MYOB: Anubhav Nath

In this edition of Mind Your Own Business, we interview Anubhav Nath, director of Ojas Art, a gallery and an arts initiative; and co-founder of the Ramchander Nath Foundation, a foundation that strives to restore art and promote art as a source of rehabilitation.

Anubhav Nath graduated from the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, after which he did a course at the Sotheby’s Institute of Art, London. He was also a Curatorial Fellow at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

Anubhav wears many hats. He firmly believes in philanthropy through the arts and curated Expressions at Tihar, a first-of-its-kind show based on experiential curation, wherein established contemporary artists visited the jail and interacted with young inmates, leading to a very successful exhibition which is the highest fundraiser initiative ever, for Delhi Prisons. He has also curated an exhibition held jointly between the governments of India and Vietnam held in Hanoi in 2008. His most recent curatorial venture was the much-acclaimed Freedom to March exhibition which was also exhibited at the Gandhi Memorial Center in Washington DC.

In 2011, India Today magazine recognized Nath as “a young changemaker of Delhi”. Besides art, Anubhav is also involved in Delhi’s Ivory Palace, his nearly 200-year-old family business of jewellery and handicrafts.

Anubhav is an avid writer and has written on the commercial aspects of the fast-growing Indian art market for The Art Newspaper and has researched for Art Tactic, both based in London. In India he has written for Businessweek. He is a contributing editor for a blog for the New York and Stuttgart based Maybach Foundation.

A firm believer in mentorship, Anubhav is now a trustee at Salaam Baalak Trust, which looks reaches out to 5,000 street and working children annually.

Anubhav has also been invited as a guest speaker on topics pertaining to Indian Art at institutions like the Crow Collection of Asian Art, Dallas, USA, the Indira Gandhi National Center for the Arts and Delhi and Raza Library, Rampur.

Besides art, he has a keen interest in vintage automobiles and enjoys researching their histories, looking after a one-of-a-kind collection of vintage and historical motor cars for RNF.

Not only are you the director and curator of Ojas Art in Delhi, you are also the co-founder of the Ramchander Nath Foundation. Is this a space you have always been interested in?

Yes. Our main work through the Ramchander Nath Foundation was in Tihar Jail, Delhi Prisons, where we got the inmates to make artworks for healing purposes. Serendipitously, this evolved into a long-term project.

You are an ardent advocate of funding the underprivileged and being a more socially responsible arts organisation through both Ojas Art and RNF. Do you find similar initiatives to be uncommon in India? What would you suggest are a few ways this can become more popular and widespread across cities?

The arts do take into consideration the marginalized and the underprivileged. These initiatives are not uncommon in India, but as there is such a large need and scope for development work in India, that whatever one does feels less. The arts program we have at Salaam Baalak Trust is noteworthy and has really aided in the transformation of lives.

Our work in the sector was especially recognized when we received the International Spotlight Award from the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program, White House, Washington, USA.

You have educational and work qualifications from the United States as well as the United Kingdom. In comparison to their practices (both in the art and legal sectors), where do you find India lacks the most, and how do you think this can improve?

I am not competent to answer this question.  

In your experience, what is the overall awareness of the laws protecting art?

The general awareness is rather low. Forget individuals, even government organizations flout copyright laws unabashedly. Even those who are aware of the laws don’t really take the matter seriously.

Plagiarism and counterfeiting in the art world are not uncommon — how rampant are these is in India, and in what way do artists, galleries and art buyers respond to these situations?

Both plagiarism and counterfeiting exist in the art market, though counterfeiting is a lot less rampant than plagiarism. The three stakeholders you mentioned have different reactions, also depending on their own self-interests.  

As an experienced gallerist, do you feel that Indian art galleries match the standards set in the international market? How diversified and well-curated are galleries in India?

Yes and no. Contrary to popular belief there is more hard work than glamour, and the gallerist has to work very hard, especially considering the lack of proper institutional infrastructure as compared to the west. Indian galleries are participating in international art fairs, and doing joint shows with museums and galleries overseas, so there must be something they are doing right, in keeping with international standards.  

How big of a problem is misappropriation? We have heard of instances where the government and certain political bodies have made unauthorized usage of an artist’s work — based on existing norms in the art scene, do you feel that artists stand a chance when attempting to address such misuse?

Not really. An individual artist has no muscle power compared to a government organization or institution. Sure, technically they can file a case or take the matter to court, but the impracticality of this hinders artists from taking the step.

What are some supportive mechanisms in place to help an artist in this situation?

I feel social media is a platform that may be used by artists to draw attention to things like this, as a lot of government departments are approachable, along with other stakeholders who may be difficult to reach out to otherwise.

Do you believe moral rights need to be looked at with greater attention?

Yes, absolutely, and in all spheres. I believe that rather than getting into legalities, we need to look inwards and also think about the concept of natural justice.

What are some of your future projects, and how can our readers keep track of your work?

As a gallery, we are leaning towards the vernacular arts and it is a great space to be in at this time. We have an annual tie-up with the Jaipur Literature Festival wherein we present a vernacular art form and recognize vernacular artists.

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