My effort is to make art more seductive: Alka Pande

Believing that a great deal of improvisation would be required on the part of art galleries and museums in the post-Covid world, Dr. Alka Pande, Art Historian, Curator, Visual Arts Gallery, India Habitat Centre, New Delhi and Project Director, Bihar Museum Biennale, Patna, who will be part of the webinar ”What Museums Post Pandemic?” by Anant National University (19.30 -21.00 IST) to be held on Saturday, is missing exhibitions in physical spaces.

Though admitting that digital exhibitions seem to have become the order of the day in the face of the pandemic, this recipient of the French government’s ‘The Ordre des Arts et des Lettres’ (2006) adds, “No matter what anyone says, the Internet certainly cannot promise the immersive experience and the flow of ‘rasa’ and ‘bhava’ between the object and the viewer.”

Involved with the world of arts for more than three decades now and a widely published author whose two new books — on ‘Phallus’ and the ‘Shakti Peethas’ are expected soon, Pande stresses that despite some major art festivals which have come up in the country in the past decade, there is space for more. “We definitely need many more. Of course, they can be less flamboyant and more intimate. In a country of 1.3 billion people, all the 28 states and eight Union Territories should boast of a festival so as to ensure community participation in the arts.”

Talk to her about the ever dwindling number of people visiting museums, and little efforts being made by the latter to involve the community, she stresses on the need for museums to organise more outreach programmes. “They must devise innovative measures to involve children, young adults and senior citizens. Why can’t more activities be organised within those formal spaces? Frankly, most of them appear like mausoleums. To get the required traction, they will need to be converted into more interactive spaces.”

Having taught art and aesthetics for more than 20 years, she has always advocated on the need to take art out of the formal space of the white cube into the popular cultural space. “Art has to be made more accessible and not something to be awed with. It is my effort to make art more seductive. It is about pleasure, beauty and upliftment of the senses.”

While across the world, it is private players that are taking forward artistic narratives in their countries, this Charles Wallace award recipient feels that though privatisation is important, but in India, keeping the government out is not really a viable solution. “Let art should be included as part of the engine of CSR. This is not to say that independent cultural foundations or art laboratories are any less important.”

Stressing that it is unfortunate that art is so “devalued” in the country — treated as a commodity to be collected by the rich and famous or a subject to be pursued by losers, Pande adds, “Unless there is a concentrated effort to engage youngsters with art from a young age, how can things improve?”