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Art in the time of crisis

To keep art alive amid the ongoing pandemic, galleries are developing online modes to showcase their work. But theatre folk are hunkering down for a long slack period 

Online viewing rooms, e-catalogues, social media –  art in the city is finding various different ways to keep itself running. 

With all gallery spaces temporarily shut down, many of them have decided to take the show virtual by creating online viewing rooms. 

For instance, Art Alive Gallery stopped the public viewing of its show ‘Night Forest’ by Chandra Bhattacharjee but it’s available online.

A statement from the gallery reads, “Tough times call for responsible actions. Art Alive Gallery is with the world in its fight against Corona. And as we go about sanitising the gallery space on repeat mode and encouraging our visitors to practice social distancing, we have created an alternative viewing mode for our patrons and art lovers — you can now access our art collection online. Should you wish to find more about our recent show, Night Forest by Chandra Bhattacharjee, you may reach out to us at the gallery numbers.”

Night forest

Not just commercial spaces, the National Museum in Delhi too is all set to launch its first virtual exhibition. Titled, “Great Steppe: Time. Space. Culture”, this show is a collaboration between the Embassy of Kazakhstan in India and National Museum, Kazakhstan. 

Another prominent gallery space, Art Heritage too are planning to create online viewing rooms and are evaluating online platforms that will complement their own website. 

Art Heritage’s viewership is quite broad and includes art lovers, one-time buyers, new and established collectors, emerging and established artists, art critics and writers, educators as well as others within the art ecosystem.  At the present time when our physical space is closed and it’s not possible to meet people when they come to visit a show, we need to ensure that our outreach is geared towards all of these constituents,” explains Tariq Allana, Associate Director, Art Heritage.

Viewing their online presence in an integrated manner, Allana adds, “it includes the contents on our website which showcases our inventory and from where queries can be sent to us directly. Our social media presence on Instagram and Facebook, that are channels we use to keep our supporters updated on the gallery’s activities, where we post educational contents such as interesting articles as well as podcasts, and where we highlight the works of artists that the gallery shows.”

While participation in international fairs and auctions seemed bleak, Hong Kong Art Basel has launched its online viewing rooms – a digital platform that connects the world’s premiere galleries with collectors.

One of the most noted and important art fairs in Asia, it has seen 235 galleries from 31 countries participating in the online fair.  

Despite going virtual, this lockdown will surely take a toll on the art market. “Given the substantial impact Covid-19 has had on the world economy, we fully expect that there will be a repercussion on the art sector in India.  However, it is too early to tell what the magnitude will be since we are entering the ‘off season’ for art in India, when buying slows down even in the best of times. It’s also difficult to evaluate at this time how long the impact will last,” explains Allana.

Talking about the financial aspects, while the visual art industry is finding ways and means to keep it running, theatre does not enjoy such privileges as it requires live audiences.

Great Steppe- Time.Space.Culture

As we know that the condition of theatre in India was not so good. For the last couple of years it was improving. But the impact of this lockdown has definitely affected us as our shows have been cancelled. Moreover, I will be definitely affected after the lockdown because the audience will not start watching our shows suddenly, as the fear of public gathering will stay for quite some days. It will definitely take quite a few weeks for his situation to improve. Apart from the shows, workshops and other events which were our source of income, has also been cut down. It is a really hard time for theatre artists but we have no other option but to face this situation,” says Vishal Sharma from Nabhya Theatre Group.

Agreeing that it creates a financial constraint, Sayeed Alam from Pierrot’s Troupe says that he will utilise this period to publish his plays and is hoping to come back to stage as soon as possible. More than financially, he feels that the lack of rehearsals is taking a psychological toll on him as well. 

Manil Mayank Mishra calls on to all theatre practitioners and asks them to use this time to work on their art. “This lockdown is of crucial importance. This is not a holiday, it’s rather a gestation period for me to hone my skills so that I am prepared for the days to come. I will work upon scripts and modify them  to be ready for tomorrow,” he adds.

(Cover image: Artwork in the online viewing room of Art Basel)