On keeping Gallerie alive for 25 years
Untold stories lie in the layers of our minds, growing through cracks and crevices like a tree of many branches whose roots are knitted to the moist soil in the fields of our imagination… until they blossom as a kinetic fountain of learning. I am a tree.
I am a tree… This was my mantra through growing years in the 1950s and 60s. However, after navigating time through absorbing and learning, my branches began bearing fruit only in my late forties, in 1997. That was the year my granddaughter was born and that was the year Gallerie was born… it was a moment of epiphany… that was when my branches shook and the fruit fell and I began gathering the fruit.
Which is why Gallerie is fruit gathering.
Having been wired through a lifetime to the visual arts, music, dance, theatre, literature, photography, cinema, socio-political issues and a compulsive zest for travel, I realised it was time to share the fruit… its fragrance and flavours.
And it was critical to engage in an inclusive subsuming practice beyond the confines of art galleries and precincts of the creative community, to a larger, more diverse readership. It would be a luring of laypeople into the wondrous world of the arts by making it more accessible through our friendly words and images…
…this could be a colossal celebration!
Passionate about aesthetics and trying sincerely to excel in my work, I wished to create the highest possible quality in editorial and production values for our readers. It was a formidable challenge I had sprung upon myself, with zero high-end corporate patronage or funding from any foundation, besides zero business sense, marketing or networking skills.
Yet, I was determined to make the impossible possible.
It helped immensely to have an anchor; a creative spouse, the award-winning documentary filmmaker and photographer Rafeeq Ellias, who had, and still has the “courage” to understand and support my insanity. His affiliation with advertising helped conjure some of the ads that supported our inaugural issue and thereafter.
Intrinsic to my seminal thoughts in this fractured world, was the idea that ultimately culture humanises; the idea of encouraging unity in diversity; the understanding and appreciation of cultural diversity through excellence in the arts… these became an urgent need.
However, publishing a magazine is a monumental task. Primarily, one needed a graphic designer to interpret my thoughts into an aesthetic layout with appropriate artworks. Mangesh Rane, currently famed co-founder and Creative Director of Open Strategy and Design, was a young graphic designer then, and he agreed to create the initial Gallerie logo and design for the magazine… gratis! As I had no wherewithal to pay a fee, thereon, he designed and created the artworks of the first six issues with a deep generosity of spirit.
In 2000, after completing Gallerie’s 6th edition, Mangesh understandably moved on as he was committed to larger projects. Left without a designer/artwork-maker and still with no funding, I could not afford another professional graphic designer. So I taught myself design and the technicalities of artworks and minimal photoshop at the small advertising agency we were running at that time; and through the years until now, every issue’s design and artwork has been a creative joy for me.
And with every issue, Gallerie evolved with strength and resilience, despite financial constraints. In 2000, I was invited to participate in the India-Pakistan Peace Conference in Karachi. It opened doors to a region I was deeply interested in…
…We are after all one people.
Thus, the 7th edition of Gallerie was one that was dedicated to India-Pakistan Friendship and a navigation of our shared art and culture. It had the celebrated artist Shazia Sikander’s poetic and powerful work on the cover; she had sat in our living room and written her feature for the issue.
Gallerie thus grew organically, each issue suffused with care like a home-grown plant.
In 2001, the then Cultural Director of the French Embassy, Laurent de Gaulle, invited me to create an issue on Picasso as they were organising a retrospective of his works in India for the first time. I agreed, but clarified that it would not be dedicated to just the genius of Picasso, but be an issue on India-France affiliations and Picasso would be the highlight of the issue. I was sent on two trips to explore and research several regions in France by the French Embassy. That was the 9th edition of Gallerie with an iconic image of Picasso on the cover.
Then on, my insane journey with Gallerie continued, discovering, learning and sharing my learning. It was and continues to be… a journey of ideas.
Ideas were critical. In the punctuations of travels to excavate regions through another way of seeing, Gallerie also contemplated on socio-political issues… on race, wars, conflict, multiculturism, freedom and censorship, a discourse on beauty, womanhood, celebration of books, India as personal and political, poetry in art/art in poetry, migration, hope and peace, identity issues and concern for the environment.
In slow moves Gallerie grew, branching out into a substantial global space, with subscriptions in India besides leading museum and university libraries like the MET & MOMA in the US, the Tate and British Library in the UK, Victoria Univ. Canada, Musee Du Quai Branly, France, The Oriental Art Museum, Berlin, Germany, Singapore Art Museum, Singa¬pore, Harvard University, US, the Education University of Hong Kong and many, many more. They have remained faithful to Gallerie through its vibrant journey. Gallerie won several awards as well. It has also become a collectible.
Not driven by commercial imperatives, Gallerie has been an idealistic foray through the arteries of our world, sustaining itself with goodwill, readership loyalty and two overseas grants that had enabled some of our very important issues: Afghanistan and Central Asia, both of which widened my learning through unbelievable adventures and encounters while traversing their land and cultural riches. Every issue in fact, involved immersive excavation… research and engagement with some of the most fascinating souls on our planet… from India to Kyrgyzstan, New Zealand to Japan, Palestine to Poland and many, many more regions.
These were my rewards.
Rewards also appeared through appreciation from global readers and the emergence of several short stories from my encounters with people in twenty-four years of Gallerie travels; stories that are hidden in my computer… these are conceptual rewards. Gallerie never made a profit, but broke even. The struggle has always been financial. Not making enough to pay myself a fee or to employ staff for design and other activities required in a publishing house. The only staff I’ve had, has been one devoted person for administrative assistance in handling accounts and subscriptions; one delightful freelancer for the final digital artworks; and our driver-Superman Friday, who ensures all our books are stored categorically and mailed diligently.
And of course, there has been one resident anchor who ensured the captain steering the ship kept sailing through twenty-five curious years.