Once engulfed in the overwhelming fumes of chemicals, the centuries-old distillery in Vadodara’s Alembic City now brews something entirely new — art and the artists behind them. The discerning eye behind this transformation is Vadodara native Krupa Amin, art collector, patron and founding director of Space Studio.
A graduate from Nottingham University and the Sotheby’s Institute of Art, Amin carries forward the legacy of patronage of the arts that Vadodara has enjoyed for over 200 years, with the support of the city’s royal families. She uses her experience from Osian’s Auction House and Bodhi Art Gallery in Mumbai to support the creative practice of emerging artists through her not-for- profit organisation, providing grants, backing exhibits at high-profile events like the India Art Fair and also offering the online Space Studio-Bicar Writing Fellowship for 10 artists. Most recently, the studio backed New York-based Debmalya Roy Choudhuri’s shortlist for the Louis Roederer Discovery Award, for which his photographs will be showcased at Rencontres d’ Arles this summer.
The old distillery building today is a thriving centre for all forms of creative expression. In fact, there’s “so much character” to the location and its surrounding elements that artists “admit it’s a stimulus for the works they make”. In conversation with HELLO!, this connoisseur of the fine arts lets us in on industry secrets, the transitions she’s noticed, her favourites in the field and much more.
H: Take us back to when you were introduced to the art landscape of India.
KA: I was born and brought up in Vadodara. My mother had many artist friends, so I was introduced to several senior names like KG Subramanyan, Rini Dhumal and Rekha Rodwittiya, among others, at a young age. I began attending exhibitions as a teenager and later pursued the Styles in Art course at London’s Sotheby’s Institute of Art.
H: Tell us about any transitions you’ve spotted in the Indian art world recently.
KA: There have been many more artists working in the contemporary scene in India of late. The ecosystem that supports them is shaping up now more than ever before. Plus, a lot more people are showing a keen interest in educating themselves about art as well as are wanting to collect artwork.
H: Your thoughts on the business of art in India. Do you think the field receives more recognition today?
KA: In the two years since the pandemic struck, there’s been more support foryounger contemporary artists in India. While events such as the Kochi-Muziris Biennale and India Art Fair have been around for a while, we’ve seen more patronage for Indian artists in the last few years, which definitely gets them more recognition.
H: Do you notice any differences between how the art world functions in India and abroad?
KA: While the art and culture in India is extremely rich and varied, the industry abroad is far more structured and organised. There are many more institutions and foundations overseas that support artists. In India, this change has been only recent and very gradual.
H: Which artists do you think have made breakthrough progress since being discovered by your studio?
KA: It’s hard to pinpoint a few since all our artists and their practices are important to us. But to name three young talents who were recently in residence, there’s Farah Mulla, Gurjeet Singh and Priyanka D’Souza. Each of their works involve layers of research and are visually engaging. Over the past two years, they participated in international residencies and even received awards and recognition.
H: Do patrons and collectors today view art with a more discerning eye?
KA: Today, patrons and collectors in India want to know more about the art in which they are investing. It’s no longer just works on the walls for them. Artists, too, are becoming more professional in their approach while dealing with potential buyers. And working with independent galleries means there’s slowly a more structured ecosystem coming into place. The past few years have also seen a rise in art sales online; easier accessibility has led to a younger crop of collectors supporting the larger ecosystem.
H: How would you suggest one go about deciphering art?
KA: First, one should read up on what the artist has been doing in their practice for the past five to 10 years, to get a sense of their work trajectory and the direction towards which they are headed. It’s also important to educate oneself about the history of that particular artform. Though meeting the artist in person, talking to them and getting acquainted with their practice is perhaps the best way to decipher their art.
H: Your favourite museums and galleries are...
KA: The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the Tate Modern and the Barbican Centre in London, and the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.
H: A piece of art that mesmerised you recently.
KA: ‘The Roses’ by American painter Cy Twombly at the Brandhorst Museum in Munich. There’s a sense of composed chaos and lyricism about the roses that’s so true to the abstract expressionalism style of painting I admire.
H: A favourite from your personal collection would be...
KA: An artwork by Rashid Rana. It was one of my first purchases.
H: What inspired you to establish Space Studio?
KA: In 2008, we started as a facility that artists could rent in Vadodara. Though artists here are a dime a dozen, the city offered them few spaces for their practice. The old Space Studio was located in an unused warehouse in the suburbs. When we redeveloped The Distillery and Alembic City, where Space Studio is housed today, we were keen to retain the studio spaces and now run four cycles of residencies, where most of the artists are young and upcoming. We also have an annual artist’s research and production grant of Rs 2 lakh.
H: What’s on the calendar for Space Studio?
KA: We just wrapped up an exhibition of William Dalrymple’s photographs in collaboration with Vadehra Art Gallery. In September, we have a salon-inspired exhibition planned with some of Space Studio’s alumni artists. In December, we’re showing the works of Nasreen Mohamedi in collaboration with the Glenbarra Art Museum.
This story has been adapted for the website from a story that was originally published in HELLO! India’s June 2022 issue. Get your hands on the latest issue right here!