Big blast on canvas...

APEEJAY, EPIGUES, Pioneer, Vintage, Domas, Family Art Gallery... . tired of reading? But art and artists have not got tired of finding expression in Delhi specially in the last few years. These art galleries have recently sprung up in New Delhi over the past year or so. Lalit Kala Akademi's gallieries and Triveni Kala Sangam have always been there where traditional painters and buyers would come, exhibit, meet, buy and sell.

Now there is competition for canvas in the Capital. Private art galleries have made a splash. They have sprung up virtually in almost all parts of Delhi - Defence Colony, Sundar Nagar, Friends Colony, Mehrauli, Shahpur Jat and even Sainik Farms. Eight new art galleries in Haus Khas, same number in DLF Guragaon, and three in Mehrauli have opened up over the past year.

Art fraternity is breathing easier here than in Mumbai and Kolkata where art is now "quick" and purchase "slow". Veteran artist Amit Ambalal says, "Delhi as an art space had never been so vibrant. Earlier we would only witness traditional buyers and painters, now younger generation has joined the wagon. With so many collages and art getting recognition there is a bright ray of hope that is visible for the fraternity as a whole."

Well-known artist Atul Dodiya echoes the opinion. "I see a very positive change in Delhi for the past few years. So many private art galleries have emerged and interestingly so many art collectors who know art too."

But then, there are others, who have reservations. "Delhi has almost 1600 art galleries and more are coming up. But only a select few of them know what art is. They know too little about the work they are exhibiting. It is only that five to 20 per cent commission that they get from the sale of the painting they are interested in. I have not seen world famous Madhubani or Kalighat paintings hung on their walls to appease a real art lover. Nor small signatures from remote corners of India because they hardly sell," laments Sandeep Magazine, an art curator who claims to posses "some rare collections of art" that he accumulated after "taking great pains".

Many complain of Delhi's commercialisation in this respect. A room of a house rented out as an art gallery like a few in Defence Colony, where paintings are hung for months and there is no one to look after them. An artist keeps parading around the gallery to know if his labour of love has seen any viewer. "Opening an art gallery itself is not an easy task," says an art gallery owner. "It requires expenses for making catalogues, proper space, lighting and air-condition arrangements as also its maintenance. For that a commission of twenty per cent sounds peanuts. Delhiites still go for signature works. We can't force a buyer to buy what we have hung on our walls."

Whatever one might say, but Delhi now "values art" as Anju Dodiya, a seasoned artist puts it. Thanks to regular exhibitions in all galleries throughout the year. The art fraternity has reasons to rejoice.