Sharan Apparao on her latest ventures and the contemporary art scene.

Apparao Galleries, that sets up base in New Delhi's Triveni Garden Theatre during the winter months, is reaching the end of its 2009-2010 season here, but that doesn't mean the pace is slowing down. With several major shows on the cards till the gallery shifts to Chennai, there is plenty to look forward to at the open-air theatre that Sharan Apparao, curator, gallery head and cultural catalyst, appreciates as a “beautiful alternate space”.

After two-and-a-half decades in the field, Sharan exudes a controlled balance of gravity and fun that always seem to be brimming on the surface. Known for launching herself in a field she initially was not very familiar with — art presentation, the commerce of art — but armed with an art education from some of the world's prestigious institutes, she has earned her stars and worked with the most celebrated names in Indian visual arts as well as the unknown ones.

Between a show of miniatures by Andree Pouliot — the artist's first solo that just concluded — and the March line-up that includes serigraphs by Sakti Burman, an exhibition by Pakistani artists and collages by Farhan Mujib, Sharan spoke about her gallery's outreach programmes, the effect of technology and what's next for the gallery, which is celebrating its silver jubilee. Excerpts from the interview:

With the growing commercial interest in Indian art, what kind of response do you get to Apparao Galleries' art consultancy services?

“What happens is, we don't do it in a very formal way, but because we have such a large client base and I travel a lot, we do it almost all the time on an informal basis. We have all kinds of clients, but mostly individual collectors. Sometimes hotels or multinationals may also ask, but it is mostly being done by individuals.

With more spaces available, including hotels, malls, corporate offices, the demand for artworks to display at these places would be expected to grow.

Yes, but here there are mostly individual collectors. In America they do have multinationals who buy art. They get tax breaks, etc. But here they don't have that system. That's a big area that needs to be tapped.

What about your art education programmes?

We've done sporadic lectures, but now we are formalising it with two courses of 15 lectures each. One is an Overview of Indian Contemporary Art, and the other is an Overview of Indian Classical and Traditional Arts. The lectures will be in Chennai from March 6, but they will be video streamed on the Internet.

The Internet has changed the way people interact with art

Technology is playing a very important role — in marketing, dissemination of information…and most importantly the way artists use it.

You have worked with both senior and new artists…

I work with very well known artists, and unknown ones too, and what works for us is the ability to work as an art incubator.

What do you look for in an artist you wish to present?

The content of the work is very important. Some artists have a lot of skill [but] I do look for people who have an intellectual content, say for example, George K., Alexis Kersey, N. Ramachandran…

As someone who looks at the spirit of the art, do you think the proliferation of commercial art galleries is good?

We've been here for 25 years because we look at the inner workings!...[But] Some people look at things as high art, and some as mediocrity. This mushrooming of art galleries offers something for the spectrum. They service different areas. I think it is very good. People need to do their homework before they start collecting. A range of galleries provides this. Once something is negative or inferior, it helps see the contrast.

So there is ‘bad' art too?

Yes, but who can control it?


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