Tuesday, December 29, 2009

An international show that analyzes India’s photographic evolution

Pushpamala N, Ketaki Sheth, Prashant Panjiar, Anita Khemka, Mahendra Sinh, Sunil Gupta, Anup Mathew Thomas, Gauri Gill and Nikhil Chopra among others feature at a major photographic show conceptualized by ARTIUM (Vitoria-Gasteiz) and Palau de la Virreina (Barcelona).

Lluisa Ortínez and Devika Daulet-Singh, the curators of the exhibition, have selected over 180 works to analyze Indian photographic evolution through the portrait. Works featuring in ‘The Self and the Other’ are connected in their celebration of the staged image and invalidate any assertion of realism. They together offer a close view of day-to-day life from a new angle.

The participating artists reveal their fascination for the concept of identity in varied formats that range from poetic allegory to the representation of stereotypes of popular culture. While the self-portraits are an enactment of roles essentially drawn from the experiences and imagination, portraits of the ‘other’ rely on the complicity and collaboration of the subjects so as to arrive at some extent of resemblance of the ‘other’ Self.

Providing a prospective to the works on view, the curatorial essay mentions: “The 90s witnessed some tectonic shifts. The essential instability of this period instigated artists and photographers to react and make works challenging the status quo. Economically and politically India was entering unfamiliar terrain and the social fabric of life began to alter quite dramatically. It is against this backdrop that the exhibition is set in a quest to engage with the personal and cultural identity of a young nation.”

While individual identity can be perceived through different constructs of the Self, it is not easier to ignore the representation of the ‘Other’. This is essential for the purpose of understanding the cultural identity and aspirations of a larger set of people. In fact, the process has played a major role in the crystallization of opinion and memory of masses.

The subtitle, ‘Portraiture in Contemporary Indian Photography’ alludes to the prism through which the disturbances and dichotomies pervading the complex social fabric of life in the country is viewed by its well known photographers and artists.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The show of the year 2009: ‘India Xianzai’

Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA) in association with Seven Art Limited, ICIA (Institute of Contemporary Indian Art) and ICCR (Indian Council for Cultural Relations) unveiled a grand show of Indian contemporary art. Entitled ‘India Xianzai’ (India Now), it showcased probably one of the largest ever collections from the country displayed in China.

The ambitious and meticulous curatorial exercise was an outcome of thorough research on Indian contemporary art undertaken by Alexander Keefe and Diana Freundl. The exhibition was based on the premise that India’s rich culture and history has inspired artists, not only within India, but also those residing abroad.

In a way, ‘India Xianzai’ was an examination of various processes, narrative structures and aesthetic strategies focusing on the question of culture as an agency in artistic expression. Importantly, this was not just any exhibit but a museum show.

Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA) became the first major art museum in China to unveil a grand show of Indian contemporary art. Spelling out the strategy of the museum, its Chairman and Director Samuel Kung stated: “Under the city's umbrella of influence, we hope to act as a catalyst in the arts arena, as well as an interpreter in the growing cultural dialogue between China and the world.”

The works on view collectively provided a timely glimpse of the growing presence and importance of Indian contemporary art. They strove to act as a link between what constitutes Indian-ness in the context of contemporary art and today's 'global' community.

Putting it in a broader context, an accompanying note mentioned: “India is undergoing a phenomenal transformation as the country develops, and new cities escalate into modern metropolises. However, this rapid expansion has not hindered the impulse towards international standards, while fostering its own economic and social values.”

Snapshots 2009: Art world beyond India

Collectors in response to the economic crisis selected the best 20th-century classics and Old Masters. They ignored some contemporary art even as prices halved and sales dropped. Here are some snapshots of the international art world in 2009.

* The Renaissance painter Raphael’s chalk drawing topped auction sales in 2009. The drawing sold at Christie’s London, setting an auction record for a work on paper. It sold for $47.5 million, thus beating a Matisse still life, which made an artist record of $45.6 million.

* Sotheby’s London sale in February tallied $26.15 million, the lowest at its Part I contemporary auctions since 2005 in the city. Christie’s International failed to sell Bacon and Rothko. Marc Newson’s aluminum ‘Lockheed Lounge’ chair sold at Phillips de Pury & Co in April for £1.1 million, an auction record for contemporary design.

* David Hockney’s portrait of philanthropist Betty Freeman got $7.9 million May 13:at Christie’s NY, setting an auction record for the artist. Their $93.7 million evening tally represented almost a 73 per cent fall from May 2008. The previous evening, Sotheby’s took $47 million, down almost 87 per cent from the $362 million auction just a year ago when just a single Bacon’s 1976 triptych fetched $86.3 million.

* Dealers reported renewed demand for contemporary art at the Art Basel fair. A Takashi Murakami diamond-encrusted sculpture went for $2 million at the VIP preview.

* A new Leonardo da Vinci drawing was publicly announced October. A chalk, pen & ink work of a girl in profile sold for $19,000 in the late 1990s at auction, was examined by forensic expert Peter Paul Biro, who found a fingerprint that corresponded to one on his painting St Jerome. London-based dealer Simon Dickinson valued at £100 million.

* An Andy Warhol painting of 200 $1 bills got $43.8 million at Sotheby’s in NY in November, whereas a Rembrandt portrait fetched $32.9 million. A Yves Saint Laurent owned Art Deco chair took $28 million.

* Shanghai-based collector Liu Yiqian forked nearly 170 million yuan ($25 million) in November at Poly International Auction Co in Beijing, a record for a Chinese painting.

Friday, December 25, 2009

How the year was for moderns and contemporaries?

Summing up the year gone by, The Business Standard art expert Kishore Singh has just written a comprehensive column. Here are some of his sharp views on artists – moderns and contemporaries – as far as the year 2009 is concerned.

* The Dodiyas, both Atul and Anju, have did not have such a great year, but the talent is still there. So Watch out for their next moves.

* Late Souza surprised many with the prices he fetched in the recent Saffronart auction. India’s artist with ‘the most chutzpah’ is never out of fashion.

* Subodh Gupta continued to remain India’s face of contemporary art, especially in the West. You may criticize the cliché that his utensils have become, but he has proved that his work is more than capable of outlasting the meltdown as well as the potentially embarrassing situation arising from collectors who paid substantially more at a hype-inflated peak.

* M F Husain, in or out of India, continues to make news and court controversy. Whether or not he makes it to the India Art Summit, collectors were still willing to pay top-rupee for the of India’s most consistently selling artist’s works.

* London’s Anish Kapoor, India’s great export has never shown in India. But at the India Art Summit this year, we got a glimpse of two of his show-stoppers. One of them sold for a reported Rs 1 crore at least.

* Jagannath Panda at one point was the artist selling fast. He was criticized for repeating himself, but his re-invention this year is less than inspired. But is it a new beginning? Manjunath Kamath, meanwhile, is someone you need to look out for. Also, watch out for Rashid Rana with his explosive talent.

* This is the last year S H Raza spent in France. He hopes to shift back to India now and he continues to remain a favorite with collectors. Prices for Manjit Bawa, as many had predicted peaked.

* Sculpture had its outing with two major shows — Paresh Maity’s in Mumbai where the artist surprised many of us with motorcycle parts as his medium and K S Radhakrishnan’s in Delhi where most loved and some said they were tired of his teeming world of figures.

* The highly talented artist, Tyeb Mehta, passed away. No one else has probably painted as minimally but with as much intensity and emotion as this great master. His prices, and few canvases, are bound to be blockbusters.

* Chintan Upadhyay refuses to go away. His unsettling 'babies' stay with you long after you’ve seen them at a show. T Vaikuntam, the Hyderabad-based artist, redeemed himself by painting much larger than before. Prices moved up accordingly.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

How was the year 2009 for India’s art industry?

According to the senior art columnist of The Business Standard, Kishore Singh, 2009 wasn’t a memorable year for India’s art industry, but it’s already correcting course, he stated. Here are some of his observations and recap of the significant events.

* Art funds received a bad name this year because the promise of astronomical returns evaporated and their payback time seemed flawed.

* Bodhi Art, gallerist Amit Judge’s ambitious venture, collapsed. In hindsight, most see it as a flawed model of a gallery that grew too fast. But while it lasted, it did bring in a specialization not seen in the art world before. Meanwhile, Espace, Renu Modi’s eponymous gallery, celebrated twenty years with a spectacular show, Lo Real Maravilloso.

* The India Art Summit did revive the fortunes of a sluggish art . There were no edgy works, no mega deals, yet its success caught most galleries unaware. They hastily put together shows to get collectors back to doing what they do best: spend on art.

* India claimed some of its lost space in both in the miniatures, as well as in the antiquities market and other art forms that had been drowned out in the recent past by a more vibrant contemporary market. It is now time to reclaim both pride and prices in that genre!

* A consignment meant for auction at the Taj Mahal Hotel escaped the 26/11 inferno, yet the year proved less lucky for Neville Tuli. While his Osian’s continued its expansion across lines with great ideas, 2009 has proved controversial. For the record, he dismisses these as rumors, but the market is not convinced.

* Waswo X Waswo exists. Watch the space where he travels in 2010.· After the peak of 2008, prices fell in 2009. Most people say it’s a good thing.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Indian art shows at Lunds Konsthall of Sweden

Lunds Konsthall of Sweden presents simultaneous exhibitions that offer distinct perspectives on the art and cinema of the Indian Subcontinent in recent history and today. The exhibits are ‘Nasreen Mohamedi: Notes – Reflections on Indian Modernism’ and ‘Raqs Media Collective: Steps Away from Oblivion’.

Nasreen Mohamedi (1937–90) is regarded as one of the most important Indian artists of her generation, and her paintings, drawings and photographs, produced from the early 1960s to the late 1980s, are now being recognized as a key body of work within the modernist canon. She was influenced by an earlier generation of Indian abstract artists such as V.S. Gaitonde, and she is sometimes compared to Agnes Martin or Kazimir Malevich.

Her uncompromisingly abstract drawings from the 1970s onwards deserve to be considered on their own terms, but they also invoke a range of cultural references. This becomes particularly clear in her photos, in which meticulously cropped details of historical architecture and everyday life create aesthetic links to both contemporary culture and an Islamic visual heritage.

The exhibition brings together rarely seen drawings, paintings and photographs with unique archival material from Nasreen Mohamedi’s studio. It is curated by Suman Gopinath and Grant Watson and organized and initiated by the Office for Contemporary Art Norway (OCA).
On the other hand, Raqs Media Collective ‘Steps Away from Oblivion’ is a circuit of films, installed on screens and as projections in a confined space, that invoke different rhythms of repose and transformation in today’s India.

The Raqs Media Collective have invited eight documentary filmmakers (Debkamal Ganguly, Ruchir Joshi, Kavita Pai & Hansa Thapliyal, M.R. Rajan, Priya Sen, Surabhi Sharma, Vipin Vijay) to rework key sequences in their earlier films.

The installation was originally shown within the context of Indian Highway, a traveling exhibition of contemporary art from India first presented at the Serpentine Gallery, London, in 2008. Raqs Media Collective is a group of internationally active artists and curators (Jeebesh Bagchi, Monica Narula, Shuddhabrata Sengupta) based in Delhi.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Galleries from India at Art Basel Miami

Art Basel Miami Beach is considered the most important art event not only in the US, but also internationally.

An introductory note to it mentions:
“It’s a cultural and social highlight for the Americas. As the sister event of Switzerland's Art Basel, the most prestigious art show worldwide for the past 40 years, Art Basel Miami Beach combines an international selection of top galleries with an exciting program of special exhibitions, parties and crossover events featuring music, film, architecture, design. Every year, a greater number of art collectors, artists, dealers, curators, critics and art enthusiasts from around the world participate in Art Basel Miami Beach, making it the favorite winter meeting place for the international art world.

"Top-quality exhibitions in the museums of South Florida and special programs for art collectors and curators also help make the event a special time for encountering art. The exhibiting galleries are among the world's most respected art dealers, offering exceptional pieces by both renowned artists and cutting-edge newcomers. Special exhibit sections feature performance art, public art projects and video art. The show will be a vital source for art lovers, allowing them to both discover new developments in contemporary art and experience rare museum-calibre artworks.”
This year, nearly 300 galleries took part in the fair. There were three galleries from India as well. Their aim was to access more clients and draw more exposure for the artists. Here’s a look at what they offered at this major international art show.

Nature Morte along with Bose Pacia showcased the works of artists Aditya Pande, Radhika Khimji and Suhasini Kejriwal. According to Peter Nagy, the section of the fair they were in (Art Nova) dictated that they had to show only three with something in common. Accordingly, all three participants approached painting from the perspective of new techniques and strategies like collage, installation and digital media. Chemould Prescott Road showed the works of Rashid Rana, whereas Bangalore based Gallery Ske showcased the works of artists Avinash Veeraraghavan and Sudarshan Shetty.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Book of the year

Driven by their desire to chart a unique course, authors Purrshottam Bhaggeria and Pavan Malhotra have conceptualized and penned this captivating coffee table book. They take the readers along onto a fascinating journey into the exclusive world of discerning collectors and their eclectic collection. The book makes a honest attempt to highlight their definitive aesthetic vision, deep-rooted philanthropy, support and commitment to Indian art and artists.

As Indian contemporary art shines globally, ‘Elite Collectors of Modern and Contemporary Indian Art’ by authors (Publishers: Elite Media; Price: Rs 15,000 for a limited edition of 2,000 numbered copies) has turned the spotlight on renowned collectors such as Parmeshwar Godrej, Suresh Neotia, Tina Ambani, Harsh Goenka, Rajshree Pathy, Sangeeta Jindal, Abhishek Poddar among others), some are less well known Rakesh Agarwal, Mahesh Chandra, Mahinder Tak, Ashwani Kakkar, Malvinder Mohan Singh, Prashant Tuslyan, Sanjay Lalbhai, Rajiv Jehangir Chaudhuri and Dinesh Thacker.

Then there are some international collectors like Masanori Fukuoka and the late Chester Herwitz who find a mention in this first comprehensive tome on art collectors. Barring a few notable exceptions like Anupam Poddar, Lekha Poddar, Nitin Bhayana, Priya Paul, and the de Boers, this attractive coffee table book reflects the passion of avid art collectors.

The publication is a sincere and research based exercise to provide a glimpse into the rich collections of some of India’s top collectors, and their associations with the artists. ‘Elite Collectors of Modern and Contemporary Indian Art’ opens a window onto a wonderful world of passionate collectors. It introduces the readers to their eclectic and engaging collection.

‘Elite Collectors of Modern and Contemporary Indian Art’ is worth collecting for it showcases selected and favorite works of art of each collector, symbolizing their discerning eye and eclectic tastes.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

‘Five Position Papers on the Republic’

‘Detour’ is a double-layered title. At one level, it refers to the manner in which one must sometimes go away to come back, move away from the object of love, attention or ideological commitment, in order to more fully understand and articulate it. Likewise, the photographic image registers a detour: it is generated at a remove from experienced reality, is born in the
photographer’s imagination, then connects back with the circumstances that sparked it off….”
This is how a curatorial note by art critic Ranjit Hoskote introduces a new exhibit at Mumbai based Gallery Chemould. It features artists Dayanita Singh, Sonia Jabbar, Ram Rahman, Ravi Agarwal and Samar Jodha Elaborating on the background of the show, Ranjit Hoskote notes in his essay: “When Shireen Gandhy of Chemould Prescott Road invited me to curate an exhibition commemorating the centennial of Gandhi’s seminal work, Hind Swaraj (1909), I responded with enthusiasm. " He adds:
"I have turned to this complex text many times in the last 25 years, and to other key texts from the vibrant intellectual landscape of late-colonial India. By turns illuminating, exasperating and inspiring, these utopian and redemptive writings remind us that ‘nationalism’ was not a single script; that the India these thinkers envisioned was, and will always be, a work in progress.

"This centennial is an occasion to consider whether the history of postcolonial India has been, not a linear progression towards new life-themes, but a roundabout return to the fundamental questions Hind Swaraj asks. Has post-1947 India been no more than a detour that brings us back to the debate between the two protagonists of Gandhi’s century-old dialogue: the Editor, embodying the reasoned and peaceful mode of emancipation, and the Reader, a belligerent advocate of violent revolution?

The Hind Swaraj centennial also registers six decades of independence: we pause to compare foundational text with actual outcome; we trace the directions that India, incarnating one among several geographical translations of the conceptual Hind of Gandhi’s title, has taken."
In this context, the detour is a productive trope of digression, self-interrogation and re-dedication.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Two decades of a rewarding art journey

On eve of his new show at Mumbai’s Gallery BMB, Bose Krishnamachari explains the secret of his stunning portfolio of nearly six hundred artworks that he has collected over a period of nearly five years.

Throwing light on his passion for collecting art in a free-wheeling interview to Jigna P of The Hindustan Times, the versatile artist shares the nuances of this exciting and enriching process. A show of his works is also being held to mark 20 years of his career in which he has established himself as an artist, collector, curator and, a gallerist of high caliber.

He recounts the first artwork he collected was done by Professor Ingle from Sir J. J. School of Art. He had rusticated the artist while studying there. Later, he bought another work at a sale of 1,000 ink drawings while studying at Goldsmith in the UK.

He did not have enough money then, still he bought it for nearly 60 pounds. Since then he has expanded his collection. Explaining how he has managed to do that, the versatile art personality states: “I believe in Karl Marx’s famous statement that ‘man is his own maker’. I like to make things happen with my dedication and hard work. I do not really plan my career. Nothing else except marriage was planned in my life. I’m not a dreamer. If I don’t have money and I want something, I earn the money and collect it.”

His message for art collectors is be generous with your passion and love. Make things happen. He thinks galleries should try to educate people about collecting art – what to invest in and what not because wrong suggestions can make things go wrong.Do check out the celebrated artist-curator-collector’s monumental LaVA (Laboratory of Visual Arts) project at Mumbai’s Gallery BMB unveils to mark two fulfilling decades of his art career.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Indian art market showing signs of recovery

Success of the winter 2009 auction by online auctioneer Saffronart indicates a return of confidence in the art market, a news report in the leading publication Times of India, quoting PTI claims.

The auction also included sculptures, paintings and drawings by several renowned contemporary artists like Raqib Shaw, Jagannath Panda, Subodh Gupta and Anju Dodiya all of whom did well. An untitled canvas by late Manjit Bawa went for a whopping Rs1.7 crore. This set a new record for the legendary artist from the country for his work.

The auction house revealed that the world record price achieved for his work was against an upper estimate of Rs 90 lakh. Importantly, the auction managed to gross Rs 20 crore by selling good 78 of the 100 lots that were on offer for bidding.

Nearly 62 percent of the works easily exceeded their pre-sale estimates. Along with Manjit Bawa, other modernists such as F. N. Souza, S. H. Raza, Tyeb Mehta, Jagdish Swaminathan and Akbar Padamsee led the sale with top prices. The auction also included sculptures, paintings and drawings by several renowned contemporary artists like Raqib Shaw, Jagannath Panda, Subodh Gupta and Anju Dodiya.

M. F. Husain's 'Untitled' work fetched Rs1.4 crore against Rs83 lakh, an estimated upper price. Subodh Gupta's 2005 untitled work led the satisfying sales among contemporaries by grossing Rs1.2 crore. This was against an upper estimate of Rs90 lakh.

With an average realized lot price of over Rs 25 lakh in comparison to just Rs10.5 lakh six months ago, these strong results clearly suggest the market sentiment has significantly improved, Saffronart CEO and co-founder Dinesh Vazirani was quoted as saying. Clearly, this is one of the most successful sales of the year. The better than expected results of the auction continue the upward trajectory of the Indian art scene.

Husain and Raza show together in London

There was a time when Husain and Raza could not even afford a cup of tea worth two paisa. They shared it from the same cup. Decades later, India's top progressive artists still shine brightly on the international art scene with name, fame and glory.

Depicting their grit and determination, Anubha Sawhney Joshi of The Times News writes: “Both had fire in their belly. They had a mission to demolish the then school of thought, which suppressed everything Indian. And they actually did! Both Husain and Raza, the last of India's living greats, are now settled in countries not their own. However, they continue to paint the world with the glorious colors of India."

M.F. Husain’s ‘Mother Teresa’ series and ‘The Five Rays of Raza’ have been unveiled for public viewing in London. The showcase has moved to Kings Road Gallery courtesy Tanya Baxter Contemporary.

‘The Five Rays of Raza’ shows his new works done in the last couple of years. It is in essence the culmination of seven decades of artistic endeavor. On the other hand, 18 hand-finished prints inspired by Mother Teresa series are a rare treat for art lovers. Mesmerized by this extraordinary persona, and fabulously framed in gothic arches, these iconic works get transformed into stained glass windows. These semi-abstracted works measure at least six feet in height. The series has not been shown in the UK before.

The managing director of Barclays Wealth International Private Bank, Michael Demirel, commented: “It’s a great pleasure to host such a notable exhibit of two highly respected individuals within the contemporary Indian art world. I’m certain this event will be of great interest to both art lovers and collectors alike.”

Christie’s will be sponsoring lecture series on both Indian artists as well as hosting a special program during the exhibitions. The curatorial team comprises Michel Imbert considered an authority on S.H Raza and Raisa Husain.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Indian art is moving far beyond its shores

The year 2009 has witnessed Indian art being showcased from Vienna to Japan and Berlin to New York.

Leading galleries worldwide such as Victoria Miro, Hauser and Wirth and Thomas Gibson in London, Vienna’s Gallery Krinzinger and Berlin based Gallerie Christian Hosp are hosting shows by Indian artists. Simultaneously, Sotheby’s auction of international contemporary art in November in NY had a Jitish Kallat’s work, ‘Dawn Chorus 17’, among many instances of Indian artists finding a wider representation globally.

Here are snapshots of the recent international shows of contemporary Indian art:

• Mori Museum in Japan hosted a show ‘Chalo India’. It was curated by Akiko Miki. This comprehensive exhibition presented an enchanting view of contemporary Indian art.• Hauser and Wirth is showcasing Subodh Gupta’s works.

• Thomas Gibson hosts Raqib Shaw and Rina Banerjee’s works on paper.

• Gallery Krinzinger hosts a group show of various Indian contemporary artists. The show is titled ‘Republic of Illusions’. Curated by Peter Nagy, it includes works by artists such as Sheba Chhachhi, Mithu Sen, Bharat Sikka, and Dayanita Singh among others.

• Gallerie Christian Hosp has had an Asian artists’ group show, comprising a large work by Delhi-based artist Anita Dube.

Confirming the trend to Ashoke Nag of The ET, director of the Mori Museum, Fumio Nanjo, noted: “It goes without saying that the cultural, urban and economic, developments occurring in the country today make it among the most interesting and dynamic nations in the world.”

Much research went into planning the exhibition, spanning over 60 visits to artists’ studios. Ultimately, over 100 artworks by 27 artists and artist groups - many of them new - were selected. They reflect a transformation happening at all levels of today’s Indian society and shed light on lifestyles and hopes of new-age India, providing a fascinating indication of its diverse popular and urban cultures and also address prevailing social issues, the art expert noted. Clearly, Indian art is moving far beyond its shores into uncharted territories.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Indian masters ‘in search of the vernacular’

A new exhibition tries to tease out some of the complexities involved in a pattern of rejection, influence and echoing between maters from India and Western Modernism in the various ways they articulate a vernacular visual language.

Featured in a significant show ‘In Search of The Vernacular’ at Aicon Gallery, New York, are Post-Independence South Asian Masters like M. F. Husain, Jamini Roy, Abindranath Tagore, Nadalal Bose, F. N. Souza, S. H. Raza, Bikash Bhattacharjee, Jagdish Swaminathan, Laxma Goud, and Anjolie Ela Menon.

Elaborating on the theme, a curatorial note states, “Since the beginning of the 20th century, several Indian artists have articulated a vernacular visual language. It has often taken the form of taking Western art as something to be either rejected outright, or significantly altered in an effort to address an Indian vernacular.”

For example, Jamini Roy’s somewhat paradoxically, in turning away from Western Modernism, aligned himself with Modernism's stripping back of ornament in favor of line and color planes. His rejection of the then modern style of painting and his foray into the realm of Bengali folk paintings marked a new phase in the history of Indian modern art.

Abanindranath Tagore deliberately sought an indigenous style through firstly referencing the Mughal manner and subsequently through the development of a pan-Asian style. Nandalal Bose played a leading role in the renaissance of art in India.

Several other artists including those belonging to the Progressive Artists' Group (PAG) utilized Western Modernism yoked to Indian subject matter. They looked toward Western Modernism, even while trying to make it India- specific, often foregrounding rural inhabitants of the country as a way to mirror its life.

Icons of Indian culture through the ages seek to capture the quintessence of M. F. Husain’s subjects, such as Mother Teresa, Krishna and the goddess Saraswati. F. N. Souza’s repertoire of subjects covers nudes, icons of Christianity, still life and landscape, all rendered boldly in a frenzied distortion of form. Breaking away from frames like nation and specific locations in time and space, S. H. Raza’s body of work is trans-cultural in its appeal. Laxma Goud is recognized for his graceful, yet powerful line drawings, etchings and watercolors.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Chitra Ganesh’s thought-provoking social agenda

Chitra Ganesh’s work is a mix of separate productive moves that work in a perfect harmony. Even while firmly rooted in a Western, postmodern discourse, her cultural references allow her to convey the proven principle of a multiplicity as a spirit that draws together.

Her new wall creation is on view at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center located at Long Island City, NY. It is considered among the largest and the oldest non-profit contemporary art institutions in the US that acts as a catalyst for new ideas, trends, and discourses in contemporary art.

The work at P.S.1 lobby by this versatile and innovative Indian artist features elements in India and Sumi inks, washes of color, cut paper and found objects such as plastic fruits, fake hair, and sequins.

She elaborates: “I've always been amazed by how dreams and their repressions tend to shape personal and social crises. My photography, sculptural and installation work is largely inspired by mythological narratives, erased moments in South Asian history, lyric poetry, present day imperialism and queer politics.

“Taking these tales and integrating them with my own mythic imagery, the hybrid world of sculpture and drawing articulate both psychic transformation and historical conflict. Much of my visual vocabulary engages an old Indian idiom, which describes women who transgress social norms - the term junglee.”

The piece is inspired by the character in Alan Moore’s 1980s graphic novel ‘Watchmen’, The Silhouette. The original superhero in the famous comic book series gets discriminated against and murdered for coming out as a lesbian. The work denotes links between myth, ritual, and high and low culture apart from connections between continents and countries.

Chitra Ganesh like in her past installations looks to excavate and circulate buried narratives typically excluded from the official canon.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Spectrums of Modern & Contemporary Indian Art

Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage and the Embassy of India in UAE, presented 'Spectrum'. It was the first official collaborative exhibition of modern and contemporary Indian art in Abu Dhabi.

The exhibition was jointly curated by Dr. Saryu Doshi and Ms. Pheroza Godrej. A curatorial note stated:
“The show features a significant collection of Indian art from 1947 to the present time. The exhibition showcases the artworks of eighty-five artists and includes paintings, sculpture, installations, photographs, new media and video. These artworks represent artists who have charted new trajectories, experimented with conventional idioms while evolving a new vocabulary or carved a niche for themselves on the International art scene by expressing themselves in a global language.

“The art works represent Indian artists’ concerns and preoccupations. Their works project social, political and cultural issues. Also, they show that many artists have drawn on traditional Indian idioms for motifs and devices to enhance their own pictorial language. The diverse and innovative imagery of several young artists crosses boundaries with its universal appeal. Spectrum will not only serve as an introduction to prevalent trends in Indian art but also promote deeper understanding of a different aesthetic.”

Art produced over the last six decades in the country was displayed at this exhibition held at the Emirates Palace Hotel in Abu Dhabi. As many as 106 paintings and sculptures of 81 modern Indian artists (works from 1947 to 2007) were showcased.
A newspaper report quoted Talmiz Ahmad, Indian ambassador, as saying: “A large number of young people in the Gulf are not as familiar with various aspects of Indian culture as their parents and grand-parents were. The artists are from various parts of India and different age groups, so they depict the diversity of India. "Apart from the achievements of the country they are also ruthlessly reacting to the contemporary Indian problems like poverty and exploitation."

Friday, December 4, 2009

Giving an outlet to innate creative processes

An article in Mumbai edition of The DNA India by writer Riddhi Doshi put the spotlight on Harsh Goenka on eve of the annual RPG art camp organized since 1991.

Elaborating on the event, Harsh Goenka was quoted as saying, "We have many senior artists this time like Anjolie Ela Menon, Paresh Maity, Krishen Khanna. We have a good blend of the old-world and new-age artists this time. Also we found that most of the people we invited were very happy to come. And I really don't think that the enthusiasm is dying."

He came down strongly on the trend of organizing art camps in exotic locations like Istanbul, Rome, etc. The article mentioned him saying, "There is not much serious art discussion and learning. Learning happens only when artists see each other paint. These camps are like holiday tours are also very commercial. This is how they calculate cost - if it's a group of 15 people, you pay for stay and travel which comes to Rs1 lakh per person, the total being Rs15 lakh. Then you demand two works from each artist the value of which goes up to Rs40 lakh. In the end, you have made a profit of Rs25 lakh."

To ensure that his camps are different, to begin with, he does not keep anything that the artists have created. They either sell their works during the closing or take them back with them. They leave for me a small self-portrait as a gesture.

He recounted: "Through the art camps, I have learnt to appreciate the psyche of the artist. I vividly remember artist Yusuf Arakkal who once lazed in the sun and in the swimming pool for five days. And I thought, 'what is he doing?' Sunday was the the showing of the works and Friday night he had not started working on anything. Saturday morning, I was just walking around and saw that he had finished a huge canvas. I asked him, what happened? He told me that art is not about skill alone, but about thought also…" The experience made him appreciate innate creative processes of various artists.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Jewels of Modern Indian Art at MFA

Sixteen paintings by modern Indian art masters are on view at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA).The show, entitled ‘Bharat Ratna! Jewels of Modern Indian Art’, continues up to August 22, 2010.

A curatorial note states: “Bharat Ratna! offers a visually exciting dialogue between the evolving modernism of western art and the deeply rooted traditions of India and the multiple different approaches Indian artists took, in the aftermath of Independence, to define their own and ‘Indian’ art. On view in the MFA’s Indian Paintings and Decorative Arts Gallery, the exhibit comprises works by several of the leading members of the Progressive Artists’ Group.”

These vibrant Bharat Ratnas (literally meaning ‘Jewels of India’) are drawn from the collection of Mr. and Mrs. Rajiv Chaudhri. The duo has assembled some of the very best examples of post-Independence art from India. It’s the first time that a significant number of works from this renowned collection are being displayed publicly. It’s also the first major exhibit of modern Indian art in the MFA premises.

V.S. Gaitonde’s lush tonal landscape Untitled shows his attention to the nuances of light, color, and space. His manipulation of multiple thin layers of paint creates a luminous depth of hue. If M.F. Husain’s golden-toned Ganesh Darwaza (1964) points to his distinctly Indian subjects, equally vibrant is S.H. Raza’s Untitled (from the Rajasthan Series). It evokes the brilliant colors of Jain and Rajasthani miniatures in its depiction of the Indian countryside.

F.N. Souza’s ‘Man and Woman’ (1954) is more contemplative painting. This haunting work is a portrait of two saint-like figures pierced by the arrows of martyrdom. Ara’s ‘Bharata Natya’ shows the famous Indian temple dancer Ram Gopal in classical dance pose with a meticulous eye for the natural fluidity of the body, reminiscent of ancient Indian sculpture. The exhibition also includes Untitled (1960) by Avinash Chandra (1931–91), as well as the paintings by Arpita Singh and Jagdish Swaminathan.

Host of the show, The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), is recognized for the quality and scope of its encyclopedic collection, which includes an estimated 450,000 objects.