From offline to online: how Vadodara’s Gallery Ark empowers artists and inspires audiences in the pandemic era
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.
Founded in Vadodara in 2017, Gallery Ark is housed in a building called Ark, designed by the architect Aniket Bhagwat. The launch of the gallery was a natural progression of the passion and art patronage of founders Seema and Atul Dalmia for over a decade.
Its aim is to promote the accessibility of contemporary art and bring a sense of identity to the growing artistic community of Vadodara. The space has also become a cultural hub for hosting exhibitions, performances, and multidisciplinary collaborations.
Over the last three years, Ark has hosted 13 curated exhibitions featuring established and emerging artists. It has also organised lectures by academics like BN Goswamy, Kavita Singh, and Tapati Guha Thakurta. 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.
The coronavirus pandemic has adversely impacted the art industry, which thrives on physical spaces, activities and experiences. The lockdowns and slowdowns have been a time of introspection and adaptation for art institutions around the world.
In response, Gallery Ark has launched two digital initiatives. The third edition of its annual exhibition with MSU Faculty of Fine Art, titled Embark III, was held entirely online. Another recent initiative was a 3D virtual model for the exhibition, A Voyage of Seemingly Propulsive Speed and an Apparent Absolute Stillness.
“Gallery Ark was founded by my parents as an extension of their love for art and belief that art has the potential to create a more inspired society and hence, must be shared,” explains Nupur Dalmia, Director of Gallery Ark, in a chat with YourStory.
She took over as the gallery’s director just over a year ago, and carries with her much of the same founding values. “Through our programme, we spotlight exciting practices and create a platform for deeper thought and questioning on art and cultural legacies,” she adds.
The gallery’s exhibition programme is complemented by a series of immersive workshops, lecture series, and live performances. “The new realities brought on by the pandemic have put a spanner in our usual programming, but we have endeavored to adapt to the circumstances with dynamic online offerings,” Nupur proudly says.
Virtual offerings include the Online Viewing Room and the 3D exhibition view. This gives viewers a virtual experience of the art exhibitions through an immersive digital buildup of the space and the art.
“We have worked to turn this sobering situation into an opportunity to innovate our long-term vision and programme, create engaging content, and touch audiences we may not have if we were not compelled to investigate alternate avenues,” Nupur explains. The gallery is a privately run entity, but is always open to and welcomes government initiatives.
She calls for greater art awareness and appreciation in society. “Education and demystification are the two complementary components that can create an appetite for art and culture. The perception that art is an abstract, aloof world needs to be dismantled and this can be done most effectively through education and awareness,” she emphasises.
There is ample potential for fun and creativity in the art appreciation process. “I am happy to see that this belief is an increasingly popular one within the art world, with an ecosystem of art educators and outreach experts being given the space and resources to build this up,” Nupur adds.
“We need to take the veil off cultural spaces and make them inviting for all so we can nurture inspired and thinking citizens in our country. We are all the richer for it,” she enthuses.
Nupur also offers words of advice for aspiring artists, urging them to develop skills beyond their artistic latent. “Besides the obvious foundations in technical ability, critical theory, and art history, having strong communication skills to articulate one's practice with clarity across digital platforms is a major asset and is becoming increasingly important,” she observes.
“I also think art schools should empower a young artist to have the confidence to experiment and question the boundaries of media and conceptual thought. A healthy grasp on transferable skills such as web design or a fundamental understanding of the art market always helps,” Nupur signs off.
Now, what have you done today to pause in your busy schedule and find new ways of expanding your creative core?