Self-taught artist Prashanti Goel refused to settle for a 9-to-5 job. Ranjani Rajendra visits Alankritha Art Gallery to find what led to her establishing the gallery

A regular nine-to-five job is something Prashanti Goel never wanted to do. Which is why this homemaker-turned-gallery owner and art collector decided to set up Alankritha Art Gallery in August 2003. The MBA graduate with a soft corner for art had grown up experimenting with water colours, oil paints and sculptures. So setting up her own art gallery seemed like a natural progression. The art gallery which celebrated its tenth anniversary last year, has created a niche for itself in the city art scene and is now known to encourage up and coming artists apart from also showcasing works of senior artists like M.F. Husain, Anjolie Ela Menon, Thota Vaikuntam, Raza S.H. among others.

Small start

When Prashanti Goel completed her MBA she knew she wanted to take up a job, but not something that had her typing away on a computer for long hours. “I’d always been interested in art since childhood. My mother too used to paint, though not commercially, and I grew up watching her dabble in the creative field. Though I don’t have any formal training in Fine Arts, I would experiment with water colours. Sometimes I would consult other artists for tips,” she says.

“When I got married in 2001, I knew I wanted to do something in the field of arts by myself; maybe set up an emporium,” says Prashanti, who at the time was in touch with well-known Tanjore painting artist P. Sripathi.

“Around the same time that I was toying with my idea, we bought this property in Madhapur. Upon seeing the place, Sripathi said that it would be ideal for an art gallery and since I did have a keen eye and passion for art,” explains Prashanti, “Sripathi introduced me to other artists and I gradually began meeting them. He shared important tips on how to run a gallery with me. In fact, once we launched the gallery, his was the first show we hosted. Some of my works, paintings and sculptures, were on display too.”

Farternity support

What helped Prashanti in the initial stages was the support she received from the art fraternity. “Despite not having any background in the art field, senior artists like Thota Vaikuntam, Laxman Aelay and others stood by us and shared their work with us to display. Even today, when we need art work for shows, they readily support us by sharing their works with us,” she says.

Support from the art fraternity apart, Prashanti had help from her husband, Nitin Goel. “He is a software engineer with a full time job. But right from the start he has been my biggest support. He has always made it a point to accompany me when I’ve gone to visit artists. He’s been a part of the whole rapport-building exercise that we carried out and it was Nitin who designed our website,” says Prashanti. Incidentally, Alankritha was the first online gallery in the city and till date has a large number of sales online.

Encouraging talent

While the gallery has hosted shows by several senior artists, it has made it a point to also promote young talent. To this end, Prashanti makes it a point to visit art schools in the city to scout for promising talent. “We wanted to encourage young artists right from the beginning. Since it was first launched we have encouraged up and coming artists to showcase their works without charging them anything. This is also why the gallery prefers to keep its shows and previews low-key. That way the focus remains on our artists,” she explains. The gallery also makes it a point to not organise more than two shows a month, this ensures that artists have a full 15 days to display their works.

Challenges she faced

While launching Alankritha was a dream come true for Prashanti, there were a few minor glitches along the way. “For starters, I had to win the trust of artists. I was new to the art scene and I had to work from scratch when it came to building a rapport with artists. It took a great deal of tact and my PR skills to get there. Also Alankritha does not buy works from artists. We get them on a consignment basis. To get artists to send their works to us on consignment basis was no mean task,” she says, adding, “I suppose our transparent manner of dealing with art sales helped us win over artists. We always ensure that an artist is informed of a sale as soon as it takes place and the payment also is made immediately once it comes through.”

During the last ten years, Prashanti has also been juggling roles as a mother to two young children. “Things were tough when my children (daughter Viha, 8, and son Nihar, 5) were younger. I had to cater to their needs as well as to the gallery’s. There were times when we’d have a client come to buy art works and there would be a bawling baby. Thankfully, Nitin would step in and take care of the kids while I could walk our clients through the gallery and show them the different works.”

Future plans

While Alankritha has carved a niche for itself in the Hyderabad art scene, Prashanti hopes to make it a well-known name nationally by organising shows across the country. “Now that my children are a little older, I can travel without worrying too much. I’d like to organise shows across the country and abroad as well featuring works of artists from the state,” she says.