In its formative years, the Lalit Kala Akademi had to compete with established private galleries. Its rise was gradual but soon it became prestigious to be associated with the national institution, recalls Anupam Sud, a student at the Delhi College of Art in the late ’60s. A former member of its council, Sud often visited its galleries with friends and has even exhibited here innumerable times. “Gradually corruption seeped in, like in every other sector, and things became politicised, but despite that it still remains one of the best places to exhibit at in the Capital,” says the artist.
Established in 1954, the institution will celebrate its 60 years on August 5. Marking the occasion will be the arts — from fine art to dance and cinematic opera. “Art is not about visiting galleries, it is about sustaining life and development. It’s related to the rhythm of festivals, seasons and life. Unfortunately, it ceases to exist in this form in most parts of the world. We have the fortune of still having it in this form and our aim will be to nourish that. We are meant to promote all forms of art, from rural and folk to tribal, and not just modern, and that is our endeavour,” says Dr Kalyan Kumar Chakravarty, Chairman, Lalit Kala Akademi. He is finalising details of the exhibition called “Artists’ India” that is a part of the celebrations. Bringing together more than 200 works from the Akademi’s collection, this will feature modernists, frescos, rock art, miniatures, as well as folk and tribal art.
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Meanwhile, Kolkata-based Rajula Shah is scouting the local markets of Delhi to source material that will help replicate a Gangtok neighbourhood at the Akademi. Her project, in collaboration with artists across India, will bring together cinema with frescos, photographic prints, installations and Tibetan opera. “There will be the merging of emerging practices with traditional and modern,” says Shah. Performing alongside a video of their act on loop, the Tibetan opera crew from Kalimpong in West Bengal, will interact with those walking into Kaustubh Auditorium at the Akademi. “The project definitely involves an intermingling of cultures and mediums and is against the hardening of lines in urban ghettos,” says Shah.
While the Akademi is respected for having one of the most impressive set-ups for exhibiting art and has artists waiting for months, there are grievances as well. Ram Rahman talks of how the massive architectural revamp in 2010 did not take in account the essence of the original plan. There have also been allegations of corruption and bureaucracy. Artist A Ramachandran says, “It had a lot to do with the election of the council, where all artists participating in national exhibitions were given the right to vote. It could not even manage the National Triennale.” He remembers better days when it was a matter of pride to exhibit in the space and also get an award from the Akademi. “It was a throne for a successful career,” he says.
Jyotish Jyoti, editor at the Akademi, agrees that there has been a forgettable phase, but feels that things are looking up again. “There have been changes in the last few years. Even in Garhi studios, renovations are on. We will be looking at bringing the marginalised into the mainstream,” says Jyoti. Chakravarty adds that the line-up for the anniversary year will include international collaborations, an exhibition in the Capital and another on the dying crafts of India. “We want to reach out to people across India, with inter cultural and interdisciplinary interactions,” he says.