Work by Jyoti Bhatt (left); Arpana Caur
When photographs of flood-hit Kerala started appearing in the media and assessment of the devastation began, artist Adwaita Gadanayak began to determine how he, as the director of the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA), Delhi, could contribute for relief. “As the head of a national institution, I felt it was my responsibility to bring the artistic community together to garner funds. As artists, we make, exhibit and sell works but we should give back to society too,” says Gadanayak. Over the course of the next few days, he contacted artists and got in touch with Jatin Das, who, too, had been working towards the same cause. The duo has contacted over 200 artists across the country, resulting in the exhibition “Art for Kerala Flood Disaster 2018”.
To be held at the NGMA from September 21, the three-day showcase that is expected to comprise 200-300 works of art primarily includes works that have come from artists’ studios. The payment will be made directly to Kerala Chief Minister’s Distress Relief Fund. “We want the process to be transparent. The NGMA is only a facilitator and is helping with the planning, organisation and technical support,” says Gadanayak.
Work by Jyoti Bhatt
In the display hall, deputy curator Sushmit Sharma is unwrapping works coming from across the country. “The response is heartening,” he says. A Ramachandran has given two works. The other contributors include Jogen Chowdhury, Raghu Rai, Shuvaprasanna, Rameshwar Broota and Paresh Maity. The mediums range from paintings to photographs and sculptures. “The artists are pricing their own work,” says Gadanayak.
If Jatin Das has given a drawing, Vivan Sundaram has donated an Amrita Sher-Gil work. Manu Parekh has a canvas from his famous Banaras series and wife Madhvi Parekh has a charcoal head. Anjolie Ela Menon has also shared a portrait, and Paramjit Singh has a landscape on paper that is vastly distinct from his impressionistic works on canvas. Arpana Caur has befittingly titled her pastel on gauche God’s Own Country, with a woman seemingly weighed down under a heavy structure and tear-like water drops falling from the sky.
“I am glad that NGMA is taking such an initiative and getting artists together. We often contribute for a cause, but that has been more at an individual level,” says Delhi-based Caur. Curator Uma Nair notes how this is also an opportunity to support a cause through the purchase of art. She has shared 11 works from her collection, including a Jyotsna Bhatt ceramic, Jyoti Bhatt inkjet and a 1996 MF Husain drawing of Gaja Gamini that she has priced at Rs 2 lakh. “When something like this happens, we realise that we take life for granted. I read about the show online and felt I needed to contribute. Except for the Husain, I have priced the rest of the works between Rs 5,000 and Rs 10,000,” says Nair.
Gadanayak can draw parallels between the present showcase and one that he had helmed in 1999, after the cyclone hit Orissa. “Several artists had come together to organise that sale in Rabindra Bhavan. In these times, when everyone only discusses the cost of artworks it is also important to acknowledge how artists can contribute in times of a calamity,” says Gadanayak.