Taking the stage at FIRST TAKE 2021

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The launch of the winners’ exhibit for ABIR FIRST TAKE for 2021 was a warm and celebratory event, which heralded the success of the fifth edition amid a guest list of supporters and friends. We take a short glimpse into the occasion

The inauguration of the fifth edition of ABIR FIRST TAKE for 2021 in Ahmedabad on Friday (November 19) was both a vibrant and buzzing, yet intimate and wholly celebratory event — thronged safely by lovers of art after the long and quiet phase of the pandemic.

Before the diya to open the exhibit was lit — unveiling to the world all the inspiringly creative, painstakingly chosen artwork of this year’s winners — a small gathering took place on the dais. Here, words of appreciation and encouragement were exchanged, both for emerging artists and for the artistic community, and Abir India’s place in it. Respected luminaries in the field of art also held forth on the massive effort that led towards this day.

These also included two of the eminent jury members for ABIR FIRST TAKE 2021, namely artist-academic-curator Kristine Michael and businessman-gallerist Hartmut Wurster, even as jurists KS Radhakrishnan, RM Palaniappan and Vasudevan Akkitham, all well-known artists, sent their blessings to the venue. The former two were joined on the stage by art and fashion connoisseur Umang Hutheesing, and Abir India Founder-Trustee and B Safal Chairman Rajesh Brahmbhatt.

Invited to tell the audience and media a little about their gargantuan mission over the last several weeks (the jury chose 10 winners from a shortlist of 122 out of a whopping 2,500 submissions), Michael noted that it had been wonderful for all of them to see the work and individual voices of young artists, and observe what moves them to joy or sorrow, and how they express themselves.

“Everyone deserves a prize, but we cannot award 2,500 submissions!” she quipped, adding, “As a senior artist, I would say keep working and pushing yourself, and come back next year. You are a part of the Abir family now, and we know you will excel and achieve enormous potential. The world is at your feet, and we believe in you.”

Wurster echoed, “It has indeed been a wonderful and overwhelming experience. This is the kind of effort that makes art amazing, and it has definitely been an enriching participation for me. I would like to congratulate everyone involved for creating this.”

Hutheesing added, “I have been on the jury some years ago, and have been a part of the Abir family for a while now. As an individual and from the point of view of an arts collective, we are proud to be associated with this movement that brings together the country’s young minds to one platform, as also gives patrons and admirers the opportunity to see and connect with these works. This is important for the India that is emerging now, free from the burdens of the old India — made of liberated minds with new ideas. In these artworks, I see hope, dynamic movement and tremendous quality. And it makes me very proud, as it is a celebration of our country.”

A stunning catalogue of the nominees’ works was also unveiled by the judges amid a loud ovation, bringing together the top artists’ work and stories, as well as their journeys of creativity, spaces, colours and imagination. Abir India founder Ruby Jagrut also proudly joined the dignitaries at this point.

With many of the formalities feted already, the moment many in the audience had been waiting for had arrived, and the top 10 winners of the ABIR FIRST TAKE 2021 were awarded for their remarkable talent.

One by one the young artists were called on stage and felicitated, with a short introduction about what they each brought to the table — Jintu Mohan Kalita from Barama, whose artwork engaged with social issues; Asif Imran from Lalgola, who uses the silence of blackness to form a rhythm of his own; Shubhanker Chandere from Pune, who has a unique insight into the transition of urban and rural spaces and landscapes; Mausham Manglla from Vadodara, who brings alive how history and memory are tied to a place; Sriparna Dutta from Hyderabad (Telangana), who expresses a vast spectrum of feelings through her art; Kinnari Tondlekar from Thane, equipped with a stellar artistic academic experience and a flair for printmaking; Priya Ranjan Purkait from Kolkata, who brings the fishing net into his paintings as a metaphor; Rutvik Mehta from Surendranagar, who is inspired by simple and endearing village life and nature; Jithin Jayakumar from Thiruvananthapuram, whose art concerns itself with survival on the planet; and Chhering Negi from Solan, who believes that there are nuances of the extraordinary in the ordinary, which bring about balance.

As the thunderous applause followed, we were joined on the stage once more by Abir India founder Ruby Jagrut, who shared a special and heartfelt thanks with all the people that made this moment possible, from the artists to the dignitaries and audience, and the many building blocks of Abir India, its employees; besides family and friends with their quintessential support.

She also noted, “It is especially after the Covid-19 situation of the last two years that this edition feels like a big landmark. When we had to cancel last year, we received over 400 emails wanting help! But our hand were tied. Now, this year is different. It is very moving to see everyone show up today for this event, and it is a big milestone as we have literally received 10,240 artworks in the last five years from the length and breadth of India. We were amazed when we started counting. Out of 600 artists, we have awarded 42, and it has been a small but precious journey.”

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