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Where art frat meets mall rat

The approach is through a wine shop and an array of world cuisine restaurants. Beyond the Vuitton handbags and Choo shoes, spas and Ice bars lies the heart of the matter. Aasheesh Sharma writes.

art and culture Updated: Aug 26, 2011 14:27 IST
Aasheesh Sharma

The approach is through a wine shop and an array of world cuisine restaurants. Beyond the Vuitton handbags and Choo shoes, spas and Ice bars lies the heart of the matter. The city's art galleries are reaching out to mall rats to broaden their buyer base. It isn't quite Singapore's Marina promenade yet, but many new galleries in the National Capital Region are leasing space within the premises of a mall.

Among these, established names like Vadehra and Delhi Art Gallery (DAG), both at Emporio, Vasant Kunj, say they are using the mall outlet to drive buyers towards flagship stores. Says Ashish Anand of DAG: "India is the new market for luxury. Since a lot of NRI clients visit the new outlet, we refer them to our 9,000 sq ft store at Hauz Khas, where, for instance, they can choose from 50 Souzas than the five on display here." Says Vadehra Art Gallery director Parul Vadehra, "A formal gallery space could intimidate first-time buyers." She says their mall outlet, which opened in 2008, "has a friendlier ambience to encourage people to walk in."

Footfalls at a mall are a given — it perhaps explains the high-profile opening of the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art in Select Citywalk mall — but does it really translate into business? http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/HTEditImages/Images/12_02_11_pg13a.jpg

Small players like Joie in Saket's MGF Metropolitan, the latest gallery to set up shop in a mall, are creating their niche by targeting young professionals. Says Priya Khanna, 31, a former Ernst & Young manager who launched the gallery in November 2010: "We want to showcase affordable, mid-level contemporary works. On February 21, for instance, before the Union Budget, we will host a show where the prices, between R5000 and R1 lakh, won't dent a professional's budget."

Often the trick lies in choosing the right location: where the footfalls could be low, but well-heeled walk in. Khanna says the conversion of walk-ins at Joie is about 10 per cent. But one serious query every working day from a high-net-worth individual, reasons Anand, or about 300 queries a year, is more than enough to take care of rentals and overheads to the tune of R 1 crore at Emporio. So, when Shobha Sengupta of Quill and Canvas was hunting for a larger outlet for her bookstore-cumgallery, she homed in on South City Mall. "Gurgaon residents, mostly professionals who've made it their home, have a good understanding of art and this mall is surrounded by some of the best homes in the area." To provide an incentive to serious buyers, Sengupta gives them an installment option.

A gallery-cum-café where the art ranges from graffiti, to digital, to installations, Mocha Arthouse, launched in 2009, has also hosted works by graphic novelists such as Sarnath Banerjee.

The key to doing well in a mall, says director Tripat Kalra of Gallerie Nvya in Saket's Square One Mall, is not compromising on quality. "Even a swanky ambience won't entice buyers into buying art that isn't good."

Can Delhi's mall crawlers tell their Dior from their Dali? Now that's another story.