It’s 7 pm in Panaji, the capital of Goa, and three policemen are blowing trumpets and lowering the Tricolour that flutters outside the grand Old Secretariat building.
This quaint, low-rise structure was built in 1472 by emperor Adil Shah, as his palace. It continued to be the seat of power until 2005, as the Portuguese and later the Goan government made it their headquarters.
In a sign of just how important the state government now considers local art and culture, this heritage structure is being restored as a museum and art gallery.
Not far from the Adil Shah palace is Sanskruti Bhavan, the new state library building, which contains a six-storey cultural centre, built by the state’s art and culture department at a cost of Rs 44 crore and inaugurated in December.
The centre houses a graphic studio, three studios for painters and sculptors, two art galleries, a library, sound-recording studio and performance hall.
“These two buildings will play an important role in attracting artists, art connoisseurs and collectors from around the world to our state,” says Prasad Loyalekar, director of the art and culture department.
In the land of sunny beaches, Loyalekar says the government hopes to eventually develop Goa as an art hub to promote cultural tourism and attract intellectual tourists too. And, as the new art infrastructure begins to attract artists from across the country, the state aims to create a vibrant atmosphere of dialogue and exchange of ideas with local artists and art lovers.
Spurred on by the government’s efforts, private citizens are joining in, says senior Goan artist Rajendra Usapkar, who started an art residency two years ago, to promote local artists.
Local artists, industrialists and art lovers are joining hands to build new art centres and galleries, conduct educational workshops and promote Goan art across the country.
THEN AND NOW
Ten years ago, the only prominent art and cultural centre in Goa was the state-run Kala Academy in Panaji, which had a single art gallery and performance hall.
“Most of the visitors were foreign tourists, who bought works as souvenirs. There were just a handful of local collectors,” says Miriam Koshy-Sukhija, director of the 25-year-old Geetanjali art gallery in Panaji, one of the oldest in Goa. “Now, 25% of Goan art is being bought by Indians, up from about 5% in 2006. Buyers from art hubs such as Mumbai and Delhi are starting to visit and collect works in Goa.”
In January, 20 Goan artists also got together to organise a first-of-its-kind exhibition of Goan art in Delhi.
“The market is starting to open up,” says senior Goan artist Subodh Kerkar. “For decades, Goan artists have been isolated from the rest of the world. Now, this has started to change.”