Art makes its way to the masses

In the 2000s, as the global financial crisis of 2008 hit and the Indian art market was left in a flux, Rakhi Sarkar—founder-director of the Centre of International Modern Art (CIMA) in Kolkata—decided to launch the CIMA Art Mela. With an aim to make art accessible to the middle classes, who had originally been the chief patrons of art in the 20th century, Sarkar set about creating a new clientele for Indian art in a slowing market. “My job is to guarantee that you get a bargain at the mela,” she says simply. The CIMA Art Mela also helps provide an unparalleled platform to young emerging artists to showcase their art alongside the masters. “We have broken barriers between high and low and helped to celebrate the spirit of freedom, creativity and excellence,” Sarkar smiles.

Buoyed by the tremendous response in Kolkata, CIMA Art Mela decided to make inroads into Delhi in 2018, and needless to add, it was a grand success. After all, buying known artists and budding talent within a range of Rs 5,000-Rs 75,000, is nothing but a steal. This year, the CIMA Art Mela’s second edition in Delhi is showcasing works from 85 artists, including Arpita Singh, Rabin Mondal, Manu Parekh, Lalu Prosad Shaw, Jogen Chowdhury, Kavita Nayar, Paresh Maity and Harendra Kushwaha. Says Kavita Nayar, “In the context of major art recession in the aftermath of demonetisation, a project like the CIMA Art Mela provides a great boost to visual art, especially among young art collectors.”

Undoubtedly, the largest affordable art fair in India, the Mela will include paintings, graphics, prints and traditional art. It makes a complete balance to merge the big prolific names from the art world with a mix of upcoming artists and introduce art to a wider audience, thanks to its affordability. Lalu Prosad Shaw says, “This initiative was started to promote art awareness and collectorship among ordinary art lovers.” But this initiative was easier said than done. To coax established artists into giving away their works for a fraction of the price that they would otherwise command in the open market was a challenge for Sarkar. Besides, there was the fear of people visiting the Mela and picking up big artists at throwaway prices and later putting them back again onto the market at an escalated price and thus making a handsome profit.

Sarkar had to make her own criteria in order to stop the concept from being compromised. The initiative makes sure to keep dealers away. They also make it a point not to sell two paintings by a master to the same person. In doing this, as Jogen Choudhury and Paresh Maity so aptly put it, “The Mela manages to reach out to a very large audience. It is for anyone and everyone.”

Besides prominent names, CIMA award winners will also be part of the exhibition. Prominent among them are: Aldona-based Swapnesh Harichandra Vaigankar, who is the recipient of the National Award in the field of Visual Arts for Graphic Medium and also a recipient of Special Mention Award at CIMA Awards 2017; Prashant Shashikant Patil, hailing from a small village in Maharashtra and recipient of CIMA Awards 2019, who in his words, “had been inspired by the painting of Nandalal Bose and sculptures of Ramkinkar Baij”; and of course, Harendra Kumar Kushwaha, who received the CIMA Award in 2017. Says Kushwaha, “The CIMA Art Mela aims to take art to the young and ordinary lover of art and I feel proud to support it.”

CIMA Art Mela

From 10 am to 8 pm, till
April 16 at Visual Arts Gallery, India Habitat Centre, Delhi