ShopArt ArtShop (SA AS) is an inclusive, process-oriented conceptual arts event which takes place every 3 years in a small village, Gunehar, in the Indian Himalaya. It was started in 2013 with the aim of giving Indian artists the opportunity to relate to and work on arts in an wholesome manner outside the confines of usual, urban-centric art spaces. The objective is to demonstrate openly the whole process of creating art from the inception of a concept to the creating of the actual art work.
SA AS artists are chosen carefully through a method we call the 'SA AS method' which initially asks of them to present a concept for their project which then, during an actual 3-week residency in the village, needs to be put to work in front of visitors and villagers, taking into account not only the local infrastructure and logistics but also local sensibilities. The final works are then exhibited during a village-wide art festival.
SA AS is intricately connected to the village, Gunehar, and its people and way of life. The concept of SA AS is very inclusive of the villagers, which makes them willing partners and stakeholders in the project. As an event it attempts the delicate balancing act of keeping the village intact yet opening the village up meaningfully to the 21st century.
SA AS is a project initiated and organised by the 4tables Project which is also based in Gunehar and run by Frank Schlichtmann. Frank started the 4tables project 8 years ago with the aim of creating a space for alternative and meaningful living. The 4tables project has grown from a small gallery and café to now include village beautification activities, restoration of traditional buildings, interactive village activities and, of course, SA AS. The village itself now hosts an Art gallery, an ecological boutique hotel, a fusion restaurant and other infrastructure that has been carefully planned and implemented in a manner not to destroy the fabric of the village yet develop the village into an alternative destination based upon the idea of quality, responsibility and non-destructive development.
About Frank Schlichtmann
Frank was born near Hamburg, Germany, and came to India for the first time when he was barely 4 years old and has been coming back to India on a regular basis. Before a set of coincidences would have him settle down permanently in Gunehar with his little son, Frank has worked and lived in 3 continents: Europe, Asia and America. He has been part of numerous projects related to the Arts, Culture and Hospitality but it was through his settling down in Gunehar and the founding of the 4tables project that he could start putting his vast experience into cohesive practice. Frank chose the village because of its relative ‘unspoiltness’ and also because he believes that in a truly globalized and interconnected world, a small village can be as valuable as any other place. To know more, read interview with Frank.
About Gunehar Village
Gunehar is a small village just off the popular paragliding destination of Bir-Billing in Kangra District, HP. The village lies at the end of the motor-able road and, surrounded by pristine paddy fields, mountains and streams, is the ideal venue for an Arts event. It is culturally and historically vibrant and artists can draw a lot of inspiration from the location. The people are mainly Gaddis or Bara Bhangalis from the interiors of the mountains with many very distinct cultural traits that have been partially submerged through ‘mainstream’ India. Finally, there are a lot of interesting empty shops and large open spaces for artists to work and for the final exhibition to take place. Gunehar is ‘just off’ the main tourist towns around here and as such it is possible for artists to work without much disturbance, yet it is easily accessible to those who are interested in arts and interested in visiting the event.