Another opening! This time it was the Palette Art Gallery that showed the latest installations and mixed media work by Anjum Singh. The place was heaving.. with family and friends, the art collectors, curators, other gallery owners, some artists – well known names, such as Subodh Gupta, Bharati Kher, Gigi.. and of course, some pre
sence of foreign cultural councils too. The work was certainly far more interesting than anything I had seen so far during my time here, but nonetheless less risqué. May be symbolized by an installation of four rather large eggs that attracted huge curiosity from the visitors. Two of them were broken in half. One of them was lined with rusty sewing pins in hair like manner and the other had tiny pieces of drinking straw stuck on like a honeycomb. The other two were whole eggs; one of them strewn with metal nuts and the other had pretty map d
rawn all over it. (Sorry folks, no pics.) I stood in front of them, sipping my wine and munching on the delicious finger kebabs, deciphering the meaning behind the egg with a skin of rusty pins and wondering about the bubble that I was in.. the ‘Delhi Art Bubble’…
But the evening kicked a high point for me when I met with Aranyani Bhargav, a contemporary dancer who helped to shed some light on the plight of the artists, especially dancers in India and a genuine need for the arts managers to step in to help them with the day to day management of the companies. Equally interesting was to learn about the role of the gurus (not the spiritual ones) in the artists’ lives and the tightrope they have to walk in order to find a balance between their respect for the established and their ambition to be independent. This is seriously serious. Aranyani established her credibility in her own right as an artist, but also by having a famous guru. Later she left her guru to establish herself independently and this was the acid test. We spoke at length about leadership within the Indian cultural sector. Certainly in the dance sector here, there is a need for a dialogue on this. But it's not that simple either. There are semantics around 'leadership' that need to be understood and agreed before. There are many young artists who are carrying out pioneering work purely based on their passion, but there is little to support them either at the top or at the ground level.
Charged with Aranyani’s passion, I then went to my next event, a dinner hosted by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) to welcome Rajesh Gopie, a South African artist/actor. I met with both the incoming and the outgoing directors of the British Council, India and Sri Lanka. We were later (much later) joined by a theatre producer who demonstrated the most perfect example of ‘how to make a sales pitch’ (to secure funding for the touring of her play). There was poise, persistence and passion. By telling us a story about how she persuaded the American cultural attaché to support the touring of her play in America, she was able to convince us all about why her play deserved to tour in Britain. I was quite impressed by the way she weaved various stories together from the past and present which gave an idea about the range of people who knew about her work. She was effortless and undeterred. She was on stage and she was acting like it.
It was time for some self-reflection on my own style in marketing and the approach to securing sponsorships! Needless to say that I’ve just lifted the lid on that.
On a slightly different but related note, I never realised that a book on marketing/entrepreneurship could be so interesting that I would finish it on a two hour flight. This was ‘The One Minute Entrepreneur’ by Ken Blanchard, Don Huston and Ethan Willis.
Saw the opening of ‘Oil on Canvas’ yesterday. Subodh Gupta opened his solo show of sculptures last night at the Nature Morte, Delhi to a bustling crowd from all corners of the art fraternity in India and I am glad to have attended it. There were art collectors, gallery owners, curators, artists, rich folks and of course, some who were simply curious about his work. Here I also met with artists such as Nidhi Agarwal, a rising artist and Narayan Mondal, an established voice who expressed reservations about some of the works displayed. This was yet another layer of the Indian art scene that fascinated me, but this was one evening when I didn’t want to question anything. It was sublime and I simply wanted to enjoy it.
Indian kitchen utensils were there, his signature medium and this time they took the form of three eggs in an egg carton and a serpentine spewing out froth. There were also empty canvases on display and questions were raised about the meaning behind them. My favourite was ‘Twins’ two Indian tiffin-carriers in white placed on a huge box made of concrete. The man himself was there, gracefully networking, greeting and accepting warm reception from the crowd. I met him briefly at the show and congratulated him. Equally freaking was the fact that he was born and raised in the same little town as myself – Khagaul. This had to be the most fortuitous coincidences ever, proving the theory around six degrees of separation. I never thought that I would meet anyone from this little place – inconspicuous by all means and has no reason to produce famous sons. It made it more human talking to him about not just his art, but about his childhood, where he grew up and studied. I hope to see him again when we can have a little more relaxed conversation.
I came back to Sanskriti and in the dining hall, I got introduced to Rajesh Gopie, an established actor, director from South Africa by a resident theatre director Tina Johnson. A deeply inspiriting person who wants to produce a ‘heritage theatre festival’ in Durban. We had a long chat about the ‘hows’ and the ‘whys’. In the end, he asked if I could help him structure the idea and develop the project. I thought it was a very interesting twist to the day and left me feeling hopeful.
Uncovering the layers have been one of the most unsettling parts of this placement and of late, I was beginning to get a little frustrated and even disillusioned about the Indian arts sector. But meeting someone like Rajesh Gopie lifted my spirits and I’m now looking forward to my lunch with Gigi Scaria today, a visual artist, who uses video and installation as a main medium of work. I'll keep you posted if I ever get to have that coffee with Subodh Gupta..
Three sector lead organisations, Arts Council England, Creative & Cultural Skills and the Museums, Libra ries and Archives Council have formed the Cultural Leadership Delivery Partnership, a unique cross-sector collaboration to support the Programme.