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Select among art galleries

Select Bookshop, a haven for bibliophiles, now houses an art gallery as well. The ongoing inaugural exhibition is a pot-pourri of works from both well-known and lesser known artists.

K.K.S. Murthy (left) with artist R. Raja who did the murals in the background.

ON HEARING that yet another new art gallery had opened, one's first reaction was: does Bangalore really need so many outlets (for they do not all deserve to be called "galleries") for the display and sale of art? Many of them put up pictures as a sort of added attraction to their main business, though they could argue that this is harmless enough, since, while they imbibe their cups of coffee or whatever, their customers also get a free side order of soul-food/ food for thought/ a feast for the eyes — take your pick...

Unfortunately, most of these venues are inadequately lit, have no space for the viewer to stand back sufficiently to get a proper perspective of the painting (corridors in hotels are particularly guilty of this), and there is no sign of any curatorial service: it would appear that the art works are assembled with an eye on their commercial potential, rather than a knowledge of the subject.

When financial markets the world over are so depressed, the boom that art saw a few years ago is now a whine, and gallery owners who joined the gold rush are now probably left only with dust in their eyes — a dust that has no traces of any glitter either.

So, why would K.K.S. Murthy choose to open his Select Art Gallery, when smaller galleries are going under? He is already famous for his bookstore, a haven for bibliophiles, where he carries on his father's tradition of a love of erudition, knowledge about books, and various other subjects that he happily shares with his customers, where commercial considerations are secondary. This new venture is governed by many of the same trademarks, and certainly the bookshop's several visitors would also have leanings towards art, so that the gallery would not lack viewers, despite its location: off crowded Brigade Road where parking is always a problem.

Mr. Murthy explains: "When cybercafés and eating places are displaying art, I thought why not have a small gallery here? As a young man, I used to meet many of the artists who used to come and meet my father and he would often help them financially: G.S. Naidu, Vadiraj, Yelahatti... So, I have always been interested in art and would now like to help unknown and struggling artists. Though this first exhibition has well-known and already established artists such as Yusuf, Vasudev, and Balan, that is because these artists are friends and have given me a few works to open with. Subsequent exhibitions will be works of lesser-known artists, who need exposure. My aim is not to make money on the venture, but I don't want to lose either. I think I will therefore work on a rental, rather than on a commission, basis."

The current selection is a pot-pourri of works from lesser-known palettes having their first exposure, and previously exhibited works by established artists. There are two from M.S. Murthy's wonderful watercolour series, The Light, (one of which won the International Biennale Award recently at the Iran Academy of Art); a couple from Yusuf's imaginative interaction with famous paintings (Figure after Bacon); Vasudev's Theatre of Life and She; and Balan Nambiar's stainless steel sculpture (a smaller work than usual, just the right size to be accommodated in the space upstairs), Symbol of Growth. One of Suresh Jairam's most lyrical works, Fragrance, and Giridhar Khasnis's works inspired by African art, The War Within, catch the eye. Delhi-based Uma Rao's oriental brushwork paintings, and a watercolour in the same calligraphic style, Cub by Chandranath, strike a more conservative note. R. Raja's multi-pieced mural, Flying Leaves, is a tribute to the bookshop, with references to literary works. Other works from Muthu Koya, A.M. Prakash, and C.S. Krishna Setty fill the viewing space's capacity.

The exhibition concludes tomorrow.


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