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Artists join hands to raise money for Covid-19 relief

Soumitra Das | Updated on May 17, 2021

Helping hands: Art works at the auction include a painting by Amrita Sher-Gil (left), Gopal Ghose and Jayashree Chakravarty (right)

Proceeds from Saffronart’s auction to go to seven NGOs

* The Indian art community has joined hands to raise funds to assist with the ongoing Covid-19 relief effort

* Art Rises for India features modern and contemporary South Asian art, donated by 112 artists, 24 galleries from all over the country, collectors, and patrons to support the cause

* The highlights include an untitled work by Amrita Sher-Gil, and a watercolour on paper by Ganesh Haloi, both estimated at ₹8-10 lakh each

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In a statement so typical of the Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher had once remarked: “No one would remember the Good Samaritan if he’d only had good intentions — he had money as well.”

Cynical it may sound but it does have a grain of truth in it, although more than money one needs a large heart, as the actor Sonu Sood has proved. We Indians are not known for our philanthropy, although private and occasional corporate acts of benevolence are not unknown, particularly in times such as these when the State machinery was caught sleeping while the second deadly wave of the Covid-19 pandemic wreaked havoc with the lives of millions across the country.

Not unexpectedly, the Indian art community, which often comes together in times of crises, has joined hands to raise funds to assist with the ongoing Covid-19 relief effort. India’s leading auction house, Saffronart, is hosting an online art auction entitled Art Rises for India — “A Covid-19 Fundraiser by the Indian Art Community” — on May 19-20, wherein 122 artworks are expected to be sold within 24 hours.

All proceeds of the “no reserve” auction, including reduced buyer’s premium, will be donated to grassroots-level non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working for the relief of those afflicted. All lots can be viewed on the website saffronart.com.

Art Rises for India features modern and contemporary South Asian art, donated by 112 artists, 24 galleries from all over the country, collectors, and patrons to support the cause. The proceeds from the auction will be donated to seven key grassroots non-profits — Dastkar, Foundation for Indian Contemporary Art, Goonj, Hemkunt Foundation, Khoj, Street Survivors and YUVA — who are working on the ground to provide medical support and daily subsistence to those in need.

Among the participating art galleries are Vadhera Art Gallery, Nature Morte, Chatterjee & Lal, Jhaveri Contemporary, Akar Prakar, Experimenter, Sakshi Gallery, Chemould Presscott Road, Grosvenor Gallery, Artoholics, Chawla Art Gallery, Dhoomimal Gallery, blueprint.12, Gallerie Alternative, Art Threshold and Gallery Espace.

“I believe this is the time to pool resources to add another drop in the ocean to save lives and to make a difference,” says Reena Lath, director, Akar Prakar.

In April last year, Saffronart — a platform founded in 2000 — conducted a Covid-19 Relief Fundraiser Auction. It held a Kerala flood relief fundraiser auction in August 2018, and partnered with the Kochi Biennale Foundation for auctions to support flood relief (2019) and raise funds for the Kochi Muziris Biennale (2015, 2017). In 2008, it held a charity auction in aid of victims of severe flooding in eastern India, with proceeds donated to two NGOs — Goonj and Samajik Shaikshanik Vikas Kendra. It raised ₹66 lakh in the April auction and ₹3.78 crore at the 2019 Kerala relief auction.

Saffronart CEO and co-founder Dinesh Vazirani said: “We, the Indian art community, have decided to join forces in raising funds to assist NGOs doing critical work at the grassroots level, which includes providing medical support, basic amenities and sustenance to daily labourers, migrant workers, street survivors, artists, artisans, craftspeople, and anyone in need.”

Saffronart, he added, hoped to raise a “significant corpus of funds and do our small part in helping those in need”.

Artists from across cities have joined the effort. Distressed by the way the Central government had “not” handled the pandemic, artist Ganesh Haloi said he’d decided to contribute a work to the auction.

“My first response was I will give,” said Atul Dodiya. In the same vein, Sudhir Patwardan said: “One was so moved by the current situation that one feels it’s one’s duty to help in some way possible.”

The highlights include an untitled work by Amrita Sher-Gil (lot 3), and a watercolour on paper by Ganesh Haloi (lot 42), both estimated at ₹8-10 lakh each; a 2015 oil on canvas by A Ramachandran (lot 47), estimated at ₹7-9 lakh; Gieve Patel’s bronze and wood sculpture Eklavya (lot 25), estimated at ₹6-8 lakh, as well as significant works by Ram Kumar, Krishen Khanna, KG Subramanyan, Thota Vaikuntam, Gopal Ghose and Sudhir Patwardhan.

The contemporary section includes a 2017 work on paper by Imran Qureshi titled When I Thought of You (lot 101), estimated at ₹7-9 lakh; NS Harsha’s Beginning, 2019 (lot 122), estimated at ₹5-7 lakh; a set of two works by Rana Begum (lot 94), estimated at ₹3-5 lakh, as well as works by Vivan Sundaram, Jayashree Chakravarty, Atul Dodiya, Alyssa Phoebus Mumtaz, Rathin Barman, Debanjan Roy, Manish Pushkale, Natessa Amin and Gigi Scaria.

“We are grateful to all our artists who have contributed works for the fundraiser, and look forward to a successful auction,” Arun Vadhera of Vadhera Art Gallery said.

The artists stressed that this was the time for them to come together to help those in need. As Jayashree Chakravarty put it, “The auction is a very valuable gesture wherein artists are uniting for a common cause and helping society.”

Soumitra Das is a Kolkata-based journalist

Published on May 17, 2021

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