
During his years of interacting with the gallery owners and artists, he realised that newcomers were a struggling lot. Their art was creative but was not selling and was threatening India's art culture.
Enter the UAF, with its motto: Making art affordable.
"By saying affordable and reasonably priced, please don't think of it is cheap. We are delivering the right piece at the right value. We have sat with artists and the pricing has been done after sharing their views on the price they have quoted and why they have quoted so," Sharma said, adding the works of art range between Rs.5,000 and Rs.1 crore.
This platform is a dream for emerging artists, but Sharma is struggling to sustain it for a variety of reasons: ego clashes with the artistic fraternity that still consider him an outlier, not getting financial support and not been able to explain the concept of UAF to the people at large.
"I am not here to challenge any art fair. I am here for a different job altogether. There are so many ego clashes and so many insecurities that I am finding it tough to manage. You don't let in an artist and he bad-mouths you, and so on. There are many issues but I am not seeking sympathy. I am asking for support," Sharma explained, pointing out the UAF concept is completely different from Neha Kripal's India Art Fair, for instance, or any other art fair.
"I have sold my personal assets for this. It is a huge risk, I know, but I want to keep art alive. I only want those who claim to be a part of art to show interest and not indifference," Sharma added.