Thursday, April 29, 2010

(BRIC) art from India, Russia and Brazil in spotlight

India, Russia and Brazil were left behind by China going by sheer weight of numbers in a different type of auction courtesy Phillips de Pury & Co. The auction was held at the Saatchi Gallery. It comprised 375 lots by established modern & contemporary artists from each of these four countries, though 54 works from Brazil did not arrive.

The BRIC sale is based on the popular acronym conceived in 2001. It describes the four rapidly growing economies of the world. The BRIC sale was an excellent opportunity for comparing the resilience of these powerful markets. There are specialized auction events for Russian, Indian, Chinese and Latin American art, this was the first time ever that the BRIC nations were exclusively lined up together, in a single sale of art. Tracking the event, a news report in the Telegraph UK noted:
“Following the art boom that ended in the autumn of 2008, prices in some of these markets crashed by up to 50 per cent. But recently, the Chinese market has started to bounce back, as has the market for modern Indian art of the Fifties and Sixties. At the BRIC auction, the higher-valued lots were selected for an evening sale. The next day only half of the lower-valued lots got sold. Here the sale was arranged in sections. China notched up £2.9 million of sales, ahead of Russia (£2.3 million), and Brazil (£1.1 million), leaving India trailing in fourth place with just £800,000.”
The auction was part of a brand-building policy for the 200-year-old auction business to position itself as the purveyor of the new & fashionable mode of art under the Simon de Pury’s chairmanship. In addition to contemporary art, jewelry and design, de Pury has started a program of themed sales as a means of dressing up contemporary art, to generate more income, and also to get noticed. A certain way of getting the latest sale noticed was to host it at the new Saatchi Gallery premises. It was watched by 2,500 visitors a day.

At the BRIC sale historic works were recognized with record prices, and China managed to dominate other nations.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Beaten-down contemporary art market sees brighter days

The art market badly fell with the onset of the financial crisis. However, fund managers, collectors, auctioneers and experts are confident that it’s on the cusp of solid recovery.

Castlestone Management, specializing in alternative assets for clients worldwide, is anticipating a 40 percent increase in prices over the next couple of years. Citing a 70 percent increase in equities since late 2008, the fund manager added that equities was a key indicator for analyzing the art markets trends.

The art fund house compared the equity market to gold that has gone up by 50 percent since late 2008. Like art, it’s un-leveraged, irreplaceable real asset investors turn to during hard economic times, it concluded. Analyzing the broader market, a Reuters news report notes:
“Less than two years after a long-lived art boom came to an end with lower prices and a decreased supply, bidders have returned to salesrooms, prices are mostly ticking up and records are being set once again. Strong results at the impressionist, modern & contemporary sales in London bear out the optimism. More recently, the HK sales set records and exceeded estimates, driven in part by Asian buyers. "
Such solid results obviously boost confidence in the art world, thus encouraging owners of quality works to re-enter the art market. The availability of rare or top-quality fresh-to-the-market pieces pushes up bidding. It, in turn drives up prices. Conversely, when sellers tend to hold back, often mid-range works flood the market. They draw little interest and less bidding. The result was the drop-off witnessed in 2008 and 2009.

Sotheby's rating has already been upgraded to ‘outperform’ from ‘neutral’, pointing to a clear rebound in demand for collectible art. In fact, Sotheby's managed to exceed analysts' expectations with a good 31 percent rise in fourth-quarter revenue. Optimism is well-founded with world-renowned, hugely valuable and prestigious collections ready to hit the block in NY in May.

Encouraging signs suggest strong recovery in the art market

"You are going to see some great prices in NY auction in May. The rare pieces are going to go through the roof and make prices that you wouldn't expect to see in the economic climate we're in."
Philip Hoffman of The Fine Art Group Fund he told Reuters in a recent interview. He is the founder-CEO of the famous art investment house. Hoffman added Chinese collectors would make a major impact on the contemporary & impressionist market.

The Mei Moses Art Index that tracks the value of marketable art has found a neat 5 percent fall in the return of its index in its first-quarter report for the year 2010. But there is no reason to worry. The co-founder of both Beautiful Asset Advisors & the index, Michael Moses, stated this was largely driven by a drop in a single category of art; pre-1950 American collecting. The rest of the categories had shown positive performance, led by post-war and Old Masters works, in the first quarter.

The report also pointed to encouraging signs of the beginning of recovery in the art market. It noted that the second half of the year 2009 witnessed ’a repairing of world wealth’ and there’s more of a world market for art these days than ever.’ Wedbush Sec. has already upgraded Sotheby's rating, pointing to a definite bounce back in art market. The reasons are many...

One among them, as experts expect is that stronger oil prices will free sizable amount of cash, thus boosting the Middle Eastern market in next few years. However, the Russian art market will remain unpredictable. Notably, the collectors are now more aware and have done their homework. They thus are more confident since the earlier days when they were relatively uninformed.

'Interest in Indian art is for the real'.'

Peter Sumner is the Indian art specialist at auction house Phillips de Pury. In an elaborate interview he touched upon the various issues related to contemporary Indian art. Speaking to Hasan Suroor of The Hindu, he mentioned the interest in it shown by collectors, institutions and galleries is for the real.

With the globalization of art market over the last few years, collectors and curators have turned their focus to art works from emerging economies. It’s true that creativity goes hand in hand with an economic upturn. Lately, there have been shows of Indian art in London. Their success indicates the interest is strong, he added.
“The buyers are getting increasingly global. There is always a trend among collectors to buy art from their own country as it is often most relevant to their background, society and context. However, top Indian contemporary artists like T.V Santhosh, Thukral and Thagra, Jitish Kallat and Atul Dodiya employ techniques and explore themes that also appeal to the western audience, even while maintaining an inherent Indian quality.”
Phillips de Pury on its part has continued to witness strong demand for the top quality and exciting new art from young as well as established Indian artists. The expert noted that contemporary Indian art and the market for it has changed quite a bit, almost beyond recognition, In the past ten years. International galleries operating out of Delhi, Mumbai, London, New York and Berlin, and global auction houses offering Indian art within the more recognizable context of western art sales have helped to widen the collector base.

Summing up the growth trajectory of the contemporary Indian art market, he pointed out how it saw remarkable growth in 2007-08 and took centrestage on the international stage before the price bubble burst in 2009. However, according to him, these corrections have only stabilized the market and have let investors and collectors to re-enter it at much more affordable and sustainable levels.

Monday, April 26, 2010

‘Now is a perfect time to get into contemporary Indian art.’

Indian art is collected primarily by western art collectors/ institutions and at local level, observed Peter Sumner, the Indian art specialist at Phillips de Pury. In an interview with Hasan Suroor of The Hindu, he stated:
“There are talented and young artists who have strongly established themselves on the international art scene. Their appeal lies in their unique ability to document the socio-economic changes in the modern ‘globalized' India.”
For example, in ‘Untitled Eclipse' put up for sale at BRIC sales, Jitish Kallat creates a billboard sized canvas reminiscent of the ad billboards in the major Indian cities. The orange sunrays offer the backdrop to smiling children, to point out the way to a bright future for India's new generation. Though malnourished, their smiles betray a darker existence, a reality in which they are unlikely to benefit from the social and economic progress, only widening schism between the rich and poor.

On the other hand, Subodh Gupta in his work transforms everyday objects into recognizable trademarks, which reflect the great changes taking place in India today. It’s this pointed social commentary collectors and buyers identify with, relate to and recognize. Explaining the extent to which the market for contemporary Indian art has grown and whether it has lived up to expectations and the hype, Peter Sumner stated:
"In 2008, auction sales of Indian art raised nearly $24 million globally with Subodh Gupta breaking the $1 million barrier for the first time. This was the culmination of rapid growth of the global market for Indian art market after economic liberalization in India. After large adjustments in the market place during 2009 India is once again becoming a focus point for the international art market — and is continuing to live up to the expectations.

"Confidence in long-term sustained growth is the dominant sentiment in the contemporary Indian art market. Buying is from India, U.K,, Europe and the U.S. with corporate institutions also playing their part within the context of contemporary Indian art sales.”
With prices having reached attractive levels and with the economy set to grow faster than the western economies, now is a perfect time to get into contemporary Indian art, he advises.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Emerging galleries focus on artists rarely shown or those under-represented

It has become challenging for dealers and galleries to sell high-value works by established artists. Naturally, the demand is slowly trickling down to lesser value works by upcoming artists who ably question existing socio-cultural and political strictures. This will result in broadening of the market horizontally, and also in bringing within it vertical depth.

The emphasis clearly is on nurturing new artists and establishing their value in the art market. For example, Gallery Espace is keener to work with young artists for a longer period of time. Espace takes on a couple of emerging artists every year, whereas Guild Art has supported artists like Balaji Ponna and Prajakta Potnis Ponmany. Gallery Project 88 also has focused on experimental artists like Shreyas Karle, Hemali Bhuta and Baptist Coelho.

Experts foresee the growing pool of talented artists far exceeding the number of gallery spaces. In other words, there won’t be enough number of galleries to support artists. Of course, new galleries continue to spring up in metros like Kolkata, Delhi and Mumbai. They strive to give a fresh new perspective that well aligns with the fast evolving needs of the dynamic art market.

Gallery Maskara and Chatterjee + Lal have provided a platform to innovative artists like Nikhil Chopra, a find of Mortimer Chatterjee and Tara Lal. On the other hand, Abhay Maskara has put up some conceptually challenging thematic displays by artists like Shine Shivan and T Venkanna. His gallery looks for artists who are most likely to make a mark in the future.

There are artists rarely shown or are rather under-represented. The collector turned gallerist wants to create a meaningful context for them. Tushar Jiwarajka, another collector turned gallerist, runs Volte. Lakeeren by Arshiya Lokhandwala and The Loft by Anupa Mehta also testify the current trend.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Intricacies of installation art and what makes it appealing…

What really makes for an unconventional piece of art? How can an installation appeal to the viewers?

The answer can be found in Subodh Gupta’s art practice that has managed to restructure Indian constructivist tendencies with success into the most sensuous and flamboyant theatricality of his installation pieces. They recreate themselves in our minds as a reverie. According to the artist, a work ought to leap forward, and say something strong enough to evoke a response in the viewer. He has stated:
“Installation must be understood without an artist’s explanation. It has to be simple in intent. Art should be like a ‘stream of translation’ in which an artist could monumentalize the emblem of global exchange.”
In art many permutations and gradations of space exist today. Space can be pictorial, fictive, real, mystical, geographical, social, male, mental female, architectural, whole, fragmented, distorted and compressed. Uma Nair in her ET essay points out that space could be socially charged and liberating - a prototype for anything. The works’ shared concept of art as social space should remain fresh. An installation, which causes spontaneous response, will work best. The art critic explains:
“Design and architecture are a vital part of the language of art. There is a complete embracing of the principle of pleasure, which is perhaps the most important legacy of popular culture. References to past alternative cultures are frequent, fragmented, sometimes subverted but rarely nostalgic.”
To influence the viewers and to be successful, an installation needs not only to evoke a response of amazement, but also kindle theatrical resonance. To it, intricacy of thought is more vital than just engraving or a host full of lights. If recycled material is an ingenuous idea, the end product must have a touch of newness, an unpredictable identity not seen before. Installations testify that art’s spaces have begun redefining themselves.

Friday, April 23, 2010

What holds the Key to success of sculptures and installations?

A slew of volume-centric exhibits of sculptures and installations seen in the capital city of India over the past couple of months, raised certain questions about the role fabrication plays and the whole idea of an installation in specific sculptural practices. Does ready-made units of a group of lanterns, a clichéd Durga on a tiger, a child on a dog or a bottom-heavy human figure make an installation? Providing the answer, Uma Nair of ET notes:
“An installation when conceptualized must blow away all palpable signs of production and invite contemplation. It must have the ability to speak to us like a multiple space in which we are left introspecting the moment of combustion so as to release a host of meanings. It’s akin to setting a stage the artist has secretly created before the audience enters. But to make the invite a consideration or a cohesion of thoughts, the artist must spend a long time to leave traces of his elemental thinking.”
Subodh Gupta’s ‘Common Man’ at Hauser and Wirth late last year had two works that incorporated tables for an installation work Potato Ring and Aam Aadmi. Departing from the usual, he veered away from composite sculptures moving towards objects, which possessed an auratic, albeit sensory quality. He employed culturally loaded mediums like bronze, marble and steel for these two installations.

In creating sub-contexts for a fruit (mango) and vegetable (potatoes) glistened in humbled magnificence, he suggested an installation needed to provide an integral but vital symbolism to couple ‘the universal and the enigmatic’. Here, he was exploring capacity of art to withstand as well as channel the effects of expansion, displacement and translation, the art critic points out and adds that Subodh Gupta goes beyond the mere street story to discover the language of the present meticulously filtered through the past.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Who else is showing at Saatchi?

T. Venkanna’s work is a contemporary remake of that of French artist Henri Rousseau, known for his fantastical illustrations of botanical gardens and jungle scenes. Rousseau was both chastised and celebrated for his seemingly imaginative escapism as well as early primitive style.

Venkanna earnestly reproduced two of Henri Rousseau’s works; the first appropriated from Rousseau’s painting ‘The Dream’. Its historical significance is not lost on the Indian artist. An accompanying note to the Saatchi show states:
“He intentionally renders it as a post-modern image with idiosyncratic undertones. The artist adds a second panel to the Dream in Dream painting. Turned on its side, the thin canvas takes the same subject but satirizes it using cartoons to the point where the panel becomes garish."
A renowned performance –photo artist Pushpamala N is often the subject of her compositions. In her work, photography is explored as a tool of meticulous ethnographic documentation. This is achieved by employing the apparatus of early image making techniques to challenge the authenticity of the image with a touch of humor.

The Ethnographic Series done in collaboration with artist Clare Arni focuses on South India’s native women. Their customs and manners draw are portrayed. The attention is on the choreographed stylistics evident in early portraits, enacting and thus transforming the set stereotypes of women.

Tallur L.N.’s Untitled (2007) at ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ uses inflatable bed, latex rubber, silicon, medical cot and forceps. The talented Indian artist, who grew up in a village, has not often gone beyond his immediate modest village settings. His work refers to the poverty in the countryside.

Essentially employing core Indian signs and connected symbols, it characterizes the underbelly of India, still successfully translating the anxiety of his subject matter to urban audience. An accompanying essay points out that his work presents a rather depressing sight of the objects of social utilitarianism. It adds:
“His sculptural works are riddled with the agony of labored situations. For the artist, there is a pleasurable absurdity in the disheveled traditions of the farmlands and the villages when compared to the new American-styled hyper-real cities that function as cash accumulators.”

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Exploring lines that forge and strive to bring us closer to our purest self

Artist Revati Sharma Singh explores lines that belong to a borderless world, which stands as a whole - boundless and limitless - sans any lines...

The stark, ruptured lines of socioeconomic disparity created by money, power and hierarchy divide the haves from the have-nots and towering high rises from the creeping hutments. The fault lines that arise because of the skewed balance between pristine nature and rampant urbanization, environment and rampant development lead to gradual degradation.There are lines that foretell and decide an individual’s fate.

Unraveling the complex maze of crisscross patterns on our greasy palms gives us an inkling of the impending turn of events, albeit unpleasant, we can only helplessly watch as they unfold. The creases of on our forehead, the furrow on our brow – those unwanted worry lines and the laughter lines around our eyes. They all tell a tale of the time passed by and perhaps the opportunities missed…

The wedged lines that divide a parched piece of land, dried like the desperate farmers’ eyes, and those deepening lines that demarcate the sufferers’ faces into barren landscapes. They refuse to melt, merge and reemerge as a fulfilling expression that displays the sum total of our life’s long, fruitless struggles.The grills on our windows that narrow our vision and the locks on our doors that draw us inwards, clamping locks on our hearts and shackling our minds…

The demanding lines that we draw in our relationships; the invisible lines of extreme ego that hold us back from surrendering our SELF to others. The brutal lines of extremism, the subtle lines between truth and deceit, they all envelope our existence. The artist adds: “It is time that we let the dividing line melt. In this exhibition, I explore lines that forge, that unite, that strive to bring us closer to our purest self and bond us with everyone around irrespective of caste, color or creed.

The lifeline or cord rendered by a loving mother to her newborn child.The unique fingerprints that sets us apart, and the DNA structure that lines our existence.The line of continuity that connects one generation to the other...It’s the eternal timeline of all our lives.These are the lines that interact and communicate; the lines that make up alphabets and are at the heart of our visual and textual expressions; the lines that form the core of our languages and dialects...

They define love, peace and harmony as the same thing for each and every individual irrespective of nationality, statehood, caste, class and creed.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Indian art comes closer to global audiences

- London based Haunch of Venison is showing Forever Foreign by Rina Banerjee (9 April till 15 May, 2010).

- The world renowned Saatchi Gallery, runs ‘The Empire Strikes Back: Contemporary - Indian Art’, a show extensively covered by The Art Expo blog, till May7, 2010.

- A show of Indian Portraits is on till June 20 at National Portrait Gallery, London.

- Bharti Kher’s ‘inevitable undeniable necessary’ is on view at Hauser & Wirth.

Above are among the several major shows of Indian art at the prestigious galleries in the UK, underlining a trend. Qualifying it as ‘the affair (that) continues’, a timely essay by The Business Standard notes:

“London hasn’t quite had the sunny beginnings of an Indian summer, yet things are a little warmer on the art front. Several excellent exhibitions around the city feature artists from the subcontinent and subjects ranging from ancient Mughal portraits to explorations of contemporary Indian art.”
Last year too, there was ‘Indian Highway’, a display that explored the vitality of road travel in India, arranged at the Serpentine Gallery, ‘Indian Summer’ show at the British Museum, which also included a rare exhibit of paintings from the Jodhpur’s Royal Court; plus the Victoria & Albert’s ‘Maharaja: the Splendour of India’s Royal Courts’ show

The contemporaries also have been getting good exposure internationally. Initial Access art venue organized ‘Passage to India Part II’, comprising works by leading artists like Reena Saini Kallat, Thukral and Tagra etc. The Mori Art Museum in Japan held ‘Chalo! India’. This landmark show (December 2008-March 2009) had over 100 works by 27 artists. Making mention of other shows, the BS notes:

“‘India Xianzai’ at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA) in Shanghai was only slightly smaller with 21 artists. India again was in focus at the ARCO fair in Madrid. Next year, the Pompidou Centre will host a huge show on India, with works specially created for it.”
The impressive showcase flags just some of the more ambitious and more concerted efforts to present Indian art to global audiences.

Monday, April 19, 2010

A glance at Riyas Komu’s new set of works - I

The new exhibition of works by Riyas Komu at Azad Art Gallery, Tehran suggests an intense examination of our heritage in the backdrop of sudden politics moves and developments that continue to entrap our voices and our lives. Here is a quick glance at his new set of works

‘Safe to Light’: His recent work on tables, including ‘Safe to Light’, is a second work conceptualized as a table (The first one in 2009). It comprises scientific instruments and vessels, an alembic, used for the process of distillation, placed on the leveled surface of a table. It works both as a straight plinth as well as a marked place whereupon experiments occur. A small flame, emanating out of a bunsen burner carved in wood, heats up the large glass vial (also carved in wood).

The three main elements of the work, excluding the table, are the heated vial and burner as well as another glass vial that accepts the vapours emitted from the initial vial, whilst, in sharp contrast, on the table sits a water pump, ideally waiting to pump move of the earth’s precious element out for further experiments. The installation raises many questions about the notion of exchange as suggested in the title.

Fragrance of funeral: This new work is curiously manufactured. The table, like a shattered site after a natural disaster, remains whole but broken in parts, all aspects of its former self are present but evidently busted. The work, a cross etween a table and a funeral pyre or even a forensic table, has multiple meanings. One of the most interesting new elements to be introduced is a seated figure from a Moghul period, holding a flower to his nose and wearing an ornate turban.

Bearded and reminiscent of images of Hafez, Rumi or the various Shahs in Moghul India or, indeed, of Turkish sultans in the reign of Suleyman, the Magnificent, it is a strange inclusion suggestive of time and space as in the vocabularies and the temporalities that the work slides between.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Excerpts from a curatorial text to Riyas Komu’s new show

Like many other contemporary artists, Riyas Komu is equally perplexed by our apparent lack of conviction to resist war and to think in terms of defense and offense alone. His new set of works showcased in Tehran raise some pertinent issues in this context. The curator of the show, Shaheen Merali, mentions:
“His work has always been a striking and constant reflection on the contemporary condition where so much remains at stake, here, after many thousands of years of
fear as our heritage, we remain ready to move into another ‘situation’; readily abandoning our wit and knowledge and surrendering to the forces that break our bonds and our lives. His work often appears to be a multiple space in which we're left grasping the moment, in order to release results or meaning.

The sculptures stray between a mystical place of gothic pedagogy, where signs and power make a heady mix, suggestive of knowledge in a fixed monumental strait, and certain plays with the effects of a raging world in the 20th and 21st century. For instance, his sculpture ‘Royal Screw’, works between a medieval tool of defense and attack, the sword, and, by sculpting the blade into advancing spiral threads that keeps something in place, constructs a certainty for the destiny of a moving object. It questions the modes of daily reality, are these certainties or sexual dispositions of ‘screwing’ around?

‘Safe to Light’ is a set of reminiscences of fear and omission, the work is a weapon, an ode to weapons and castration, in reproducing the existing orders in fascinating twists. It is a reminder that so many places and so much time have been involved in sheer brutality that now we seem to be tied to a future by a shared histories of violence and violation, that seems to guide us to an ever more dangerous future.

In all the works, the artist seems to argue, peoples, more so than individuals, now more than ever before, have the power to assert criticalities into certain vacuous sites in order to transform and make history."

Reviewing Riyas Komu's new set of works- II

Desert: It’s a fascinating specter of control in an imaginative way is suggested. Here a horse is cut into two pieces and connected by an oil pipe. A similar pipe is used in the work Tribute to the footballer, which brings three diverse elements together to make a sad observation to a conclusive one side of a barricade.

A carved wooden leg topped by a metal pipe balanced by a wooden crutch that allows it to stay upright. The whole looks oppressive, with its nuanced approach giving value to the plight of those maimed in the war of terror but still full of life for the beautiful game.

Haleema: The painting is an accompanying image of a singular portrait of a woman giving a speech on a cold day. The actual face of the woman and the background is blurred and indistinguishable, a technique commonly used in portraits in the media to hide the identity of the person.

What is still recognizable from what suggests a forlorn gaze into the distance, as if her lips are syncing to utter what could be a set of remarks. It is in its simplicity that the portrait starts to vibrate in an unfolding that can only be described as a diachronic thinking through time, of the isappearance and dispersal of humaneness in the contemporary, of honesty and gentleness.

Blood Brothers: It’s a set of cast aluminum figures of soldiers from opposing sides, hung against a wall in a battle of no mercies nor of definite winners. It is in this complex battlefield of grids and victims that they suggest the nonsense of spectral violence that now ruins our capacity to be called the intelligent, civilizing race.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

‘The Game’ of arranging objects to provoke spontaneous auguries

The protagonists of artist Ravi Kashi’s recent works at Pundole Art Gallery, Mumbai are the Buddha, the body and also the drawers chest. They are all assembled to form ‘The Game’, each of which serves him as a screen for the disquietudes of self - a figure of contestation between transcendence and carnality, between unsettling revelations and archived sensations.

For years, he has been collecting seemingly interesting objects, sans any design. When he started placing them one next to the other, unexpected meanings emerged. This led to a process of exploration and expansion of the varied association of meanings. He then started photographing the various possible arrangements. A curatorial note by Ranjit Hoskote elaborates:
“The suite of works originates in the artist’s delight in arranging objects to provoke spontaneous auguries. At its core, ‘The Game’ articulates the gamble that is self-recognition: What is to be done with the hidden others one finds within oneself?”
In the latest show, he presents two suites of photo images, namely ‘Engaging Buddha’ and ‘Meeting in Darkness’, along with a timed video sequence. In ‘Chest of Secrets’ the artist gradually discloses the hidden pattern of secret obsessions that lies beneath the unruffled surface routines of normality.

On the other hand, in ‘Engaging Buddha’he unpacks a series of contraries usually fused under pressure into the figure of the one on a spiritual quest. Through objects here arranged in variable tableaux around a Buddha head, he manages to extract and perform the tensions between elements of time and eternity, the ladder to heaven and the feast of sensuous pleasure, the detached sage and the passionate martyr, the self as animal nature and one blindfolded against the world’s blandishments. His ‘Meeting in Darkness’ tends to transit from spirit to body. In ‘Chest of Secrets’, he conveys us to that deep substratum of consciousness.

Ravi Kashi's artistic inspirations

The endless surge in consumption and the advertisements, which feed this frenzy of consumerism, have been artist Ravi Kashi’s focus. He takes the images from media, advertisements and images of city streets as a starting point for his work and subverts the end result. Here are the excerpts of an interview with talented artist Ravi Kashi courtesy The Arts Trust.

He states: "I am a witness to his timesbut not a mute spectator. I question the language of desire they speak. This along with the awareness of the process of meaning-generation in visual language becomes the content of my work."

He has experimented in various media like prints, glass painting, collage and assemblage as well as handmade paper other than painting and drawing. He has also been part of various interactive public art projects that have added variety to his work and expanded my vocabulary.

Regarding his viewers’ response, he states: “They come from various backgrounds, though the urban viewers relate to my work more as it is their immediate reality and it is something they can identify with that I depict. The number of visitors at Shanghai Art fair overwhelmed me. Every day thousands of visitors came and one could really make out that they were appreciating the works even though language was a barrier to initiate a discussion. I had displayed 7 paintings and 9 books cast in paper pulp there. The content of these works were related to my concerns mentioned above. “

Through his art he often focuses on Bangalore, his home city. He elaborates: “I have seen Bangalore changing gradually and dramatically over the years. The change the cityscape is going through is indeed enormous. It’s getting transformed into a façade of glass and chrome buildings. I try to capture the process behind this changed ambience and culture, and the resultant changes in the aspirations in people it has induced."

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Checking out the Souza retrospective

Volte-Face’ at Lalit Kala Akademi (LKA), Rabindra Bhavan, New Delhi displays legendary artist F.N. Souza's ‘Iconoclastic Vision’.

Among the most controversial and revolting members of the Progressive Art Group (PAG), his starkly strong and brash oeuvre encompassed landscapes, still life, nudes, faces and heads. The show courtesy Dhoomimal Art Gallery brings out how the master artist's practice is fraught with a visible edgy tension that makes his febrile figures extremely virile and taut. Cardinals, popes, houses, ubiquitous men and women in his paintings are right on the edge of an abyss that almost tears them asunder, albeit their tensile forms are well encapsulated by an apparent whiplash boundary.

This exhibit consists of nearly two hundred works - pen & ink drawings, oils, chemical paintings as well as watercolors. They together represent different phases and milestones of his illustrious career. A curatorial note elaborates:

“We get to see the master's works at his demonic best. His belief that in dredging up the dragon from deep within rather than suppressing it, one can confront and ultimately vanquish it lies at the core of his creativity. The presence of evil in his work jolts complacency. It brings an acute awareness of its lurking influence of human beings. A special focus is on the fractured faces which created his masterly language of art.”
The works from Dhoomimal Gallery Collection let us catch a glimpse of his frankly sexual women capable of epic heights, ghoulish heads, apart from chaotic landscapes and stormy houses constructed in forceful, frenzied brushstrokes. There is also a showcase of his female figures painted with his frankly candid vision.

Art expert Yashodhara Dalmia has curated the exhibition with an essay written by her. Gallery walks, panel discussions, film screenings and works of art by established contemporary artists in synergy with the late master complete this special show.

Yamini Nayar’s curious creations

Yamini Nayar’s creations seem trapped in between post-explosive moments of reality and dream like scenarios in which humanity has almost been wiped out.

‘What is Essential’ (C-print), composed of ready-mades deftly juxtaposed into a configuration of modern narrative. There is a faded black & white photograph of a parachutist that rests between the tiled floor and laminated fake wooden wall. The photo and a wide array of porcelain and plastic objects seem to be organized as a desk might be arranged. The work looks to explore the intimacy of floating objects in space.

Another C-print ‘Luck Is The Residue Of Design’ depicts a seemingly abandoned space the earth seems to have shaken. Here the delicate shell of walls and floor seem to have cracked under the weight and force of temporary motion. The alcove at the back though, has taken a bit of the force of an act of nature or the weight of something man-made. The usage of foreshortening builds a sense of compression as well as claustrophobia in this imagined interior.

Cleo, a recent photographic work, displays a darkened attic along with broken floorboards and an incomplete partition wall. It has an eye crudely cut into the back wall. With this composition, resembling a faded horror film scene, the artist constructs heightened melodrama. By drawing directly onto photo images, her 2008 series recalls French architect Yona Friedman and his working sketches as well as formal solutions for which he scores directly onto of pre-existing architectural spaces’ documentation.

At the root of Yamini Nayar’s geometric interventions lies such inventiveness. Her redesigning of damaged cityscapes is done in order to suggest further possibilities. Here, she builds order out of chaos, to seek sense where there are only the post-destruction remnants. Another architectural drawing on photograph has the artist using previous documentation as a starting point.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Upholding values of humanity: Bose Krishnamachari’s ‘NO’

Bose Krishnamachari’s solo show held in Dubai has received critical applause and good response from viewers as well. Entitled ‘NO’, the series held at 1x1 Gallery in Dubai encapsulates his coveted ideas of self-respect as well as his earnest effort to fight injustice.

Reviewing the works, writer Ed Lake of The Nationalist publication in The UAE notes:”The old stuff greets you first. His ‘Stretched Bodies’ series is a sequence of giant, psychedelic acrylics, explosions of saturated color, which retain just enough structure to indicate a confused and artificial interior space.”

He engages with his two favorite icons, Andy Warhol and Piet Mondrian, both denoting western tradition while revisiting some of his peculiar artistic approaches. A Piet Mondrian painting here serves as a point of departure to construct a tree that doubles itself as an able expressionistic shelf. In ‘Mondrian’s Tree’, he expresses his own concept of ‘the East meeting the West’. Ed Lake elaborates in his essay:

“The De Stijl painter comes in for more explicit tweaking in another installation, a set of white bookshelves- crooked in design so as to appear like crazy paving. They are fringed with a kind of architrave to give them the outline of cartoon clouds, or, for that matter, of a land mass, which is crisscrossed by roads. Mondrian’s arid geometry is forced into new dimensions and returned to the world of objects.”
‘White Ghost and Red Carpet’ is a sort of a ‘re-presentation’. The artist has been quoted as saying in an article in The DNA India:
“With small scale wars and calamities as the backdrop, every leader today is trying to tell things to people. One can hear the cacophony of statements by the world leaders in this sculptural installation. Mahatma Gandhi is a metaphorical expression of the artist’s own self in a diminutive form, against Gandhiji’s monumental portrait.”
The series takes a re-look at history in recognition of the fact that art practice at any point of time should not swerve from history. The works allude to history in the contemporary context, touching upon justice and injustice, war and peace, and the human beings, most importantly.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Indian artistic achievement honored at PEM

The Harmony Art Foundation by Tina Ambani has lent special works by three masters of contemporary Indian art to the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM).

The world-famous museum has just had ‘Sensational India!’, the annual Indian art & culture festival on April 10. Chief curator at PEM said:
"We are thrilled to have these three key works from the Ambani Collection. Their extended loan is just one of the many ways in which we are bringing global
contemporary art to PEM."
Among the works on offer courtesy Harmony, Anish Kapoor's ‘Halo’ will be on display at the PEM Atrium. It has been made available by the Tina & Anil Ambani Collection on long-term loan. ‘Halo’ is a shallow stainless steel circular cone, 10 feet in diameter. Its surface pleated in a radial pattern marks a manipulation that is associated more commonly with pliable fabric than unyielding steel.

F.N. Souza's ‘Birth’ and Paritosh Sen's ‘Ahmedabad Scene’ are the other two works. A press release elaborates:

“The Ambanis also lent ‘Birth’ by Souza and ‘Ahmedabad Scene’ by Sen to the new exhibit drawn from PEM's Chester & Davida Herwitz Collection, the country's most important public collection of Indian modern art.”
The Peabody Essex Museum started collecting art from India in 1799. Among its most stunning pieces are from the 1600s to the present (works) currently featured in the Prashant H. Fadia Foundation as well as Deshpande Foundation galleries of traditional art from India, and also the Edger M. Batchelder Gallery that showcases key Mughal works.

With the addition of the Chester & Davida Herwitz contemporary Indian art collection in 2000, it established a unique position internationally as the proud holder of probably the most comprehensive collection of Indian art to reflect its breadth and depth.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Pent-up demand for quality art coming to the fore

Sotheby’s Auctions are scaling new peaks for artists from Asia, in the process, exceeding presale estimate. An auction series in the first week of April fetched an impressive $41 million, a sure sign that the art market is fast returning to ‘normalcy’ from the sharp downturn witnessed during the recent global credit crunch. Sotheby’s had three separate auctions, including a sale of contemporary Asian art, and all did well.

Both Sotheby’s and Christie’s state that Asian buyers have become a major force in recent years when it comes to sales of Asian arts, antiques, and other categories such as gems and even ‘ultrahigh-end’ wines. Bidding in the Hong Kong auctions was from across the globe. The sales are testimony to the increasing spending power of Asian buyers, a set of buyers who largely escaped the economic downturn post 2008. A work by top contemporary Chinese artist Liu Ye went for $2.45 million, nearly three times its preauction estimate. ‘Bright Road’, another painting by the artist also set a new record. It fetched $18.7 million, easily topping the preauction estimate of $16.3 million.

Hit by the slump and global credit crunch, the international art marketplace set on a recovery path in late 2009, hand in hand with the economic recovery across Asia and the US. This reflects in the improved sentiment in new auction sales. The amount raised at Sotheby’s previous HK sales series last October - comprising art, watches, jewelry and other categories - was up almost 90 percent from its spring 2009 series.

Head of contemporary Asian art department, Sotheby’s, Evelyn Lin told IHT that the latest sales figures demonstrated ‘a strong return for blue-chip contemporary artists.’ Lin was mentioned as saying:
“There’s no question that these results show pent-up demand for great art. Asian art buyers have become much more mature, more discerning, more sophisticated.”
Indeed, the latest results suggest the rally is continuing.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Peeping into eclectic art collection of a celebrity business couple

The Damania household in Mumbai’s Five Gardens locality houses a classy art collection. Providing a peep into it, Riddhi Doshi of The DNA gives us a true ‘treasure treat’.

Both Roshni and Parvez Damania are serious art collectors. Their colorful home has beautiful paintings Adorning the wonderful walls of the hall are works by acclaimed artists like Satish Gujral, M.F. Husain and Bose Krishnamachari among others. Two original drawings by the all-time great Pablo Picasso are memorable.

According to Parvez Damania, these works were bought from abroad, some time ago. He also has Salvador Dali’s limited edition lithographs. The rest of the works in his collection are all Indian works and he absolutely loves them. He has always maintained that he would buy works that are pleasing to the eye and those he ‘wants to grow with’. Most importantly, they ought to be worth the price, he adds. His wife Roshni has been quoted as saying,

“I’ve all the big names like F.N. Souza, Husain, Ram Kumar, Jogen Choudhury, Paritosh Sen, Sakti Burman and others in my collection. Now, we are concentrating more on younger artists and trying to promote them. I guess, every art collector goes through different phases.”
For instance, the wall along the staircase to the bedroom carries works of renowned artist Vaikuntham. The collector couple asserts that all their purchases have been based on research. In fact, the two like to add rare and unusual works to their collection. It includes a Souza landscape. It’s a very rare piece, as the late artist was more renowned for figurative works. There is a rare Ram Kumar painting as well.

If it’s Parvez who makes most purchases, the responsibility of maintenance of the precious pieces lies with Roshni. She quips: “I get tense at times when I see paintings lying on the floor. I tell Parvez to stop buying any more. The maintenance is definitely a task but I manage it somehow.”

Friday, April 9, 2010

Practice of artists Rajan Krishnan and Justin Ponmany

Rajan Krishnan and Justin Ponmany are two contemporary artists from their generation who produce highly impacting works.

Rajan Krishnan’s painted works show a reclaimed earth just after humanity has chosen to abandon it. His haunting paintings inevitably attain to the changing and ravaged landscape, as manmade settings are fast occupied and deserted in a hurry in the pursuit of obviously something better.

His ‘Substances of Earth’ at ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ show (Saatchi Gallery, London) is a colossal acrylic work. It offers stylized forms and a dull palette. The detail recalls part of the grand canyon even while showing a landmark that has been taken over by some animated insects. The surface of it seems overwhelmed by these curious creatures that have covered the landscape. Boulders of rock here seem to resemble a carcass that has been laid out on the face of the mountain.

On the other hand, Justin Ponmany ‘Staple Agony II, Plastic Memory’ is a work of art, which might seem to have arrived from a Radiohead song lyric. A hooded figure’s solitary shell in it’s seated right at the center of an enclosed space with what seems to be a ubiquitous industrial staple-gun. Floating in the foreground, it’s illuminated in orange.

Justin Ponmany’s practice is marked by a Darwinian approach. It reorganizes and also reinvents reality. Re-branding by digitizing, the artist skillfully duplicates figures in an eerie electric landscapes stylized beyond comprehension – almost - were it not for those reoccurring markers as well as motifs of skyscrapers and figures, which appear in his work.

Using silver holograms, plastic paints and rich pigments of color along with distorted photographic negatives, he is as keen on the production of his art works as he is in the object, which then exists and haunts us.

‘Bring me a Lion’ at Cecille R. Hunt Gallery

An ongoing exhibition of ‘Bring me a Lion’ at Cecille R. Hunt Gallery (St.Louis, USA) features Dhruvi Acharya, Chitra Ganesh, Tushar Joag, Rina Banerjee, Jaishri Abichandani, Yamini Nayar, Rakhi Peswani, Bari Kumar, Jitish Kallat and Reena Saini Kallat. Explaining the title, a curatorial note states:
“The emblem of the Republic of India is based on Ashoka’s Lion Capital. Placed atop a pillar to commemorate the Buddha’s first sermon, it displays four apposing majestic Asiatic Lions. They signify the great Emperor and also Gautama, the lion of the Sakya clan - combining both militarist might and the Buddha’s peaceful message of the Middle Way.

"The ancient mythological texts and tales are replete with stories of both the grandeur and foibles of lions like the powerful half-man/half-lion incarnation of Vishnu. Hence the lion is a fitting metaphor for the many sides of contemporary Indian art and culture. The latent idea of the show is to map the contours of the recent art practice of India to underline the theme. "

Curators Dana Turkovic and Jeffrey Hughes have conceptualized this significant exhibition. The gallery recently presented ‘Re(sound)’, an exhibit that explored the sonic medium through a compilation of musings by sound artists from across the world. A curatorial note elaborated:
“Over the past century, this art form has emerged by extracting from the worlds of visual art and music. Sound art’s foundation can be traced to the innovative work of Italian Futurism, Dadaism, and of composer and artist John Cage, as it gradually began to mature into a movement, artists further explored the interactive possibilities of sound and in turn created entirely new modes of experience and engagement."
Re(sound) built physically on the curious concept of the periphery by using one sensory input, and also offering an alternative metaphor to demonstrate that the idea of an art venue has become more like any invisible node, which is connected by digital networks via infinite tentacles.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

‘A Wild Gander’ at Brooklyn’s BRIC Rotunda

A new international show courtesy SAWCC (The South Asian Women’s Creative Collective) reflects on the complex issues, which frame South Asian identity, based in a gamut of social-personal spheres - gender, media representations, or politics.

‘A Wild Gander’ on view at Brooklyn’s BRIC Rotunda Gallery showcases works by Jesal Kapadia, Yamini Nayar, Divya Mehra, Mala Iqbal and Chitra Ganesh. Baseera Khan, BRIC’s Assistant Curator for Contemporary Art, has curated the group exhibition from SAWCC, a New York–based NGO that works for the visibility and development of South Asian women artists.

Many contemporary South Asian artists face a constant eviction of both identity and art-historical contexts. The organization recognizes the need for personal identity as a valuable platform for art making, so that they have the opportunity to crack the Western art canon.
A curatorial note states on the title of the exhibit that it’s drawn from ‘The Flight of the Wild Gander’, Joseph Campbell’s collection of essays.

The note adds:
“The essays reference the Sanskrit concept of the paramahamsa, an enlightened spiritual teacher who transcends the mundane, just as geese (hamsa) are able to transcend the earth through flight. This sage also feels at home both on water and on land, analogous to a person who adeptly negotiates disparate geopolitical cultural codes.”
The artists who feature in ‘A Wild Gander’ do so on their part, as they reflect the various complex contemporary issues.
“Skillfully interweaving medium and material, their diverse body of work tries to conceptualize the presence of liminal spaces between identity and formal study of artistic practice,” the write-up adds.
The women artists transcend and try to look beyond conventional understandings related to South Asian identity. In the process, they make an effort to reveal the nuanced influences between East & West and also reclaim representations of their (lost) heritage.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Deciphering Jitish Kallat’s 'Public Notice 2' , ‘Eruda’ and ‘Annexe’

Colossal in scale, Jitish Kallat’s (Black lead on fiberglass) portrays a young boy selling books at traffic signals. The subject of the work, dressed in flimsy fabric pants cut below the knee, holds tablets of various sizes in each hand. His feet rooted to the spot by his lead shoes are so shaped that they resemble houses leave a haunting impression. The sculpture - a solitary figure – monumentalizes the poverty permeating the Indian population.

Like ‘Eruda’, his ‘Annexe’ (black lead, fiberglass, stainless steel base), is again about a young child! His upstanding posture exhibits a fierce determination to survive. A heavy serpentine rope weighs over the boy’s shoulder. Gripped in the left (and less forceful) hand, it’s used as a whip to lash himself, while o seeking alms. Treated in black lead, ‘Annexe’ literally tarnishes those who touch him. His glistening body on a stainless steel base with a drain represents a societal gulf between the perceived stain of real poverty and the veneer of wealth.

Jitish Kallat’s another significant work 'Public Notice 2' (2007) links up with 'Detergent' (2004) and 'Public Notice' (2003), wherein a historical speech is constructed as the central armature. Blurred and often forgotten with the passage of time, the historical words are fore-grounded. The speech is held up as an apparatus for the purpose of grading our feats as well as follies as nations, and also as humankind.

The monumental work recalls Mahatma Gandhi’s historic speech on the eve of the Dandi Salt March in early 1930. The march was in protest against the salt tax and in order to highlight the country’s need for greater self-reliance. In it, the Mahatma’s fervent speech is dissected and recreated as a haunting installation at a key point in India’s history. Around 4,500 gaunt-looking bones individually shaped make up its each word. They are positioned on thin colored shelves to attain effect of a rediscovered artifact, suggesting as if Gandhi’s voice returns, akin to a relic from the past, to call for peace and harmony.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Incisive works that deals with contemporary concerns

Jitish Kallat’s oeuvre deals with Mumbai’s downtrodden and dislocated inhabitants as evident through his works on view at ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ show at Saatchi Gallery, London.

Faces are often illuminated by animated collages in his canvases. The collages precariously rest over their heads just like overbearing wigs that contain scenes of the underbelly of the teeming city. He mounts the portraits onto bronze gargoyles reproduced from the Victoria terminus in central Mumbai. The Untitled (Eclipse) series tackles a more pressing significance elevated upon these replica gargoyles. Here, the portraits turn into emblems and epitaphs to these animated lives.

A significant work from the series is an overpowering triptych. It's indeed an awe-inspiring celebration of the children who litter the streets of Mumbai and New Delhi. This generation of lost children, seeking scanty solace in the public buildings and sometimes the makeshift shanty-towns on the edges of the city, symbolizes the consequences of modernity driven by a sub-continent’s rat race for newness. Like an unforgiving disease that is riddled to their hair, the artist’s signature narratives of miniature figures and the corrosive overspill of modern life camouflage his young boys.

An equally powerful acrylic on canvas from the same series, done in three panels, project boys who look out at the audience in the triptych stretched across the wall. There are rays of sunshine emanating from the background. He wants to expose the bigger and bitter reality, which exists beneath the pomp of flourishing economy and thriving technological cities.

The ‘Eclipse’ series, made-up of thought-provoking templates, is determined by the distorted figures that illuminate much of the canvas, even as these heavy narratives and figures arise from the city’s modern detritus.

'To prevent expression is worst for our own evolution.'

Giving a balanced point of view On the controversy relating to painter M. F. Husain , a recent column by the Chairman of Ambuja Cement Foundation, Suresh Neotia, also provides a historical context to it. He notes whether Husain really wished to hurt the sentiments of any Hindu by painting the canvases that caused such furore, and adds: “One may admit that he as an artist has to express himself, but possibly overstepped not as a Muslim but as an artist who failed in his perception of being sensitive to Hindu ideals.”

Pointing out that it was Husain who had painted several canvases on Mahabharata and Ramayana on Ram Manohar Lohia’s request, the writer rues the fact that on issues of faith, there’s no logic in India. Possibly, even if one happens to ruffles the faith inadvertently, strong reactions manifest. He states,
"Over centuries India has absorbed people from distant lands and of different beliefs. We have enshrined the word ‘secular’ in our Constitution. It’s the lack of education and misguidance by some self-styled leaders, which lead to violent reactions. Every citizen in a free country has the right to express view. As long as it’s not directly insulting, it should be interpreted as expression of a different viewpoint.”
Putting things in a historical perspective, the columnist mentions of a ban in early years of Islam on painting human figures. It was only after the Islamic invasion in India that the synthesis in the two cultures led to paintings of human figures by popular Muslim artists. He opines that Hindu will remain Hindu and so also Muslim should be allowed to remain Muslim. Also at the same time, one should have ‘reasonable’ freedom when it comes to interpreting the faith unless it’s attacked with malicious intent. Obviously Husain never harbored any such motive.

The writer concludes that it’s better to let these things pass but to prevent expression is the worst thing we can do to our own evolution. Those who have their own conviction will continue to hold them and somebody else’s opinion would not matter, he sums up.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Indian artists at Sixth Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art

The Triennial of Contemporary Art at the Gallery of Modern Art and Queensland Art Gallery has received an enthusiastic response from art lovers. The Queensland Art Gallery is Queensland's premier visual arts institution and a leading art museum nationally.

The Trienale showcases the art works of India’s leading contemporary artists. It’s a prominent display of contemporary Indian art to promote it in Australia.The Triennials demonstrate the diversity of contemporary art practice across the region by profiling top artists from different Asian countries. It potrays developments in contemporary art over recent decades through in-depth explorations of different artists and also a strong emphasis on the Gallery’s Collections. The Gallery's driving philosophy is to connect art and people. The Gallery was established in 1895 as the Queensland National Art Gallery.

Since opening, its Collection, exhibitions, and programs have grown in complexity and diversity. It has also embarked on extensive research and wide consultation. Established in 1993, the Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT) is the Queensland Art Gallery’s flagship international contemporary art event. It's the only major series of exhibitions in the world to focus exclusively on the contemporary art of Asia, the Pacific and Australia.

The gallery's commitment to the Triennial and to Asian and Pacific art is reflected in its collection and exhibition program. The art event this year highlights the prominent trends as reflected in the works of India's leading contemporary artists like Subodh Gupta. His five meter high sculpture is composed of pots and pans, he is known for. All the works on view are unique artistic statements and they reflect an exciting future for further such artistic collaborations between India and Australia.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

'Perception of Indian art and artists in the West needs to evolve.'

The president of highly influential New York-based think tank group Asia Society, Vishakha N. Desai, in a recent interview mentioned about a wider scope and interest in contemporary Indian art.

Asia Society is among the most important organizations that run a series of India-related program in the US. It has been doing so since the 1960s. According to Ms Desai, the cultural diversity of the country and its rich art needs to be carried to the mainstream art collectors in the US.

Vishakha N. Desai was chosen as the first Asian-American president of the society and also the first ever woman holding this prestigious post. She is making efforts within her organization itself to help India establish a connection culturally with other leading Asian countries. The formation of the India chapter of the Society in 2006 is a major step in this direction.

She is clearly enthused by the growing stature and visibility of Asian cultures in the global context. In an interview with Ishani Duttagupta of The ET Bureau, she stated that rising cultural status of India has largely to do with the increasing importance of the country as an influential player in business & commerce globally rather than sheer ethnicity

Noting her observations about the changing perception about contemporary Indian art and artists in the West, she stated that the interest sure is on an upswing with the country’s emergence as an economic superpower. She elaborated: “Contemporary Indian art is still bought by the Indian Diaspora in the US in a big way. Some contemporary artists like Sheela Gowda, Subodh Gupta, Atul Dodiya and Nalini Malani are, though, now getting mainstream recognition.”

People of Indian origin, however, still largely dominate the marketplace, according to her, and also the recognition is restricted to some modern masters such as F.N Souza and S.H. Raza.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The auction season begins on a promising note

A series of international art auction sales, treated by many experts as a barometer of the current state of the marketplace, have begun with ample promise. The enthused and relieved auction houses claim that the demand is now high and the appetite of eager buyers is definitely up.

Vigorous bidding for modern art from India marked the recent Asia Week art auctions in New York courtesy Sotheby's. Christie's opened their Asian sales on a strong note, too. The UK Financial Times news report underlines the art market’s return to seriousness. It notes:
“With low-ball estimates, top-quality works and the chance to buy from a renowned collection, bidding ignited, with 15 interested parties battling for some lots. There is a new seriousness among buyers.”

A recent Business Week write-up points out that the sellers appear to be back, and experts see clear signs of recovery. For instance, a Manjit Bawa 1999 oil painting went for $ 360,000, almost double the high estimate, whereas two paintings by M. F. Husain fetched $ 150,000 and $ 210,000, compared to the high estimate of $ 80,000 and $ 120,000 dollar, respectively. A large acrylic painting ‘Gestation’ by Raza fetched close to million dollars compared to a pre-sale estimate of $ 600,000-800,000.

The recent Osian’s Masterpieces Series Auction had on offer a wide range of fine art by some of India’s Modern & Contemporary Art masters. The proportion of lots sold was close to 60%. The major, high-value lots witnessed vigorous bids. Saffronart in its Spring Online Auction managed to sell 75% of the lots, totaling $ 4.6 million. Roughly 60% of them exceeded their high estimates.

Gupta's ‘Doot’ fetched $391,000 against a high estimate of $ 240,000. Akbar Padamsee's 1953 portrait, ‘Prophet’ (a winning bid of $ 278,875, three times more than its higher estimate $ 80,000), Husain's 1970s Untitled (a winning bid of over $ 400,000, with a high estimate of $ 266,670), and F. N. Souza's ‘Decomposing Head’ that went for $ 350,750, exceeding its high estimate of $ 250,000) were no exceptions.

Contemporary Indian art on an upswing

‘The return to a collector’s market, so to say, has raised the quality bar in the art world. The galleries are now more discerning in picking and exhibiting artists.’
This is the observation made by curator and art advisor Sharmistha Ray in a recent ET essay, ‘Indian contemporary art: Young artists lay new foundations’. It quotes Shalini Sawhney of Guild Art as saying:
“During the boom, art was seen as a real career prospect so more young people went to art school. They are generally more informed about the world, they are well traveled. They are making work that is more relevant and intelligent. But we don’t have enough galleries to support them or India’s size. We need many, many more galleries each with their own program and with their own artists.”
The veteran gallerist foresees the fast growing pool of talented artists far exceeding the number of galleries in India. So, there is ample scope for new galleries that offer a fresh perspective and align with the evolving needs of the art market. Of course, there are hurdles like high operating costs.

The constraints of real estate costs coupled with a lack of experimental art galleries has made way for alternative initiatives like Jaaga in Bangalore. It’s a mobile plan for an art gallery, which makes use of vacant plots to construct temporary art spaces.

“It won’t happen overnight, but the foundations are already being put into place. Eventually, what we need is an entire art ecosystem to thrive. It should include many more public and private museums, art schools, curators, critics, magazines etc,” the art expert notes.

Importantly, the essay concludes that the times ahead are filled with promise, if artists, galleries and collectors continue to exhibit the sensibleness they’ve displayed after what has seemed like an eternal period of introspection and soul-searching. The art expert suggests that all signs clearly point toward the development of a sustainable new art market with enough breadth and depth.

Friday, April 2, 2010

‘Expect Indian art market to be 5% of the world market by 2018’ - Tushar Sethi

Tushar Sethi spoke with Ritwik Mukherjee of The Financial Chronicle on a wide range of subjects. Here we reproduce excerpts of the talk:
Q: Why did Indian art sales worldwide drop in 2009?
The art market is driven by supply and liquidity. There is a lack of supply in Indian art. Unlike world markets where a collector or buyer has 600 years of art to pick from, India has only 60, and there are only 40 artists worth looking at. In 2007-08, every two months a new record price was being set for artists; this was because of a lot of liquidity. What one needs to understand is that art buying is a passion of the very wealthy. The first thing they would cut if the market slows down is art. That’s the reason why the art market last year saw a drop in sales worldwide.

Q: What would be the contribution of Indian contemporary art out of the total sales of $375 million in 2008 or $250 million in 2009?
To answer this question, firstly, one would have to take into consideration private, gallery and auction sales. In 2007-08, it was 40 per cent, 55 per cent in 2008-09 and 30 per cent in 2009-10.

Q: What is the expectation for 2010?
One would expect the contemporary market to remain slow for another two years. It will be around 20 to 30 per cent of total sales. This is because the market is consolidating. There will be a big churn in the contemporary art market as a lot of the artists could disappear and there will be a new set of contemporary artists.

Q: Why do you say that contemporary Indian art is well positioned to advance its value in future?
Given that the world sees China and India as the next global economic leaders, liquidity will be driven towards them. If one looks at the art market in China, it is 10 times larger than the Indian market. The average Indian contemporary artist would sell at Rs 15-25 lakh and the top 3 artists starting with Subodh Gupta selling at Rs 1 crore followed by Jitish Kallat selling at Rs 60 lakh and T V Santosh selling at Rs 35 lakh.

Contemporary artists in China sell at over Rs 5 crore. Given the fact that India has more millionaires than China, and the new-generation Indian artists are making their mark, contemporary Indian art is very well positioned to exceed old price highs.
Q: Where does India stand vis-à-vis other countries globally in terms of amount being invested in art?
The current Indian market is very small. India currently contributes 0.55 per cent of the world art market. But we expect the Indian art market to be 5 per cent of the world market by 2018, which is ten times the current market.

Q: What is the average value of works of Indian contemporary artists in the domestic market and abroad?
This is a very difficult question as there are too many variables. I would like to make this as simple as possible. The younger artists ra­nge between Rs 2-5 lakh. The established artists range from Rs 5 lakh to Rs 25 lakh. There are three contemporary artists who have a market above Rs 25 lakh. The good artists from the US, UK, China, Russia would sell for Rs 5 crore. The most expensive painting ever sold is a Jackson Pollock — for Rs 750 crore.

Q: How much of this total sales volume is generated through online trading?
I would estimate that 10 per cent of art sales in India would take place online. Online auction is a major part of the Indian auction market; one could put it at around 25 per cent. This could go up to 60 per cent in ten years. Christies and Sotheby’s are major players in the auction market and once they start an online presence in a big way, one would expect the world art auction market to be 60 per cent online.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Aiming to promote art on a global platform

Introducing Tushar Sethi, a news article in leading financial publication The Financial Chronicle, notes: “In 2005, he founded a popular online trading platform for art,, and later, which enables online art auctioneering, a first of its kind experiment in India.”

In fact, he has always been connected with art thanks to his father Vickram Sethi, who has been collecting and promoting art. It was only natural for Tushar Sethi to explore the domain of art. He even wanted to launch an art fund at one point, as he saw immense potential in it, but opted to launch a portal to sell works of art in the secondary market. When he entered the fray, the art market was fast picking up. He also realized that since paintings were changing hands fast, there was a scope to start an auction house. AstaGuru has conducted three auctions.

Keeping in mind the increasing viewer base coupled with a rising general awareness and interest in contemporary Indian art, Tushar Sethi took the next logical step of setting up an art gallery. He established the Institute of Contemporary Indian Art in 2007. ICIA has emerged as one of India’s biggest grass root galleries. It’s spread over three floors and showcases both modern & contemporary art in Kala Ghoda, the heart of Mumbai’s art district.

ICIA recently teamed up with the Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA) in Shanghai, and organized an ambitious exhibition, titled ‘India Xianzai’. The exhibition in association with Seven Art Ltd comprised the works of established Indian artists. It showcased the works of top 20 artists, including Chitra Ganesh, Jitish Kallat and Anju Dodiya. Though Chinese art collectors have shown a keen interest in India, Indian art has not been shown on a large scale there. ICIA felt it was time to showcase the best of Indian art in China.

No surprise, ‘India Xianzai’ has proven to be a landmark exhibition.

An award for Satish Gujral and a discussion on art

An event courtesy Amity School of Fine Arts (ASFA) had a talk on ‘Indian Art in Global Scenario’. Established artists and art critics including Keshav Malik, Suneet Chopra, Mithu Sen, Rosshni Vadhera and M. Ramachandran. They presented their insightful views on current art trends.

Suneet Chopra underlined the fact art, looked at an investment, is not a mere speculation. “The best investment in art is to invest in an artist," the senior art critic emphasized. The Regional Secretary of Lalit Kala Akademi (LKA) Delhi, M. Ramachandran echoed the view by saying: " There is creativity in every form of art - painting, photography or fashion. Art is related to life; it depicts the myriad hues of life, and gives one a complete freedom of articulation. An artist has the knack to notice the most subtle aspects others can't see."

The expert called upon the budding artists and students to upgrade their knowledge so that it adds on to their experience and allow them to look at the world in a clearer way. The seminar was preceded by an award ceremony in which celebrated Indian artist Satish Gujral was honored with ‘Amity Lifetime Achievement Award for Art ’

An acclaimed painter, sculptor, architect, writer and muralist, Satish Gujral is undoubtedly a living legend. He is among the noteworthy creative individuals who have dominated the post-Independent art scene in India. The Government of India has honored him with the Padma Vibhushan award.

The chairperson of Amity School, Ms. Divya Chauhan gave him the Lifetime Achievement Award at their two-day annual event ‘Kreativ 10’. The eminent artist, accompanied by his wife, inaugurated an exhibition of works by students. Amity School of Fine Arts provides talented professionals seeking advance study in the arts a chance to get the recognized terminal degree in the studio arts.