A Thota Vaikuntam, which usually runs into lakhs, will cost Rs 68,000, and the price for a Paresh Maity watercolour is Rs 38,000. If you are among those who have always found the price quoted for the works of the masters too intimidating, then the CIMA Art Mela might be worth a visit. “We are catering to the young, upwardly mobile generation. They are aware, educated, aspirational and very close to art. We have carefully curated the works of masters and young artists,” says Rakhi Sarkar, the founder of the Mela, which will be held at the India Habitat Centre, Delhi.
While the exhibits on offer might not be the most coveted works of the masters, they will bear their signature nevertheless. “Some of the masters experiment with mediums and sizes to produce works that are different from what they usually do. It is a rare collection,” says Sarkar. She reveals how Maity might be better known for his large canvases but for this Mela he has painted a small watercolour. Comprising works of over 80 artists, the display will have a range of mediums, from paintings to prints, ranging from Rs 3,000 to Rs 75,000. The participants include Jogen Chowdhury, Paramjit Singh, Manu Parekh, Lalu Prasad Shaw, Jayasri Burman, Prabhakar Kolte and Farhad Hussain. “Artists are asked to create works especially for the event. Some years back, we had Ganesh Pyne paintings on terracotta plates, this is something he hadn’t done otherwise,” says Sarkar.
The Kolkata-based gallerist, founder-director of Centre of International Modern Art (CIMA), conceptulised the Mela in 2008, when the art market was coming to terms with the global recession, after the prices had reached their peak. “In India, we hardly have any major art events, except the India Art Fair and the Kochi-Muziris Biennale. There is a lack of museums and public spaces to view art. The module was an outcome of discussions with several artists,” says Sarkar.
The Mela debuts in Delhi after 10 years in Kolkata, where, Sarkar says, the response has been overwhelming. “In Kolkata, there would be long queues to enter before we even opened. We thought of having an edition in Delhi this year, because I feel it has an audience interested in art, and we too have a network in the city. It is also the 25th anniversary of CIMA this year,” says Sarkar, promising that this will be an annual feature.
The Mela, she says, is modelled on the annual art fair organised at Santiniketan, where one would get works of masters for prices much lower than the market rates. “Here, artists would give works at throwaway prices for the residents of Santiniketan. A lot of professors and students could afford these works. With commercialisation of art, gallerists started flocking there, and corruption crept in,” says Sarkar. An art fair, conceived by KG Subramanyan, was also held at MS University in Baroda.
Artist Arpita Singh, who will be sharing drawings for the coming event in Delhi, says, “The artists may not compromise on the market rate at the fair and share smaller works to fit in the price bracket, but it will be a quality work, it won’t be something we are not serious about.”