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'Indian painters need more exposure'
Shyam Bhatia in London | October 03, 2003 22:32 IST
'A shortage of independent galleries exhibiting Indian art in London means Indian painters are not getting the exposure they deserve in the West.'
So says Vaishali Thakkar, former head of the Archer gallery in Ahmedabad, who has taken up residence in the British capital to promote Indian painters.
Thakkar is among a rare breed of Indians in London with a shrewd business sense that tells her things can only get better for her clients.
She is currently the curator of an exhibition displaying paintings by Karnataka artist S G Vasudev, whose talents are on show for the first time in London at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan's M P Birla Gallery.
The Ganeshas depicted through Vasudev's favourite mediums of oil on canvas, ink on paper, copper and silk tapestries stand out in the exhibition entitled 'Progression', which opened on September 26 and is due to close on October 7.
So far about 12 of the 50 paintings on display have been sold at prices ranging from £150-£1500, which Thakkar describes as a "very good response."
The exhibition has attracted both British and Indian visitors in the hundreds, including well-known Indian artists Jayshir Barman and Paresh Maity.
"Vasudev came here last year and he asked me to organise an exhibition," explains Thakkar, who runs a private gallery from her home in Edgeware, North London.
"My own gallery is run from home and you have to make an appointment to come and see the paintings there. The advantage of the Bhavan Gallery is that people can see everything at one time under one roof," she says.
The Vasudev exhibition was originally scheduled for last May, but the artist ducked out because of the continuing tensions in Iraq and his concern that his paintings would be damaged in transit to London.
"Vasudev is a very cooperative artist, a very nice man," says Thakkar. "He is soft spoken, punctual and polite."
Other works represented in the exhibition are from Vasudev's 'Vriksha, Tree of Life' series. Vriksha has been described as a metaphor for the primal forces in creation.
Thakkar says she has recovered her costs. "Breakeven is very important, because if we can't sell, we don't go back to the artist.
"Of course, sometimes we have to keep patience even if we don't cover costs, otherwise artists would never get promoted."
Thakkar's love for art resulted in the headmaster of her sons' London school inviting her to exhibit paintings on school premises. One thing led to another and, before long, she discovered she was representing artists from her native Gujarat who wanted to be seen in London.
Since then, she has also helped to organise exhibition of paintings by such leading artists as M F Husain, but the Gujarat connection remains strong.
Top of her list of contemporary favourites is Amit Ambalal from Gujarat, whom she describes as "up and coming".
"I think it's possible to make a living as an art promoter and I wish I could," she says. "A community with many rich people should help and support a visual arts culture."