Asia’s biggest art mall pays tribute to women artists

March 7th, 2008 - 4:04 pm ICT by admin  

(For Women’s Day March 8)
By Madhusree Chatterjee
New Delhi, March 7 (IANS) As a tribute to unsung women artists on International Women’s Day March 8 and the 60th year of India’s independence, Art Mall, Asia’s biggest one-stop art shop, is hosting 60 women artists Friday in a show titled “Ms-60″. “The exhibition is significant because women form a significant section of the society that is struggling to come to the frontline. We as art promoters feel that while the Indian political system is projecting 33 percent reservation for women in all political and democratic processes, we should also do something similar for them on International Women’s Day,” Narendra Bhiku Ram Jain, owner of Art Mall, told IANS.

Altogether, 136 works - both sculptures and canvases - by 60 artists are already on display at the mall in New Delhi’s Najafgarh area. The show will be inaugurated by Sangita Jindal, president of Art India Magazine and chairperson of the Jindal South West (JSW) Foundation.

Women artists, explained Jain, fall behind their male counterparts because they cannot travel alone with their art works for exhibitions. This limits their access to the masses and potential buyers.

“There are many reasons. Sometimes the husbands do not support the ventures of women artists because of economic constraints. Space to store art works is at a premium at homes and since most of the women artists in our country belong to middle and lower middle income groups, they have to eat from their spouse’s income pie which leads to conflict of opinion,” Jain said.

The world of haute art is a male bastion whose echelons are controlled by masters like M.F. Husain, F.N. Souza, S.H. Raza and Raja Ravi Verma in terms of price and prestige. Women artists, no matter how talented, have always been relegated to the bottom of the heap.

The poor standing of women in the art arena is due to a complex combination of social and circumstantial factors that include family, finance and gender balances.

Consequently, many women are forced to give up art despite the fact that nearly 80 percent of women artists, according to Jain, are very talented, “sometimes more than the men”.

“We want to give them a forum and show the world the women power in art,” said Ila Jain, co-promoter of Art Mall. The driving force of the show, says Ila, is “She”, a take-off on a song by Elvis Costello in the movie “Notting Hill”.

The exhibition is a mix of surprisingly mature bronze and fibreglass sculptures as well as oil and acrylic canvases, mostly figurative and nature-driven forms in vibrant colours.

The prices range from Rs.10,000 to Rs.250,000, barring a couple of frames like two horses by senior artist Arti Singh priced at Rs.1 million.

Anindita Kishore, who gave up her job as a civil servant to pursue fine art full time, said: “I am honoured that Art Mall is promoting me and 59 of my peers on International Women’s Day. It’s a great thing to do since we keep harping about women’s rights. It is not fair to look down upon women as downtrodden. They should always be regarded as activity-oriented. And for that we need a platform.”

Three of her oils, “Spirituality”, “Dreams of the Future” and a sublime interpretation of “Hiroshima”, 60 years after the nuclear disaster, are on the show.

According to Kishore, women are more attuned to creativity. “Creativity is inherent aspect of a woman’s psyche and they should be allowed as much space as men in the world of big-time art,” said the artist, also a skilled enamellist.

Concurs sculptor Kusum Jain. “Women artists are coming up in a big way and should be encouraged. The problem is that women artists, after a point of time, cannot make much headway because opportunities and the support base shrink and eventually they give up their vocation,” she said, two of whose sculptures “Fusion” and “Intimacy” in bronze and fibre are part of the show.

Artist Saswati Chowdhury, who has been painting since 1986, was keen to join the show ever since she heard about it.

“I had personally cobbled together an all-women’s group in 1993 called Forms and we exhibited for five consecutive years in Delhi, Kolkata and Bhubaneswar. But we had to stop showing because most of our members changed priorities. Families took over art and I was the lone woman who continued to pursue art. It is a problem of mindset and lack of exposure. I wish women artists are placed on a par with men,” she said.

Saswati’s dreams may come true if Narendra Jain has his way. “We plan to make it (the exhibition) an annual feature. There will be an all women’s show every year on International Women’s Day,” he said.

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