Ruby Jagrut tells how the abirspace.com and abirpothi.com ideas germinated during the lockdown and became a reality, despite many worries and obstacles
I have always recognised myself as an artist who is passionate about natural dyes. The smell of dyes and jars full of tree barks and minerals in my studio is my familiar domain. I identify with that.
When I started Abir with its annual First Take show to celebrate works of young artists, my vision was to celebrate art beyond me. Bringing artists together was the idea. It gave me immense satisfaction that I was doing my part. Everything was around Abir and First Take was an extension of this endeavour.
Collecting artworks and talking to eminent artists to come and pick the best of the lot, and spending time with the jury was like festive lunches and elaborate dinners where we conversed about art. It was something I could never get tired of. I was so engrossed in the process that I had no issues with the chaos around the First Take exposition.
Last year when I had to cancel First Take I said to myself that this too shall pass. This gave me the opportunity to introspect and work more. When my server crashed once, we ran the risk of losing all the works that artists had sent to us, along with their details. Some wanted to just share their work and some wanted help find buyers. They trusted me. I felt humbled but I didn’t really know how to help. I was doing a couple of online courses during Covid as I wanted to divert my attention from all the depressing stories we were surrounded by. I was trying hard to ignore them, but the more I tried the more I felt the urge to do something about it, though I didn’t know what and how.
Taking Abir online was a good idea. Perhaps even an ambitious one for someone who only knows how to use email.
I felt that it would be a good idea to have a solid online presence. Since I had never done an e-commerce gallery, it was all a blur. There were a thousand things I had never heard of. There were fears about how to maintain the sanity and sensitivity of art on such an impersonal medium. I have always worked alone. I didn’t know where to find the right people. I just had faith in goodness. If I have the right intention, the right people would come along at the right time. I strongly believe in that.
It has been one month since I started abirspace.com and abirpothi.com. It was not easy. I wanted to be sure it was not an emotional decision. We asked around 600 artists to take a survey. The results were a big eye-opener. It helped us see the gap which I felt had occurred due to Covid, was not just circumstantial. It had always been a harsh reality for artists of the hinterland. They never had a place to exhibit and sell their works easily. Only a few lucky ones got opportunities in the early stages of their career. The survey revealed that 98% of artists from smaller towns had a great deal of difficulty in reaching out to buyers.
I thought abirspace.com would give them that platform to showcase and sell their artworks. I started building a team. Though I didn’t exactly know who was the right person for the job, I followed my instinct and started to learn the intricacies of this new universe. Technical aspects, legal formalities, movement policies and GST compliance, along with agreements, were things that were not an issue in the First Take exhibition, like it was now.
We trusted each other but everything was Greek to me. I would stay up late to learn various terms and understand them so I would be able to deal with them. Failure was not an option. I had to do it. abirpothi.com came along and became the voice of those who had remained unheard till now. A few good people helped and showed a lot of faith in me. I can’t thank Veer Munshi enough for being the first curator for abirspace.com. I needed validation for my young artists. Vasudev Akkitam also said that whatever and whenever I needed any support from him he would be there for Abir.
The journey started in the month of October when the idea of abirspace.com was taken to the drawing board. The way it took shape was a surreal experience for me. So many artists sent in their works. It was their trust in me that gave me a lot of courage to go ahead. It was a new universe, a new language and new technologies, but I did it anyway.
We are new and we shall keep improving. There is a lot to hope and aspire for. Not only for me, but all the people who believed in the idea. I just want to live up to their expectations. That’s my constant concern but I am not worried anymore. I guess I have learned the new language and now I am even humming in it, effortlessly.