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Top artists at NGMA to discuss role of art in nation-building

Director General Adwaita Gadanayak said ‘Anantam’ was a gathering where people could “participate in a creative dialogue on the role of art in nation-building and sustainable development”.

Written by Vandana Kalra | New Delhi |
Updated: September 18, 2021 4:34:42 am
Artists at the ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’ celebration held in the National Gallery of Modern Art on Friday. (Express Photo: Praveen Khanna)

The National Gallery of Modern Art Friday hosted artists of various styles and eras as it marked the 75th year of independence with an event to establish a “cohesive creative vision” on the role that visual arts can play in the development of the nation.

Director General Adwaita Gadanayak said “Anantam” was a gathering where people could “participate in a creative dialogue on the role of art in nation building and sustainable development”.

“The idea is to link up as many artists as possible across the country and talk about relevant issues,” added Gadanayak, as he welcomed modernists and contemporaries, artists exploring varied mediums and experimenting with different genres. It included recognised names such as Jatin Das, Raghu Rai, Samit Das and Kanchan Chander as well as emerging artists and art students.

Several of them were in the lawns, painting live and discussing their art with curious viewers. “We are trying our best for the NGMA to open up again, with Covid protocols, and more people to come in. We want groups of young students to come here. We are organising curated walks for those interested in learning about art… Events such as this give a boost, especially during the current times to artists impacted by Covid,” said Chander, a member of the NGMA Advisory Committee.

More than 1,000 artists and faculty members of art institutions also joined the event during a day-long virtual interaction. “The response is overwhelming,” stated Gadanayak.

The institution has planned year-long events celebrating India’s 75 years of independence. Soon, a projection on the museum building will share the history of Indian art and modernism and that of the NGMA. Several cultural programmes were also held in recent months as part of Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, including performances by santoor player Divyansh Shrivastava, Chhau dance by artists from Purulia and puppetry by Billu Bhaat and group.

“It is high time this place comes alive in a participatory and democratic manner. It is meant not just for senior artists. One should walk in and feel that this place is alive and beautiful,” said photographer Raghu Rai, who was at NGMA for Saturday’s event.

While a regional chapter of the NGMA will open at the Indian Museum Kolkata soon, an exhibition is also being planned in Chandigarh. “In the coming months, we will try to work with local artists across India. Many of them have been adversely affected by Covid and need encouragement. We will try to coordinate with state governments in places where we don’t have a center,” said Gadanayak. He added, “NGMA needs to move out of four walls and reach people and artists, instead of them coming to us.”

In Delhi, meanwhile, the NGMA has planned an exhibition on the gems of Indian art, featuring works of 10 artists, including Amrita Sher-Gil, Ramkinkar Baij, Jamini Roy and Raja Ravi Varma. A retrospective of Nandalal Bose, titled “Hastantran” is also scheduled to open soon.

Spanning several decades of his art, this will include over 200 works, from Bose’s early landscapes to the kirti mandir murals, iconic linocut of Gandhi during the Dandi March and the now famous Haripura Posters, a suit of temperas created for the 1938 Indian National Congress Haripura session. “There is no bigger artist than him. He took art to every village of India and played an important role in the freedom struggle,” said Gadanayak.

To be released alongside is an elaborate catalogue on the exhibition and a children’s book on episodes from Bose’s life authored by Sujata Prasad, advisor, NGMA. While the institution recently released the first episode of a series of podcasts that have been planned, an audio-visual app will also be launched to enable viewers to listen to details and anecdotes on the artworks. “It will offer an immersive experience of the museum collection and exhibitions to viewers across the world. Museum memorabilia and tickets can also be purchased through the app,” said Prasad.

Even as artists hailed the initiatives, there were suggestions too. Art historian Seema Bawa noted, “The NGMA is an important nodal point and having travelling exhibitions in regional centers, of masters as well as senior artists, would help in educating people who cannot come here. Creating a research programme and digitalisation of resources is also important, whether it is the library, documents, catalogues or the exhibitions and artworks — this will be a resource for studying and will create value beyond the work.”

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