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Book Review
Leading galleries venture into art publishing
Documentation of contemporary art is critical for its growth and popularity. Unfortunately, there haven’t been many good books available for laypeople owing to the art world’s sheer apathy. Having realized this lacuna, many leading galleries are now consciously working on quality publications. The demand for such publications is now good as the Indian art has grown in stature and the demand has picked up again, naturally linked to the international art market trends.

Several quality books and documentations initiatives are now entering the public domain thanks to concerted efforts by India’s renowned galleries and art institutions. This is welcome since our art scene still clearly lacks in documentation. Art practices as independent individual or community efforts have not been recorded as they should have been. However, things are taking a positive turn, gradually.

Significantly, the world’s leading museums like Tate Modern has started holding books on contemporary Indian art, symbolizing the rising interest in it. Ashoke Nag of The ET Bureau had elaborated on this trend in a news article previously to point out how publishing has now become a major activity for the leading art market players. There are several other galleries now vigorously following the trend and coming with interesting publications.

The informative article revealed how new and existing publications on art trends are now a major activity for many leading galleries and institutions. For example, The Vadehra Art Gallery in New Delhi regularly produces more than a dozen books that cover a range of topics, including historical books on art making, monographs of artists, picture books and an art directory. It conceptualizes these books in collaboration with artists. The aim is to make them as vital historical and research documents.

The Art Alive Gallery has also emerged as a leading publisher of art books. It entered this domain with a publication on veteran artist KS Radhakrishnan in 2004. Since then it has come out with about ten comprehensive books, like ‘A Life in Art: Raza, Faces of Indian Art’ (photographs by Nemain Ghosh). Two of its significant books released this year are ‘The World on a Canvas — A Visual Voyage’ tracing Paresh Maity’s life & art, and ‘Jayasri Burman: A Mythical Universe’.

This activity has been a labor of love for the gallery, as its director Sunaina Anand stated in an interview: “I’ve been personally involved at every stage of the production - from the initial discussions on the books with the researchers to briefing and coordinating with respective artists, writers, photographers and designers. It gives me a great satisfaction in collating and creating something of immense archival value to be read and enjoyed by posterity.”

The gallery has gone for an overseas foray through a tie up with several distributors in Europe, the US, the Middle East, and Asia Pacific. There’s clearly a growing interest internationally in contemporary Indian art. Major art book publishers are looking to focus on it for their readers. For example, French publishing company Albin Michel has already published the book on SH Raza’s works, entitled’ Mandalas’ by Olivier Germain-Thomas along with Art Alive.

The books courtesy Art Alive are available on the galley website as well and on sales sites of invariably all major Indian and international bookstores and. They are also there in The Metropolitan Museum of Art collection. Mumbai based Guild Gallery’s Shalini Sawhney points to a lack of distribution channel for books for international reach so that the artists get proper exposed. The gallery has come out with titles on artists like TV Santosh, A, Ramachandran, KG Subramanyan and Sudhir Patwardhan. Vikram Bachhawat of Aakriti Gallery and Chisel Arts underlines the need for institutional support.

Aakriti has published several monograph on Jogen Chowdhury, Sekhar Roy, Tapas Konar and Satish Gujral. Akar Prakar too has released books on artists Sanat Kar, Sarbari Roy Chowdhury and Amitabha Banerjee, with a couple more in the pipeline. Other galleries to follow the trend are Sanskriti Art Gallery, Galerie 88, Delhi Art Gallery and CIMA that are already into book publications.

For the top galleries venturing into art publishing, the plans are far-reaching and extensive, as the galleries are casting the net wider, literally and virtually.