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The Rediff Special/ Kirti Pandey
Living in Harmony
April 19, 2003
When Jehangir Sabavala and Satish Gujral lit the brass lamp to kick off Tina Ambani's Harmony Show 2003 -- which ended this week -- at the Nehru Centre in Mumbai, they lit a flame of hope in the hearts of a large handful of young artists.
The show, in its eighth edition, once again gave aspiring artists from all over India the opportunity to rub paint-streaked shoulders not only with their senior and more famous colleagues, but also with art-lovers, buyers and celebrities.
Unlike some of the previous Harmony shows, this one had no theme. Said Ambani, "We found having a theme restricted the artist. Even when we did impose a theme, we made sure it was generic enough to encompass a large canvas."
Birendra Pani, a young artist from Baroda, said, "This was the first time I displayed my work here, although I had visited the show before. It was a good opportunity for a new artist like me to expose my work to a larger and more serious audience."
Ratnadeep Gopal Adivrekar, whose painting Memoirs Of The Unreal City won the Emerging Artist of the Year Award, agreed. "No other exhibition got as much attention as this one -- even on a national level," he said.
Every year, two artists are selected for this award -- one for a painting and another for an artwork from another discipline. This year, there was no suitable entry in any other discipline, so painter Riyas Komu also won the award for Fate -- The Qualifier. Komu felt the show's USP was its Reliance connection. "The name ensures wide media attention and hence a larger audience."
The opinion of the established artists wasn't very different. Said Sabavala, "This was a good forum for young artists. What was interesting was the range of ages. From 20-year-olds to those as old as I am, all of us were there!"
He was intrigued by the fact that the works displayed at the show ran in different directions. "There was a wide spectrum of conventional and unconventional perspectives."
How has the show evolved over the past eight years? Painter Jitish Kallat, who launched his career with the first Harmony show (which, he said, was his first 'real' showing), said: "In the first show, there were more old artists than new ones. I was one of the youngest and not even out of art school then!" He felt the show had kept its doors open to all kinds of artists, "from the very good to the most disastrous".
One of the judges, National Gallery of Modern Art curator Sarayu Doshi, said the whole concept of supporting emerging artists caught on in the art world thanks to the Harmony initiative. "There are no parameters to art. Some of the works by these young artists were amazing! This exhibition had a certain element of freshness to it."
But logistics could be a problem, said Ambani. "There are no galleries in other places for a show of this magnitude. Besides, Mumbai is the financial capital of India. And art and commerce go together." She also felt that holding exhibitions where the art circuit is limited may demoralise younger artists, especially if they find no buyers.
The fact that Ambani has no plans of expanding the show to other cities may be welcomed by the young artists. As of now, they have personal access to their icons and a wide captive audience comprising celebrities, the media, and serious art-lovers.
Vijendra Sharma, who was given a special stall for this show, said, "All types of art-lovers were there -- middle-class to high-society."
Mala Singh, art curator and one of the judges, added, "The cross-section of the audience was amazing. There were even students there!"
At the opening, kurta-clad art students and tie-sporting executives mingled with Queenie Dhody, Parmeshwar and Adi Godrej, Dolly Thakore, Nita and Mukesh Ambani, Rajshri and Kumar Mangalam Birla, Shobhaa and Dilip De, et al. The glitz, glamour, gold and sequins they represented will probably go a long way to supporting Ambani's cause, Aseema -- an NGO that works for the uplift and education of street kids, some of whose works were also displayed at a special stall at the main entrance. * This year, there were 126 participating artists, of whom about 45 were first-timers. Ages range from 20-year-olds to octogenarian Jehangir Sabavala! * The two awards for Emerging Artist of the Year went to painters Ratnadeep Gopal Adivrekar and Riyas Komu. * Sarayu Doshi, Parmeshwar Godrej, Harsh Goenka, Mala Singh, Dilip De and Tina Ambani formed the jury. * Painter Jitish Kallat hit the limelight with the first Harmony Show; he was a cynosure at the eighth as well.
* This year, there were 126 participating artists, of whom about 45 were first-timers. Ages range from 20-year-olds to octogenarian Jehangir Sabavala!
* The two awards for Emerging Artist of the Year went to painters Ratnadeep Gopal Adivrekar and Riyas Komu.
* Sarayu Doshi, Parmeshwar Godrej, Harsh Goenka, Mala Singh, Dilip De and Tina Ambani formed the jury.
* Painter Jitish Kallat hit the limelight with the first Harmony Show; he was a cynosure at the eighth as well.
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