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‘Making career as an artist is a long journey’

‘Making career as an artist is a long journey’
Describe United Art Fair (UAF) from a directors’ point of view?
Fraught with difficulties and complexities, as any venture of this scale would certainly be, the first UAF in 2012, featured the work of approximately 350 artists, with thousands of art works on display. When asked, if I would like to become involved with the second avatar of UAF, I immediately accepted the offer, seeing it as a creative and exciting new model.

I also knew that finding 300+ artists was a daunting and a time-consuming process so, I got my team in place. From the start, one of the things that excited me most was the potential to redesign the art fair as an exhibition space, to break away from the regimented booths of standard art fairs and to introduce a more organic and fluid layout for the fair. Of course, again, any venture of this vast scale and complexity is going to have its problems and pitfalls but we hope that both the art community and general audience of India will be benefited as it’s all about diversity, eclecticism and inclusion.

What led to inception of this idea of an open fair for all kind of artists where majorly new talent has been involved?
This was Anurag Sharma’s concept for the first UAF, which I was not involved in, but it was precisely this new concept which warranted my involvement in the second edition.

How will this new model implied by UAF benefit entrants in the art sector?
UAF is giving a very high-profile platform to many young artists who are just getting started, but also older artists who have been over-looked by the gallery system. I know of many gallerists and art advisors who are planning to come to the fair in the hopes of discovering new talents to work with.

Looking at the current art scenario where gallery driven art and artists dominate the market, what’s the scope for budding artists?
Budding artists need to be more creative about how they get their work out into the world, they need to start their own initiatives and not just wait for a gallery to come knocking on the door of their studio. But we are seeing more alternative models develop in India these days. It’s a shame that so few artists or curators see an institutional space as a possible alternative venue.

Serving in the industry for more than 30 years, you have seen all the ups and downs of art sector; give us your thoughts upon commercialisation of the industry?
The art industry, by its very nature, is about the commercialisation. But it is also about building a social context for art, and this context has expanded tremendously in the past 10-15 years. While I am committed to working with artists, real works of art and putting on real shows; so much of the business, our time and energy is now devoted to the virtual platforms through which people consume culture in general.

How will you define taste and sensibility of a good artists’ work?
I think good art should always operate on a number of levels simultaneously. First, it should be made well, crafted from quality materials and display some level of technical proficiency. Second, I think it should relate to the world, be about issues and ideas that are current. It’s not enough for an artist to say ‘This is my expression.’
I want an artist to interact with the world through his works, to give us insights into his or her place within it. But ‘taste’ and ‘sensibility’ are very personal matters. 
Frankly, sometimes art that I really hate and would never bring into my gallery or home, I find fascinating from a sociological perspective.

What are your words of wisdom for the upcoming artists, what should be that ‘one factor’ in the art work which could help them to be different from rest?
Again, it’s never going to be just ‘one factor’ in an art work that sets them apart. It has to be a number of factors operating simultaneously. And art making and a career as an artist is a long journey and you can’t expect to jump on an express train.
Ultimately, an artist has to make the work for him or herself first, and continuing making it. 
Often, radical breakthroughs (the stuff that makes artists famous) are part of a slowly developing process, so the artist may not even be aware that they are making them when they are.
Shrishty Mishra

Shrishty Mishra

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