Art is a hefty word, a certified hall pass to the big boy club of refinement. It's usually hung in imposing galleries and museums or expensive homes. But rarely in Delhi does art come to you, sneaking up completely unannounced at places you'd never imagined.
That's pretty much how the current Fête de la Photo - a photography festival organised by the Embassy of France in association with the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) can be described.
Huge photographs pitched all around Connaught Place, the Rajiv Chowk Metro Station, Jantar Mantar, Regal Building and several subways in the area have caught the eye of every visitor.
All out in the open
You can start a guessing game with a series of photographs named 'Portraiture' by Parthiv Shah, trying to identify the cultural figures in the photographs. Then there's the astronomy-based installation that has visitors posing with it for their Facebook profiles. There's even a photo booth called 'Distant Dreams' where photographer Anay Maan shoots people against a backdrop of French monuments and gives them copies as keep-sakes. And all for free.
One of the largest interactive public art exhibitions in recent times, Fête de la Photo has brought a long-standing tradition of interactive and contemporary public art to the city, a regular feature for other world capitals like London, Paris or Berlin. Although traditional public art in the form of murals, statues and monuments dot the city's landscape, a fresh re-imagination of everyday space is more or less missing from Delhi. "Art in that sense is patronised only at elitist level but this exposes your art to someone walking down the street," says photographer Parthiv Shah.
Adds Aruna Adaciem, the cultural attaché of the French Embassy, "People don't need to go anywhere, they just need to open their eyes and stare. What is usual for us could be a whole new perspective for someone passing by. Public art helps us re-experience our surroundings."
Since the camera became the defining feature of a phone, photography has exploded in the last decade. In September 2012, Fortune magazine reported that 10 per cent of all photos ever taken were shot in 2011 alone. Photography as art is more accessible than it ever was. Photographer Rohit Chawla who has a series on Wearable Art, says that the reactions he's got are far more real than from any gallery. "This is more upfront. It brings a sense of festivity and well-being to the city. That's what public art is all about."
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From HT Brunch, March 23
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