Located in the western suburbs of Mumbai is a small yet captivating art gallery, Pradarshak. With a new exhibition every fortnight and various events happening all year round, it displays admirable collections by up-and-coming Indian artists.
Pradarshak was set up 23 years ago with the intention to bridge the gap between artists and the audience, by providing a platform to upcoming artists while catering to the audience within a realistic budget. We spoke to the owner of this fascinating space, Mrs Savitha Hira, to learn more about the current art scene in India.
IB: What’s it like to be a gallerist in India?
When we started out 23 years back there weren’t many galleries in India. My husband Lalit Hira, being an interior designer knew a lot of upcoming artists. It was his dream to provide a platform, especially a starting point to such artists and also change the perception that art was an expensive hobby that couldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea. As soon as he managed to get a space in 1994, he devoted it to his dream. He designed the 100 sq-ft space in a manner that it became a studio for him as well as an art gallery. Pradarshak is supposed to be the smallest art gallery in Asia, if not India.
IB: What are some of the challenges you faced in the initial years?
My husband conceptualised the gallery with a noble thought but we were sure that we wouldn’t allow just anyone and everyone to showcase their work at Pradarshak. We got an art historian, the late Dr Mrs Ferrauto Padmini Batia on board, to screen all the works and ensure that they are of good quality and worthy of the exhibition. But because we didn’t charge anything from the artist until a sale was made, many of them took us for granted. Despite the fact that there were advertisements in the newspaper and we reserved a slot of 10-12 days for the artists, they would back out on the last minute, without any prior notice!
We then decided to charge them an amount that would be refunded at the end of the show. We also mandated that the artist will print and send invites to our patrons themselves. Even though it meant more work for us at office, it ensured that they turn up.
IB: What kind of art/artists do you like to promote and showcase at your gallery?
All deserving artists are given a platform at Pradarshak. We have a committee of five experts who mentor and screen the applicants. Generally there is a year-long waiting period before an artist gets a show here. During this time we stay in touch with them, guiding them through each step that leads to an exhibition.
We aim to provide a wholesome experience to the artist. Right from selecting their best works as a representation of their oeuvre to pricing them, sending invitations and presenting them on a wall. It is a complete learning process for an upcoming artist.
IB: What’s your take on the current art scene in India as compared to what it used to be, say 20 years ago?
Artists today have a lot to look forward to. A number of art galleries have mushroomed giving them a range of choices. Consequently the number of artists have also increased. The awareness amongst the audience has definitely increased because of the internet and cross-cultural influences. People are well-travelled and are no longer intimidated by art galleries.
Unfortunately there aren’t many critics today to guide the general public about art and tell them the good from the bad. Earlier there used to be a number of art critics who visited galleries, spoke to the artist about his/her work, understanding the nuances of art and writing reviews. Providing an art critic is a cultural responsibility which I can’t understand why people have stopped!
IB: Is there a particular form of art that you personally like and support?
I like as well as collect all kinds of artworks, from traditional to contemporary, tribal to abstract. My husband and I, both, are very fond of art. We are surrounded by art most of the time and come across something new every ten days.
IB: Tell us more about the Friends of Pradarshak program and the Art Program Service.
Friends of Pradarshak comprises of the people, artists as well as clienteles who are associated with us and hence enjoy special privileges. Where artists are concerned, apart from the regular exhibitions, we hold special events such as the Meeting of Minds (where artists from different walks of life come together to paint), an Evening with Cartoonists, a public demonstration of making of an artwork by a well known sculptor as well as group exhibitions. As for the buyers, they are notified of such events and are given a chance to preview the works in advance, both online and offline, before they are open to the public.
We’ve been running the Art Program Service successfully for years now where we get in touch with individuals, corporates, architects and designers who are looking for a specific kind of art within a fixed budget. We curate and customise for them, a collection that fits their needs/demands. We deal only in original works of arts until someone requests a copy and we get artists to do them.
IB: Tell us a little bit about the upcoming exhibition at the gallery this month.
We’ll conduct the Vidyarthi Vishesh, a student exhibition from July to August end this year. It is our signature event that has been going on for 22 years now where students from colleges all over Maharashtra are invited. You can find art priced anywhere between Rs 1,000 to Rs 25,000. The idea is to initiate these artists into the process of selecting, framing and pricing their work while also being approachable.
Image Credit: Gallery Pradarshak