Vikram Bachhawat: Convoying the Marvel of Indian Contemporary Art to Upper Echelons

Vikram Bachhawat,, FounderThe magnificent art works of the Indian contemporary art market are confined within an echo chamber that isn’t known for granting broad opportunities. The fact that our total sale volume is less than the price of one International work of a master is the biggest proof that our very nascent Indian art ecosystem still needs abundant time to reach adolescence. Albeit everyone in the industry dream of witnessing the rapid metamorphosis of the art ecosystem, only a very few are equipped with all the ingredients required to catalyze the transformation: resources, dedicated passion, innovative spirit and profound knowledge regarding the industry on a global level. Vikram Bachhawat (Founder – Konark Collectables, Aakriti Art Galary Pvt Ltd, Director – Chisel Crafts Pvt Ltd & Bachhawat Farms, and Trustee – Bachhawat Foundation) stands out even amongst these select few, owing to his genuine dedication towards placing the country on the global map for artworks.

Being the scion of Manik Bachhawat, a poet of Hindi literature & invocative art critic, and Panne Kunwar, a painter, the very thing of art & culture was inexplicably intertwined in Vikram’s DNA since childhood. And he has been incessantly augmenting it for the past thirty years by never letting his finger slip from the pulse of industry. It is these idiosyncratic thoroughbred personality & hard-earned industry expertise that has made him the torch-bearer of the industry. He has been empowering artists to immortalize their names in the upper echelons of the world of art, which is manifest from the numerous spellbinding pieces his customers have eternalized in the Hollywood & Bollywood film sets. Today, driving the industry from forefront, Vikram has contributed tremendously towards aggrandizing the creative prowess of the artists by organizing numerous innovative initiatives that brought both fresh and illustrious artists on the same platform.

With Quality, Authenticity and rarity of works in the display as his hallmark, Vikram is appreciated globally as one of the eminent art visionaries from India who has been delivering the Modern Indian art with its inexhaustible contemporary segments and their different experimentations. Maintaining an excellent rapport with seasoned artists, Vikram takes pride in the fact that he has successfully worked with many of the Masters that were or is still around, who have always supported the gallery to the fullest. The fact that the First Husain painting to cross million dollar mark ‘Safdar Hashmi’ was sold through his auction house in 2007, is a badge of honour for Vikram.

But what poises him at the higher end of the spectrum is the pivotal role he has played in facilitating new comers to find their mark through his ground-breaking shows, Bachhawat Foundation & by joining hands with charities. Take his GenNext intiative, which for over eight years on the anniversary date of the gallery, has been providing a platform for twenty young artists after scrutinizing hundreds of them. “Though we gave them a big platform, it was their skill and talent which took them to the heights that they wanted to achieve. Seeing some of them shining brightly in the world of art today gives me immense satisfaction that I was able to locate them at an early age,” says a humble Vikram. As a cherry on top, the reasonably priced GenNext collections lowered the barrier to entry and got a large network of buyers started on the road of art collection.

Carrying Family Legacy to Newer Realms
Vikram’s prowess as an art dealer surfaced early, as he started garnering art & collectables such as vintage Fountain pens, Lithographs, tin toys & cameras at a very early age. Convoying the family legacy to newer territories, he laid the cornerstone of Konark Collectables, a vintage shop, when he was 16, and soon discovered a new collecting area – carnival glass. It is this new expertise that provided him with a spring board that
catapulted him to attain international fame. He boasts the distinction of getting his collections’ references chronicled on the glass reference page of eBay and many other international sites and books including The Carnival Glass Encyclopedia published from U.S. One of the epic moments for Konark was when Glen Thistlewood (Editor, Writer & Expert on glass) covered Vikram’s collection in her magazine and invited him to name some new patterns previously unknown to the world.

Not one to miss out on current trends, all the Bachhawat companies are very active on social media to keep pace with the net savvy generation

In the era gone by, Konark still carries the old world charm which one can still feel strongly once you visit the shop. This explains why this landmark shop has not only been a must visit spot for a lot of foreigners, but also had been the shooting spot for film Directors like Sandeep Ray. Having sold a coat of arms to Spiderman 3 movie in 2004, the gallery’s collections have stamped their mark in the super hero world as well. Unsurprisingly, the shop has also entertained high profile visitors from foreign dignitaries to Members of Parliament, film personalities and so forth.

Wielding Innovation to Magnetize New Buyers
Vikram repeated the feat with Aakriti Art Gallery, a unit of Chisel Crafts. Embarked on this voyage in 2005, the gallery has reached several milestones. A gem on Aakriti Art Gallery’s crown is Masterpieces, a show Vikram has been running with the support of collectors and Gallery friends for the past three years. As the name aptly says, the show displays a large range of top of the line collection of classic works under single roof – a dream come true for most buyers.

Comprehending that in the tight-fisted Indian market where the audience is limited to a certain extent, one must think out-of-the-box and bring original ideas to the table before others can think of it. Initiatives such as Affordable Art Mela is one of the many examples. Came into existence in 2013 via Aakriti Art Gallery, every year, this Affordable September Mela provides its numerous buyers an opportunity to buy senior works at reasonable prices, whereas all the art works were offered for less than Rs.100,000 starting from Rs.1000. And the bump in sales went beyond the halo of these drives, as it has magnetized new breed collectors who get drawn into collecting art which is of great importance as the build-up of new collectors will take the market ahead.

Even when The Indian art industry was hit by the demonetization wave in 2016 and many were sputtering for survival, Vikram was running enthralling shows with novel concepts that magnetized new buyers. “Every sphere of life has peaks and valleys. One should take the lows, just as one rides the highs. If one is certain of the goals you will achieve it come what may,” remarks Vikram. This art juggernaut has conducted some very important solo shows of masters like Satish Gujral, Ramkumar, Sakti Burman and Rabin Mondal, among others.

“The blend of both the young and seniors are very essential to Galleries as it gives us the price range to cater to a wider audience,” adds Vikram. Being one of the flag-bearers of the country’s art revolution, Vikram’s Gallery has run some major shows including A Requiem A Prayer A song curated by Ina Puri, Sakti Burman Sixties to Eighties, The world of Satish Gujral, Ramkumar Lines and Colours, Social and political injustice Trends in Contemporary Art.

In a world where values seldom prevail over fiscal imperatives, Vikram stands unique in sharp contrast by organizing shows that may not make any money, as his passion for the subject gets the better of him. Recently, Vikram, in collaboration with the Royal Calcutta Turf Club, organized an Art Day at RCTC – the next instalment of a unique event he conducted in 2014, where the winners of horses were presented with trophies made of bronze sculpted by eminent sculptors. Having built a habit of raising the bar higher for himself with every project he takes on, this year Vikram took the day further. Apart from what the gallery could give to RCTC,
through auction, it also helped garner a huge amount for Naktala Shilpi Astha, a charity that helps the artist community in times of need.

With a passion for bending the arc of history towards India, Bachhawat Foundation, an NGO and a not-for-profit organization to promote art and literature, was brought to life in Kolkata in 2013 by a Board of Trustees including Panne Kunwar, Manik, Amitabh & Vikram Bachhawat and other members of the family who work spectacularly in unison with complete devotion towards the art world. A cultural hub set in the serene atmosphere of suburban Kolkata, Bachhawat Foundation conducts Art Residency Programs to galvanize & channelize young potential artists who might otherwise go unnoticed. Bachhawat Farms Pvt Ltd, is yet another organization that Vikram spearheads, which as its name suggests is involved in Agriculture, farming and thoroughbreds.

Reaching Rarefied Heights
Where quality furniture is concerned you never can tell who the next buyer is going to be. Nothing proves this statement more than the diversified clients of Chisel Arts, spearheaded by Amitabh Bachhawat, an established furniture designer and the elder brother of Vikram. During its successful ride of three decades in exporting furniture to the U.S., Chisel Arts has ornamented the homes of many Hollywood celebrities including Bruce Willis who purchased a four poster bed and Kevin Costner, who bought an old fashioned European Dresser from one of Amitabh’s major importers British Khaki. Yet another manifestation of the rarefied heights reached by Chisel Arts would be the 200 cross-legged stools it built in 15 days, which beautified the ballroom scene of the Harry Potter movie – The Goblet of Fire. “We are now planning to put ourselves on the Indian map and going full throttle on the local market as well,” reveals Vikram.

Not one to miss out on current trends, all the Bachhawat companies (be it Aakriti Art Gallery, Chisel Crafts Pvt Ltd, Chisel Arts or Konark Collectables) are very active on social media to keep pace with the net savvy generation. Keeping its wide network of buyers & collectors in technology’s warm and lucrative embrace, the gallery frequently keeps them informed regarding the current happenings and also updates its website on a regular basis, not to mention Vikram’s blog – Aakriti Talk Art, which acts as a virtual meeting ground for artists, art collectors, art enthusiasts, critics and connoisseurs. Holding the credit for being the editor of numerous art publications, catalogues & Monographs on over twenty artists, he shares his profound knowledge with the common population as the Editor & conceptualiser of Art News & Views –India’s first & only monthly art magazine that strives to promote art and culture. “If I could play a small part in getting new collectors into the ring who are under the misconception that art is untouchable to them because of the prices, I would’ve achieved a lot,” concludes an impassionate Vikram.

Organizations that Vikram spearheads:
Aakriti Art Gallery Pvt Ltd.
The Art Gallery has been hosting, organizing and curating the best of art exhibitions, workshops, seminars, art-talks & auctions with over a thousand art works by rotation and a fan-base spanning worldwide.

Chisel Crafts Pvt Ltd.
Chisel Crafts has been engaged in the business of art publications, catalogues, monographs, magazines, auctions & symposiums since its inception in 1997.

Bachhawat Foundation
This foundation acts as a cumulative body that brings together a gamut of eminent artists, young rising artists, intellectuals and provide a palette to them for the proliferation and promotion of art and aesthetics in the most dynamic way possible.

Konark Collectables
Konark Collectables neither manufactures nor gets artisans and designers to manufacture, but stocks collectibles which it has procured from all over India; predominantly from the old Calcutta homes.

Headquarter: Kolkata