Sunday, June 27, 2010

'The Skin' that 'Speaks a Language Not Its Own’ by Bharti Kher

The Contemporary Art Evening Auction courtesy Sotheby's on 28th June has some exciting artworks on offer. One among them is ‘The Skin Speaks a Language Not Its Own’ by Bharti Kher. The work took her ten months to create.

Significantly, every fold and recess of the hide is contoured meticulously by the patterns of thousands of white bindis that are intricately arranged. They are organically swarm like a second skin, across the beast, seemingly animating its otherwise inert flesh.

In this powerfully emotive sculpture, Bharti Kher combines the bindi and the elephant, both prominent symbols of Indian culture. She asks us whether this is a vision of India on the rise or one exhausted by rapid modernization. Executed in 2006, this work is described as follows in the catalogue note:
“Awe-inspiring in its scale, detail and beauty, this life-sized female Indian elephant brought to its knees in a seemingly untenable position, simultaneously peaceful and painful, is a vision that engenders extreme pathos from the viewer. She personifies this creature as the archetype of India, its culture and civilization and marries it with another identifier of Indian ethnicity: the bindi, a mark of pigment applied to the forehead associated with the Hindu symbol of the third eye that sees beyond the material world. It is also traditional in wedding ceremonies.

"In today's modern India, however, such past cultural associations are increasingly diminished and bindis have been transformed into mass-produced, vinyl stickers, disposable objects hollow of meaning which have become secular, feminine fashion accessories. Kher was particularly attracted to the white, serpentine bindi used in this work because of its spermatozoa form and its oxymoronic relationship to the female accessory, thereby striking deeper associations of gender roles and definitions of femininity in modern India."
Bharti Kher is aware of these associations. She plays on the pluralism of Indian customs that are curiously juxtaposed with Western values.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Articulating traditional India's contemporary dilemma

Questions of her own identity and her place as a successful female artist with a western upbringing in modern Indian society are inevitably entwined into Bharti Kher's ethnographic observations of contemporary Indian life. Incidentally, the artist is a rare reverse émigré (born in London and trained in Newcastle), who moved back to India from the UK in 1992 at the age of 23, as Sotheby’s notes in its catalogue essay.

The Contemporary Art Evening Auction to be held at Sotheby's New Bond Street this 28th includes her masterful work, entitled ‘The Skin Speaks a Language not its Own’. As its inherent contradiction suggests, the title points out that inner values and outward appearance do not necessarily coalesce. The traditional rituals, social roles and gender relationships of past and present India are scrutinized from her highly unique trans-national vantage viewpoint. Bringing out the mystique and the magnificence of the work, the auction essay notes:
"In the Indian context, Bindi is a traditional mark in wedding ceremonies; the red daub on the bride's forehead (believed to have been the husband's blood in centuries past). She juxtaposes the red dot with the now endangered native Indian elephant. The animal has long been a symbol of the subcontinent. Sacred in Hindu mythology, temples are ubiquitously adorned with stone carvings of the powerful, upright beasts, which are revered in religious ceremonies in which extravagant feasts are prepared for the animals as a way of placating Ganesh, the elephant god of wealth and the granting of wishes.

"Confronting us with this sculpture laden with symbolism, ultimately Kher leaves it open to our interpretation whether India the elephant can rise up and march on as the economic global powerhouse of the future that so many predict, or whether the weight of history and the pace of change prove too much for this beast of burden, crestfallen and crippled by its own cultural contradictions which do not fit the western mould of progress."
‘The Skin Speaks…’ articulates traditional India's contemporary dilemma. India's identity soaked in all its complexities is the crux of this.

‘Men With Balls:The Art of the 2010 World Cup’

Curated by Simon Critchley, a football-centric show ‘Men With Balls:The Art of the 2010 World Cup’ at Church Street, New York includes work by artists like Miguel Calderon, Hellmuth Costard, Liam Gillick, Douglas Gordon and Philippe Parreno, Mark Leckey, Maria Marshall, Santo Tolone, and Uri Tzaig.

The World Cup is a spectacle in the strictly Situationist sense. It is a shiny display of nations in symbolic, atavistic national combat adorned with multiple layers of commodification, sponsorship and the seemingly infinite commercialization. It's an image of our age at its worst and most gaudy. But it'is also something more, something bound up with difficult and recalcitrant questions of conflict, memory, history, place, social class, masculinity, violence, national identity, tribe, and group.

The hope of the exhibition courtesy Apexart is to construct a unique situation where these questions can be ruminated on collectively. The aim is to produce with this show some experience of being together with others in a group, watching a game, waiting for something marvelous, unexpected, and possibly magical to happen. And it will happen!

A press release says: “Football, a working-class ballet, an experience of enchantment, this game is a temporal rupture with routine of the everyday: ecstatic, evanescent, and, most importantly, shared. At its best, football is about shifts in the intensity of experience. And stories will multiply from that experience, stories of heroes and villains, of triumph, and a gnawing sense of the injustice of defeat.

"It’s about ever-shifting floors of memory and the complexity of personal and national identity. But most of all it is about grace. has grace: an unforced bodily containment and elegance of movement, a kind of discipline where long periods of inactivity can suddenly accelerate and time takes on a different dimension in bursts of controlled power. When someone like Pelé, like Johan Cruyff, like Maradonna, like Zidane does this alone, the effect is beautiful; when four or five players do this in
concert, it is breathtaking. "

The central drama of this show will unfurl, its curator Simon Critchley notes, as we watch games together. There will be heroes and villains. There will be triumph for a very few and righteous injustice and pain of defeat for the rest of us. This show looks to enact some experience of being together with others in a group, watching a game, waiting for something marvelous, unexpected, and possibly magical to happen. And there will hopefully be grace.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Capturing the collectors’ mood and essence of Art Basel

“People are now realizing that art is an international currency,” states an art collector who was part of Art Basel. To say that business was approaching that of the boom years would be an overstatement, noted The New York Times write-up on the premier art event.

“There’s not the impulse shopping there once was,” Tobias Meyer, who runs Sotheby’s contemporary art dept, was quoted as saying: “New buyers are coming here as much for information gathering as for collecting.” Many dealers said they felt a price resistance when it came to spending more than $500,000.

In fact, the days when collectors came to discover new talent are still a distant memory, the report note, adding, “Instead, booths are filled with a commercial smorgasbord of popular artists.” Is it because that’s what the market wants, or is it because dealers didn’t want to take risks?” asked Franck Giraud, a private New York dealer. It was a bit of both.” Everyone has a theory of one’s own. Donald Rubell, a Miami collector, thought dealers were too afraid to bring good objects last year because the economic scenario was rather bleak.

Mr. Rubell and his wife, Mera, are known for talent spotting, snapping up works by artists like Richard Prince and Maurizio Cattelan years before they become popular. Asked if they had bought anything at the fair, Mrs. Rubell replied, “How can you resist?” But when pressed to elaborate, she answered coyly, “I can’t share that
information yet.”

The Rubells weren’t the only high-profile shoppers. Michael Ovitz, the former Hollywood agent; Roman Abramovich, the Russian billionaire; and Pauline Karpidas, a London collector, were all spotted. Artists could be seen milling around too, among them Lawrence Weiner, Joseph Kosuth and Doug Aitken, along with museum directors like Thomas P. Campbell from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Glenn D. Lowry from the Museum of Modern Art and Richard Armstrong from the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A quick snapshot of the sales at Art Basel

‘The Buzz in Basel: Art, Alive and Well and Selling Briskly’, is the title of a news report in The New York Times that effectively captures the mood there. Terming it as ‘the holy grail of contemporary art fairs’, the report mentions:

“This season’s event is as big and boisterous as ever, spanning more than 300 galleries from 37 countries. The quality of work was noticeably better than it had been a year ago. Barbara Kruger’s 1987 photographic silk-screen of a woman’s hands covering her face was bought by Sandy Heller, a Manhattan art adviser who works with hedge-fund billionaires, for $700,000.

Bigger sales were reported too. Here is a quick snapshot of some of the deals struck:

- At Jan Krugier, a gallery in Geneva and New York, Picasso’s ‘Personnage’, a 1960 plaster sculpture, sold to an unidentified collector for $15 million.
- Hauser & Wirth, dealers with spaces in Zurich, London and New York, sold a set of five dwarf sculptures from Paul McCarthy’s ‘White Snow’ series, to a European collector for $3 million.
- Pieces by late Louise Bourgeois were hot commodities. At Xavier Hufkens, a Brussels dealer, a 2009 mixed-media work on paper, ‘A Baudelaire (#7)’, priced at more than $650,000, was snapped up.
- Michael Werner Gallery of New York sold two works by Sigmar Polke, the German artist who died last week. His ‘Here and Elsewhere’, a 1975-76 photo collage that was priced at $450,000, was bought by an American collector.
- A multi-layered abstract painting with an asking price of around $1.5 million was purchased by a European foundation. Work by artists from the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s who had been overlooked was evident.
- Capitalizing on the Yves Klein retrospective at the Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden in Washington, Manhattan dealer David Zwirner got Anthropometrie’ (1960).

In fact, there was a proliferation of videos this year. “It’s all about the bottom line,” explained Lucy Mitchell-Innes, a Manhattan dealer. “It’s much cheaper to put a DVD in the mail than it is to bring a bronze sculpture.” But there was much more to see and savor at Art Basel 2010.

Basic facts about art and insurance

In the previous post, we emphasized how you need to ensure a comprehensive home insurance plan to cover your collectibles. This is the fact underlined in a recent Bloomberg news report. Although written in the context of US, the contents of it are equally relevant to art lovers in India as it discusses practical aspects related to art and insurance. The report cites the case of collector Ross Brudenell, who while decorating his second home in with precious pieces from his collection worth $2 million, realized that the approach towards insurance needed a major change.

Reason: Collectibles form part of your total assets, and they cannot be ignored. The crux of the matter is that if you are having a lousy insurance and something untoward happens, when it’s all gone, it’s truly gone! Here is what the article outlines on the crucial topic of art insurance:

The return of Wall Street bonuses, attractive pricing for collectibles and volatility in the stock market mean more investors are looking to diversify their portfolios and put money in hard assets that will appreciate. Sotheby’s sold $195.7 million of Impressionist and modern art in May, triple the tally of their year-earlier sale.

At Christie’s International, US jewellery sales were up 114 per cent and wine was up 25 per cent in the second quarter of 2010 compared with a year earlier. (This also is the case in Indian market, as the recent strong auction results suggest.) On the other hand, prices for wine will have increased about 10 per cent by the end of this year compared with last year in part because of first-time buyers looking to enjoy it and also to flip it as an investment.

As more investors buy artwork, wine or coins, they may not really know their standard homeowners’ insurance policies do not necessarily offer sufficient coverage following any sudden loss, theft or damage.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Here is the most valuable auction in art history

If any further evidence was required that the international art market is reviving, Christie's has provided it by declaring ‘the most valuable auction in art history. If things go according to plan, Picasso, Van Gogh and Monet are some of the artists whose combined works could well fetch £230m.

The event includes Picasso's ‘Portrait of Angel Fernández de Soto’ (The Absinthe Drinker) and Monet's ‘Nympheas’ – each slated to raise anywhere between £30m and £40m. Among the 63 works in a prestigious sale by the auction house on 23 June, Henri Matisse's ‘Nu à la chaise longue’ (1923) has not been seen since it was painted. It’s on offer at public auction for the first time. Providing a backdrop to the event, a news report by Arifa Akbar in The Independent, UK mentions:

“The art market bubble burst shortly after the collapse of Lehman Brothers in late September 2008, as the economic crisis set in, and some had predicted a slow and painful recovery spanning decades. Yesterday, Christie's suggested the recovery would be a lot faster, with a growing treasure trove of artworks emerging on the market.”
According to Christie's head of Impressionist & Modern art, Giovanna Bertazzoni, the art market is now truly global, with bidders from China, Russia, Europe, the Middle East, and the Americas participating in the auctions. Giovanna Bertazzoni was quoted as saying:
"The strong results at our auctions during the last six months in particular, have further fueled the confidence of vendors; we are witnessing a great willingness from clients to consign works of the highest quality."
Art market observers point out that the lavish sums set for some of the works in the upcoming sale were not really surprising considering the recent price rises. So, if you are looking for a hint of recovery in the art market, it cannot be any broader than this!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Exquisite works on offer at Christie's auction on June 22

According to Christie's head of Impressionist & Modern art, Giovanna Bertazzoni, a fierce international demand is there in the market, especially for the rarest and the best works of art.
For instance, Picasso set a new record in New York when his 1932 painting ‘Nude, Green Leaves, and Bust’ fetched $106.5m. His reign as the most expensive artist ever at auction was though briefly disturbed when.Alberto Giacometti's lifetime sculpture on bronze ‘Walking Man I’ went for $65m.

Against such astonishing sums, the £30m- 40m estimate for some of the works at the Christie's auction on June 22 is not surprising, at all. Here is a quick look at the exquisite works on offer at the most valuable auction about to take place:

Nympheas, Claude Monet £30m-£40m
Monet painted about 250 in total, some of which are fragmentary; this one last sold in the US in 2000 for £14m. They always fetch huge prices – a very rich man's purchase.

Portrait d'Angel Fernandez de Soto - pablo picasso £30m-£40m
This is from his Blue Period, which makes it very desirable. It's a tougher picture than the others in the sense that it isn't pretty – the subject's curled lip and arrogant air have an immense impact. The hefty price tag is in line with the market.

Le baiser, Pablo Picasso £8m-£12m
These late Picassos have proved very popular recently. Picasso was prolific, particularly in his later years, which one might think would negatively affect valuations, but not so – buyers are lapping them up.

Nu la chaise longue, Henri Matisse £5.5m-£8.5m
This is quite a conservatively priced Matisse nude. The great, familiar Matisses are all in museums and never come on the market, so his prices at auction don't reflect his importance.

La Liseuse, Pablo Picasso £6m-£9m
This is from Picasso's classical period, but look at her hands – they are really badly painted, like a bunch of bananas.

Parc de l'hopital Saint-Paul, Vincent van Gogh £8m-£12m
Very few Van Goghs come to auction. It is attractive and was painted just before his death, which is quite poignant.

Frauenbildnis (Portrait of Ria Munk III), Gustav Klimt £14m-£18m
This lacks Klimt's trademark gold and isn't quite so icon-like. But it is a seductive image and one of the last of Klimt's sought-after female portraits.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

A show that appreciates India’s global presence

Loveland Museum/Gallery presents a new show of Indian art, entitled 'Triad: Introspection, Observation and Tradition'.

The interesting exhibit will include exclusive maps of India and its exotic environs from 18th and 19th century. They are on loan from Art Source Int. in Boulder. In keeping with the socio-political changes in the country that are take placing at a rapid pace, it looks at the evolution of contemporary Indian art. The museum curator of the show, Tom Katsimpalis, mentioned in an interview:
"I wasn't really aware how vibrant the art scene there is. Some of them are well established and some are younger artists who are doing some very exciting work that people might be surprised to see coming from India.”
Combining pointed social commentary and an examination of India's evolved role in the world apart from immense artistic potential, the participating artists look to explore a ‘triad of creativity’ in terms of ‘introspection, observation and tradition’. For instance, video artist Surekha focuses on the different lenses people use to view garden city Bangalore along with their sense of belongingness to it. On the other hand, sculptor Ghanshyam Gupta's work juxtaposes religious imagery with a contrasting contemporary feel. He mentions in an interview:
"The subject matter of my work is based on past experiences; I subconsciously filter these experiences so as to explore them visually."
The show features such exciting works by 30 artists that explore artistic innovation happening in modern India, inextricably linked to its culture and tradition. With it, the museum/gallery opens up a new passage to the world’s emerging social and economic powerhouse.

Along with paintings and other art forms, there will be a series of photographic works by Aakash Mittal from metros like Kolkata, Delhi and Agra. In concurrence with the main event, 'Mapping India' show will also be on display in the Foote Gallery/Auditorium of the museum.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Global auction giants brace for a battle

The world’s leading art and auction house, Phillips de Pury, is keen to make a ‘big splash’ in a clear indication of the fact that the art market is on its recovery path. The New York Times reports that Phillips de Pury is about to open its plush 25,000-sq-ft new space on Park Avenue & 57th Street.

It apparently wants to steal some spotlight from Sotheby’s and Christie’s. Philippe Ségalot, a former head of contemporary art dept at Christie’s, is leading the charge. Incidentally, he collaborated with Phillips a contemporary photography sale in 2004. Now he has consented to a new initiative in which the company will invite a dealer, artist, collector, or museum curator for one sale.

According to the chairman, Simon de Pury, it is like inviting a ‘guest curator at a museum.’ The initiative will be extended beyond New York to London, he added to inform that though the focus would be largely on contemporary art, there could even be design objects on offer in the sale.

Mr. Ségalot’s auction may well be an individual art event or the part of their evening contemporary auction. He was already working to put together his sale. Providing the details, he informed that it would comprise ‘Mechanical Pig’, from 2005. It’s a seminal work by Los Angeles based artist Paul McCarthy. The news report noted:

“It’s a sculpture of a sleeping pig lying on its side atop a machine. Viewers could see the pig visibly breathing. One of an edition of three, it’s sold by Stefan Edlis, a Chicago collector, and is estimated at $2.5 million to $3.5 million."

When prodded about the task of finding more crucial works, he was quoted as saying. “I’m really happy to be back in the game because I always enjoy a challenge.” All in all, it seems that the battle between the three global auction giants is just going to hot up. Collectors can look forward to really interesting times!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Smaller US museums seeking bailouts!

An interesting news report in The Wall Street Journal brings out how many smaller museums, hit hard by the recent downturn, are seeking excessive bailouts in an effort to survive. They are looking to forge partnerships with interested universities to cover deficits. Writer Shelly Banjo puts the spotlight on their last-ditch efforts to keep their creaking doors open and their rich collections intact. The insightful report explains:
“Tottering under years of deficits, accumulated debt and declining donations, several of the small and medium-size museums in the US have been turning to the art-world equivalent of a bailout.”
The Berkeley, Calif., museum, for example, lacks money to maintain its 10,000-piece collection, so it’s turning the trove over to a rescuer to oversee the collection. The Museum of Contemporary Craft, based in In Portland, Ore. is among the oldest nonprofit art galleries. It managed to avoid collapse thanks to a $1.4 million donation from the Pacific Northwest College of Art, last year, which helped it pay off the debts.

In Berkeley, the Magnes has been forced to relocate to a former printing plant following an intense financial arising out of ambitious expansions and far-reaching, albeit failed real-estate investments. The Gulf Coast Museum of Art based in Largo, Fla. gave its contemporary Florida art collection to St. Petersburg College. The WSJ reveals:
“Many museums took on debt to finance these activities—only to have the floor fall out from under their endowments in 2008 when the market crashed. Financial emergencies represent difficult dilemmas for museum donors. If they continue to write checks to keep a museum afloat, it might fail anyway. If they support a partnership or change-in-control, it might infringe on the institution's unique character.”
The crisis has deepened with both arts and higher education hit by the sharp economic downturn that resulted in shrinking donations to education organizations and arts institutions. However, a few well-managed museums have managed to hold out, hoping that with economic recovery looming on the horizon, things will finally change for the better...

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Rising importance of the Asian art market reflects in Hong Kong's emergence as a new hub

Bonhams and Christie’s just recently offered roughly £140 million worth of Chinese art & antiques in a four-day jamboree. Adding flavor to the event was ArtHK, a popular fair of contemporary art that attracted dealers.

On the other hand, ART HK, an annual art event, welcomed more than 150 of the world’s established galleries from nearly 30 countries and over 46,000 people. In a span of mere three years the fair has established itself as a must-visit fixture on the global art calendar. Art world watchers and insiders now recognize the importance of the Asian art market as part of a long term approach as the political and economic balance of power shift ever eastwards.

The rise of Hong Kong signifies this changed mindset. It is now among the most significant art markets globally after New York and London in terms of auction turnover. Favorable tax regime in contrast to mainland China reaffirms its rising status in the art arena. Underlining the trend, Colin Gleadell of The Telegraph UK notes:
“Since China entered the WTO, its art market has grown at a staggering rate. It rose by 200 percent to some £2.1 billion per annum between 2004 and 2009, overtaking even France. Add the Hong Kong sales and there is a combined auction turnover of £3.6 billion, which is 14 percent of the global art market. During the global financial crisis of 2008-09, mainland Chinese buyers emerged as a dominant force.

"While America’s wealthiest lost 20 percent of their cumulative wealth, China’s increased theirs by 84 percent. Currently, there are more billionaires in China than in any other country, apart from America, and art is just one of the commodities they are looking to invest in.”
Emphasizing the power shift, Sotheby’s Kevin Ching notes that the Chinese buyers have now become aggressive buyers. Why and how, we shall check in the next post.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Chinese collectors are on global art market's radar

Hong Kong is slowly but surely emerging as a hub and a melting pot for the Asian art market, observes Colin Gleadell of The Telegraph UK. The writer points out:
"With its central geographical location, easy trading conditions and lack of import taxes and VAT, Hong Kong is a natural hub for the whole Asian market, and is viewed as a gateway to China. "
The traditional impression that modern & contemporary art is mostly an Asian affair was tried to be broken, for the first time by Christie’s that included western art in its auction program the form of Andy Warhol’s screenprints of the legendary Mao. A Hong Kong businessman paid nearly £12 million for a large painting of chairman Mao by Warhol at a 2006 auction. However, Chinese collectors are still yet to convert to the gallery system.

Some of them like Richard Kong and Zhang Kun were invited to ArtHK along with important cultural personalities from the mainland. They were confronted with an eclectic mixture of art from the West and Asia. White Cube presented an entire stand to Damien Hirst. The sight of western dealers offering Chinese art to the Chinese was also a prominent change.New York’s Sperone Westwater presented Liu Ye’s solo show. Analyzing the trend, Georgina Adam of The Financial Times notes in her news report, ‘Art HK10: the gateway to China’:
"The draw is not just moneyed Chinese: Hong Kong acts as a hub for wealthy buyers from the whole region, particularly Indonesia, Malaysia, Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and Australia. This has not been lost on the world’s biggest player, Larry Gagosian, who has an office in Hong Kong and is now opening a major space to add to the eight (nine when Paris is unveiled) he already has around the world.
In fact, many western dealers like New York’s Larry Gagosian and London’s Ben Brown are setting up shop in HK, as they think that things ‘will get even hotter there.’

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Prajakta Palav’s first London solo show

Grosvenor Vadehra is set to host Prajakta Palav’s first London solo show. In this new series of works, entitled ‘Sprouting Beads’, she continues to explore her life and experiences in the ever-expanding mega-city of Mumbai which sees a daily influx of migrants.

One half of the show deals with the explosion of the population and its effect on the city whilst the the other half deals with the clutter and mess that builds up in people’s homes and flats and their efforts to conceal it. There are four paintings that capture the explosion of the city. In 'Overflowing', the artist paints a sky-high pile of rubbish, in this case pulp rubbish from a landfill site.

Just as cities in India are overflowing with rubbish, the rubbish seems to be coming out of the canvas as well. In all her paintings she plays with perspective, creating images that subvert our understanding of everyday objects. In ‘Spitting’, she captures the over-flowing commuter trains, which inhabit the everyday lives of the people in Mumbai. These paintings are not just photographic copies – they are altered and adapted to heighten perspective. The white background leaves the painting open to interpretation.

Her ‘Bursting’ depicts hundreds of cars, buses, rickshaws in one massive, endless traffic jam while ‘Spreading’ depicts the growing slum rising up into the sky. These paintings also reflect the lower-middle class surroundings that she grew up in. Just as she captures the World outside her window she is also concerned with the ever expanding mess and clutter in a small suburban flat and the efforts to hide that mess.

‘Tiny Corners’ are paintings/reliefs that are embedded into the gallery wall. They challenge and invite us to look behind the corners, into the hidden mess. These are beautiful works, meticulously painted and well-crafted. But fundamentally, she paints ‘the ugly’ - the things meant to be hidden.

Distinguished speakers to unravel beauty and value of contemporary Indian art

A unique workshop arranged by AVID in Mumbai provides art lovers with the perfect opportunity to understand and evaluate contemporary Indian art. It aims to offer an overview of history of world art with an emphasis on European art, Indian art in historical context, masters of contemporary Indian art, apart from an insight into valuing art.

The unique course will act as a holistic guide to art as a part of portfolio management and asset diversification. It will touch upon diverse topics like investing in art, role of galleries in the process, importance of art fairs and auction houses. A press release notes:
"The course will conclude with a visit for practical viewing and understanding of some art pieces. This workshop is suitable for a first time investor, collector, gallery owner or even a knowledge seeker who would like to understand the present Indian art scene."
Among the speakers are writer and columnist Girish Shahane, also the former editor of ‘Art News Magazine’, who talks about Art History - Pre-historic, Traditional & Modern Art; European Tradition & Renaissance plus Introduction to Mediums of Art. The second session will cover Indian Modern & Contemporary Art and History of Indian Art correlated with History of India.

Ranjit Hoskote, the renowned art critic, cultural theorist and independent curator, will address the first session of day 2. He will focus on Indian Art Movement; Overview of Masters; Contemporary & Upcoming Artists; Affordable Art and Collecting & Connoisseurship. Internationally celebrated contemporary artist Jitish Kallat will throw light on the Artist’s perspective and Insights.

The Arts Trust Director and the CEO of Institute of Contemporary Indian Art (ICIA), Tushar Sethi, will address the issues related to Primary & Secondary Markets; Role of Art Galleries, Auction Houses & Art Fairs, and last but not the least, Valuation & Pricing. The director of Crayon Capital, Amit Vadhera, will discuss Art Portfolio Management Tracking Art; Art Market & Correlation to other markets & stocks.

All the faculty members will also have an interaction with the participants as part of a gallery visit along with panel discussion program. The course takes place at The Little Theatre, NCPA, Nariman Point, Mumbai from 22nd - 25th June 2010 (5.30PM – 8.30 PM.). Enroll yourself by visiting

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Exploring the dark side of globalization and today’s turbulent times

The themes of violence, injustice, and inequality run through TV Santhosh’s practice. Drawing on images and news reports from the media, he combines pointed text and repetitive sculptural forms to make a statement on both the persistent nature of violence and the way it gradually becomes the norm, through recurrence.

His 'Burning Flags' at Aicon Gallery, London in collaboration with The Guild Gallery is a suite of paintings in the burning green, yellow, red, and orange hues he is identified with, also incorporating a close-up of a figure gazing at the viewer. Enmeshed quietly in the background, it starkly dominates the foreground as well.

With each work mired in the chaos and confusion of war, deliberate referencing of photographic negatives not only comments on the mediation of such frenzied events through the media, but also recreates the drama of the situations the artist is depicting. An accompanying essay to the exhibition mentions:
“The works are hallucinatory; what is it exactly being witnessed by both their protagonists and the viewers? Similarly his sculptures gesture towards destruction and waste. They use scrolling neon messages set in what seem imprisonment or torture cells in white. The usage of the neutral medium of white fiberglass directs the pieces towards Hannah Arendt's phrase ‘the banality of evil’ to suggest that most atrocities are inflicted by ordinary people rather than sociopaths.

“TV Santhosh’s watercolors underline this sense of everyday atrocities with their black & white depictions of individuals. It seems a deliberately quieter counterpoint to his work. Evil is both widespread and banal in a world where as the artist points out, utopias seem as distant as they ever have been.”
According to him, his recent works are about how the media presents the world to us and how it has the power and the means to reconstruct as well as manipulate our understanding of reality. They specifically investigate into media generated world itself.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Tracking the international art market’s winners

Here's a succinct look at whose stock is soaring in the internationally art market currently, courtesy The Wall Street Journal.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Renoir's soft-focus depictions of Victorian women and children are a clear favorite of Asian collectors. They're starting, as many new buyers do, with the broadly appealing Impressionists. Renoir's prices are lower than those of older peers like Monet.

Claude Monet

The master of Impressionism seems to sell best during the uncertain days of a new auction cycle, when collectors prefer to stick with classics. At the start of the last market swell in 2005 and 2006, at least 18 of Monet's speckled pastorals sold for more than their high asking prices at major evening auctions. Prices for Monet's paintings dated after 1905 are also expected to benefit from the recent high-profile show at the Gagosian Gallery.

Alberto Giacometti
This onetime favorite of European collectors has gone global, with bidders from the U.S. and Russia joining in and pushing up his asking prices, dealers say. Four months ago, Sotheby's in London sold his ‘Walking Man I’ for $104.3 million, a record at the
time for a work of art at auction. The buzz from that sale gave confidence to bidders during this latest round in New York.

Alexander Calder

The Philadelphia sculptor of kinetic abstract sculptures has floated above the recession. He had a banner year in 2009, with a record $41.5 million worth of his art selling at auction. Six of his priciest pieces sold during the doldrums, including the 1934 mobile, ‘Five Pieces of Wood’, which Sotheby's in London sold last June for $4.2 million. Part of the reason for the strong sales was that the artist had been undervalued for too long.

Jasper Johns
Rarity helps, especially in a recession. Between 2005 and 2009, nine works by this Pop pioneer sold, for roughly $13.3 million combined. Johns's ‘Flag’ sold for $28.6 million, above its $15 million high estimate.

Jean-Michel Basquiat
The graffiti-influenced 1980s artist is the recovery's comeback kid. After his brightly colored paintings pushed above $14 million in early 2007, collectors watched his prices plummet. Now, Basquiat's asking prices have dropped to between $2 million and $6 million.

Friday, June 11, 2010

International artists who are currently down

The Wall Street Journal recently tracked stock of various international artists to know who have been left behind even as sales rise and the recovery takes place. It points out how sometimes collectors get spooked by an artist, even one firmly ensconced in the art-history textbooks. Here’s a list of those who are down:

Edvard Munch
Do collectors love this Norwegian artist when he's not screaming? Weeks after Lehman Brothers floundered in 2008, Munch's ‘Vampire’ sold at Sotheby's in New York for $38.1 million. The work, considered a masterpiece, was also replete with the artist's dark and twisted signature imagery. Since then, Munch works featuring happier subject matter have stumbled at auction.

Damien Hirst

The British artist, who famously sold off $200.8 million worth of his own art at Sotheby's in London, hasn't turned up much at major auctions since. The hiatus may serve his market in the long run, since the appearance of rarity tends to whet collectors' appetites. But for now, his switch from ubiquity to virtual absence is hard to miss.

Kees Van Dongen
Last fall, this Dutch master of Fauvism seemed poised to enjoy a surge when Sotheby's sold his creamy spare portrait, 'Young Arab', for a record $13.8 million. Russian buyers were flocking then to his emerald-and-navy portraits of women. Since then, however, Russian collectors seem to have shifted back to homegrown favorites. In all, seven paintings by the artist have gone unsold this auction season, up from three last year.

Pierre Bonnard
Between 2005 and 2006, at least 23 paintings by the French artist sold within or above their estimates at the auction houses' major evening sales. Demand took a sharp turn last fall, however, after Sotheby's got no bids for Bonnard's ‘Nude Profile’, which was priced to sell for at least $1.25 million.

Richard Prince
During the peak years of 2006 and 2008, prices for his work soared. But last year, his auction sales total fell to $11.7 million, likely an indication that fewer sellers wanted to risk offering Princes that might not sell.

What's buzzing at Art Basel 2010?

From June 16 to June 20, close to 60,000 visitors from around the world converge at the prestigious event held in a small albeit, pretty Swiss city. We are referring to Art Basel.

The major art event serves as an ideal catalyst for assembling the art-loving community from across the world, including gallerists, collectors, curators, artists, critics, general art enthusiasts and other assorted groupies. Susan Moore of The UK Financial Times recently conducted an elaborate interview with the brains behind the world’s premier event, to describe how it has turned into a bigger splash with each passing year. The Art Basel’s co-director, Marc Spiegler, stated:
“Our goal is to have a show that has a ‘choose your own adventure’ quality to it. If you’re looking for blue-chip art, it’s there! If a curator is looking for upcoming artists, they are also there. If you simply want an overview of all that is happening in contemporary art world, we offer that as well.”
Art Unlimited, for example, puts the spotlight on innovative video or performance art. Spiegler states: “Every single thing we do must of the highest quality. No matter what you're choosing you feel that your time within Art Basel is being well spent.” An emphasis on quality, coupled with quest to improve and respond to the fast-changing realities of the art market, holds key to its continuing pre-eminence. Annette Schönholzer, who took it over as a co-director three years ago, reveals:
“Now we feel we understand this fair from inside out, and have a good understanding of what our galleries need, and so what we are doing this year seems entirely natural: that is, to optimize what we already have and to re-energize by creating something new.”
One more example of making more of what the event already has on offer relates to video art. This year a partnership with the short film fest in Oberhausen, Germany is being prominently highlighted to collectors to make them aware of it. Now we know why Art Basel is counted among the world's largest platforms to showcase all conceivable forms of contemporary art and dialogue, year after year.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Bonhams sale of Modern & Contemporary Middle Eastern & South Asian Art

Bonhams has managed to amass a sum of £1.7m from a recent sale of Indian art as part of their Modern & Contemporary Middle Eastern & South Asian Art.

A painting that celebrates the Republic Day was sold for £120,000, stated an official release. A packed saleroom witnessing intense bidding was the highlight of the sale that took the tally to £1.7m from 86 lot sale; almost 97 percent of the lots sold by value. Late Bhupen Khakhar’s (1934-2003) oil on canvas work, entitled ‘Republic Day’, was estimated at a conservative price of £30,000-40,000. It was keenly sought by several keen overseas buyers and managed to triple its top estimate (touching £120,000).

The top lot in the Indian and South Asian art sale was a turquoise & gold jar painted by Iran’s Farhad Moshiri. It fetched £150,000 against an estimated price of £40,000 to £60,000. Another Moshiri work went for £48,000. Incidentally, his ‘Eshgh’ (Love) was the first one from the Middle East to fetch over $1m at Bonhams auction in Dubai two years ago.

Equally impressive prices were recorded for MF Husain (£96,000 and £81,600) and Jehangir Sabavala (India) as well as by other artists, including Mahmoud Said (Egypt), Nasrollah Afjehel (Iran), Jamil Naqsh and Sadequain (both Pakistan).The head of Modern & Contemporary Middle Eastern and South Asian Art at Bonhams, Mehreen Rizvi, was quoted as saying:
“To achieve this result with only 86 lots shows how strong the market is. We have been central to building this sector of the art market for a decade, so this is doubly pleasing.”
Bonhams is among the leading international auctioneers of art and other collectibles. It has been known for its pioneering sales. The auction house was the first to hold auctions in Monaco in the 1980s. It now has annual sales all over the world, often coinciding with prestigious events, in the US, UK, Paris and Australia.

‘The Progressives & Associates’ at Grosvenor, London

The Progressive Artists Group's emergence was essentially a reaction to the then dominant streak in the form of the Bombay Art Society. It had dismissed FN Souza as amateur and even rejected KH Ara’s work ‘Independence Day Procession’.

The two artists along with HA Gade launched a group. They both brought other eminent artists to the fold. Souza brought MF Husain whereas Ara and Gade brought in SK Bakre and SH Raza fold. Formed in 1947, the group started exhibiting their works to a wider audience. Outlining the group’s philosophy, Raza had stated:
“What we had in common besides our youth and lack of means was that we hoped for a better understanding of art. We had a sense of searching; we fought the material world.”
There were regular meetings and discussions held that built a fraternal feeling, warmth and also an exchange of ideas. They criticized each other’s works and eulogized about it. This was a phase when there was hardly any modern art in India. It was a phase of utter artistic confusion that Raza had described it as follows:
“We were torn between western academic ideas and traditonal Indian art springing from Renaissance. The works of the French Impressionists and the German Expressionists inspired us and we were particularly indebted to Irving Stone’s book Lust for Life, on Van Gogh’s life.”
The Progressive Artists, as they termed themselves, rejected the Bengal school’s ‘revivalistic’ methods. They also opposed the academic styles followed at the schools that were set up by the British. With a thrust towards modernism, the late artist Souza noted in the catalogue of their debut exhibit:
“Today we paint with absolute freedom for content and technique, almost anarchic, save that we are governed by one or two sound elemental and eternal laws, of aesthetic order, plastic co-ordination and color composition.”
The new exhibition at London based Grosvenor Gallery has some significant works by the PAG artists, although not all works necessarily from the Progressive period. It's worth a look!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Pricing benchmarks for the upcoming Indian art auctions

In his latest column, Kishore Singh of The Business Standard mentions of ‘record time in London’. According to him, the estimates for the upcoming auctions are setting the rumor mills agog over the market revival. The columnist elaborates:
"A shift in interest is evident in the prices of late Bhupen Khakhar often referred to as India’s David Hockney, whose ‘Republic Day’ sold at Bonhams for Rs 81 lakh (three times the higher estimate), and whose Untitled work at the Christie’s auction has an estimated value between Rs 68 lakh and Rs 1 crore. "

Here is a compilation of his succinct observations on Indian art pricing benchmarks ahead of the upcoming auctions:

- SH Raza’s Saurashtra has got a scorching estimate in the range of Rs 8.8- Rs 12.27 crore at the Christie’s. ‘Extraordinarily valued’, it could cause prices for other Raza works commensurately harden as he is already outselling MF Husain in both volume and prices.

-The rising eminence of the top contemporaries is noteworthy. Bharti Kher’s massive work, entitled ‘The Skin Speaks a Language Not Its Own’ for Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Auction in London is estimated in the range of Rs 5.4 - Rs 8.1 crore. If it can reach the estimated value, the artist will be able to ‘inject an adrenaline shot into the market for her peers’ single-handedly, the writer notes.

- Though he remains popular, prices have fallen for Subodh Gupta. His ‘Chimta’ installation put up for sale at Christie’s has been modestly priced between Rs 1.3 crore – Rs 2 crore. His Untitled painting on the subject of displacement and migration dealt with through bundles on airport trolleys, suitcases and taxis has a price estimate of Rs 1 crore – Rs 1.2 crore at the Sotheby’s auction in London.

Prices as a whole seem to be strengthening

Though prices for masters have come down in the last couple of years, and the same has happened for contemporaries, the June 2010 auction series could set a new benchmark, signaling the revival of Indian art market. According to Kishore Singh of The Business Standard, Raza is clearly going to outshine the masters, managing to stay well ahead of others in the same bracket. Elaborating on this aspect, he states:
“At the Sotheby’s sale an abstract but luminous work from 1966, entitled ‘January 24’, is estimated between Rs 2 - Rs 3.4 crore, the same as his ‘Rajasthan’ (1981). Among comparable works by his peers like Tyeb Mehta’s ‘Falling Bird’ estimated in the range of Rs 2.7 - Rs 4 crore, and MF Husain’s Untitled painting depicting Arjuna and Krishna between Rs 3.4 crore - Rs 4.7 crore."
While prices as a whole seem to be strengthening, market players are hoping that the glut of Rabindranath Tagores and Souzas at least will mean that their prices will not harden since there are no less than 153 lots comprising 573 works by the latter at the Christie’s auction (from the Souza Estate). The Souza drawings are not likely to breach barriers the way his paintings tend to. Instead, they could end up providing collectors with ‘a plenitude’, the expert observes:
“Gallery owners, in particular, could be salivating over the rich array available in some lots. There is the expectation that the numbers will keep prices in check — many works may go between Rs 70,000 and Rs 1 lakh; most would
remain sub-Rs 10 lakh.”
There are 12 works by Tagore at the Sotheby’s sale. While this may seem a minuscule number compared to the Souzas, the fact that they happen to be ‘national treasures’, means there might be a frantic bidding for these works. Their prices are in the range of Rs 17- Rs 20 lakh.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Prasad Raghavan's debut solo at Gallery BMB

Mumbai based Gallery BMB presents debut solo show of upcoming and talented artist Prasad Raghavan. ‘Shot-Tilt’ is a set of works that explain his personal aesthetic philosophy . He borrows the title of the show from cinematic terminology.

A curatorial note explains: "In a tilt shot, what a director does generally is to change the angle of perception from the conventional. With a tilt in the camera and angle of recording, the director can see the things in a new light/reality. He plays both in the mundane and the transcended. Interestingly, when he titles his exhibit, he even tilts the norm of the cinematic jargon; instead of calling it a ‘Tilt Shot’, he calls it, ‘Shot-Tilt’."

In his works the artist debates the idea of desire and false promises. He says: “We live in a society that constantly generates desire amongst the human beings. We are made into consuming subjects. There are a lot of false promises around us, which make us voracious consumers. The result is garbage and guilt. My idea in these works is to analyze and understand desire and false promises through the creation of ‘false icons’ and the images of garbage, sin and guilt.”

His interest in cinema and posters helped him to think more about creating a set of works, which subscribed to the form of film posters but deflected the narratives to a new zone of meanings. In those works Prasad Raghavan was focusing on the very ‘idea’ of posters that combine image and text in order to encapsulate the essence of a larger narrative. In this sense one could say, he is the initiator and practitioner of ‘Post-Poster Art’.

Considering his interest in world cinema, and in the ethical and aesthetical foundational structures laid out by the universal philosophy embedded in the Bible, the artist’s new works should be seen as the proclamations of an independent enquirer who makes ‘Christian religious allegory as a secular process of sociological inquiry into man's greed and ultimately annihilistic relationship with nature’.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A major survey exhibit of photographs from Asia

Fotomuseum Winterthur, Zurich in Switzerland hosts a traveling exhibition of first major survey of historic & contemporary photographic works from the subcontinent. It is a landmark exhibition that looks to explore twin currents of culture and modernity through over 300 works by 70 Artists.

The fast nature of political upheavals and evolution of technology juxtaposed with the slow time warp of culture, ritual and family of the region are ably captured through the powerful lens of more than 75 artists from the above countries. Their thought provoking work demonstrates a wide range of formal experimentation coupled with bold aesthetic lines of enquiry indigenous, albeit of universal interest. A curatorial note elaborates:
“Histories of photography, as presented through books or exhibitions in the twentieth century, have been dominated by Europe and the US. The exhibition ‘Where Three Dreams Cross – 150 Years of Photography from India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh’ and the publication accompanying it articulate the untold story of an equally significant history, as rich and as formally innovative, yet embedded in the culture and politics of South Asia.

"It does not reiterate a western view of the east, but celebrates how successive generations of photographers from the subcontinent have portrayed themselves and their eras. ‘Where Three Dreams Cross’ spans the transition of the South Asian peninsula – once defined as ‘the immense rhomboid’ bordered by the Himalayas in the north and the ocean to the south – from a heterogeneous yet single entity defined by the Indus river to its subdivision into three nations: India, Pakistan and Bangladesh."
The curators of the noteworthy show Shahidul Alam founder and Director of Drik Archive and Pathshala, Dhaka, Bangladesh; writer, photographer and curator Sunil Gupta; the founder of Fotomedia, New Delhi’s first photo library, Radhika Singh; the co-founder of not-for-profit arts organization Green Cardamom in London, Hammad Nasar and Kirsty Ogg from the Whitechapel Gallery.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Fotomuseum Winterthur focuses on history and current trends of photography

Fotomuseum Winterthur, founded in 1993, is solely dedicated to photography as an emerging art form and mode of documentation, as well as a pointed representation of reality.

Fotomuseum Winterthur has been managing a Center of Photography together with Fotostiftung Schweiz since 2003, with a library, a lounge, a shop, and seminar rooms,. On its new expanded premises, Fotomuseum Winterthur hosts changing shows of art works from its rich collection of contemporary photography, apart from the changing exhibitions.

It proudly positions itself as ‘on the one hand an art gallery’ for the art form especially by contemporary artists with periodic exhibitions. One such show hosted by it, namely ‘150 Years of Photography in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh’ looks at the contemporary work from a historical perspective. ‘Where Three Dreams Cross’ was recently organized by London’s Whitechapel Gallery in collaboration with Fotomuseum Winterthur.

The exhibit focuses on four broad thematic threads, namely: The Performance, The Family, The Portrait, The Body Politic and The Public Space. Thus it looks to capture the theatrical as well as the intimate aspects of human life, along with the hierarchies, which structure society and also the chaos, the tangle of colors, traffic, people and cinematic images lingering on the South-Asian continent landscape.

Interestingly, the Fotomuseum Winterthur also serves as a traditional museum especially for works done by known 19th and 20th century masters (through exhibitis by Karl Blossfeldt, Dorothea Lange, Bill Brandt, Albert Renger-Patzsch, Lisette Model, Charles Sheeler, Edward Weston, August Sander, and Weegee among others).

It is a hub of cultural-historical as well as sociological museum of applied photography in the varied fields of architecture, industry, fashion, etc. (with interesting exhibits on industrial photography, police photography, medical photography, dam-construction photography, etc.). These specific orientations form the very basis of the exhibition program and accompanying events and publications of the museum.