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Brushstrokes in the backstreet

How we celebrate and participate in our art festivals says a lot about us as citizens

Romita Majumdar

Bangalore, 19th January 2017

On Sunday, 15th January Bangalore witnessed the 14th edition of the annual Chitra Santhe organised by the Karnataka Chitrakala Parishath.

 The event was marked by cordoning off a 2 km stretch of the Kumara Krupa road where thousands of artists from all over the country descended to exhibit their art work, mainly paintings.

 Three weeks from now, Mumbai will witness its annual art festival, the week long, Kala Ghoda. While both festivals vary widely in scale and scope, one couldn't help but notice the striking difference between the two cities with respect to how the average visitor interacts with the festivals.

Disclaimer: I am a self-confessed Mumbaikar and have regularly visited the Kala Ghoda festival since 2013. This was my first time at the Bangalore Chitra Santhe.

At the Santhe, visitors were staring at the artwork. They were trying to understand what the colors, shapes and expressions meant. Every once in a while a visitor would go up to an artist, who would be sitting right next to their creation, asking them how they created something of such beauty. People were seeking out the artists to tell them how a painting had brightened their day. The artists, sat around, interacting and describing their work or often just indulging in their craft unfazed by the milieu around them.

People in Bangalore not only appreciate art but they purchase them too. Patrons were buying art like they would buy an armchair or curtains. The artwork was destined to sit by their favorite spot in the bedroom or living space like a fond memory or a family portrait. These weren't serious art collectors or critics. These were ordinary people with an aesthetic eye. They were people who weren't there to just ogle at the brushstrokes and forget about them. They wanted to take them home.

This was in stark contrast with art festivals in Mumbai.

 At the prestigious Jehangir Art Gallery or even the annual Kala Ghoda festival, visitors would be hard-pressed to find space to park their feet. Most would be jostling around for a good spot to get a 'selfie'. The paintings usually have preposterous price tags that turn off middle-class buyers from a mile away. The artists? They would probably be somewhere far away from their work, spying from a distance. Magically teleporting on the scene everytime a well-known face enquired about their work.


If you think that social media 'check-in's are just a generation thing, the silver-haired grandpa with a selfie-stick will certainly prove you wrong. Yes, Mumbaikars are social and they don't hide it.

However, as a self-confessed Mumbaikar, one does feel the city could take a lesson or two from Banglore on the 'Art of encouraging Art'. Chitra Santhe certainly gave me a reason to keep my calendar free next January.








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