It was a day not to be missed. The coming together of art and racing in the ‘City Of Joy’ was a rare day in the history of the 170-year-old Royal Calcutta Turf Club, an organisation that once controlled and administered all the Turf Clubs in India. The unique ‘Art Day’ was the brain child of art collector and gallery owner Vikram Bachhawat of Aakriti Art Gallery. This interesting and one of a kind concept, links Art with Horse Racing and was recently held at Kolkata’s Turf Club (RCTC). Bachhawat’s main aim is to find art lovers among the racing patrons and bringing art camps and auctions within the Turf Club area is certainly a novel idea.

This year there is also another aim.  The Art Day event also raised funds for the Naktala Shilpi Astha, an organisation run by some senior artists to provide free medical support to needy artists and those connected with art. The Art Day, brought together a group of ‘gen-next’ artists at a live art camp held in the open air on the RCTC grounds. The day began with a workshop and camp where painters created their work in the open field adjacent to the racing tracks. They set to work filling their canvases with their varied styles and thoughts under the open sky, even while the horses galloped past —attracting many viewers who left the races to get a first hand view of the creation of a painting.

The Art Day had been planned to take place on Saturday December 9th, but with the weather playing spoilt sport, a decision was taken to shift the event to December 13th. This was in fact the 2nd Art Day organised by Aakriti Gallery, the first having been held in December 2014. The gap of two years, added to the enthusiasm by which this event was received by one and all. It was considered one of the five classic race days of the season and appeared to have brought in a number of persons new to the regular RCTC crowd. The art exhibits attracted considerable attention and two ladies were heard commenting, “Imagine art and horses! This can only happen in Calcutta.” Her better informed friend reminded her, “You seem to have forgotten the artist Sunil Das, who spent hours sketching horses!”

For RCTC, it turned out to be a very prestigious event indeed. The programme included seven races of which two were considered among the major races of the season - the first was the 1600 metres ‘Aakriti Art Gallery Calcutta 2000 Guineas’ race for 3-year old colts and geldings, while the other was a 1200 metres race known as Chisel Crafts Juvenile Stakes — meant only for 2 year olds. However, what is more important is that each of the seven races for the day were Trophy events and the winning owner of each race took home a fabulous bronze sculpture done by leading sculptors and presented to the winning horse and owner by eminent art personalities.

On the art front, the works created on canvas at the live Art Camp by the eight young ‘Gen Next’ artists gave viewers the opportunity to interact with the artists and appreciate the interpretation of the theme of Horse Racing, rendered in their personal styles and techniques. The grounds of RCTC also played host to an exhibition of artworks by a group of leading art luminaries that included Aditya Basak, Akhilesh, Arindam Chatterjee, Atin Basak, Chandra Bhattacharya, Chhatrapati Dutta, Manoj Dutta, Partha Bhattacharjee, Partha Pratim Deb, Pradip Maitra, Pradip Rakshit, Pradosh Pal, Samindranath Majumdar, Samir Aich, Sanatan Dinda, Sekhar Roy, Shipra Bhattacharya, Subrata Gangopadhyay, Sudip Roy Sunil De, Tapas Konar and Tarun De.

The Art Auction commenced after the races were completed and was conducted by popular race commentator Cyrus Madan. The artworks that were scheduled to come under the hammer had been on display at the RCTC. Club House building from 11am, ensuring that prospective buyers could see the works and register their names for the auction. The estimated price for the works ranges between Rs 1 to 15 lakhs — certainly a very reasonable estimate for the works on sale. Among the interesting works was an early landscape by Jogen Chowdhury, a drawing by Satish Gujral, Sudip Roy’s monument of the Colonial era and abstracts by Prabhakar Kolte and Ganesh Haloi. However the most dramatic artwork was definitely Himmat Shah’s a bronze sculpture of a ‘Cobblers Tool’.

The art works included the creations of approximately 40 artists, including some of India’s most famous names, such as Jogen Chowdhury, Manu Parekh, K.S. Radhakrishnan, Jayasri Chakraborty, Ganesh Haloi, Samir Aich, Chandra Bhattacharjee ,Chhatrapati Dutta, Himmat Shah, Jayashree Burman, Ramkumar, Lalu Prasad Shaw, Madhvi Parekh, Paresh Maity, Suvaprasanna Bhattacharya, Prabhakar Kolte, Sudip Roy, Rabin Mondal, Bijan Choudhury, Rameshwar Broota, Samindranath Majumder, Sudip Roy, SatishGujral, Seema Kohli and others.

Cyrus Madan was in his element and ensured that each lot that came up for bidding, found a new home and that too at the best possible price. The sale proceeds of the auction will be equally shared by the Royal Calcutta Turf Club and the Naktala Shilpi Astha. Mr Bachhawat and Aakriti Foundation certainly deserve to be congratulated on successfully creating a new art venue.


Shona Adhikari