With lockdown norms relaxed, art galleries across the city are re-opening, but on a cautious note with limited access  

With the easing of the lockdown, the entire city is slowly attempting to get back to its usual form. As offices, malls and markets re-open for business, art galleries have also opened their doors but things are not yet back to normal.

By the end of May, an increasing number of galleries had reopened after months of being shut. They took to alternative online mediums to keep their show running during the lockdown and it continues to remain so, despite unlocking.

Most art galleries attribute this to the lack of visitors as people are understandably apprehensive of stepping out. “We opened this month, but we are allowing visitors in on an appointment basis only. Right now we haven’t advertised the fact that the gallery is open,” says Shefali Somani, director of Shrine Empire Gallery.

Initially, the gallery was open on alternative days. It is now open on all days but with revised timings. Opening later than its usual hours and shutting down earlier, the gallery has called in only those staff members who have their own mode of transport.

Artist Sudipta Das’s exhibition is still on display at Latitude 28

Even then, very few visitors have dropped by. “Only a couple of visitors who are familiar with the gallery have dropped in to see some previous works. Currently, no visitors are coming in because everyone is very scared.”

Considering the situation, Somani shares that the situation is not conducive to putting up any new shows. While their recently concluded virtual exhibition did well, they plan on putting up more works online. “Currently we do not plan to do any physical shows until we are certain about the situation. It is not very prudent to do a show right now because you put in all the effort but finally no one comes to see it.”

Taking us through the precautionary measures in place at the gallery, Somani states that a peddle sanitiser is placed right at the entrance of the gallery. There is also a sensor-based sanitiser inside the gallery and the staff are always wearing gloves and masks, maintaining social distance.

While there are no shows running currently, Somani is glad that with the gallery open they are able to function and complete a lot of work in the back end which includes couriering of artworks.

“If the situation improves, we plan to put up some exhibitions later in the year. But even then, we plan to do that without any opening of the shows. Rather we plan to let people come at their own convenience so that there are fewer people at any given time,” adds Somani.

Gallery Latitude 28

Agreeing with her, Bhavna Kakkar of Latitude 28 shares that her gallery too will give opening parties a miss. “Normally there are only a few people at a time who come in to view the works. It’s the opening night that brings together a lot of guests.”

Thought unlocked at the beginning of the month, the gallery still hasn’t fully opened its door for the public. “Latitude 28 is available at office but not for walk-ins yet,” says Kakkar.

While the gallery is working towards exhibiting a show by next month, they haven’t announced to its viewers that they are fully open. “Whoever is visiting is contacting us personally and it’s on an appointment basis. If a client wants to view a particular work, they are welcome.”

The last exhibition displayed at the gallery by artist Sudipta Das before the lockdown is still available and people who had missed it have dropped by.

Trying to minimise the footfall at the gallery, they are also offering the service of sending the works across to the client’s homes. “If they are interested in seeing it, rather than encouraging them to come down we are sending the work to them.”

With no new exhibition currently on view, the gallery plans to come up with virtual viewing rooms for the upcoming exhibitions. With work going on for putting up the artworks from their postponed London show – ‘Playhouse of Her Mind’ — they are hoping to put it up very soon.

While most galleries have curated shows scheduled beforehand, they are now changing and discussing new ideas. Since there won’t be big openings and artists are coming up with different and newer works, the lineup changes as well.

With sanitisers and disinfectant in place, galleries are all set to open but it is still a long way before things go back to normal.

(Cover: The Shrine Empire Gallery has opened its door to the public only on an appointment basis)