Artists are often accused of being romantic escapists, who prefer to live in a cocoon of creativity, but after W.H.O declared COVID19 a pandemic with a rocketing number of people being infected by Coronavirus, new solidarity is seen amongst people in the art world in these moments of crisis and panic. The stalwarts of this field continue to
display an exemplary attitude and efforts to come together and support each other. Saffron Art, a leading international auction house conducting live and online auctions of modern and contemporary Indian fine art, antiquities, design & jewellery conducted an online COVID relief fundraiser auction in association with three prominent NGO’s, Goonj, Youth for Unity and Voluntary Action (YUVA) and Stree Mukti Sanghatana (SMS). “Art has the power to drive positive change. As we do our bit to support organisations doing this important work, we hope to see the community rally for the cause and help those most affected by the crisis, to rebuild their lives” reiterated co-founders Minal and Dinesh Vazirani to a leading daily. Furthermore, another leading online gallery StoryLTD was seen holding an online auction on 20th April offering a wide range of illustrative work by the late Mario Miranda and on 28th April a vivid presentation of premium jewellery. Sotheby’s, one of the world's largest brokers of fine and decorative art, jewellery, real estate, and collectables stood up to the expectations its clients even during this time and brought a series of online auction profuse in a wide range of coveted luxury products.
With technology facilitating the possibilities of bringing the art to the art lovers and art collectors; artists from international, national as well as local level are all set to redefine the process of presentation and display of their artwork. One can see a stark contrast in the status quo of artists today to that of the artists a few decades back. A senior artist Ms Rekha Rao recalled her time as a student and shared that artists in previous years have seen more testing times when even a small change in the political, environmental or social climate of the artists meant a complete upheaval of the daily schedule and disruption in the exchange of the creative flow, but today art lovers can take virtual tours of the galleries and cherish the glimpses of artwork by their favourite artists “Now, the knowledge of art is different; it is more widely spread, more easily spread”, she quoted. Aicon gallery from New York has bestowed the art lovers with a fortnight-long virtual exhibition of 3D art by Rasheed Araeen and a short film by artist G.R. Iranna. Social distancing might have made organising events and shows difficult on the contrary social media has opened windows for new possibilities. Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, KNMA provided ‘a treat of pure creativity, fun and laughter’ to art and literature enthusiasts, through a storytelling session that went the life of Facebook. Another gallery situated in the national capital, The Shrine Empire Art Gallery, organises an online exhibition, ‘Speculations On a new World Order’ displaying the fears and hopes of ten different artists. Crowded shows at amphitheatres and leisurely walks in galleries are substituted now with virtual visits and video conferencing.
Artists have always been rapidly adapting to such adversities. Be it the outbreak of malignant diseases like HIV and Ebola, plague pandemic of the1920s, the Spanish Flu-an influenza pandemic of 1918 or the two world wars; artists have always remained resilient towards such issues and have shown a subtle criticism and empathy through their works. Arnold Bocklin in, his well-known painting titled Plague (1898), has shown death as a potent force, a winged creature, sabotaging the human race with power. Another work by Egon Schiele, The Family, 1918 and the self-portrait of Edvard Munch, 1919, shows the close encounter of people with death, their helpless and supremacy of fate. During these difficult and uncertain times when we all are under forced confinement, more and more people are trying to move inwards to develop their own aesthetics. In such a situation, the role of art expands from being an element of appreciation and aesthetic to a healing source.
Mental agility of the artists these days has enabled them to see this period as an opportunity to revive their work, do away from creative idleness and get the genius back at work and a prospect for better and meticulous planning for the future. The art world had long been hoping to maximise its buyers and admirers online, this time conducting auctions and shows became the only alternative. Bose Krishnamachari, the President of the Kochi Biennale Foundation, shrugged away the idea of postponing the Kochi-Muziris Biennale this year. However, the organisers have reached out to their audience taking assistance from social media and have started posting their work on Facebook and Instagram. “Art and culture can cure. The biennale gives a sense of hope to the local communities and the artists. Hence, we decided to showcase the work of our artists to our audiences through Instagram and Facebook,” he shared with a media house. One should not be looking at the immediate picture. An Artist is always in liberated isolation, turbulent times like these come only to fill them up with vigour, with a new drive to strengthen their willingness, to implement innovative practices in this brave new world.