How this Delhi-based platform is making fine art accessible and enjoyable for everyone
The Indian art world has its own cliques, welcoming into its fold only those that create art or those who understand its layered modalities.
To break this long-held exclusivity, Art, Antiquities, and Cultural Heritage Legal Advisor Tejshree Savara teamed up with Arjun Guleria, Co-Founder of design and communication agency Beam & Words, to form The Art Appreciation Society (TAAS), with the aim to simplify the understanding of fine art.
This Delhi-based venture was launched in 2019, curating a walkthrough of the Delhi Contemporary Art Week held that year, as its first event.
With art collectors for parents, Tejshree was exposed to the art world at a young age. Every family vacation revolved around culturally stimulating experiences in museums and galleries, and she credits these experiences for her sustained interest in art, over the years.
Art, Antiquities, and Cultural Heritage Legal Advisor Tejshree Savara co-founded The Art Appreciation Society.
“When surrounded by something with great ferocity and intensity, it is inevitable to fall in love with it,” she explains.
She pursued law as her career of choice, which made it easy for her to marry two skill sets and initiate the art law practice at one of India’s leading law firms, in 2015.
Currently one of the country’s foremost independent art, antiquities, and cultural heritage lawyers, she says, “My designation didn’t exist before I came on the scene. Fortunately, now the need for the enforcement of laws relating to the arts has been recognised. I cannot create art but I can protect it, protect the people that create it, and those who play an important role in the functioning of the art world. My association with art is a love affair that was always destined.”
PR and marketing professional Arjun, on the other hand, had no prior exposure to this world, and was introduced to it by close friend Tejshree, whom he accompanied to art exhibitions over the years. His inexperience sparked off conversations on the intimidating nature of fine art – one that inculcated a fear of judgment at asking the wrong questions, or not knowing who to ask.
Arjun Guleria, who co-founded The Art Appreciation Society, credits his interest in the world of art has to Tejshree, who ‘brought the entire experience to life for me’.
Through these interactions, the duo realised there were others like Arjun, across ages and genders, who had a desire to explore this seemingly out-of-reach world but no knowledge of how and where to begin.
“I genuinely feel that every single person has an associated memory with art at some point of time in their life, even if it was just the art and craft class at school. As we grow older, we are told to approach art as a particular medium or technique, which I think can be quite frustrating, and one of the reasons that people feel art is beyond them.
“I’ve always found contemporary art fascinating, but my interest in the world of art has to be credited to Tejshree. She would patiently talk me through art fairs and exhibitions and brought the entire experience to life for me,” Arjun shares candidly, adding that he wanted others to be able to benefit from the expertise of those who intimately worked with and understood art.
Equipped with a unique idea and without any monetary investment, they launched TAAS together. Tejshree contributes the knowledge of art while Arjun creates a buzz around the events.
The team of two interacts and collaborates with artists, museum and gallery curators and art critics, to conduct their programmes.
Since inception, they have organised curated walkthroughs of prominent art exhibits, hosted expert and artist-led workshops, along with technical and theoretical series, and shared art-related news on their social media channels.
Tejshree says, “We chose Delhi Contemporary Art Week 2019 as our first project because it gave access to art works from seven different galleries in one space, as opposed to just one artist and one gallery. We both felt it was just an interesting way to conduct experiences. The idea was to provide access to multiple thought processes which a multi-gallery exhibit best caters to. From there, we did a collaborative walkthrough at the India Art Fair, followed by a few other exhibitions.”
Dealing with COVID-19
COVID-19 may have hit their plans, but the duo is hoping to grow and curate different experiences “later this year”.
Before and between lockdowns, TAAS events attracted an audience comprising homemakers, professionals, entrepreneurs and creatively inclined individuals from all walks of life to appreciate art for what it is – a marvellous manifestation of the creator’s mind, body, and soul.
Realising the merit in their work, Bhavna Kakar, Founder of Gallery Latitude 28, personally invited the team at TAAS to conduct a curated walkthrough of the 2021 edition of the Delhi Contemporary Art Week, earlier this year.
Some of their most popular events have involved conversations facilitated by dynamic curators like Shaunak Mahbubani, who keep the audience engaged and involved every step of the way.
The co-founders of The Art Appreciation Society at Delhi Contemporary Art Week 2019 with curator Shaunak Mahbubani and an attendee.
According to Arjun, the lively conversations on the background of the artist and their artistic intent, enhances one’s understanding of the work.
“I personally feel that the story behind the art is sometimes as much, if not more, important that the tangible rendition of that process. It gives you so much more context to the struggles of the time, its historical relevance, and the thought behind the work. There are so many works that became much more interesting for me to observe once I had that context,” he explains.
What’s in the future?
Though COVID-19 led to numerous last-minute cancellations of events in the last year, the number of attendees has grown significantly through word of mouth and social media. Most importantly, the art world is taking note of these young enthusiasts and future collectors.
Mandira Lamba, Director of Gallery Blueprint12, appreciates the efforts of TAAS in educating young people on the value of art assets that have the potential to be sound investments, as they become future collectors.
Currently TAAS operates without a fee, and their events and promotions are completely volunteer run. However, the founders may change their model in the future.
Tejshree says, “The Indian art world needs more voices like ours, and we might just consider structuring a more financially sound model for the future, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it!”
Despite the numerous challenges they faced, TAAS has gained a firm foothold in the esoteric world of art, with exciting plans for expansion and growth. They are conceptualising online campaigns that will be accessible around the country and the world, and once the COVID-19 situation stabilises, are planning more events and experiences to understand an artist’s process.
There are also plans to include intangible works of art in the future like music, dance, and film among other mediums.
Arjun sums it up best. “I don’t think you can ever claim to know enough about the art world. And that in my experience, is true for almost anything that you are passionate about.”