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Friday, July 12, 2024

HYDERABAD: THE EMERGING ART DESTINATION

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Until now Hyderabad’s art market was restricted to a few artists, galleries and collectors. However, the city has been seeing a silent change in recent years as big galleries nationally are finding new markets here among young collectors.

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From new gallery launches to city artists being celebrated at national and international levels, the city’s art scene never had it so good. WOW! talks to people across the board for their insights and charts the growth of the city’s thriving interest in all things art.

“This year, like never before, there was a flood of people from Hyderabad at the recently held India Art Fair. Walking in at the Fair, it seemed like all I could hear was people speaking Telugu, which really felt great!” laughs art curator Annapurna Madipadiga. While denizens of the city of Nawabs share pictures from their exotic vacations and concerts (from Coldplay to Taylor Swift), perhaps this is the first year that saw images from art fairs posted with pride on Instagram accounts. One of the most conspicuous indicators of Hyderabad’s burgeoning art scene is the palpable growth of art exhibitions, fairs, and festivals in its art market. The city’s galleries and art institutions have witnessed a steady influx of investment and interest by attracting collectors, connoisseurs, and enthusiasts alike. Whether it’s avant- garde sculptures, vibrant canvases, or bespoke installations, the city’s expanding art scene offers something for every aesthetic inclination. Thus, reflecting a newfound appreciation for artistic endeavor. We now have galleries from other cities and curators trying to tap into the Hyderabad market. We had the month-long NEWS Art Fest bring some of the legends of the art world to town last month. We now have Payal Kapoor, long-time curator and founder of Arushi Arts in Delhi, will be bringing the second edition of Artix – India’s inaugural traveling hotel art fair to Hyderabad with much fanfare. Artix will hold the fair in rooms of a leading hotel in a unique innovation.

Though the city is witnessing a slew of art shows and fairs, the larger question looms – Is art an idea whose time has finally come in Hyderabad? Anju Poddar, a long-time collector and well-known figure in the art scene, affirms the sentiment and adds, “Hyderabad is the new Singapore and home to a lot of High Net-worth Individuals (HNIs). There is a major shift that is happening. More people are interested in buying art and each day I receive a couple of calls regarding emerging artists. It is an exciting time, with several artists being shown at the recent India Art Fair, and galleries in Delhi/Mumbai showing interest in local artists.”

 A CREATIVE HUB
For long, the city was known for its iconic artists and figures including Jagdish Mittal, Laxma Goud, Thotha Vaikuntam and the late Surya Prakash. But the last decade has seen an emergence of younger artists who are gently moving away from traditional tropes. They are dabbling into new genres, experimenting and creating a name for themselves. Rekha Lahoti of Kalakriti Gallery says, “There is a segment of bold young artists that is not afraid of trying new styles. We also see a new pool of buyers – youngsters who are keen on starting their own collections, which is always an encouraging sign.” With three floors and over 2,500 artworks, Kalakriti is one of the largest galleries in town. It has been at the forefront of creating interest in art among city people with its functional art or initiatives like the Krishnakriti festival. Their new gallery is but a barometer of the greater interest in art. Bhargavi Gundala, who runs Dhi Artspace and has opened a second gallery in Madhapur, agrees with the sentiment of increasing art awareness in the city. She states, “Hyderabad art market till a few years ago was just about buying what your neighbor was buying! Apart from a handful of artists no one even knew others. But today, I have young couples asking about Anish Kapoor! The younger generation is clued in, are well-travelled and are looking at contemporary artists which is simply fabulous!” One look at the art scene tells us a lot about what is unfolding. The recently held NEWS art fest was an eye opener in which over 250 artists took part, something unprecedented so far. Senior artists like Anjolie Ela Menon, Prabhakar Kolte, V Ramesh, Shobha Broota and Vinod Sharma along with several artists from Hyderabad, new and emerging were included in the show winning the curators much acclaim.

“More people are interested in buying art and each day I receive a couple of calls regarding emerging artists. It is an exciting time, with several artists being shown at the recent India Art Fair, and galleries in Delhi/ Mumbai showing interest in local artists.” – Anju Poddar, art collector

Taking part in the art camp, veteran artist Shobha Broota exclaims, “There was so much to take in! And there is an excitement here that was not seen previously. For me, the most interesting aspect was that the youngsters are dabbling in different genres which is always an encouraging sight.” The emergence of platforms and initiatives dedicated to promoting local talent has played a pivotal role in nurturing Hyderabad’s art ecosystem. From artist residencies to collaborative projects, these endeavors have provided artists with the resources and visibility needed to amplify their voices and showcase their creativity on a national stage.

Senior artist V Ramesh adds, “A city of Hyderabad’s size can accommodate a lot more artists and diverse styles. Today what is ‘pretty and beautiful’ sells, while that is the case almost everywhere, Hyderabad needs a little more cerebral infusion amongst its buyers. Many artists are easy-going. We need more young artists to question the status quo to make the scene more exciting.” Previously overshadowed by more established art capitals (Delhi, Mumbai and Baroda), the city’s cultural landscape has undergone a transformative evolution. This has ignited a renaissance that has garnered much attention, both nationally and internationally.

From traditional forms to contemporary innovations, art in Hyderabad is experiencing a dynamic revival, fuelling discussions about its emergence as a significant player in the national art arena. Moreover, the ascent of local artists onto the national stage has been a defining characteristic of Hyderabad’s artistic renaissance. Many artists from the city are now gaining recognition and acclaim on a broader scale, permeating the national consciousness with their distinctive voices and perspectives. Through their diverse oeuvre, these artists are challenging conventional narratives and pushing the boundaries of artistic expression, contributing to a rich tapestry of cultural discourse that transcends geographical boundaries. Annapurna adds, “Look at the young artists from the city who are doing well. T.Venkanna is represented by Gallery Maskara, Ravi Chunchula by Champa Tree and Laxman Kottur by Sakshi Art Gallery. Today, artists from Hyderabad are really breaking barriers and are being talked about everywhere.”

LOOKING BACK, LOOKING FORWARD
In the 30 years that I have been on the art scene in the city, I have seen Hyderabad grow as an emerging center for art. At one time, the city had a solitary gallery – Surya Gallery, that the artist Surya Prakash ran from literally a cow shed in Srinagar Colony. Artists Laxma Goud, Devraj, Surya Prakash used to work from a small studio near Himayat Nagar. Later they nurtured Thota Vaikuntam who used to teach art at Bal Bhavan in Public Gardens. They remember how they used to cycle to Golconda and paint Deccan’s magnificent rocks. As students who graduated from the Art College they had few mentors, and they pretty much supported and encouraged each other. There were of course the great art collectors Jagdish and Kamla Mittal who not only bought the early works of Laxma and Vaikuntam but also encouraged and gave them commissions for batik. We have come a long way since then; today these three are among India’s Masters, and their work is much sought after. Their success encouraged graduates of the SN University to focus on their practice; artists like Fawad Tamakanat, Rajeswara Rao, Chari took the baton forward as it were. With Laxma being such a master of the line, most of the artists emerging out of Hyderabad are strong with their drawings. This includes Laxman Aelay who has made a name for himself. Apart from Goethe Center, which was an early patron of art, there was the Surya Gallery. In fact, Surya can single-handedly be credited with energizing the city’s art scene by holding camps and nudging several institutions like LV Prasad Eye Institute, CCMB and Dr Reddy’s to build their collections. No wonder then that these institutions have a fine collection of early Vaikuntams and Laxma Gouds. From the rather slow-paced slumberous art scene of a decade ago, Hyderabad has grown into a vibrant center for contemporary art, with Telangana artists much in demand nationally. Importantly, there is an emerging breed of artists like Priyanka Aelay, Varunika Saraf and Harsha Durrugadda breaking out of the mold of their predecessors to work on pressing concerns of politics or the environment. Not only that, while the gallery scene may not be booming like Mumbai, Kolkata or even Bengaluru, several galleries are showing good work, with a few taking Hyderabad artists to the India Art Fair too, where we hear most of the Hyderabad artists had sold-out shows!
– RATNA

“There is a segment of bold young artists that is not afraid of trying new styles. We also see a new pool of buyers – youngsters who are keen on starting their own collections, which is always an encouraging sign.” – Rekha Lahoti, Kalakriti Art Gallery

“The younger generation is clued in, are well– travelled and are looking at contemporary artists which is simply fabulous!” – Bhargavi Gundala, Dhi Artspace “Art is not something that can be sold over the counter like gold. It is more like real estate; it takes time to sell. My suggestion is to buy something you would enjoy hanging on your walls.” – Laksmi Nambiar, Shrishti Art Gallery

According to a report ‘India Market Monitor Q1 2023’ released by real estate consulting firm CBRE, Hyderabad saw about 800 percent growth in the luxury residential segment in 2023. Many couples are relying on their interior designers to ensure that art is a part of their interiors which is further fuelling this growth. Anju Poddar calls it a welcome trend. “Everyone wins, the artists get more business, and the homeowners get art. Many think they have arrived if they have art in their homes. The role of interior designers is key in this as they have the aesthetics and influence and it is the very reason we are seeing so many designers and architects at art shows,” she shares. This trend underscores a shift in perspective among residents, who increasingly view art not merely as decorative embellishments but as integral components in shaping the ambience and character of their living spaces. Not only homes, hospitals including AIG and LV Prasad today boast of art rivalling galleries! Furthermore, the advent of social media platforms has facilitated the dissemination of design trends and inspirations. As a result, homeowners aspire towards curated lifestyles synonymous with luxury and sophistication. Interior designers leverage these digital channels to showcase their projects, thereby amplifying the visibility of local artists and artisans whose creations resonate with contemporary tastes. Many still view art as an investment. However, gallery owner Lakshmi Nambiar explains, “Art is not something that can be sold over the counter like gold. It is more like real estate; it takes time to sell. My suggestion is to buy something you would enjoy hanging on your walls. Also, scarcer the artwork, higher is its value.” Art cannot exist in isolation without emerging talent. Hyderabad-based art schools, be it the Sarojini Naidu School of Arts and Communication or Jawaharlal Nehru Architecture and Fine Arts University (JNAFAU), have consistently upped the game ensuring that the emerging pool of talent is something to watch out for.

Ramesh says, “The only way for youngsters to improve is to expose themselves to better art. You need to be inspired by what’s happening around the world, without blatantly copying it. There needs to be more residencies, more patrons backing artists and more cutting-edge art.” Rekha Lahoti agrees, “There is a diverse young pool and these schools are encouraging the upcoming artists to experiment with their work. They are getting great exposure and are not afraid to take risks.”

Timing is everything in life. What has really worked for the art scene in Hyderabad is a multitude of factors from the financial growth of the city to the diversity and range of upcoming artists. Will art be the next big thing from the city after pearls and IT? “It already is!” says Annapurna.

Today, artists from Hyderabad are really breaking barriers and are being talked about everywhere. – Annapurna Madipadiga, art curator

“Hyderabad has been consistently producing some incredible artists. I attribute this to its art schools, talented teachers and senior artists who are not just mentors for younger artists, but have also created co-working studios. Despite there being an increased conversation around building platforms for artists and art patrons in Hyderabad, there’s still a need to make these spaces more accessible to larger audiences. And to produce exhibitions and programmes that expose these audiences to different ways of looking and engaging with diverse practices” 

– Artist Faiza Hasan, a Hyderabad-based artist who worked closely with the education initiatives and programmes at the Kochi Biennale Foundation until 2021

“I firmly believe that drawing is the backbone of art, and Hyderabad’s artists have always had a strong grip on drawing. Look at Laxma Goud (sir’s) hold over multiple mediums or the late Surya Prakash (sir’s) art. In that sense, the city has always been home to great artists. That said, yes, whenever I travel out of Hyderabad, I see a renewed interest in the city and its art scene. It is happening because of a multitude of factors – young artists coming into their own, art schools encouraging them to think out of the box and new art collectors mushrooming in the city. All of them have contributed to making the art scene in the city vibrant.” 

– Artist Priyanka Aelay, a contemporary visual artist who has been showcased at the India Art Fair 2024 and is also part of the New York Art Fair this year

“I have mixed feelings about this growth (of the art scene in the city) as we can see a surge in people showing interest in art. But the real question is what kind of art is witnessing patronage. There needs to be more awareness of contemporary art and its practices. One must notice that the real action happens in the cities where there is more participation from the artists and institutions. One such example is Kolkata where the art galleries and art institutions collaborated to change the art scene along with some stellar programming around curation and new practices. With new galleries opening and artist talks happening more often, I hear everyone is excited about visiting Hyderabad for its art scene. We have recently seen some spectacular shows opening with artists and curators from across India, especially Delhi bringing the much-needed diversity in terms of art language. There is a heightened sense of exhilaration in the art community as it anticipates what’s next in Hyderabad. But we still have a lot of bases to cover. We must nourish and educate our city through more engagement thereby empowering it to be a part of the dialogue. We need more private art institutions with a strong focus on community building for the arts. Institutions akin to the Kolkata Center for Creativity and Hampi Art Labs should come up in the city.”
 – Artist Harsha Durrugadda is a multidisciplinary artist and recipient of multiple awards such as The Arts Family Emerging Artist Award in 2023 for South Asia and the Rio Tinto Sculpture Award 2017 at Sculpture by the Sea, Australia

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