Improve facilities to promote Indian art: Experts

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New Delhi: Even as Indian art is gradually beginning to be recognised globally and local artists are seen at art fairs across the world, focused efforts like building more museums, imparting art education in schools and producing good art books is the need of the hour, say experts.

"Art from India is represented in art fairs in Dubai, Brazil, Shangai etc but it is still a drop in the ocean. We need to do much more to be at par internationally," says Sushma Bahl, an independent arts adviser, writer, and curator of cultural projects.

Bahl was in conversation Thursday evening with Indian ambassador to Bhutan, Pavan K Verma discussing her recently launched book "5000 Years of Indian Art" in the presence of ICCR President chairman Karan Singh.

"A year ago during an international conference in Dublin, delegates who were discussing art from across the world failed to mention anything about India. When asked they pointed out that they could not find enough good books on art from India," says Bahl.

"The western myopic way of looking at Indian art should change," says the author whose recent book published by Roli Books provides a view of Indian art beginning from pre- historic times.

It moves on to Vedic and Buddhist traditions, Hindu and Jain temple art sculpture and medieval period artefacts, Mughal miniature painting, colonial and modern Indian art.

Talking about the tendency of newspapers and media to raise "premature euphoria over Indian art" whenever there was an artist`s works were sold in a an auction and also pointing out that 11 of the top 20 selling artists in 2008 were from China Verma asked Bahl whether she thought "it was a mutilation of the cultural revolution and whether it was reason enough for celebration."

She pointed out that works of even legends like H S Raza, who had lived and worked in places like Paris were not being bought internationally. "Raza is still being collected primarily by Indians and NRIs…There are some international collectors who are now interested in art from here but unless efforts like putting works into museums and others are taken we still have a long way to go," says Bahl.

In another question posed to Bahl, Verma asked when Beijing had around 150 professional art galleries, when Hong Kong was devoting 3 billion on creation of cultural infrastructure and UAE had set aside 30 billion for the same purpose why did India with its 5000 years of art heritage lag behind?

"We need to upgrade our very poor infrastructure. Though there are private institutions like KNMA and one or two others there are no public institutions. Also we need to start art education in our schools and colleges. Art schools like those in Shantiniketan and in Baroda are no longer what it was earlier," says Bahl.

The author, Sushma Bahl, who formerly headed the Arts and Culture for the British Council in India had spearheaded several initiatives including the first ever festival of India in Britain as well as other collaborative projects in visual and performing arts.

Her recent 240 page book which she says took her a year to write, includes images culled from over 200 sources all across the world including Delhi Art Gallery, the Kiran Nadar Musuem of Art, Vadhera Art Gallery, Peter Nagy Gallery from India as well as renowned institutions like Metropolitan Museum and the V&A Gallery Museum in the UK.

The limited edition book "5000 years of Indian Art" also includes contemporary creations including those in photography, media-inspired work and installations.

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