Sunday, January 31, 2010

Focusing on the photographer’s gaze

India’s complex social fabric of life A group exhibition, entitled ‘The Self & the Other: Portraiture in Contemporary Indian photography’ focuses on the photographer’s gaze.

The title, outwardly, presumes its more predictable investigation, apparently referring to natural impulses of the photographic gaze. The ‘Other’ came to be institutionalized through writings especially in the study of 19th century photographic practices. The subtitle refers to the prism through which we view the shifts, dichotomies and disturbances across India’s complex social fabric of life.

The show curated by Devika Daulet-Singh and Luisa Ortínez at North Gallery courtesy ARTIUM (Vitoria-Gasteiz) and Palau de la Virreina (Barcelona) gives an intimate view of contemporary life in India through the lens of 16 well known photographers.

The works featured are connected in their celebration of the staged image. The metaphysical self of artist Ebenezer Sunder Singh confronts his maleness and multi-cultural identity in a more direct yet equally bold series of portraits. Far from being just radical and subversive, his naked body becomes a site of spectatorial desire, consciously offering his dark skin to counter the Indian fascination for the fair skinned in an attempt to assert his visibility.

The desire to explore the interchangeability and fluidity of the Self is dramatically explored by performance artist Nikhil Chopra in a theatrical piece, which also resides in photographs to preserve its ephemeral nature. Tejal Shah appropriates images from a page in the history of psychoanalysis that though it doesn’t belong to her, she uses to disclose the voyeuristic gaze mentally challenged women were subjected to in the guise of scientific research.

Anita Khemka discloses the interiority of her disturbed mind in a series of self-portraits made during journeys to ease a personal crisis. Pushpamala N. departs from her past impersonations in an experimental short film. The viewer tails her in her sojourn, as she alternates between fact and fiction in a narrative using a rapid succession of images that are starkly lit. In Sheba Chhachhi’s portraits, the act of posing is privileged over her gaze according the feminist subjects a pronounced degree of control in projecting their own image.

Friday, January 29, 2010

A show of works by one of India’s critically acclaimed Modernist artists

Krishen Khanna is considered one of most celebrated Modernists who indeed has had a profound influence on several other Indian artists. A grand retrospective exhibition charts the creative journey of the prominent artist whose career spans several decades and encompasses many defining milestones.

The retrospective show, which follows the 2007 exhibit hosted by Saffronart at London’s Royal Academy of Art, includes more than 120 works, featuring many iconic paintings, which bring out the vibrant and vivacious nature of his art practice. The artist states, “It traces the graph of my career, which has spanned several decades. It’s a selection of my most acclaimed artworks.”

On view are many of his recent paintings as well as his most significant early works. The paintings and drawings track the evolution of India as a nation and its people through a series of important events, such as the Partition. The works on display not only trace his remarkable career, but also highlight his technical virtuosity, complex narratives, and his interest in human relationships.

For example, regarding his famous series of bandwallahs (musicians) in the 1970s, the artist has once explained: “Some people would have me disassociate the drawing completely from the actual bandwallahs to preserve some kind of 'Purity'. I cannot think that this kind of 'Purity' can add any kind of richness, so I neither obliterate my sources nor the transformations they undergo on canvas or on paper.”

He remembers the musicians to whom the sahibs and the memsahibs in Lahore would fondly listen. To him, there’s a tinge of sadness about them in spite of the colorful compositions. He adds: “In my compositions, I’ve always tried to capture human emotions, and not make life studies." The works are on view at the Lalit Kala Akademi (LKA), New Delhi.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Indian empire strikes back in the UK

New-age artists from India are making a diverse range of work, in response to the increased complexities of 21st-century. Many of them through their art are grappling with issues like rampant urban expansion, growing slums and issues around migration. A new, ambitious show ‘The Empire Strikes Back: Indian Art Today’ at London’s Saatchi Gallery offers a stunning interpretation of new India.

There are works by Atul Dodiya, Chitra Ganesh, Probir Gupta, Sakshi Gupta, Rashid Rana, T. V. Santhosh, Subodh Gupta, Tushar Joag, Jitish Kallat, Reena Saini Kallat, Bharti Kher, Rajan Krishnan, Jaishri Abichandani, Kriti Arora, Huma Bhabha, Huma Mulji, Ajit Chauhan, Shezad Dawood, Mansoor Ali, Justin Ponmany, Schandra Singh, Tallur L.N, Hema Upadhyay, T Venkanna, Pushpamala N and Yamini Nayar.

Their oeuvre contains a strong denunciation of the socio-political implications of impending globalization, largely responsible for the rampant urbanization, the disenfranchisement of remote rural areas and the rise of fundamentalism and intolerance.

Elaborating on the theme, the organizers noted in a statement: "In spite of homegrown contemporary art being underrepresented in public museums in India, its commercial and international success have let small ventures grow into thriving art galleries in Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai, with outposts opening in the US and Europe.

"The fast flourishing art scene on the one hand and the recent economic upheavals on the other have prompted critical questions about Indian culture and globalization in a nation torn between a dependence on global consumption and a proudly independent mindset. Against this backdrop, contemporary Indian artists are making a wide range of work that responds to the complexities of 21st century India."

The world-renowned Saatchi Gallery observes that its viewer base has greatly increased during the last decade as general awareness and interest in contemporary art develops. Having marked its grand reopening in the 70,000 sq. ft Duke of York’s HQ building right in the heart of London in October 2008, the gallery looks to offer an innovative forum for contemporary art.

As part of its endeavor to present and promote international artists, Saatchi showcases 26 both emerging and established artists from India. Many of them have been rarely or never shown in the UK.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A review of some significant works at Saatchi show of Indian art

Atul Dodiya’s ‘Woman from Kabul’ (Acrylic and marble dust on fabric) on view at the Saatchi show is a work about living in Afghanistan at the turn of the new millennium. Another work, entitled ‘Portrait Of Niko Pirosmani’ (1862-1918) done in enamel paint on laminate board portrays the Georgian primitivist, who invented a new technique of painting during periods of solitude and poverty.

Subodh Gupta’s ‘Spill’ (Stainless steel and stainless steel utensils) is an overbearing work of great scale that has at its centre a larger than life stainless steel water vessel, with many smaller steel utensils spilling over the edge like water pouring out.

Jaishri Abichandani’s ‘Allah O Akbar’ (Leather whip, wire, paint, swarovski crystals) is created from decorative materials in green and red, such as coloured leather whips and Swarovski crystals.

Dressed in period costume, Pushpamala N refashions these stereotypes to subvert and critique the forensic classification of humanity. The strength of her 'Ethnographic Series' lies in the artist’s will to reconstruct such scenes whilst grappling with the archaic machinery and acting as subject and servant to the camera.

Reclaiming the wreckage of an old dilapidated Xerox machine that appears to have been used to the point of its extinction, artist Sakshi Gupta appears to have prized the shell apart as though a forensic scientist looking over the anatomical organs under the natural light of the operating theatre.

Elevating the machinery off the ground and positioning its integral parts side by side, the artist manages very resourcefully to deliver something quite beautiful back. This recent work demonstrates the artist’s ability to scrutinize reality for opportunities for creativity, even where death and decay appear much more prevalent.

For Chitra Ganesh, the comic book appears to epitomize and perpetuate a perverse sense of good over evil. The stylized simplification of the comic book style is central to her Tales of Amnesia (21 C-prints), in which the audacious female character confronts subscribed notions of compliance in order to explore alternative models of femininity and power.

Banking on art for good returns

The consulting editor of Forbes India, Sanjoy Bhattacharyya, is betting on art for good returns. However, he hastened to add that it was not still within the reach of most investors.

A pertinent news report, entitled ‘HNIs look to diversify investments’ by Madhu T of The Times of India, has gathered opinion of several wealth managers with foreign banks. According to them, many high net worth individuals are trying to diversify their portfolios across a range of asset classes.

The asset classes they are look to diversify into start from regular stocks to many safer fixed incomes instruments, plus a whole gamut of commodities. Importantly, they are now looking for other avenues. Vishal Kapoor, general manager (wealth management) of Standard Chartered is quoted as saying: "The dip in the Indian stock market has helped many investors realize the importance of the concept of diversification. Now there is a perceptible change in the investors’ behavior and mindset. "

Another financial planner mentions: “These days, once basic financial planning is done, the imagination of wealth managers takes over. In fact, we now have several clients who are keenly lapping up exotic customized products preparned by their wealth managers in banks."

Pankaj Narain, director, head private clients (banking and investments), Deutsche Bank (India) concurs with the fact that HNIs have indeed began spreading their investments to diverse asset classes. In fact, many wealth managers now talk of investing in art to diversify.

Narain is himself an art collector. He says that it is still to pick up a big way in the country. He believes it will be some time before contemporary Indian art forms an integral part of investment portfolio of investors. Signs for the future are positive, though…

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Exploring Anjolie Ela Menon’s passion to collect art

Anjolie Ela Menon’s art collection comprises such names venerated by lovers of Indian art as Souza, Husain, Jamini Roy, Arpita Singh, K.S. Radhakrishnan and Manjit Bawa as well as many other younger sculptors and painters. She has steadily acquired works through friendly swaps or purchases over time. The artist also has a fondness for Russian and Greek religious icons, which have shaped her own perspective in terms of human expression and overall composition.

While exploring passion to collect, it would be interesting to consider an essay, titled ‘The Collector: Anjolie Ela Menon’ by Margot Cohen for The Wall Street Journal: Explaining how she started collecting religious icons, she mentions in an elaborate interview: “In 1961-62, while studying in France, I did chase Romanesque frescoes as well as paintings all over Europe. A friend and I even hitchhiked to Barcelona, all the way from Paris, and stayed in a convent for a long time. So I was very influenced by icons. With whatever I saved, I managed to buy six Greek icons.”

Among her collection of Indian works, the one that are particularly special to her include ‘Crucifixion’ by Jamini Roy. She reveals: “I love that work. After collecting early Christian art and icons, this seemed to be a modern equivalent of what my passion was. It was extremely rare.

“He did a lot of things related to Indian mythology, but not that many Christian subjects. Jamini Roy (1887-1972) was the first Indian artist who really rejected the colonial hegemony at the time and the colonial academia that the artists were being subjected to. He returned to Indian folk art for his inspiration,” she told The WSJ .

When asked about works by younger artists, she replies: “I’ve quite a big collection of their work, because I was often mentoring young artists and I would go to their first show. I am delighted that one of them, Binoy Varghese (born 1966), is now doing extremely well.

Her precious advice to collectors comes from the mistake she made: that of buying several small works (of a single artist) instead of concentrating on one major work. “My advice is to go for the big one, the important one, the one you like,” she says.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

An artist who strives to grasp the relationship between forms and the space around

Works of artist Yashwant Deshmukh are philosophical and poetic in nature. Though very little is left to the imagination, a curious sense of structural build-up of all these elements opens up a new perspective.

His works embody his search for space beyond forms with impeccable minimalism of expressions. The elements, such as volume, shade, light and movement play minimal role in his canvases wherein each line, angle and curve is to be viewed in its entirety. It’s an iconic representation of an individual’s self-contained universe.

He states: “My painting is essentially form-oriented. The basic idea is to grasp the relationship between a form and the space around. The forms create invisible planes and the interaction of these planes with the negative space surrounding them pushes the boundaries further.”

In his works, colors simply help define the tones and intensity of space and state the nature of the form. Incidentally, he prefers acrylic. Another noteworthy aspect of his oeuvre is the usage of day-to-day objects like a bucket or a funnel that served as individual protagonists, albeit, to be strictly viewed in relation with the space in which they levitate. By employing them he is looking to investigate the metaphysics of space and form.

For example, in his recent series 'Regarding the Cone', the artist examines the geometry of the cone, articulating its formal philosophy – that of holding and emptying. In his minimal renderings, which look as if they have been revealed by a process of removal rather than formed by patient overlaying, he expresses his dual preoccupation with Space and its skin of Time that come together in momentary stasis.

He notes: “One side of the cone moves to the inner space and the other corner moves to the outer space. Between these two directions, there’s the form of the cone. While experiencing the space, it loses its appearance, its physicality. It remains as only the directions to inner space and outer space.”

Which way do new collectors now prefer to buy works?

It's a question that should interest one and all in the domain of art. In this backdrop, the emerging collectors now preferring to boldly bid at art auctions than buying from galleries, at least while starting off, is a phenomenon explored by The Business Standard writer Kishore Singh in his column ‘Gone, to that gentleman there...’

The art expert points out that several young or aspiring collectors who have a serious interest in art have started out with placing bids at auctions. Entering into the speculative world - on the face of it, at least — you can never be certain of the price till it’s paid! — something that makes sense for the veteran collector. But then, why would newbies choose to take their plunge into uncharted waters?

The art expert explains: “It makes a lot of sense from their perspective to begin testing their skills at an auction for neophytes. While the mandatory reading up and galley visits remain essential for familiarizing with art and artists, an auction comes with its own inherent advantages, not least of which is that the task of selecting the best, most representational artworks from a particular genre, or period, or of an artist, has already performed by the auction house experts.

“No prestigious auction house contrary to popular belief accepts all works consigned to it for selling. International auction houses like Christie’s, Sotheby’s, or Bonham’s, or home-grown ones like Saffronart and Osian’s will evaluate each painting, or sculpture, for its merit, and only accept those that are in some way remarkable, or distinctive.

"This means authorities on art have already undertaken the selection, thus saving you a lot of effort and time that such a process would otherwise have cost. While it can be said that not all works on offer at any given auction are iconic, you can be certain that they do take the blood, sweat and tears out of the business of collecting.”

Equally important is the paperwork the auction house would have done to establish provenance, and make sure that all the required papers for documenting the line of ownership, any history of the artwork in place, to take the guesswork out of everything from pricing to a condition report, insurance etc.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Buy art for the love of art and not for value alone...

An insightful conversation with Pheroza J. Godrej courtesy Forbes India, which has recently appeared on leading online financial resource, comprises some interesting observations. Firstly she advises: “Buy works of art you are prepared to live with. And returns will eventually come. "

The founder of Mumbai based Cymroza Art Gallery in a recent interview suggests that art sales have gradually picked up within a range of up to Rs. 5 lakh after a correction. Her broad investment idea is to start small.

Giving a backgrounder to the phenomenon of art investment, the conversation mentions: “Some investors were influenced by the increasing interest in art, on the back of successful auctions and growing participation of top Indian artists in international exhibits. Naturally, they didn’t want to be left out. Unfortunately for them, art had already attained a high premium by then. Today, the changed scenario is that there is no desperate selling in the art market. There are not many good works easily available, which can be bought at a throwaway price.”

Sales are slowly picked up within a price range of works under Rs.5 lakh. They are briskly selling. This, she mentions, is a healthy trend. The price level could be pushed up gradually to Rs.10 lakh. “My view is that something as precious as art should not have been treated as a commodity to be traded in the market. Art is something personal in nature. You need to develop an interest in it and do so with a passion. You have not to do it just to make money and surely not for a short-term,” she points out.

Her word of advice to young, aspiring collectors is to buy a smaller canvas within their budget. She cautions against buying a signature just for the sake of a signature. She sums up to state: “Be prepared to live with it. And buy one you would continue to enjoy. Don’t just buy only from the point of view of how much it will appreciate in value.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Indian photography show at London's Whitechapel Art Gallery

A new landmark exhibition, entitled ‘Where Three Dreams Cross’ at London's Whitechapel Art Gallery, gives an insightful view of how modern India along with its two neighboring countries, Pakistan and Bangladesh, have been shaped through the lens of their photographers.

Over 70 photographers including Pushpamala N., Rashid Rana, Dayanita Singh, Raghubir Singh, Umrao Singh Sher-Gil, Rashid Talukder, Ayesha Vellani and Munem Wasif are presented in the show, with works drawn from important collections of historic photography, including the influential Alkazi Collection, Delhi and the Drik Archive, Dhaka. They join many previously unseen images from private family archives, galleries, individuals and works by leading contemporary artists.

From the days when the first Indian-run photographic studios were established in the 19th century, the exhibition tells the story of the development of photography in the subcontinent. There are over 400 works brought together for the purpose. The show encompasses social realism and reportage of key political moments in the 1940s, amateur snaps from the 1960s and street photography from the 1970s. The contemporary photographs narrate the reality of everyday life, while the recent digitalization of image making accelerates its cross-over with fashion and film.

The exhibition is arranged over five broad themes with works selected from a time span of the last 150 years. The Portrait section shows the evolution of self-representation. The Family segment explores close bonds and relationships through early hand-painted and contemporary portraits. The Body Politic charts different political moments, movements and campaigns, whereas The Performance focuses on the golden age of Bollywood and artistic practices that engage with masquerade. The Street looks at the built environment, social documentary and street photography.

The Whitechapel Art Gallery was founded in 1901 to bring great art to the people of east London. Internationally acclaimed for its exhibitions of modern and contemporary art and its pioneering education and public events programmes, the Gallery has premiered international artists such as Pablo Picasso, Frida Kahlo, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Nan Goldin.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Prashant Panjiar's ‘Pan India - a shared habitat’ at ICIA, Mumbai

Prashant Panjiar's work formed part of a recent international group show ‘The Self and the Other: Portraiture in Contemporary Indian Photography’ conceptualized by ARTIUM (Vitoria-Gasteiz) and Palau de la Virreina (Barcelona). Now, photography lovers in Mumbai will also get to see his works.

His new series of works ‘Pan India – a shared habitat’ presents a wide array of rural vistas, cityscapes, and various habitats, forming the ubiquitous crosshatch of rampant urbanization.
Culled from his vast body of work, it raises pointed queries about notions of development. The passionate photographer explores the underbelly of India’s faulty development claims, and reminds us of the unprivileged classes by stating, “It (development) becomes exclusive if it’s good for me, or else nothing really matters.”

Here, he brings us closer to ground realities amidst India’s tall claims of development. The artist portrays the sense of dignity the underprivileged class exhibits irrespective of a deprived background and adversities faced. The works put up at the exhibition have all been shot on a panoramic camera and hence the title ‘Pan India’!

On one hand, the apt title suggests the technicality of the images on view and on another, the vast country that serves as the backdrop to them. The photojournalist has taken more than a decade to conceive and snap these panoramic pictures.

Elaborating on the thought process behind them, he states in an interview on eve of the show: “A huge amount of construction has taken place in most Indian cities 2000 onwards. My pictures try to unfold the story of Indians and their mindset at a time when the country is witnessing disproportional growth.”

‘Pan India — a shared habitat’ is on view at the ICIA Gallery located in Kala Ghoda, the art district of South Mumbai from January 25 until February 3, 2010.

Monday, January 11, 2010

An artist striving for attainment of thematic and stylistic unity

Hindol Brahmbhatt belongs to an increasing breed of assertive, inquisitive new-generation Indian contemporary artists that invariably questions and challenges the prevailing notions of reality. His observations coupled with his imagination give a contextual dimension to his creations. They are intended not only to please the viewers’ eyes but also to touch their souls.

His artistic process revolves around attainment of thematic and stylistic unity. Its broad objective is to form a language that calls for continuity and intuition. This infinity of composition reminds us that each work is a part of a greater body of images and ideas. These are schematic images of evolution, growth and creativity.

The messages do not demand to be ‘analyzed and solved’, but just exist. Collectively, his work resonates with an outward simplicity of the subject matter that subtly hides and progressively heightens inherent complexity of the message and the drama that the artist wants to convey. Hindol Brahmbhatt recreates and relocates the known and the imagined visual references, and fills them with alternative meanings. Also, he chooses to distill his visual vocabulary to the minimum for the maximum effect.

Hindol Brahmbhatt treats his work as a documentation of historical reality in contemporary context, and looks for clues of social changes. Thus emerges a universe that the viewers can identify with, albeit from a new perspective! “I believe in the truth of opposites. For every argument there would be a counter-argument that can be equally valid. So I leave it to the viewers to interpret my work, and draw their own conclusions,” he states.

The artist has worked on several diptychs and triptychs, that locate the relevance of the Father of the Nation and his philosophy in today’s context. Several of his creations juxtapose images of war and violence. He says, underlining their motive, “The world is witnessing extreme strife. Social fabric has become highly fragile.”

Sunday, January 10, 2010

‘Vicissitudes of the Constructed Image’

‘Vicissitudes of the Constructed Image’ was an interesting curatorial project that attempted at locating a relevant whole of connected issues that binds the procedure and concerns of some of the leading names in the Indian aesthetic sphere within the macrocosm of historically ripe/subdued issues, economically adrift/focused, politically propagated/aloof venerations.

The latest show at Bangalore based Tangerine Art Space acted as a collective expositive of artists accumulating artistic pollen from multitude sources, experiences, grounded representations, or peripatetic meanderings.

It formulated discourse on these levels through the works of renowned artists like Arunanshu Chowdhury, Anandajit Ray, Azis T M, Dhruvi Acharya, Farhad Hussain, George Martin, Lokesh Khodke, Manish Pushkale, Minal Damani, Mithu Sen, Pooja Iranna, Pratul Dash, M Pravat, Rajan M Krishnan, Rajesh Ram, Reji Arackal, Sujith S N, Sudhanshu Sutar, Tanmoy Samanta, T V Santhosh, and Yashwant Deshmukh among others.

Arunanshu Chowdhury’s perception of world hauls up with lush, imaginary winds. The small paintings, entitled ‘Wind through the Willow’ echoed sentiments of places and people visited. The works were intended as a visual and conceptual link between the multiple frames of one’s journey. In T V Santhosh’s watercolors, the detailed imagery was delineated by tonal gradation that darkens the borders, bestowing an enigmatic aura to the monochromatic surface.

Dhruvi Acharya’s works elicit a sense of futuristic déjà vu. The stylistic blend of beauty and pathos finds its visual currency in popular culture references and techno-utopian visions of the day. The artist furtively mediates the crisis of tomorrow through a vivid, unhinged depiction akin to an ambiguous yet lived fantasy.

In ‘Bite’, Mithu Sen adjoined the experiential and emotional metaphors associated with the act of ‘biting’. A device of defense and equally of arousing sensuality, biting is treated by the artist as a means of narrating the pain and agony, dental inflictions has brought to her. Through the subtle usage of watercolor and intricate depiction of delighting elements like pink and red roses, multiple associative of the mechanism of an eccentric part of human body was brought to fore.

International media takes note of the rising stature of Indian art

“When Christie’s first offered modern and contemporary Indian art as a single sale category in London in 1995, it took in just £390,482, or $613,837 (at the exchange rate then). Last year, the category took in about $45.3 million in London, NY and Hong Kong. Contemporary Indian artists are beginning to gain a foothold in East Asia as a result of increasing exposure at art fairs, biennials and exhibitions.”

This was the observation made by Hillary Brenhouse of The New York Times. Many international publications took note of the rising stature of contemporary Indian art. The NYT proclaimed that Asian interest in Indian art is gradually picking up.

Depicting the broader picture, an extensive BBC News report by Sanjoy Majumder mentioned: “Indian art draws on a rich tradition, which goes back thousands of years and what we’re now seeing, is its commercial and artistic evolution. A whole new generation of artists and art lovers are definitely driving Indian art and pushing its boundaries. The country's growing economy has also thrown up new buyers. This in turn has led to a mushrooming of art galleries.”

Gareth Harris of The Financial Times noted of the Charles Saatchi show of Indian art at his Chelsea space in 2010. Giving an enhanced sense of the Indian art market, renowned publication Economist noted, “The prices of paintings by known artists such as the late F.N. Souza and M.F. Husain have fallen over the past year.

“Prices of works by younger contemporary artists have also slumped, which has brought a sense of reality to the art market. The prices were driven up less by collectors than by investors, most of them rich Indians living abroad. This type of investor vanished from the market once the financial crisis struck last autumn. However, collectors began to return, bidding cautiously at auctions in London and India,” it pointed out.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Flashback 2009 – part I

A series of international exhibitions in the year gone by were a testimony to the rising stature contemporary Indian art We review the major exhibitions and celebrate its march forward in the global arena.

Phillips de Pury & Company hosted the ambitious show, ‘The Audience and the Eavesdropper’, in New York at the start of the year 2009. A selection of works by each participating artist conveyed the strength and breadth of their individual oeuvre, whereas they collectively depicted a complex portrait of the themes and trends as reflected in contemporary Indian Art. Works by Anita Dube, Thukral & Tagra, Justin Ponmany, Samarendra Raj Singh, Raqs Media Collective, Hema Upadhyay, Rashid Rana, Sheba Chhachhi, Probir Gupta and Hamra Abbas were showcased.

The 2009 edition of London Art Fair, the UK’s largest Modern British and contemporary art fair, included artists from India like Dhruva Mistry, George Martin, Sumedh Rajendran, Rajesh Ram and Chintan Upadhyay, represented by the London based Grosvenor Gallery. The works on view were a testimony to each individual artist’s unique way of working, reflecting the dynamic, diverse virtues of Indian contemporary art.

In its endeavor to lend attention to emerging markets, ARCO Madrid focused on India. Panorama: India at ARCO Madrid proved to be the perfect platform for promoting the best of contemporary art from the country to international audiences. Renowned artist-curator Bose Krishnamachari offered a fascinating overview of contemporary Indian art.

The milestone art project, ‘Chalo! India’, examined how the artists use their insight and observation power to quiz the reality, taking their themes from ubiquitous objects, social interaction and day-to-day life. It mapped out a diverse and dynamic contemporary art scene of India in the context of its current complexities.

One of the largest showcases of contemporary art from India ever held in Japan, the 5th anniversary exhibition of Mori Art Museum was projected as a significant survey of contemporary Indian art that looked to unveil a new era of Indian art with it.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Major international show of Indian art in 2009 – part II

Several international exhibitions in 2009 were a testimony to the rising stature contemporary Indian art. We continue to review some of them in this post.

Designed for art collectors, curators, art professionals and artists, the week-long Art Dubai festival included a wide range of shows, seminars, the art district tours and captivating cultural projects. Art Dubai 2009 aimed to provide a platform for the new media art growing by introducing a diverse program of British, Middle Eastern and Indian artists..

Aimed at providing a glimpse of the vibrant contemporary Indian art, the interesting show ‘India Contemporary’ was collated at Dutch museum GEM to bring out how Indian artists now combines a latent understanding of the western canon of art even while retaining its cultural nuances and origins. Blending of both influences is crucial to their visual expression and concepts in their creations. ‘India Contemporary’ hosted works by Riyas Komu, Jitish Kallat and Sudarshan Shetty.

‘Passage to India – Part two’, presented courtesy Initial Access, Wolverhampton, as part of its enchanting exploration of Indian contemporary art, is an extension of the first edition of the show. Captivating creations by Murali Cheeroth, T.V. Santhosh, Subodh Gupta, Jitish Kallat, Reena Saini Kallat, Thukral and Tagra from the Frank Cohen Collection were showcased.

‘Re-Imagining Asia’, another major international show, included diverse works by some of the world's most prolific contemporary artists keen to experiment with traditional forms and new media. Jaishri Abichandani, Subodh Gupta, Shezad Dawood, and Rashid Rana are among the prominent artists featured, among others.

Curated by Shaheen Merali and Wu Hung for Berlin’s Haus der Kulturen der Welt in collaboration with The New Art Gallery Walsall, the exhibit was supported by The Henry Moore Foundation. The exhibit explored the meaning and relevance of the contemporary Asian art in the 21st century, within a wider context of globalization, increasing migration, leading to a truly global world.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Indian art forays abroad: Flashback 2009 – part III

Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, Oslo, Norway hosted a timely presentation of the pioneering work by leading artists from India today, embracing art, architecture, literature, film, and dance. ‘Indian Highway’ featured leading artists from the country. It pioneered a radical model of curating, as curators are invited to develop a ‘show within a show’ inside the main exhibition.

The Venice Art Biennale is among the world’s greatest platforms for contemporary art. Four artists from India featured at the event - Sheela Gowda, Nikhil Chopra and Sunil Gawde at the Arsenale, an erstwhile naval depot, whereas Anju Dodiya's at the Giardini. They all formed part of the large exhibit titled 'Making Worlds' at the 2009 Biennale.

An ambitious exhibit of Indian art in Abu Dhabi, entitled ‘Spectrum’ gave a comprehensive idea of its evolution over the last five decades. The show traced trends and movements, right from the Progressives to the moderns, extending to contemporary artists. It incorporated over 100 works, encompassing canvas as well as new media. Pheroza Godrej and Sarayu Doshi curated the exhibition organized in association with the Indian embassy in Abu Dhabi and Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (ADACH).

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 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.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Art shows lined up in Mumbai in 2010

This is indeed one of the most exciting times for Mumbai’s art fraternity, mentions Riddhi Doshi of The DNA in a news report, ‘Colouring up 2010’ .

The era which was ruled just by signatures seems to be in the distant past now and one look at the art calender of a few city galleries ensures that 2010 will be quite an eventful year for the art frat in Mumbai, the report adds. Here are the shows lined up in Mumbai in 2010.

  • The most popular art gallery in the city, the Jehangir Art Gallery, will host renowned artist Satish Gujral’s solo exhibition in February. This comes after a long time.The show will be followed by Rini Dhumal’s show in September. Work will begin on setting up artist Jayasri Burman’s show by Art Musings.
  • Art lovers will get to see the collection of theillustrious Tata family at Coomaraswamy Hall of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Vastu Sanghralaya. in April. Curator of the museum, Vandana Prapanna, states, “In this exhibition we will display the art collection of the Tata family since 1922. And soon after that there will be a huge exhibition on miniature art based on the 17th and 18th century poetry of Lord Krishna.”
  • As every year there will be the Master Artists’ show at the Nehru Centre gallery. It will see a huge exhibition of works of about 108 new and emerging artists. The show is among the highlights of Nehru Centre.
  • Richard Wilson’s 20:50 reinstalled at Duke of York’s HQ is originally created in 1987. This one makes its presence felt in the city in January at the Sakshi art gallery.
  • Art expert Ranjit Hoskote along with artist Bose Krishnamachari are doing an interesting art project titled Kali Pilli based on the cabs in the city. This will be held at the Rachana Sansad.
  • In October one may look forward to artist Arzan Khambatta’s works that can be mounted on the walls. Accompanying him in the exhibition at the Jamaat art gallery will be artist Sunil Padwal.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

A show to mark 20 years of Bose Krishnamachari’s illustrious career

It’s a show that marks two decades of an illustrious art career. The new exhibition at Mumbai based Gallery BMB is a revisit to his famous project, LaVA, a traveling library of art related books, DVDs and CDs.

Checking out LaVA is like making one’s way into a ‘dream space’. An art lover will get almost whatever he or she wishes: DVDs, books on film, music albums, cultural and media theory. The exhilaration of meandering through the maze of material on offer is simply indescribable. One is instantly struck by the enormity, quality and depth of the documents on offer.

First staged as a solo a couple of years ago, LaVA comes across as a strong statement. An accompanying note states: “This growing work-in-progress could occur at the three-point interfaces posed by the installation itself, the audience’s behavioral reactions to it at various levels, the possibility for open-ended restructuring within different architectural situations, and the presence of the artist’s intent.”LaVA is part of the intention of building a permanent institution so that visual art, poetry, architecture and design should all combine as cultural forms under one roof.

Being positioned as a contemporary-temporary knowledge laboratory for the people, the archival project comprises 5,000 books and 1,400 DVDs and CDs, culled from museums, institutions, galleries, shops and streets from major art capitals – most of them hand-picked.

He has mentioned: “It’s a critique of the institutions and infrastructure that existed (and continues to exist). I am provoking existing institutions into responding. When people like me could put up a show on such a large scale what was stopping the larger institutions from doing the same. The exhibition is in a way ridiculing them and the rich in this country. They may have the money but they have no vision.

"Take a person like Charles Saatchi who is such a patron of the arts and has a public museum. People like him actively promote art and even if they do not have a background in it, they hire advisors to do the job,” he quips.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Bose Krishnamachari’s rich art collection

Bose Krishnamachari has established himself as an artist, collector, curator and, a gallerist of high caliber. For him everything in essence is art - advertisements, bags, posters, and even invitation cards.

He reveals in an interview on eve of his new show: “There’s art in everything in the way you dress. Everything you do is art. There’s art in fashion, design and architecture.” In fact, he likes to call art works as art objects. 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.

Viewers can get to see about 30 of his carefully collected art works at Mumbai based Gallery BMB. One can check his collection of artists including Frank O Gehry, Andy Warhol, Tejal Shah, Nikhil Chopra, Minam Apang, Riyas Komu, Julian Opie, Bani Abidi, Damien Hirst, Sudarshan Shetty, Vivek Vilasini, Prasad Raghavan, Sudarshan Shetty, Sheba Chhachhi, CK Rajan, NM Rimzon, Alex Mathew, Anita Dube, Jon Kessler, Vivan Sundaram, Prajakta Palav, Praneet Soi, and Yashwant Deshmukh among others.

Summing up the essence of LaVA, his archival-documentation project on view along with his collection, Bose Krishnamachari says, “I am trying to make available, within my limitations, what I really missed during my student years. The laboratory manifests my ambition to extend this project, as an ideal place for visual art practitioners and theorists, as a museum of total knowledge: a room within an institution, an art project within a museum.”

Friday, January 1, 2010

‘A Place in New York’ by Navjot Altaf

Navjot Altaf’s ‘A Place in New York’ at Mumbai based Guild Art Gallery is a research and interactive project.

The artist was in the city on an artists’ residency for eight weeks. The interactive project has been the outcome, executed just after she had presented ‘Bombay Shots’ at the gallery in 2008. The new project can be considered an extension of that. In spite of many political undercurrents, she finds both the cities have citizens from a wide range of cultures and backgrounds making them vital and dynamic.

On the eve of her show, Navjot Altaf mentions that she is interested in the interactive as well as the dialogical process of art-making. ‘Bombay Shots’ and her earlier suite of work, entitled ‘Mumbai Meri Jaan’, helped her understand reasons for migrating and the people’s relationship / associations with the city and sites that they relate to, visit, like to be photographed with and remember – in the process both the artist and the participant create a new dialogue. They thus historicize such places. The artist adds:

"The very process of engaging with the participants of this project in New York and the places that have special meaning and experience for them builds up another layer of memory – overlapping the earlier ones. Renewing with this revisit may be a different perspective of the city and life around it and building up complex relationships with the places. What it does is, build bridges towards understanding and documenting, to a certain degree the complex web of relationships of an evolving and ever-changing city, and its affect it may have on its inhabitants."

It focuses on the interdependency of the people and surrounding places, of how a city tends to acquire a certain culture as well as character through its inhabitants and how they co-inform themselves and gets swayed by the culture. It’s an ever evolving dynamic relationship – an outcome of collective forces, which gets built up with character and aspirations of an individual.