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The art of sealing

As the art season gets going in the city, gallery owners begin scouting around for new locations, reports Namita Bhandare.

india Updated: Nov 24, 2006 21:18 IST

Less than 12 hours after its wine and cheese opening of artist Aditya Basak's exhibition, the walls at Anant Art Gallery in Defence Colony had been stripped bare, the paintings sent into storage.

The culprit? The ongoing sealing drive. "We persuaded the landlord to allow the preview but took the paintings down the next morning," said gallery owner Mamta Singhania.

The art boom in the city has seen a mushrooming of art galleries—an estimated 100 with a vast majority in residential areas. Now, despite art prices hitting the stratosphere and at the height of the 'art season' when exhibitions clutter the city's cultural calendar, galleries simply don't know what the future holds.

Singhania's neighbour, Purnima Dhawan who owns Gallery 302 is scheduled to kick off a Subodh Kelkar show on November 29. She's keeping her fingers crossed. "We really don't know what is going to happen, there is no clarity," she said.

"Only a handful of galleries are commercially zoned," said Sunit Kumar Jain of Kumar Art Gallery, one of the oldest in the city. Many of the newer galleries, Art Alive in Panchsheel Park, Polka in Defence Colony and Palette in Golf Links (which also houses a designer boutique) are in residential areas.

Kumar Art Gallery had begun hosting art events at its premises in 56, Sunder Nagar, since its own gallery in Sunder Nagar market is rather small. This year, it has moved the venue for big openings to Sainik Farms; on December 9, KS Kulkarni's works will be previewed there before shifting to Sunder Nagar market.

Some galleries have already moved. Vadhera Gallery shifted from Defence Colony to Okhla Industrial Estate in January, while Chawla Art Gallery in Defence Colony has a new address at the Square One Mall at Saket. But, says Dhawan: "Once you move into a mall, next to shoe shops and food courts, the character of an art gallery is lost."

Anant plans to set up an 18,000 sq ft art centre in Gurgaon. But this will not be ready until January. Meanwhile, Singhania has a group show planned for December with no venue in sight. Institutional spaces like the Lalit Kala Akademi, Triveni and the Visual Arts Centre at the India Habitat Centre are booked, sometimes, two years in advance.

"Unfortunately Delhi does not have an arts district like other major capitals," said Sunaina Anand of Art Alive. Located in Panchsheel, the gallery will be moving 'ASAP' said Anand.

Not everyone is unhappy, though. Aarti Singh of Polka—who has held all her exhibitions in institutional spaces outside the gallery premises in Defence Colony and is currently scouting around for a new location—feels there will be a shakeout with the less serious galleries closing shop. "Everybody and anybody had opened galleries. Now only those with serious long-term interests will remain," she said.

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First Published: Nov 24, 2006 21:18 IST