"This is a very subversive project"

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Segway-like vehicles were also used by the police to keep an eye on the large crowd on Marina Beach.

Despite the hustle and bustle, Rakhi Sarkar is a picture of serenity. All around them, boxes of artwork are unpacked, bubble wrap and post-its with tempting price tags. But it is a scene that Ms. Sarkar is used to directing the Center for International Modern Art (CIMA) since 1993.

Ms. Sarkar is in the city for affordable Mela art, which has been out of control for 10 years in Calcutta and more recently in Delhi, and is looking forward to bringing Mumbaikar's serious art that is also pocket-friendly. From January 23 to 26, the Mela in the Nehru Center in Worli attracts art lovers to the city for four days to buy works in all shapes and sizes from over 80 artists. There will be more than 2,000 works of art available – all under £ 1.00,000. Ms. Sarkar emphatically explains: “This is a very subversive project. Because I undermine everything that happens in a mainstream gallery. "

Ms. Sarkar, a serious art collector, founded CIMA over two decades ago at the urging of the artist community. The impetus was clearly a love of art and a space in the center of Calcutta that was available to the Sarkar family. After traveling the world and studying international museums and galleries, Ms. Sarkar sought the help of Marc Glimcher, who is now President and CEO of Pace Gallery, a modern and contemporary art space founded in the United States in 1960. And was against the name CIMA because he thought it wasn't suitable for a commercial gallery, ”recalls Ms. Sarkar. But is CIMA a commercial space? “Our formatting was designed on the one hand by international museums and on the other hand by art galleries. We are a center that sells too. But we do a lot of charitable work. In fact, 99% of our work is charitable, ”she says.

Rakhi Sarkar, director of the Center for International Modern Art.

Rakhi Sarkar, director of the Center for International Modern Art.

So the Affordable Art Mela is also an extremely serious exercise that aims to spread the love of art. For the Mumbai Mela, Ms. Sarkar says that several younger artists who live and work in and around Mumbai and come from Maharashtra have been identified. Ms. Sarkar likes to display the prices on yellow sticky notes. This is done to reassure both buyers and artists that prices are actually low. “The guarantee is that we will give you the best. It's serious art, authentic, and affordable, ”she says. The idea is to remove the intimidation of the potential art buyer.

Some of the artworks will also have traditional art forms, some with a contemporary twist – but all with a modern perspective. Supported by the success of the Mela trip to Delhi in 2018, Ms. Sarkar chose Mumbai in 2020. It is also a city with which she was emotionally connected when she grew up here.

"Organizing this mela is difficult," she recalls the show in Delhi at The Habitat Center. In Delhi, she says with delight that people from the National Capital Region came to buy art. "They were clearly not collectors, but people who had never bought art before," she says.

CIMA also launched the Art and Heritage Foundation to promote projects in the arts and cultural heritage – nationally, regionally, and internationally – and launched the CIMA AWARD project. The aim of the project is to recognize and reward young artists from smaller cities, metropolitan areas and rural areas in order to be promoted and promoted appropriately for their talent and creativity. Some of the Mela artists are CIMA winners, it is a process that works well – since the art has already been rated by a group of artists.

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