Looking for affordable art? This collective makes independent artists visible

Carpe Arte, a volunteer-led organisation has been helping independent artists looked over by galleries gain an audience. The lockdown made them take new life on Instagram

Updated - April 25, 2020 11:32 am IST

Published - April 24, 2020 04:17 pm IST -

Work by Rachana Badrakia

Work by Rachana Badrakia

Bright print, fluorescent green and aqua blue pose as the holding colours of this particular canvas, and portrayed through the medium of multicolour wood print, the canvas shows the outline of a human figure with a jet black moustache. The almost-Cubist figure wears a stern gaze and has wings.

For Carpe Arte, a six member volunteer-led art enthusiasts’ organisation started three years ago with the aim to foster a community that engages with contemporary art in India, this particular work by artist Chandramohan represents independent art practice. Following the COVID-19 lockdown, and the inevitable plunge in business and collection of visual art that followed, these independent practitioners are, perhaps, the most hit. Recognising this need, the Mumbai-based organisation has introduced a support initiative with the hashtag (#carpeartesupports), where they don the role of a middleman by promoting affordable art and facilitating its sale.

Carpe Arte was started three years ago with an active aim to foster a community that engages with contemporary art in India. The organisation (with six volunteers including the founder) also leads talks, gallery walk-throughs, workshops, VIP previews and visits to private collections and even to artists’ studios and workspaces where anyone is welcome to join. “Essentially, we believe that art is a very important cultural and historical marker of our times. If you do not engage with it, you cannot support it,” says founder, Natasha Jeyasingh.

Natasha Jeyasingh

Natasha Jeyasingh

“The number of galleries in the country is very less in number, so it falls upon the public to support contemporary art,” she notes, adding that many are still figuring out how to navigate the medium without being overwhelmed.

Playing the middleman

Their recent Art Night Thursday (a Mumbai-specific practice where galleries remain open for more hours every second Thursday of the month for working people to drop in) session saw a live virtual walkthrough of two shows where 300 to 400 people had joined. “There are only a certain number of artists that have the support of a gallery. But there are many others who have their own independent practice. They have to be their own galleries, their own marketing team, and their own outreach. It is very difficult,” says Natasha.

Artist L Raja’s work

Artist L Raja’s work

The collectors’ community in the country hardly has eyes for unknown names. Most often, many talented artists end up fending for themselves through art classes. By showcasing their affordable art and connecting them with potential buyers, the organisation plays the middleman albeit with no monetary benefit. “There is a certain kind of curation in what we share. These are artists recommended by their peers, and who are people we have connected with before. We ask them to send us their works which can be priced below ₹5,000,” she adds.

The works are shared on Carpe Arte’s Instagram page. New groups of six artists and their works are introduced every three days. In the past 10 days, the works of 18 artists have been showcased, and out of which 50 were sold. The pieces that have already been showcased are saved as Instagram Highlights so that anyone who wishes to revisit can do so. Carpe Arte plans to keep the initiative running for the near future with new groups of artists being presented every Monday and Thursday.

Those interested in buying the works, visit @carpearteofficial

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