How art engages the digital world during the pandemic: in conversation with Nupur Dalmia, Gallery Ark
Launched in 2014, PhotoSparks is a weekly feature from YourStory, with photographs that celebrate the spirit of creativity and innovation. In the earlier 500 posts, we featured an art festival, cartoon gallery. world music festival, telecom expo, millets fair, climate change expo, wildlife conference, startup festival, Diwali rangoli, and jazz festival.
Gallery Ark was founded in Vadodara in 2017 by Seema and Atul Dalmia, to promote contemporary art and bring a sense of identity to the growing artistic community. Over the last three years, Ark has hosted 13 curated exhibitions (see Part I of our photo essay here).
The gallery has worked closely with the MSU Faculty of Fine Art to showcase promising talent. With permission from Gallery Ark, PhotoSparks has reproduced images of artworks by 22 featured artists in this photo essay series.
The artist lineup includes Alexander Gorlizki, Jyoti Bhatt, Moonis Ahmad Shah, Teja Gavankar, Mahaveer Swami, Vimal Ambaliya, Chottu Lal, Devendra Khare, Ira Chaudhuri, Jean-Louis Raymond, Jignasha Ojha, Madhvi Subrahmanian, Mandeep Meera Sharma, Manisha Solanki, Jethro Buck, Olivia Fraser, Prashant Miranda, Rushabh Vishawakarma, Veer Munshi Walter, Vineet Kacker, Vinod Daroz, and Vishnu Nair.
“We have become somewhat of a cultural hub in Vadodara, with a network of artists, academics, and students enjoying our programming and coming back as collaborators,” explains Gallery Ark's Director Nupur Dalmia, in a chat with YourStory.
She took over as the gallery’s director just over a year ago, and is gratified with the fact that the community around the gallery has grown manifold, including beyond Vadodara. “To be a sustainable and contributing body to India’s cultural ecosystem is immensely satisfying for us,” she proudly says.
“We were able to more or less stay on course with our exhibition programme because of our decision to go digital in the early days of the pandemic lockdown,” Nupur recalls.
The gallery’s recent online exhibitions include Embark III and A Voyage of Propulsive Speed and an Apparent Absolute Stillness. Audiences could access the exhibitions virtually through the Online Viewing Room and 3D Exhibition Model.
“Embark is a part of our annual programme where we curate a selection of young talent. The intent behind the show is to create a platform for emerging artists in the year after graduating from MSU, which can often be a challenging time,” Nupur explains.
With the global pandemic, this anxiety has understandably been exacerbated. “Hence it was imperative for us to be able to bring together this show. As a commitment to our young artists, we have forgone any gallery commission for this show, with 100 percent of the proceeds going to the artists,” she adds.
The works of art were priced affordably, with most under INR 10,000 so as to encourage younger and first-time collectors. The lineup of eight artists for Embark III includes Kavya Kumar Bhatt, Pranay Dutta, Vasudha Kapadia, Ushnish Mukhopadhyay, Mausham Raj Manglla, Savitha Ravi, Sheshadev Sagria and Zarrin-Fatima Shamsi.
Alongside the exhibition programme, an online Artists’ Roundtable was held in collaboration with the digital platform Art Fervour. This roundtable kicked off the gallery’s workshop series Propositions: Methods and Material, in collaboration with the Bengaluru-based publishing collective, Reliable Copy.
Expanding activities into the online realm calls for effective partnerships between traditional art institutes and new-age digital players. “Digital technology and AR experiences are still primarily geared towards digital art. In an art gallery, one would typically find a range of mediums. Conveying the nuances of the visual appeal of a two dimensional painting in a compelling manner remains tricky,” Nupur explains.
She asks: “Perhaps most importantly, how does one translate into the digital format, the profound moment of serendipitous magic that an in-person experience of art brings about?”
The physical encounter with art will always remain an unparalleled experience. “But virtual exhibition experience can be turned into compelling experiences through creative and dynamic interface experiences,” Nupur observes.
“We have realised the potential that digital exhibitions have, to reach out to a wider audience, particularly a younger, digital-first audience that has a tremendous appetite for intelligently presented, interactive content,” she enthuses.
This space seems poised for growth, with digital media firms tuning into the requirements of art galleries and museums around the world. “The art world is meeting the technology world with enthusiasm and energy,” Nupur signs off.
Now, what have you done today to pause in your busy schedule and find new ways of strengthening your connection to art?
Nupur Dalmia, Gallery Ark