Works of contemporary masters, towering installations, live painting, seminars, discussions… “art Chennai” is all set to take place in the city from March 20 to 26.

The works of contemporary masters such as M. F. Husain and F.N. Souza. Cutting-edge video art and towering art installations. Experimental art, organic art, photography and new-media exhibits. The upcoming ‘art Chennai' extravaganza is a festival of fine art on a scale never before seen in Chennai.

Spread over a week from March 20 to 26, across 18 sites in the city (including the different Taj Hotels and art galleries), art Chennai will feature over 2000 works by contemporary artists from around the country, six days of ‘live painting' by 27 acclaimed artists who will create before your very eyes, and a speaker forum where celebrated curators and collectors, artists and lovers of art come together to discuss the contemporary art scene.

“This is the first time anything on this scale in being done anywhere in South India,” says Sanjay Tulsyan, convener of art Chennai. “What we've tried is to bring a bit of everything that has to do with Indian contemporary art to the city, so that people can gain exposure. This first edition is not about selling art or making a profit; it's about giving people a chance to see work they wouldn't otherwise get to see.”

Video art exhibition

So you'll have a video art exhibition — something seen very rarely, if at all, in the city — featuring 30 of the country's up and coming artists at Taj Coromandel, and two massive installation pieces — one recreating the experience of the Bhopal gas tragedy at Lalit Kala Akademi, and the other, simply called ‘Ore', featuring six lakh small, handmade terracotta figurines at Taj Coromandel.

“As an art consultant, I'm keen to showcase contemporary art that often doesn't get noticed — experimental or organic art, or phenomenal artwork using photography or new media,” says Pranali Daundker, who has helped with design and cataloguing for art Chennai. “An event like this puts them on a larger platform.”

But it's not all new-age or new-media art. Three special shows will pay homage to some of the current and past greats of the Indian art scene. “We'll be having one on the artworks of Rabindranath Tagore, and a retrospective of K.C.S. Paniker at Lalit Kala, and a show at Apparao Galleries on contemporary masters such as Souza, Husain and A. P. Santhanaraj,” says Tulsyan. “These works have been borrowed from collectors from different parts of the country and are not for sale.”

In total, that makes a staggering 27 shows across the city (“we've used as much space as we could”), including four by galleries from outside Chennai who've been invited for the event. “In the future editions, we'd like to invite 40-50 galleries from across India to Chennai, and maybe have one large space where everything could be showcased,” he comments. “For that we need more corporate sponsors.”

The event is a labour of love for Tulsyan, an avid collector and supporter of art in the city for the last two decades. “I've wanted to do this for a long time,” says Tulsyan, who is managing director of Tulsyan NEC, a steel company. “The idea is to make Chennai a hub for art, drawing artists and art lovers like it draws music lovers from across the world during the December music season.”

At a glance

Art Camp: Twenty seven artists from different parts of India participate in ‘live painting’, open to public viewership, at Taj Coromandel (March 21 to 26)

Speaker Forums: A series of five by-invitation-only seminars titled ‘Collector’s Corner’, ‘The Art Critic’, ‘The Curatorial Eye’, ‘The Art Market’ and ‘Artists in Conversation’ featuring experts in their respective fields (March 24 to 26)

Video Lounge: Video art exhibition by 30 artists at Taj Coromandel, open to the public

Special shows: An exhibition of the works of contemporary masters such as M.F. Husain, F.N. Souza and A.P. Santhanaraj at Apparao Galleries; the works of Rabindranath Tagore and K.C.S. Paniker at Lalit Kala Akademi.