Kala Pola 2020: A celebration of Sri Lankan Art and Artists

Kala Pola 2020, the 27th edition of Sri Lanka’s annual open-air art fair, turned Green Path in Colombo into a riot of colour, shining a spotlight on local visual artists with a variety of art ranging from breath-taking paintings and life-like portraits to abstract art and intricate sculptures. Presented by The George Keyt Foundation in association with the John Keells Group, Kala Pola 2020 took place on February 23rd along Ananda Coomaraswamy Mawatha, Colombo 7.

The open-air art fair attracted a record 361 registered artists from various parts of the country and an estimated 30,312 visitors comprising a wide mix of local and foreign, school children and adults, generating sales of approximately 18.7 million during the single day’s event.

The chief guest at the official ceremony was H. E. (Mrs.) Rita Giuliana Mannella, Ambassador of the Republic of Italy in Sri Lanka. The event was also graced by The George Keyt Foundation Chairman, Mr. Mike Anthonisz together with Trustee, Mr. Arun Dias Bandaranaike and the Chairman, John Keells Group, Mr. Krishan Balendra, Deputy Chairman, Mr. Gihan Cooray and management of the John Keells Group.

In his welcome address at the official ceremony, Mr. Mike Anthonisz, Chairman of The George Keyt Foundation stated, “For the 27th year, we are seeing a wonderful display of various types of art with more artists participating than ever before. The George Keyt Foundation is grateful to the John Keells Group who have partnered with us for the 26th year to support our artists and provide them with a wide platform to showcase their art.”

Addressing the gathering, H. E. (Mrs.) Rita Giuliana Mannella, Ambassador of the Republic of Italy stated “Kala Pola is a wonderful annual event, that brings together artists from all over the country and it is a celebration of ART, and of the love of ART.” Noting Italy’s position as a “Soft Super Power of the world”, she commented “Its position of cultural supremacy is a reflection of the global omnipresence of Italian art, music, cuisine, history…. For that reason, Italy continues to draw tourists from far and wide…… And Art has a crucial role in this: it can be a catalyst for the economy. Art becomes a point of reference, an attractor, a magnet….. So my appreciation goes not only to the Artists but also to the organizers of this event which represents an important appointment of Artists and Art lovers.”

Mahesh Indika, an Artist participating at Kala Pola for the 10th time, stated that “Kala Pola has really grown over the years and become a large scale art fair and it is very important for artists like me, who need more platforms like this to help engage with potential clients. I do not usually have the opportunity to show and sell my work to such a wide audience, so this festival is very helpful.”

The evening came alive with lively and colourful performances at the official ceremony and thereafter by Namaskara, Ravibhandu Vidyapathi Drum Ensemble and dancers from the Rivega Dance Studio while young musicians of Music Matters, a music school in Colombo, performed musical pieces prior to the official ceremony. After the official ceremony, Ambassador Mannella was escorted by the organizers on a stroll through some of the art stalls where she was introduced to and enjoyed interacting with the artists.

Kala Pola 2020, similar to the previous years, included a Children’s Art Corner under the guidance of the Cora Abraham Art teachers, attracting 237 child artists. The event was supported by a record team of 153 staff volunteers from across the John Keells Group.

While Kala Pola is an annual event, John Keells Foundation promotes publicity and prospective commissions for the artists through the artist catalogue made available at Kala Pola and through online platforms such as www.kalapola.lk and www.srilankanartgallery.com which connect Sri Lankan artists and buyers throughout the year.


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