Artists say Venkatappa Art Gallery will not be affordable if it is given to private companies for restoration.
The Venkatappa Art Gallery remains vacant due to lack of facilities and poor infrastructure. No funds have been allocated for its restoration by the government. Artists say that when the gallery officials rent the hall and gallery they don’t make any arrangements for the exhibition and artists have to arrange everything by themselves.
Smitha Cariappa, a painter said the officials from the gallery had stopped renting the gallery to the artists for shows but from past few months they allow only if the artists take full responsibility of the shows.
“ It is in a very bad state with no electricity, or spotlights for show casing the artworks, no pedestal for a sculpture show and dysfunctional toilets, considering the fact that a lot of tourists visit the place as the Museum is adjacent to it” she added.
Paramesh Jolad another artist closely associated with the Venkatappa Art Gallery said that, “The officials were not renting the gallery to the artists in the name of renovation.”
To bring the problem to government notice, Paramesh held two shows in September and December by signing an agreement which said that he would take complete responsibility of the property and not blame the officials in case of any damage. Since then they have they are allowing the artists to use the space he said.
He said that a few years back the government wanted to demolish the gallery and give it to a private company to build a museum but the artists from all over Karnataka protested so the plan was withdrawn.
Smitha added that this is a place where most budding artists begin, as it is pocket-friendly and unlike other galleries this gallery provides democratic space for the artists as there is no curator but artist that conduct the shows curates it.
Many artists agree that the gallery is affordable for artist coming from rural Karnataka, and there are not many government galleries in the state. it is located at the Center of the city with beautiful landscape surrounding along with the Museums so a lot of people and tourists apart from the artists visit the place.
An official from the Art gallery said that the gallery has not been renovated since a long time due to lack of funds. “We only get limited funds from the Ministry of Tourism for basic expenditure like electricity bill, telephone bill etc, but for renovation huge amount of money is required,” she added.
“The artists prefer this place as the rent is only Rs. 500 per for a day for solo show and Rs. 750 a day per day for group show, but we had stopped renting it out due to lack of facilities, and have started giving it on for rent again due to the protest demand from artists but they have to make the arrangements for lights, sound systems and other things,” she said.
The official said that five years back they had planned to give it to the Tasveer foundation but the artists did not agree as it would be expensive for them to rent it out. She added that they plan on to hand over the gallery to the Brigade group for a period of five years for renovation and maintenance after which the gallery will be returned to the state again.
“We have spoken to the private group Brigade foundation and they are willing to use their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) fund to renovate the gallery, they will begin the restoration work shortly,” said the director of the Department of Museums added.
He said, that two to three crore rupees is required for the restoration of the gallery as major changes have to be made. A proposal for funds had been made to the Ministry of Tourism and they have allocated Rs.8 crores for the restoration of the Museum.
G Jayakumar, retired Visual Arts Professor from Bangalore University said that, the government should take an initiative to renovate the place and the administration should take suggestions from the artists to make changes in the gallery. He added that if the gallery is privatized, artists coming from rural areas might not afford to do a show there.
“The spirit of the time can be captured through contemporary art and culture, so the government should to take effort to preserve and renovate the galleries and not hand it out to the private companies,” he added.
Venkatappa Art Gallery is a 40 year old state owned gallery on the Kasturba Road which displays works of artists in Karnataka and also other modern contemporary artists’ works. The gallery also hosts exhibitions where artists can rent the space to display their art.
There are not many government art galleries in Karnataka and commercial galleries are mainly for established artists.