For many countries, graffiti is viewed in a negative light, often regarded as distasteful acts of vandalism. In India, this isn’t quite the case. Defacing property is, of course, illegal, but people in India have become much more receptive to street art. Many will take up artists on their offers of having their walls painted, seeing it as receiving a beautiful piece of art for free. But even with societal acceptance, graffiti still isn’t considered as a conventional form of art. And thus, the street art scene remained fairly underdeveloped and stagnant. But 2014 became a milestone year for the scene – This was the year that India saw its first-ever street art festival
The 2014 festival, dubbed as St+art Delhi, was organized by Hanif Kureshi, Akshat Nauriyal, Arjun Bahl, Thanish Thomas and Giulia Ambrogi, who all come from different backgrounds. They were united by their love of alternative cultures and a shared interest in wanting to provide people in India a different way to experience art by making it interactive and approachable. The enthusiastic response to the 2014 festival led the five Delhi-based vanguards of creativity to form the St+art India Foundation, a not-for-profit organization that serves as a platform to advance their vision of making art accessible to the public and helps give voice to emerging artists. “[St+art Delhi 2014] was born out of a collective exhaustion from gallery spaces in general and the realization of the immense potential in making art public,” says Giulia Amborgi, festival curator for St+art India. “We saw an opportunity and did the first project without thinking about what comes next.”
来自不同文化背景的创意人Hanif Kureshi, Akshat Nauriyal, Arjun Bahl, Thanish Thomas 和 Giulia Ambrogi共同举办了德里街头艺术节－－ St+art Delhi 2014。他们因为热爱非主流文化而走在一起，
The first mural St+art introduced to Delhi in 2014 was a large-scale mural of Gandhi, which was painted on the facade of the Delhi Police Headquarters. Created by German street artist ECB (aka Hendrik Beikirch) and local artist Anpu Varkey, this piece became the bedrock of their amicable relationship with the Indian government. “We always try to make sure that the images an artist works on are respectful towards the cultural concepts and the many taboos – especially those related to religion – that are embedded in Indian culture,” says Ambrogi. “Therefore, there have been very few occasions of any real problems or resistance by the public. In fact, most of the time what happens is the opposite.” As part of 2016’s St+art Delhi, they even worked together with the Minister of Urban Development and turned New Delhi’s long-neglected Lodhi Colony into India’s first public art district.
With the belief that an artistic exchange is key to begin a dialogue between different cultures, St+art has brought in many international street artists to create alongside local talents over the last three years, including invitees from Spain, France, Serbia, Japan, USA and more. They converse with potential international artists months prior to the project, briefing them on nuanced aspects of Indian culture and describing the location they’ll be working at. “This exchange is fundamental to open up minds and create fluidity in each art piece, for both international and Indian artists,” Ambrogi explains.“We try to make the pieces relevant for the people who eventually are the owners of the work, but on the other hand, we also try to create something that is unique and responds to the environment in which and for which it’s been created.”
Besides Delhi, they brought the festival to Bangalore and Hyderabad last year. “We chose Bangalore for two reasons: on one hand, it’s home to most Indian street artists and is also a fairly receptive city for all things, underground and others in term of art and culture. The other reason is thanks to Amitabh Kumar, one of the artists who is always with us in our festivals and who runs a brilliant project called ‘Art in Transit’ with the Srishti School of Art, Design, and Technology, one of the pioneering art colleges in India.”
“As for Hyderabad, it was the first time in which a state government approached us to do our street art festival,” Ambrogi says. “We found it to be a perfect location. Being the new capital of Telangana, it’s seeking out a new contemporary identity for itself. It’s a city that is looking towards being a smart city, the next big hub for technology and culture. It’s led by open-minded and progressive politicians.”
In every city that St+art has passed through, the reception has been highly positive. But when their projects take place in areas where art and culture are especially lacking, such as Lodhi Colony and ICD in Delhi or Maktha in Hyderabad, they notice a much larger and longer lasting impact. Beyond their original goal of democratizing art, St+art‘s deliberate location choices are attempts to initiate a dialogue about the changes taking place in many of these cities, which include societal issues such urban neglect and gentrification. In October of this year, St+art India will be bringing their festival back to Mumbai; as part of the festival, they plan to invigorate Dharavi – notoriously known as the largest slum in Asia – by reshaping it into an art district much like what they did for the Lodhi Colony. St+art also has plans of introducing urban design and other forms of contemporary art for this year’s festival to provide an even more well-rounded experience for all attending.