The Kochi Muziris Biennale offered Malayalis a sneak preview of the vast landscape of contemporary art with its socio-political significance and possibilities minus commerce. The Kerala Lalithakala Akademi is now adding that dimension to the set-to-be-vibrant scene by providing a platform for budding artists to place their works on the block.

The Akademi will throw open for four days from September 25 the Durbar Hall premises for budding artists to set up stalls as part of what is termed as an ‘art market’ (Chithrakala Chantha) where people can buy paintings at bargain rates.

“While it helps ordinary people collect original works of art, upcoming artists without gallery patronage can find visibility while earning a few bucks by selling their stuff,” K.A. Francis, chairman of the Akademi, told The Hindu over telephone.

“We’ve sent open invites to all artists. However, space will be provided to 50 artists to set up stalls. They should remit Rs. 1,000 for logistic expenses,” he said, adding that similar art markets existed in places like Bangalore, Mysore and Coimbatore in the South. “It’s a first for Kerala,” he said.

Mr. Francis did not rule out the possibility of extending their event to other cities .

The term ‘art market’ hasn’t gone down well with a section of artists, who would rather have the Akademi focus on art education, facilitating research in art history, mentoring art writers and taking the lead in building art institutions like world-class museums.

“While the event will no doubt lend visibility to young artists and help Sunday painters sell their works, it’s not just sale of art that we need. It is unfortunate that while we have a rich art history, an art culture never took roots here. I would be happier if the Akademi spent its resources in building museums and promoting art education,” said artist T.R. Upendranath. While sales did matter, what mattered most was preparing the soil for art to become a part of people’s daily life and psyche, he said.

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