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'Art, not only for elite and intellectual'

Ritu Sharma, Director, National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA), feels that there is a need to bring back people to art; just get them in front of the treasure, and they will organically discover its story

Art, not only for elite and intellectual

"Ohh! its right there? I never noticed. I cross the India Gate almost twice everyday?"

This came as a rude shock the first time I mentioned about NGMA to a colleague. I was unable to fathom the deluge of this response, and my ears awaited for the next few days, till at least all my acquaintances were apprised about my change of profile. Even amongst the visitors and special invitees (who were not directly involved with the art world and came for various reasons) everyone swore to have crossed the institution almost everyday but never paid a visit before.

"Since you are here, now we will come," was the standard response. Not that I mind being the Pied Piper for the cause, but the concern in my mind lingered. And there began my journey – a lookout for the reasons of a premier organisation of national importance not being on the agenda of Delhiites and especially the domestic tourists. Rummaging through the plethora of reasons including – 'Isn't modern art only lines and circles. It's just not possible to relate to it?', 'I think its mainly for the rich people to sell and buy. For me, even my son can draw those geometrical figures.', 'Isn't it only for the art intellectuals. I would feel an illiterate there.', 'It is the high-flier world. I can't handle their arrogance.

I cant make much out of abstract art.' 'What do I do staring at a painting?'to quote just a few.

The core concern of all these so-called 'non art people' was essentially only one. Isn't art only for the elite and the intellectual?

Art in varied forms has been an integral part of human journey on this planet. It has held our hands through the dark of the caves. It gave us a voice when there was no language/script. Even when there arose the divides of rich and poor, it carved its own course in both the lands. Be it the miniatures of Maharajas or the drawings by the tribals. Art and the quotidian/ a common man's life were intertwined in a creativity fulfilling symbiotic relationship.

So where did they fall apart?

From what point did the paths got separated?

When and why did it move out of living areas to the walls of rich and intellectuals?

Why is the modern art unrelatable?

One of the core reasons is the embarkment of its journey into experimentation.

Contemporary Indian art has been the product of cultural confrontation with the British and also the yearn /endeavour to engage with the outside world. And the constantly churning wheel hasn't rested. In fact, the pace has quickened with a vengeance post independence owing to overwhelming exposure and opportunities, which were further geared up by the onslaught of globalisation. Much has changed in the process beyond the realms of traditions a common man could relate to.

The standard confines of the term 'Art' are being shaken. Not just the fact that the subjects of paintings have progressed from images and figures to abstract and unknown, the medium itself has opened its arms to print, photography, visual media. Galleries, the abodes of art, are finding it increasingly difficult to display the vivid imaginations.

Experimentation itself is making it inaccessible, however, the fault is not with it. Experimentation is integral to the growth of art, it is the parallel education for these rapid changes which is not traceable on the picture. Art does not form a part of our basic education, our drawing room tete -a-tete, folklores or anywhere in the routine of daily life. A stand alone trip by a school of 500 hundred kids thronging a gallery for a quick two hour visit doesn't make it relatable. The basic problem is of communication.

Unlike a movie or a story where they speak directly to you, art is a content soul. One needs to spend time with it, time with no bounds. unlike cinema, doling you out with its message in repetitive format, art needs an active interactive dialogue.

It carries a different narrative depending on the individual. Every soul can carry out its individual journey with art. For such sublime process, some connect and communication is needed. That is the need of the hour.

Need is to bring back the people to the art…just get them in front of a treasure, they will organically discover its story. Need is to remove these

barriers and throw open the gates to one and all...for whosoever has it in him will find his soulmates. Need is to make them feel it's theirs, and art will automatically embrace them.

Ritu Sharma

Ritu Sharma

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