How blank walls became canvasses for India’s first public art district
Reds and pinks, muted browns and greys, and suddenly a blinding expanse of yellow, all peek out from behind lush trees in New Delhi’s Lodhi Colony. This is the newest destination for Instagram influencers. The blank walls along the streets have become canvasses for artists from India and across the world, who have begun turning this government colony into India’s first public art district.
It is a warm Saturday morning that is rapidly moving towards scorch, but there are many visitors. Some stop and stare, wrestling with awe at the sheer scale of the art while also trying to figure out what the artist has intended to convey. Most take photographs, which they will soon upload on social media, and there are two pre-wedding shoots taking place on either ends of the same artwork. “This is just the tip of the iceberg. There was an actual bikini-shoot. The residents were definitely not pleased,” my guide, Manan Khurana, says with a chuckle.
Lodhi Colony was an easy choice for the folks at St+art India, the NGO behind the colony’s glam-up. The area is pedestrian friendly, with lots of open spaces and wide roads, and its unique architecture made it one of the top options for St+art’s mission to bring art out of stuffy museums and into the public sphere. The fact that it was not a gated community was a plus, says Guilia Ambrogi, curator of the Lodhi Art Festival. “We always look for nice walls in the city,” Ambrogi jokes over the phone. “Everywhere we go, we keep an eye out for potential.”
What started out as a three-wall experiment in 2015 gave shape to the idea: the people behind St+art India realised that Lodhi Colony had everything an art district would need. The art expanded to 25 works by the following year. “2016 was when the art district took shape,” says filmmaker and new-media artist Akshat Nauriyal, co-founder of St+art India. “This year’s festival, in which we added another 20–25 paintings, was a celebration of all the work we’ve done in the last four years,” he adds.
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