This contemporary art gallery is leveraging technology to hold virtual exhibitions
Since the beginning of the pandemic, people across the globe have found unique ways to cope with the inevitable isolation that comes with social distancing. A lot of them have found solace in art.
While art galleries and other cultural institutions have been unable to hold exhibitions in these current times; nonetheless, many have been doing their bit for disseminating and promoting art by going digital.
Gallery Ark is one such example. Founded in 2017 by Seema and Atul Dalmia, it was first conceptualised as a medium to support and promote young artists, and to create an accessible space in Vadodara to experience art.
“Gallery Ark began as a medium to engage with a larger audience, within and outside of the city, with art. And while we want to create a wider audience for the contemporary art being produced in Vadodara, we are also interested in exploring global narratives and how the two fit together,” says Nupur Dalmia, Director of Gallery Ark.
Gallery Ark’s aesthetic is influenced by the Baroda school, whose roots can be traced back to The Maharaja Sayajirao University and its Fine Arts faculty — renowned as one of the major institutions for visual arts in India. The Fine Arts department of the university is known for promoting modernist, individualist and narrative styles of visual arts, and many of India’s best known and historically respected artists like Jyoti Bhatt and K G Subramanyan, among others, have their roots in the department.
Creating unique conversations around art
Gallery Ark represents a small roster of young artists like Vadodara-based Deepak Agasthya and Vimal Ambaliya, Mumbai-based Teja Gavankar; and mid-career artists like Vadodara-based Mrugen Rathod, and Alexander Gorlizki, who is a British artist working between studios in New York and Jaipur. The gallery’s predominantly contemporary art exhibitions feature a diverse mix of solo shows and thematic curations, which often include national and international artists that are not limited to their roster.
Gallery Ark aims to create unique dialogue with their exhibits and offerings.
“Our first exhibition this year was a ceramics show called ‘Elements in Mythology’. Last year we did thematic shows focused on contemporary miniatures (‘Luminously Between Eternities’), paper and texture based works (‘Material Gains’), and illustrative art (‘Graphic Content’). These shows comment on established definitions and curate a wide selection of contemporary art practices from a unique thematic lens,” says Nupur.
Leveraging digital avenues to keep art accessible in these times.
In the past year, Gallery Ark was operating as a commercial art gallery with a focus on developing a robust interdisciplinary programme around visual arts, performing arts, and pedagogy. It would carry out five to six curated art exhibitions in a year, and work with a small set of clients and developers to create large scale public art installations.
“We have an independent CSR vertical through which we would bring theatre, music and dance performances to the city, lectures with notable art historians like Dr. B N Goswamy, Prof. Kavita Singh and Prof. Naman Ahuja, learning modules and support for small art organisations,” says Nupur.
Since the beginning of the lockdown, she added, everyone has been restricted to their homes for more than two months, and even with the lockdown being slowly lifted, they would naturally be wary of public gatherings and avoidable human interaction.
“So the major shift has been a wave of virtual interaction with art through online viewing rooms instead of exhibitions in physical spaces and digital community engagement instead of physical events. The thrill of social interaction was a large pull for audiences at art fairs and gallery openings, which cannot be replicated virtually, but at the same time, people have more time and wider access to events and institutions anywhere in the world,” says Nupur, adding that virtual exhibits have a wider reach and are thus beneficial for artists as well.
To that end, Gallery Ark’s has been working on a 3D model for the gallery so viewers can look not only at the artworks but also the exhibition design. They have also created “online viewing rooms” that allow detailed viewing of the works of art.
While Gallery Ark has postponed the rest of their physical exhibitions until further notice, digital exhibitions continue to be on the cards.
“We have an annual exhibition called ‘Embark’ which is an initiative to support young artists who have completed MFA from the Fine Arts Faculty of Baroda in the previous year. We showcase artworks from a selection of the previous batch in conjunction with the final year display at the faculty,” says Nupur.
However, given that the display cannot take place this year, Nupur added that ‘Embark’ will be Gallery Ark’s next digital exhibition and contribute the proceeds towards an art charity.
Is the future of art galleries and exhibitions going to be entirely virtual? While Nupur acknowledges the benefits of a wider reach and the space to take in the art without the pressure of understanding it in the same way or conforming to the popular opinion, she also says that the medium cannot replace the experience of engaging with an artwork in person.
“Some artworks especially require a tactile interaction with the materials or details. Also the human interaction, social gratification as well as the ability to ask impulsive questions and the subliminal effect or mood of an exhibition cannot be replicated,” says Nupur.
Till the time normalcy is returned, Gallery Ark will continue to build on its digital capabilities, strengthen its audience outreach, and provide an opportunity for art lovers to view exhibitions from the safety of their home. The gallery is now open by appointment only.