This mela aims to make art affordable for all

Benita Fernando
cima, Centre for International Modern Art, cima mumbai, cima art mela mumbai, art fairs in mumbai

A work by Anwar Chitrakar

For 12 years, Kolkata-based Centre for International Modern Art (CIMA) has hosted an annual mela that aims to make art affordable. In 2018, the CIMA Art Mela branched out of its home city, expanding to Delhi. This year, the mela comes to Mumbai, bringing with it works by emerging as well as established artists. In a market where paintings fetch crores, the CIMA Art Mela hopes to make art purchases more accessible to a wider demographic. This is probably why the event is called an art mela, and not an art fair.

For four days, CIMA will sell works by over 80 Indian artists curated by the director Rakhi Sarkar. Works by artists such as Arpita Singh, Jogen Chowdhury and Prabhakar Kolte are on sale within the price bracket of Rs 30,000-75,000. Works by emergent artists and traditional art by patachitrakars from Bengal will cost between Rs 5,000 to Rs 75,000.

Sarkar says that the mela aims to break the barrier between ‘high’ and ‘low’ art. One could add that it aims to do the same with ‘high’ and ‘low’ art collectors. Sarkar explains that until the ’90s, 20th-century secular art was supported by the middle-class intelligentsia. Rabindranath Tagore initiated the Nandan Mela in Santiniketan and enabled people to acquire art. But things started changing from the late ’90s.

By 2007, art became restricted to a few drawing rooms around the country and all but vanished from the larger public domain. Sarkar says, “CIMA Art Mela, born out of this concern, endeavoured to reconnect art with the young intelligentsia. Hundreds of veteran and young artists came forward to offer their work at affordable prices allowing art to percolate among a new set of art lovers.”

All the works at the mela are mounted, but about 90 percent aren’t framed. This allows buyers to get close to the artworks and avoid inbuilt framing costs. Sarkar says, “Large-format exhibitions and their formal presentation often intimidate audiences. With CIMA Art Mela, we shed the formal guise of presentation. Art is displayed salon-style, without framing.”

The CIMA Art Mela will be an annual event in Mumbai henceforth. The Delhi and Kolkata editions are slated for April and November later this year.