Children are generally not allowed into art fairs in the US. So, even as a participant, six-year-old Shorya Mahanot would not have been allowed into the 35th edition of the annual Artexpo New York held in that city in March.
Shorya Mahanot poses with one of his works. ‘The other artist in New York were older than me,’ he says, of his recent visit.
But the organisers made an exception, because the Madhya Pradesh boy is, well, an exception.
Mahanot is an abstract artist. He not only exhibited some of his works at Artexpo, some were also selected for the 'Best of Artexpo 2013' exhibition.
Though Mahanot didn't sell any of his large, abstract canvases at the event, his work attracted a lot of attention.
"This was my first visit to the United States and I was excited to be at Artexpo with all the other artists," Mahanot said to HT.
"People wanted to see my paintings. Meeting other artists and seeing their work was my favourite part. They were older than me."
Mahanot has now been invited to participate in Spectrum New York, a juried contemporary art fair being held in January. While he will send select works to be shown at the event, he will not attend, because he does not want to miss too much school.
A Class 2 student, Mahanot began painting when he was three.
One day after dinner, Mahanot's two elder sisters, now management students, were taking a break from painting their canvases, which they do as a hobby, when Shorya began to dabble. When his sisters returned, they found a striking abstract work on one canvas.
"We thought it was just a fluke," says their father Aditya Anand, a real-estate agent who has aggressively promoted the 'prodigy'.
"But I bought him five canvases anyway, and he created beautiful works on each of them."
From bold brush strokes to covering parts of a canvas with chart paper and letting colour drip over, Mahanot uses techniques he was never taught.
Aditya says it was a friend, a professor at the National Institute of Design, who told him that Mahanot's works were at par with professional artists and advised him to promote his son's talent.
In 2011, Aditya headed to Mumbai to do so and approached the Taj Mahal Palace hotel, which agreed to exhibit 24 of the boy's paintings and allowed Mahanot to conduct live demonstrations.
"Many doubt Shorya's talent because he is so young," says Aditya. "But when they see him work, they know his worth."
The following year, eminent cartoonist RK Laxman invited Mahanot to hold a live demonstration at his home in Pune. Impressed, he exhibited some of the child's paintings there.
Mahanot has created 200 paintings so far, inspired mainly by nature. Nationally, his works have been shown at galleries in Udaipur in Rajasthan, where three of his paintings were sold for Rs. 45,000 each, and in Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh.
Mahanot has received no formal training yet. "I have been advised against it," says Aditya.
"Experts who have seen his work say that, given his impressionable age, his style might be lost in the influence of a teacher."
Meanwhile, Mahanot says he enjoys what he does. "I love painting, even more than playing football," he says.