Going public

ART FOR THOUGHT Engaging pieces of public art will adorn the city during the Commonwealth Games, like this outdoor public event in Athens, ‘Hearts in the World'

ART FOR THOUGHT Engaging pieces of public art will adorn the city during the Commonwealth Games, like this outdoor public event in Athens, ‘Hearts in the World'   | Photo Credit: PHOTO: AFP

Delhi Urban Arts Commission sets up an advisory panel to guide public bodies on creating their share of public art. SHAILAJA TRIPATHI reports

A piece of art acquires a different dimension when it occupies a public space. Installed in a place possessing dynamics that are different from the close confines of an art gallery, it serves the purpose of creating a dialogue with the uninitiated. The reflection of the immediate and relevant concerns of the city's residents in a form which is high on beauty and aesthetics is perhaps more capable of striking a chord with them. And that's why probably years ago, it was recommended to all public institutions to keep aside a certain percentage for the cause of public art. The idea though more or less remained on paper. Barring a few murals on public buildings, sculptures in the compounds of ministries and statues of political leaders, there is not much to talk about in this regard. Pieces that are engaging, interactive and steeped in our immediate context are still largely missing from the scene.

And the approaching Commonwealth Games (CWG) could just be the moment to fill this gap. Last year, the Delhi Urban Arts Commission (DUAC) had organised a workshop on public art for the CWG, in which the Commission had come up with several suggestions on having graffiti, performance arts and sculptures in the public sphere. The workshop led to the formation of an advisory panel comprising members from the Commission as well as independent art professionals. The team comprising Muhammad Shaheer, a member of the commission who is heading the panel, Pooja Sood of Khoj, artist Vivan Sundaram, urban designer and architect Rohit Raj, besides senior-level officials from the Delhi Government will advise public bodies like CPWD, MCD, NDMC, DDA and others on commissioning public art pieces.

Speaking exclusively to The Hindu, K.T. Ravindran, chairman, DUAC, says, “The idea is to mobilise public art in the city together with these institutions. We would want to ensure that it is of quality and the panel will guide these institutions on how to identify the artist, etc. The residents of the city are always cribbing and fretting. They don't value the city and nor are they provided with any opportunity in terms of public space whereby they can appreciate the environs they live in. The platform of public art provides that opportunity. It can provoke them to think and also improves the aesthetics of the city.”

Ravindran was also involved in 48°C — a massive public art festival organised in the Capital by Khoj in 2008.

The pieces, he says, should be issue-based, drawing on the immediate issues of the commoners and of a large scale. “The piece could come up in the foreground of the building or in the interceding space between the city and the building anywhere where public can experience it,” informs Ravindran, who adds that DUAC will apply minimal regulations in the regard.

“We have had one meeting with CPWD, DMRC and MCD and it was heartening to find willingness on their part to do it. The issue is how to go about it. They can opt for a transparent way of choosing the artist. In fact, the Delhi Government seems to have taken it seriously,” says Shaheer.

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