Art News & Views

Master Stroke

The Gallery as an Experimental Space

With the recent global melt-down recovered to a great extent, India is being forecast as the next new horizon. The arena of art activity is also slowly waking back to its invigorating self, brushing away the intermediate slumber. New and lavish spaces of art activity are being opened up all over the country. One such space in Kolkata, has been the Harrington Art Center. The opening not only saw a small galaxy of artists of national stature, but also followed with a day of invigorating panel discussion on art. The following is a brief note I presented on the occasion.

The concept of a gallery space is simply a product of the industrial revolution in Europe, during the middle of the 19th century. Large populations were moving into the new cities that were rapidly growing. Mechanical reproduction led to the availability of large quantities of produce, and thus the flavor to consume. This also marks the time of creation of 'new wealth’ the rise of the neo-bourgeoisie. This tangentially led to the formation of the grand art salon's in major economic power centers of Europe, and could be read as the first step towards marketing of art in the way we understand it today, a label of 'exclusivity' attached to a product.

The concept of an alternative to this newly created “gallery space” formed with the exclusion of Gustave Courbet from the annual saloon Exposition Universelle in the year 1855, who in defiance, addressed the audience independently displaying his work in a temporary structure outside the salon.

This could be also read as the first step towards defining the concept of private and the public space in contemporary times. Though it is understood that the concept of private and public space has changed through time, its state of operation remains to depend entirely on the specific social, economical and political environment one chooses to refer.

What we are addressing here today is on the one hand, the question of space and its social positioning, and on the other, the dynamics of the said space and how one could extend/expand within the given parameters.

The white cube, though most commonly a private space by virtue of ownership, becomes effective only when it turns into a public space, as this particular space did yesterday. But the larger question is, how does a private-turned public space become effective?

It is important to remember that white cube has its extensions not only as gallery and exhibition spaces, but also as museums. It is also widely known that artists have turned their private studios and living spaces into public spaces, challenging the dynamics of the white cube.

It was as recent as the 1960s that the term “public sphere” was coined. It is important to distinguish between “public space' and 'public sphere'. The public sphere, though most often used to refer to a particular site or location, it is important to remember, does not refer to an actual place, but rather to a more abstract quality. In reality it is not a place. It is an idea that is dependent on various social and economic factors, and linked to various terms and concepts.

Beyond the white cube and the public sphere, there is the invasion of the virtual space today. If the idea is basically to communicate, the click of a mouse is capable of opening up unending avenues. The presence of the white cube, or the public space and their associated logistics is completely obliterated in this case.

With the opening up of the global market, post the fall of the Berlin wall and the abolition of the Soviet Union, the free flow of international capital certainly gives immense potential to the white cube. But as in the case of state and private museums, the white cube only becomes effective if it addresses the issues that are constantly becoming important in the public sphere, making space for conceptual paradigms that can stimulate and generate public consensus.

  Chhatrapati Dutta 




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art etc. news & views is a monthly magazine published from India in order to promote art and culture. It intends to raise awareness about art all around India and the world. The magazine covers art exhibitions, auction highlights, market trends, art happenings besides Antique, Collectibles, Fashion, Jewellery, Vintage, Furniture, Film, Music and Culture.