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A series of exhibitions celebrates CIMA's 30 years in art

A series of exhibitions, being held across multiple cities, celebrates CIMA’s tryst with art

Detail from a work by Shreyasi Chatterjee
Detail from a work by Shreyasi Chatterjee

Back in the 1950s, V.S. Gaitonde, along with some of his artist friends, went to a prominent hotel to celebrate the sale of one of his large works. The painting had been picked up by an international airline for 150. However, the euphoria died down when the artist got to know that the sale had fallen through. That’s when Bal Chhabda, a fellow member of the Bombay Artists’ Group, and Gaitonde’s close friend, stepped in. He called up his father, who worked in the movies, urging him to purchase the painting. “I saw that same painting in Bal Chhabda’s home many years ago,” says Rakhi Sarkar, director, Centre of International Modern Art (CIMA), Kolkata. It is such anecdotes and experiences that have informed a series of exhibitions, being held over a span of six months, to celebrate CIMA’s three-decade-long journey.

The first of these is '12 Masters’, which can be viewed at its gallery in Kolkata till 20 January, 2024, and features works by the likes of Ganesh Pyne, Arpita Singh, Jogen Chowdhury, Somnath Hore, and more. It allows viewers to get a sense of how artistic concerns and subjects have evolved over time.

The next exhibition is titled ‘Fantastic Realities and Beyond’ and will showcase 36 modern and contemporary artists. It will open in February at the Visual Arts Gallery in Delhi and head back to Kolkata to be viewed till June. While a lot of galleries might have hosted a huge single-city exhibition to commemorate an important milestone, CIMA wanted to make its collection accessible to people from different cities, while also shedding light on all that the organisation does to promote art. “We not only exhibit works of modern and contemporary artists but also host seminars and symposiums on various topics around Indian art. Then there’s the Art Mela, CIMA’s annual event that promotes affordable art and thereby promotes a new breed of art collectors,” elaborates Sarkar.

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There are plans to add more cities to the ongoing celebrations. Lifetime achievement awards will also be conferred on three personalities, who have contributed immensely to Indian art—academic and curator Alka Pande, artist Sushen Ghosh and craft revivalist Ruby Palchoudhuri.

Palchoudhuri was Sarkar’s first art teacher at Modern High School for Girls in Kolkata. “I loved her classes and it is to her and my aunt, Amala Bose, that I credit my initial interest in art.” The series of exhibitions have given Sarkar space for reflection. “If you don’t know the past, you cannot understand the present. You have to understand how artists respond to concerns differently,” explains Sarkar. To create an interdisciplinary experience, the exhibition at the Visual Arts Gallery will include a musical excerpt from Satyajit Ray’s acclaimed film, Goopie Gyne Bagha Byne.

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Accompanying the exhibitions will be a 400- page catalogue featuring a mix of new essays and previously published ones by the likes of art critic-curator Siddharth Sivakumar. The gallery is also bringing out films related to artistic practices. With works taken from several private collections, the series of exhibitions by CIMA brings together the journey of the gallery with that of the artists that it showcases.


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