Hyderabad’s gallery owners discuss online exhibitions and ways to take art forward
Art from a distance is the new norm at art galleries in Hyderabad. The art scene impacted by COVID-19 hopes to slowly pick up the pieces and move forward. Themes of works as well as display patterns in galleries reflect the caution with which artists and organisers are moving.
Artist Srikanth Babu spreads the beauty of art amid chaos with a display of his 48 artworks at Beyond Coffee in Jubilee Hills, a coffee shop where visitors also get to appreciate art which is displayed on the walls, and maybe even buy a work. On September 12, when Srikanth Babu’s exhibition opened, his artworks caught the attention of a few people there.
Says Srikanth, “Artists need to meet their audience; we have already worked in isolation for six months now.” Having held 22 solo exhibitions here and personally interacted with guests about his art, Srikanth now has to be content with WhatsApp enquires about his works.Of art and socialising
Before the pandemic, art previews were eagerly awaited events. With a mix of art and socialising, the previews become a meeting point among curators, artists, gallery owners and art enthusiasts. Rekha Lahoti, owner of three galleries — Kalakriti Art Gallery, Gallery Cafe (eatery with art on display) and Kalakriti Contemporary misses the buzz of a preview but has adapted to the changed times. “Kalakriti Art Gallery opened in June and 30 per cent of our staff had been working,” she informs. The gallery survived the pandemic with their online exhibitions, including one by filmmaker Muzaffar Ali. Now the gallery is holding a physical show of his works so that art lovers get to see a painting in a real setting. Rekha feels COVID-19 had given emerging artists time to experiment. “We are evolving and learning to grow,” she adds.
Lakshmi Nambiar of Shrishti Art Gallery
| Photo Credit: Nagara Gopal
Shrishti Art Gallery had planned an elaborate exhibition in March on its 18th birthday but when the event had to be cancelled, the gallery initiated an online fundraiser to support young artists impacted by the lockdown. Online interactions help galleries reach a large audience, says Lakshmi Nambiar of the gallery. Visits to Shrishti are only through appointment though walk-ins are also accommodated. With an emphasis on online engagement and physical shows, the gallery hopes to have small gatherings for art discussions. “Art openings are a celebration; the art works are fresh and the artist is excited to share a perspective. These meet-ups and face-to-face discussions are a beautiful part of having a physical show. We want to bring all that back; but for now, it is a bit slow.”For those who would like to buy a painting but do not want to step out, galleries bring home art works. While his had existed earlier too, Kalakriti gallery has seen a rise in enquiries. Says Rekha, “Following safety guidelines, the staff visit a client’s home and show the works only after sanitising the place; it makes a difference when you look at a wall art by hanging it at the space you want.”
Avani Rao Gandra of Iconart Gallery went beyond online exhibitions. The gallery’s physical show COVID-19 Expressions for the past two months emphasises on art’s tactile feel. “Selecting paintings based on their quality, building a concept and creating an experience is vital to curating physical art shows. This was not possible with online exhibitions, sometimes art could get get diluted,” she points out adding online interactions/discussions and sharing made some difference.
Preferring to wait for normalcy, Avani hopes to float a show of self-portraits. She says, “Self-portrait is not about one’s face but one’s identity and feelings during the time. We are working in isolation and reflecting a lot, like never before. Our identity with self, society and its parameters have changed. The artist is exploring the self as well as the surroundings. ”Price factorFrom a sales point of view, gallery owners are facing discount requests in the wake of the pandemic. ”People want to get art at a good deal. The price of works by masters like Jogen Chowdhary and MF Husain have not changed but contemporary art has taken a beating, especially of emerging artists. Buyers want large canvases at a good price and ask for a 30-40 per cent discount. It is difficult for galleries to survive.”The future looks uncertain but the gallery owners hope to sail through the challenges posed by COVID-19.