Kala Pola 2019 marks 25 years of John Keells sponsorship


‘Kala Pola’, Sri Lanka’s popular annual open-air art fair, was unveiled in Colombo in an explosion of colour. The longest running visual art fair in the country, Kala Pola took place on Sunday, February 24 under the joint stewardship of Sri Lanka’s premier blue chip company John Keells Holdings (JKH) and The George Keyt Foundation (GKF).

Kala Pola 2019 saw the participation of 357 registered artists representing a mix of painters, sculptors and portrait sketchers – professional and amateur, senior and emerging – realizing the event’s objective of serving as a catalyst for visual artists to launch and boost their careers, develop a steady clientele and enhance learning and networking among artists.

The fair attracted a record number of over 31,800 visitors comprising a wide mix of local and foreign, school children and adults from all parts of the country, and was supported by a team of 108 volunteers from the John Keells Group.

Gracing the event were acting High Commissioner of Bangladesh –  Mohammad Hazrat Ali Khan, Counsellor & Head of Chancery as Chief Guest, JKH Chairman – Krishan Balendra and GKF Chairman – Mike Anthonisz.

Speaking at the official ceremony, Mr. Mike Anthonisz stated, “This is the 25th anniversary of our partnership with the John Keells Group…….JKH stepped in long before CSR was a buzz word… they saw the potential and need to help our artists and provide them with a platform for the promotion of the arts.”

Addressing the gathering, Acting High Commissioner of Bangladesh, Mohammad Hazrat Ali Khan noted, “The idea of Kala Pola is lovely. I don’t see any other platform as Kala Pola. It is a liberating space.”

Event based sales continued to show healthy growth with Kala Pola 2019 recording sales estimated to exceed Rs. 17.5 million with some of the artists also being commissioned for their extensive range of art and sculpture.

Sudath Abeysekera, a long standing artist at Kala Pola and proprietor of Art Sense Advertising (Pvt) Ltd, commented, “We look forward to Kala Pola every year because as Sri Lankan artists this is the only platform available to us in Sri Lanka to showcase and market our work”.

This year’s Kala Pola continued to host a Children’s Art Corner attracting 235 child artists guided by the teachers of the Cora Abraham School. This was sponsored by Ceylon Cold Stores PLC which rewarded the kids’ participation with specially designed certificates and refreshments courtesy of Elephant House.

The evening came alive with a variety of entertainment provided by Namaskara, Ravibhandu Vidyapathi Drum Ensemble and dancers from the Muddrika Dance Studio while 47 child musicians of The Music Project performed orchestral pieces during the morning.

Whilst the art catalogue accompanying the event publicizes artists exhibiting at Kala Pola, online platforms such as www.kalapola.lk and www.srilankanartgallery.com hosted by John Keells Foundation enable Sri Lankan artists to access markets throughout the year.