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Kalanand 2024: This art exhibition in Mumbai highlights a diverse group of emerging artists in India

Updated on: 05 March,2024 08:50 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Shriram Iyengar |

The Kalanand 2024 exhibition by the Prafulla Dahanukar Arts Foundation seeks to highlight a diverse group of emerging artists, and art forms from across the country in a three-week-long showcase

Kalanand 2024: This art exhibition in Mumbai highlights a diverse group of emerging artists in India

Rohan Pawar’s Hide and Seek, brass

Art has always survived and thrived thanks to patronage. There would be no Leonardo Da Vinci without the Medicis, or Raja Ravi Varma without the Maharaja of Baroda. Yet, in a world driven by influencer strategies, finding a foothold in a prominent gallery in the city can be difficult. For Gauri Dahanukar Mehta, daughter of late artist Prafulla Dahanukar, and trustee of the Prafulla Dahanukar Arts Foundation, this is the objective of the annual Kalanand Grants.

“We provide a platform to artists, helping them find patronage and support them through CSR funds,” she explains. The exhibition returns to the Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum in Byculla for the second time since 2019, and will host the works of 25 artists from across India. Established in 2014 in the name of Prafulla Dahanukar — one of the most prominent names in modern art — the grant supports and encourages emerging artists while offering them a chance to exhibit their works in a city like Mumbai.

Contraption, woodcut, by Tukuna Dakua
Contraption, woodcut, by Tukuna Dakua

Director of the Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Tasneem Zakaria-Mehta, adds, “We are pleased to partner with the Prafulla Dahanukar Art Foundation and Kalanand for the second time since 2019, to exhibit the works of winners of the contest and provide a platform to encourage upcoming artists.”

Gauri explains, “You cannot imagine the needs of these artists. I remember one of them coming in from Manipur telling me, ‘Ma’am, we can now buy our first easel.’ Another time, a young girl from Jharkhand brought her mother along, and she thanked us because the grant had changed the way people in her community looked at the girl’s work. It might seem simple to us, but not to them.”

The grants are awarded in two sections — the All India Grant and the Merit Grant. In each case, the artists receive 100 percent of the remuneration. These works range across genres such as painting, drawing, printmaking, ceramics, sculpture, and tapestry. “The whole point of the programme is to give financial strength to these creators. These artists lack exposure, access and even presence at many of the gallery spaces,” she says.

A view of some of the artworks at the Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum
A view of some of the artworks at the Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum

One such artist is Odisha-based Tukuna Dakua, whose printmaking works earned him the All India Grant. Having tried before in 2021, Dakua explains, “I wanted to get through this time. It is special to have a chance to exhibit in Mumbai.” One of his works, Contraption, showcases the contrast between humanity, machinery and the consequences of technological progress. “It reflects society,” Dakua says, adding, “Quite how we are taken by the visuals today, ignoring everything around us.”

For her sibling and fellow trustee Gopika Dahanukar, the foundation is inspired by the legacy of their mother, Prafulla Dahanukar. “She always felt that the artists who came from the smaller cities should have a platform because they needed a voice,” Gopika remarks.

This connection between a senior artist and younger novices is something they grew up witnessing. “I remember artists such as Sunil Mahajan walking in to meet her in the Bombay Arts Society at Jehangir Art Gallery. Back then, he was creating ballpoint portraits. She would sit down and note places where he could improve, or share the works with others.”

She recalls it as a time when art was the driving motive for most creators. “At the time, she [Prafulla Dahanukar] was at the Bhulabhai Desai Memorial Institute, the idea of art for art’s sake was at its peak. It was a celebration of creative expression. On a given day, there was Ravi Shankar with Kinnara, there would be Ebrahim Alkazi working on a production, Tyeb Mehta or another artist would be working on a project simultaneously,” she recalls.  

Siblings Gauri Dahanukar Mehta and Gopika Dahanukar
Siblings Gauri Dahanukar Mehta and Gopika Dahanukar

Things might have changed, but the need for cross-genre pollination remains. Gauri states, “In addition to the patronage, the exhibition allows artists from different parts of the country to interact and discover new things. Each will inspire the other, and perhaps, spur a new element of creativity. That is what art, culture and music is about; elevating the spirit and the mind,” she concludes.

From Today, till March 24 (except Wednesdays); 10 am to 5.30 pm
AT Special Projects Space, Museum Plaza, Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Byculla. 
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