Fresh Coat of Paint

Lalit Kala Akademi chief Uttam Pacharne proposes more regional centres, buying new works and promoting traditional art and women artists

Finally, there is peace and quiet at India’s most prestigious state-run art body. After three years of being headed by interim administrators – four in all – and cases pending with regard to corruption, mismanagement and allocation of funds, the Lalit Kala Akademi, flagbearer of Indian art, has got a new Chairperson in the form of internationally acclaimed artist and sculptor Uttam Pacharne. A graduate from Sir JJ School of Art and three-time chairman of the Bombay Art Society, the 61-year-old’s tilt for Indian arts is too well-known and he seems clear about his views on art and its role in nation-building. As we take our seats and settle down for an interview, he’s quick to deny that he had any idea about his name being considered for the post of the Akademi chief.  “Of course, it is a huge honour, but I had absolutely no idea,” says Pacharne, dressed in a spotless white kurta. “In fact, when the announcement was made, I was in Europe holidaying with my family. My immediate response to the news was that I wanted to head back to India and take charge.” He seems to be hands on with his new job, but pointedly prefers to be called an artist. This is very important considering the premier arts institution, which far from promoting arts, had become the abode of charges and counter-charges between artists and bureaucrats. “Only an artist can understand the problems of other artists. Since I have been a practising artist, I can relate with their needs,” he says. Wearing an effortless smile, he does not really wait for the questions. “Art is self-research, it is not just a decorative pattern…it is science. A single painting is like a complete granth. For example, Mona Lisa or Black Princess of Ajanta, all have sustained through centuries,” he says gleefully. However, Pacharne, whose notable works include several busts of Swami Vivekanand, Bhimrao Ambedkar, Veer Savarkar and Chhatrapati Shivaji that have been installed at various public places across India, is pained at the fact that art education in our country is focused on Western art masters and practices. He rues the harsh reality that we have not been able to popularise traditional and folk arts the way they should have been. “Not many traditional art followers are there today,” he says. “That’s why I have proposed setting up of more regional centres of the Akademi to benefit local artists,” he adds. With eight Lalit Kala Academy centres already in the country, Pacharne reveals there are plans to have a sub-centre each in Mumbai, Indore, Guwahati, Simla and Bengaluru. A full-fledged centre in Patna to promote the local and traditional arts is on fast-track. “As soon as the land is permitted, the target is to complete the Mumbai and Indore centres within a year,” he says. “We also hope to exhibit the works that are in our collection at frequent intervals. For this, I will be proposing permanent galleries across India.” Pacharne says buying new works is also on his agenda. “When we conduct workshops with artists, at times the works produced are added to the collection of the Akademi, so there have been regular additions. Digitising and archiving will be looked into,” he says.

Pacharne is happy that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a big supporter of Indian art and the PMO has requested the Akademi to deck up his office with Indian paintings. “We have sent 10 paintings of tribal art form which we had procured from the tribal art camps held earlier,” he tells us. “Most of the paintings are from the National award winners. Some are from winners as recent as four-five years back, while others are painted by veterans who had won the awards 20-25 years back,” he discloses with a twinkle in his eyes. Lamenting the fact that no Triennale has been conducted from the past eight-nine years, Pacharne says he had big plans for the event, which will be a mega show and one of the largest in the recent history of art. “As I said, we intend to continue with platforms that benefit artists and the Triennale is an important event. We have invited 100 countries and expect at least 50 countries to participate. The Centre and bureaucrats like Shri Raghvendra Singh, Secretary, Culture Ministry, and Smt Nirupama Kotru are all taking active interest and a leading part. They are offering a lot of co-operation to make this a grand platform for artists to showcase their works and interact with global artists and art connoisseurs,” says an excited Pacharne, adding that there will be camps in tribal arts as well. A major cause of concern, however, for the Chairperson is the development and promotion of women artists. “In a class of fine arts, there are 50-60 per cent girls. While the boys study art and pursue a career in art, most of the girls get married and stay at home, decking up their homes with a few paintings,” he sighs. So, Pacharne suggests, there should be a separate fund for women artists and a separate museum as well to house the works of women artists. As we proceed to the end of the conversation, he introduces us to his beautiful wife who is a sarod maestro. She was with him to attend the inauguration of Vivekanand’s sculpture done by Pacharne on July 12. “In fact, I am very grateful to my marg darshak and guru Ram Naik, who has always been a source of strength for me,” is the parting shot by an artist, ever grateful to his mentors and God. Pacharne’s monumental works are in the collection of several institutions including Lalit Kala Akademi, NGMA, Air India, Lufthansa Airlines, L&T as well as at various places in Maharashtra, Andaman & Nicobar, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and even overseas in Mauritius. Pacharne will hold office for a term of three years.

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