We have this year established, through opening the largest commercial contemporary art space that the Sri Lankan contemporary art scene is one to watch. Looking back at the former SFG (Saskia Fernando Gallery) o Dharmapala Mawatha, we have come a long way in these five years in the art scene that is seeing more gallery opening every week and more up-and coming artists emerging from both the art and design schools. It is however without question that there have been others before us no art scene can thrive without a good group of galleries and art patrons to support it.
The Heritage Gallery was establishes by Mr.Ajitha de Costa, a patron of the arts, in a building that was previously known as Mariposa, on Dharmapala Mawatha. The Gallery was set uo in October 1996 and de Costa was himself an important force behind the Heritage Foundation and Gallery.
In 1998 Shanth Fernando opened Paradise Road Galleries. What began to change through Paradise road was the documentation of exhibitions. Fernando printed catalogues for each and every show, the format remains the same, the size the same and only the colour of the cover changed. The catalogues are today collector’s items and they are some of the few archived material of Sri Lankan contemporary art.
Looking back on the history of the art scene, a little bit later than the 43 Group, the Colombo Gallery opened in 1967 and remained open untill1971. It reopened 1991 as Gallery 706 and later became known as Barefoot Gallery, the name it holds today. This gallery is known to present exhibitions continuously on both artists working solely through the gallery and also as a hirable exhibition space.
In these three galleries that truly made their mark on the history of local contemporary art scene and paved the way for a new generation of middlemen that exist today. At the new Saskia Fernando Gallery, located diagonally opposite the Institute of Aesthetics, there are now three separate sections. The ground floor gallery is the exhibitions space as well as a sculptor gallery outdoors. On the first floor the gallery aims to present new media next to the viewing gallery that will continue to display works by various artist. In this gallery we will also aim to present events that merge creative industries and act as a platform for young creative talent.
What I believe has change are the borders between countries that have long separated the Sri Lankan art scene from the world. We are today listed among others in the South Asian art scene and acknowledged by the world as one to watch. While it is the art and the artists who make up an art scene there is no question that it is the exhibition spaces and presenters of their work that build a bridge for others to cross.