Sculpting a bright future?
The year 2005 proved to be non-vibrant for sculpture shows, as usual.
THE NEGLECTED LOT When K.S. Radhakrishnan's image spread worldwide, India lapped him up! In the picture is his famous creation `Maiya as Mona Lisa'.
If every age gets the art it deserves is true, wonder what art the present age deserves? The year 2005 saw a spurt in art activity, read painting, followed by New Media. Sculpture again was sidelined. Though there have been some shows at Lalit Kala, Apparao and gallery Nvya, these were few and far between. Long back, Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru passed a law stipulating that two per cent of the public buildings must have art-oriented objects. Many sculptors became its beneficiaries. Satish Gujral got a great chance to express his artistry then. From here sculptures were mainly taken as objects to fill public spaces, not art works to be kept in houses. Their huge size and costs further marred their prospects of patronage.
The space constraint is still there but purchasing power of the people has gone up. Yet sculptures didn't find much room either in people's houses or in art galleries. Delhi, since Independence has barely seen a solo show of sculptures. Enthusiasm among the curators or gallerists also isn't seen. Delhi still doesn't have a single gallery solely dedicated to sculpture shows. In 1992 Ramu Katakan started an exclusive gallery for sculpture called Khirki Gallery, but he had to close it within three years for want of patronage. So difficult did it become for sculptors that many of them shifted to painting. Take for instance G.V. Santosh.
For how long would the sculptors have to wait for their long-overdue recognition? Will sculpture catch up following the booming market for paintings? Says first generation sculptor Amarnath Sehgal, "I survived because many of my works were auctioned abroad. In India people like to invest in shares rather than in art, especially sculptures, unlike abroad. I can't see sculpture emerging as fast as painting."
Lack of patronage and promotion is often blamed, much as the nature of the medium. It is huge, heavy and expensive. Hence for simple `reasons of logistics', galleries and curators don't show interest, a reason artists believe is all too true and pervasive.
Says Gujral, "Sculpture finds less patronage because of the physical nature of the medium, while painting slips into the building as a piece of dιcor with or without any sophistication on the part of the collector, requiring no floor space whatsoever. Even projection of sculpture suffers the handicap of volume and weight, which restrict transportation. With all this it is no wonder few students choose to study sculpture."
K.S. Radhakrishnan, differs. "There is very little range among sculptures. That's why galleries mix them with painting shows. Unlike paintings, returns on sculptures are not assured either. Abroad there are special galleries for sculptures, within those there are specialised galleries for bronze, stone, small format images, etc."
Says curator Alka Raghuvanshi, "Due to lack of space and handling problems I didn't curate a sculpture show. Moreover, sculpture always had to fight for its own space from the ever vibrant craft in India, especially metal craft from, say, Dokra, Chola, Bastar and so on. To win a space, sculpture had to be larger than life, else it would just be like a paperweight. And when they created bigger images, the art suffered because of space crunch and transport problems."
Even the gallerists admit they didn't promote sculptors as they did painters. Says Sunit Kumar Jain, owner of Kumar Gallery, "Globally speaking, no artists, however talented, can survive without galleries promoting them. Galleries didn't promote sculptors, so they couldn't keep pace with painters. We also went with the flow. We did promote K.S. Kulkarni, Sankho Choudhry, Ramachandran, Dhanraj Bhagat initially, but for 15 years, we haven't promoted them for it often doesn't translate into business."
Curator Sharan Apparao avers, "It is picking up fast." But Gujral maintains, "The present frenzy for acquiring a painting may gradually help sculpture, but at no time will the medium ever match painting in winning patronage."
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