It can’t be sheer co-incidence that the Capital is witnessing exhibitions based on subjects such as democracy and the common man

‘Common’, ‘Demo-Cry’, ‘Democracy’. Art indeed imitates life, for all these names belong to art exhibitions happening in the Capital. For these terminologies to have seamlessly become part of our daily lives, we have Arvind Kejriwal and Co. to thank. Common suddenly became cool through their sit-ins, protests, marches, fasts and fiery speeches. One wouldn’t be surprised if a designer too comes out with a collection of topis bearing quirky sayings.

How could the art world let go of an opportunity like this?

Not that art hasn’t dealt with these issues earlier. The works of artists such as Atul Dodiya, Subodh Gupta, Jitish Kallat, Vibha Galhotra, Amar Kanwar are clearly directed towards the aam aadmi that Arvind Kejriwal and his radical outfit Aam Aadmi Party keep invoking, but the above mentioned titles are drawn from words and concepts that are in circulation these days.

Though Hyderabad-based artist Siva Kesava Rao has been engaging with the common man and his/her tribulations for a long time, his exhibition ‘Demo-Cry’ — which ended at Lalit Kala Akademi on March 1 — couldn’t have been more timely. His charcoal works laced at times with wit and at times with gloom are a glaring commentary on politics and how it has marred our lives. His faceless people, steeped in poverty, weep, protest and suffer at the hands of corrupt politicians.

A few months ago, just when Delhi was going in for elections, Khoj was hosting a show called ‘Manifesto’.

Debabrota Das, curator of ‘Common’ — a group show mounted at Creativity Art Gallery in Hauz Khas Village — probes the idea of ‘common’ from another perspective. Dismayed by unrealistic prices of art works at auctions and art fairs, it was a way to reach out to the commoners who can’t afford super expensive art. “Everyone likes to hang a good work of art but nobody is reaching out to the common buyers. At these art fairs and auctions, I find, people are not buying art for art’s sake. They are buying for the purpose of investment and this is what this show is all about,” says Das. In its concept note, the art gallery clearly mentions “The term common (AAM) is a wide fledged word these days in both political context and Bollywood industry…This show is to feed the masses… The collection will carry various ranges of paintings and sculpture in affordable range of prices from Rs.15,000 to 1 lakh…”

Art Konsult in Lado Sarai is hosting “Democracy: Possibilities & Impossibilities” curated by Kolkata-based Amit Mukhopadhyay, who has included artists from different strife-torn parts of the world to examine the idea of democracy in their interactive installations, paintings, videos, digital prints etc. While Anuradha Pathak’s installation “FyAyBy = FAB(y) For you, About you, By you” is a take on Right to Information Act, 2005, Palestinian artist Najib Joe Hakim in his digital prints deals with freedom of speech and protest. The brooms have made it to Vinita Dasgupta’s work “Democratic Dialogue: Learning from the streets”, which seems to be influenced by AAP and their crusade against corruption.

From art to food

Not just art exhibitions. A restaurant in Gurgaon called ‘Anarchy’ also seems inspired by the happenings around us but its owner Prashant Karan claims the restaurant came up much before the term anarchy went into hyper-circulation with then Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal staging a dramatic sit-in with his cabinet ministers in New Delhi seeking action against five police officers in the Khirkee Extension case.

“This anarchy has nothing to do with Arvind Kejriwal’s anarchy except that we are breaking the hospitality industry rules. The restaurant came up on November 16 last year, much before Kejriwal was branded an anarchist. We are three partners who run this place and we were all tired of rules and norms of the industry so we decided that in our restaurant, people will have the freedom to design their own dishes, design their own cocktails and anybody can get into the DJ console and do music,” explains Prashant Karan.