| The coffee shop and the gallery at SREI Money Mart. Picture by Amit Datta
Think of a wood-lined and parquet-floored space on Park Street opposite the crossing with Camac Street. It is large, and the huge glass door commands a generous view of the busy street. The lighting is discreet and glows on the polished surfaces. A flight of wooden stairs leads to the mezzanine floor.
The accent is on polished wood here too. At one end is a narrow table with long legs. Long-legged chairs are lined up against the table. The walls are bare for now. Soon, the art work of young practitioners will be showcased here.
A coffee and chai bar is expected to be in operation simultaneously, and the space will buzz with people whose aim in life is not just to make money but to enjoy the good things in life. Art will plug for money, and vice-versa, at SREI Money Mart.
Ideologically, art and money may be poles apart, yet for the sake of survival, there are situations when they depend on each other. SREI Money Mart is better known as the place where all banks and non-banking financial companies display their products under one roof. Headquartered in Calcutta, it has an asset of Rs 1171.37 crore. It started its activities in 1989 to provide value to its customers and shareholders. It is the largest equipment financing and leasing company.
Till now, SREI has been content trying to lure prospective customers to the mall by organising financial melas and promos and getting the best deal for customers from banks.
Now, its wants to increase the drawing power of the mart to raise awareness about its activities through “non-money” dos. It does not intend to flex its money muscle alone. Aesthetic appeal is what it is aiming at. So for the first 10-15 minutes, people will be provided with financial information about the mall. Subsequently, art will welcome them.
In the recent past, SREI had organised a concert of fusion music featuring L. Subramaniam, Jean-Luc Ponty, Billy Cobham and Kavita Krishnamurthi at the CC&FC. As part of this exercise to extend its appeal beyond money matters, SREI is opening the art gallery on the mezzanine floor in Park Street next Friday.
The first three-day exhibition will highlight a group of aspiring young artists. They have mostly drawn inspiration from nature and are former students of the Government Art College. Watercolour is the medium of some of the artists, although others are more innovative in their approach.
Apart from the Calcutta-based artists, the three-day exhibition has attracted artists from Bangladesh and one from Australia and his Indian student. Sixty paintings will be on display.
While these exhibitions will be weekly events, SREI would also like to organise other dos such as book readings and addas, where people from various walks of life will come together. To facilitate discussions on aesthetic and financial matters, the tea and coffee bar will sell short eats. The organisation Spandan has shown interest in organising events there.
For SREI, it is not important that people buy these paintings or other works of art. It is more crucial that people walk into the mart lured by them. Art for mart's sake.