Saturday, July 31, 2010

Auction houses take risks; set price bars higher

There is no denying the fact that the auction houses are clearly benefiting from the improved market sentiment, raking in impressive prices. For instance, Christie’s opted to take a chance with the extremely high estimate of SH Raza’s ‘Saurashtra’ of £1.3-1 .8 million.

Had the artwork failed to reach its high target, the ‘capricious’ Indian market might have gone into a shell and even reverted back to its gloomy phase. The negative perception would have prevailed over night. Thankfully that wasn’t the case!

In hindsight, a record price only requires two contenders. And two major art buyers – as a matter of luck or perhaps design, decided that the work deserved their patronage. The gradual bidding crescendo soon struck its fever pitch, realizing a value that was beyond the wildest dreams of the market. Similarly, Sotheby’s equally fruitful sale of rare works by Rabindranath Tagore from the Dartington Hall Trust left everyone awestruck at the outcome. Throwing light on the sale, Sharmistha Ray of ET Bureau pointed out:
“The Tagore sale at Sotheby’s is likely to have a similar impact on the Bengal School’s market, whose collector base is a small but solid minority of connoisseurs in the art buying community. The twelve works on paper by the late Bengal Master fetched six times over its upper estimate yielding £1.6 million (Rs 11.3 crore). The knockout of the lot was a diminutive watercolor of a woman, ‘Untitled (Portrait of a Woman)’, measuring just over 19 x 15 inches, which sold for almost eight times its upper estimate at £313,250 (Rs 2.2 crore).”
In light of a rather dubious secondary market for the Bengal School, which often peddles in a flurry of fakes, the impeccable provenance was a major incentive. No surprise; for Sotheby’s the sale proved to be a major coup.

'Constructed Realities' curated by Gayatri Sinha

A group show, entitled 'Constructed Realities' curated by Gayatri Sinha at Mumbai’s Guild Gallery comprised works by artists Baiju Parthan, Gigi Scaria, and Prajakta Palav. A concept note mentions of the title 'Constructed Realities' that it suggests reality itself is a construct, a structural necessity, one that is read and engaged with through a shared coda of signs. The curator explains:
“The city space we inhabit as structure, as discipline displaces earlier cities and cycles of narration, often to be 're-constructed' in romantic or critical terms. Through cinema, media writings and popular music, the evocation of city as construct becomes layered. Meshed into this continually shifting arrangement are other structures -- those of memory and loss - sites that are dispossessed or repossessed, in pursuit of the city as re-newable structure.

"As onlooker and archaeologist, the artist seeks to establish an objective practice with 'the whole group of functions of observation, interrogation, decipherment, recording…' (Foucault). In this engagement then, sites are 'more' or 'less' real, pasts are evoked or abandoned, and private fantasy is merged with public panoramas. The gaze as it continually moves from physical to virtual reality is extended or withheld, even as it selects or abandons material as the crux of creative expression. Every 'reality' then, has a potentially different 'construction'."
Gigi Scaria is associated with the ever-changing city spaces. His work revolves around public space or rather the lack of it and alternative modes of creation/architecture to help sustain the city. ‘Inside’ and ‘Outside’ by artist Prajakta Palav Aher resemble quirky takes on life closed behind doors and beyond. On the other hand, ‘Soft Graffiti – Placebo’ in Baiju Parthan’s peculiar style, carries images like headphones, numerical equations and Greek alphabets spread across the surface. In ‘Lunch Break (Memorial) 1’ an image of impending doom is presented by the artist.

Friday, July 30, 2010

‘Eden’ by Suhasini Kejriwal

Galerie Christian Hosp in Berlin recently presented a show of works entitled ‘Eden’ by Suhasini Kejriwal. The works of this sensitive Kolkata based artist tend to build a rather spectacularly complex realm of gem-colored visions coupled with some enigmatic life forms that stand in the liminal space existing between what is both delightful and nightmarish, natural and fantastical.

What does really Eden’ mean to her? Does it refer the garden where Adam & Eve harmoniously lived till the latter was tempted by the serpent? Or to a parallel universe where untouched forest life thrives? Is it a façade for reality or a dream idyll? The new series raises such complex questions with no easy answers. Elaborating on her new solo show, an accompanying note stated:
“Eden is here now. It is what it is. Crowded, chaotic and claustrophobic – every inch of space bursting with the debris and stuff of human existence – crammed with information and endeavor, action and consequence. It is wretched and harsh. At best, difficult for human existence. Yet, human life thrives here. A life, vibrant, buzzing with enterprise and action, a gritty picture of human resolve. The ability to survive, adapt, thrive and grow in such an environment is nothing short of a miracle.”
She did her Master of Fine Arts at Goldsmith’s College in London in 2006, and participated as a finalist in the prestigious Celeste Art Prize show. A year later, Suhasini Kejriwal started experimenting with sculptures.

In her paintings, she grafts peculiar elements of patterns juxtaposed with thick sprawls of vegetation. At first insects and animals of giant proportions suddenly emerge from the tumultuous jungle. Nowhere does she allow the viewer’s eye to find rest or succor. Where one creature or plant, flower terminates, another one will spring forward in a consummate case of horror vacui. The constant overflow of sensations invariably forces the viewers to decelerate their processing of sensory stimuli and break accustomed perception patterns.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

An event that blends art and charity

Adding to Mumbai’s packed social diary, renowned NGO Khushii now brings ‘Art Loot’, a unique kind of charity endeavor that showcasing a wide range of works by some of the most established names from the contemporary Indian art scene. The event gives art lovers the perfect opportunity to acquire some of the most exquisite artworks.

What they need to do is just to register and to submit their names into the ‘Art Loot’. There are total of 53 works of art on offer. Each of them is stunning and sure is a collector’s item. The ‘Loot’ comprises painted canvases, drawings, sculptures etc created by masters and leading contemporary artists like Paresh Maitey, Arpita Singh, Anupam Sud, Anju Dodiya, Jogen Chowdhury, George Martin, Nataraj Sharma, A Ramachandran and Chittrovanu Mazumdar and Atul Dodiya, to name a few. Khushii regularly arranges events that blend art and charity. ‘India on Canvas, 09’ in New Delhi is a case in point. Describing the event, the NGO website mentions: "

It started right here in New Delhi in 2006- the magic and the excitement, when Khushii introduced the concept of dual . General awareness towards the Arts has immensely grown over the past few years’ with people having a far deeper understanding and becoming collectors of art. Khushii takes the moral obligation to provide the second-generation artists, a platform like India on Canvas. There were unique customized pieces of art, which served two needs – that of charity and of beauty.”

As an initiative to increase its outreach, mobilize individuals and corporations, under one hub, Khushii, after nearly six years of its launch, started ‘World Action Forum’, thus initiating a movement to work together for India’s development. Funds raised from the ‘Art Loot’ will be utilized for various social causes that are supported by Khushii.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Reading into the improved market sentiment and its implications

Soaring prices tend to have an uncanny impact: building a sort of temporary phase of euphoria that perhaps triggers instant amnesia. And things can get really tricky, in the process!

Consider the fact that it was just a year ago that even pieces by the now sought-after Progressive Modernists were available at auction events for a near-steal deals. Also, consider the fact that most contemporary artists, very much in demand when the going was fantastic, are suddenly a tough SELL now in primary as well as secondary markets.

Why is that there has been hardly any trickle down effect to many emerging art forms? A top-heavy art market may grab headlines, but it doesn’t really represent a large cross-section of it that still requires its own adrenaline shot, one may say. Elaborating on the scenario, Sharmistha Ray of the ET Bureau notes in her essay, entitled ‘Are soaring art prices creating another bubble?’
“Semantics merely holds symbolic, not real, value. As much as the auction houses claim that collectors are buying and speculators are out; the truth is everyone, no matter what their net worth or disposable income levels, is buying to invest. Today, the art that sells has to be of the investible worthiness of real estate and gold to summon up buyer excitement. While that is indeed a good news for Traditional & Modern art, finally getting its due, it doesn’t really bode well for present and future art practitioners for whom the support infrastructure has considerably contracted.”
Of course, there are positive takeaways as well. The improved market sentiment has paid off well for the leading auction houses in both India and abroad. Today, they seem to be striving for the discerning buyer. The profligate spender is not necessarily their sole target audience.

Also, quality control processes are far more stringent than in the past. Focused marketing effectively projects the appeal of good art. A combination of all this means that the stakes just get even higher...

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Need to be cautious before we turn euphoric

If Sotheby’s and Christie’s Indian art auction results in New York conducted in March were heartwarming, then their outcome in London in June were nothing short of astounding. A painting by Modernist Progressive SH Raza, entitled ‘Saurashtra’ (79 x 79 inch) went at Christie’s for a whopping £2.4 million (nearly Rs. 17 crore). It broke the earlier record by a wide margin – by almost double, signifying the change in mood.

The work, undoubtedly among the finest ones by the Master, set a new price benchmark by which all upcoming results will obviously be measured. In all, Christie’s managed to better their auction results by nearly ten times from the same month last year, whereas Sotheby’s almost tripled theirs. Raza, and his counterpart Progressive Modernist artists, such as Tyeb Mehta, VS Gaitonde, MF Husain and FN Souza are in demand all over again.

As a result, a renewed buying & selling frenzy is about to be witnessed in the art market. Summing up the scenario and also sounding a word of caution, art writer Sharmistha Ray mentions in an ET Bureau report:
“We should be unequivocal in our celebrations; the recession seems like a distant memory, if not erased completely. But if ever we needed the voice of reason, it’s now. Somewhere from a silent corner, it begs an all too familiar question: is it all happening too soon? A shallow market is much more susceptible to predatory speculation. We should have learned this lesson well by now. On a more positive note, the auction houses are delivering auctions that focus on content much more than ever before, even if the primary markets remain comparatively sluggish.”
In essence, elated speculators are back sniffing again and everything perhaps looks a bit hunky dory, at least on paper. So we need to watch out before we turn euphoric again!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Works in ‘Docu tour’ examine the context of photographic documentation

A new show at Mumbai based Gallery BMB, entitled ‘Docu tour’, presents works of four photographers. They examine the use of photographic documentation in the critique of socio-political structures, cultural practices and institutions. Curated by Bose Krishnamachari, it seeks to explore various formal strategies that are employed to transform the photo document into an artwork taking a critical standpoint.

The curator states: “As a curator in today’s new economic context, I am extremely interested in moving forward towards an investigation of different types of art works, which were perhaps rather less prevalent in recent years. In this time of introspection and new beginnings, I find this is the ideal moment to investigate the parameters and diversity of such photographic practice.”

Among the participating artists, Anup Mathew Thomas’s interests are wide-ranging, however his style, direct and detached, applied to subjects ranging from family and friends to Episcopalian bishops in Kerala, a library in Lahore to Dance Bars in Mumbai, contextualizes them in larger narratives.

Gill is primarily concerned with documenting communities, identities, and the spaces that a community holds dear. Though seeming to employ classic documentary approaches like working within genres such as portraiture and cityscapes, she often breaks these conventions, using a snapshot aesthetic, or making references to local vernacular practices.

Shankar Natarajan brings a conceptual approach to photography. Using archives, various display strategies, and a dispassionate style, the photo artist focuses on themes from everyday life. Sometimes using material produced for a non-art purpose, his work explores the ways photo documents gain new meaning, when re-contextualized within the gallery space.

Last but not the least, Vivek Vilasini’s politically charged works offer a témoignage of geopolitical questions preoccupying society today. His practice seeks to reveal contradictions in socio-political, cultural realms through unexpected juxtapositions of images that often use humor and shock tactics.

Docu tour’ is open until August 14, 2010.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

A compilation of artist Dayanita Singh’s work

A retrospective compilation of renowned photo-artist Dayanita Singh’s work forms part of a significant publication that covers two decades of her career since 1989.

The celebrated artist has received many awards like the Prince Claus Award by the Netherlands government in 2008 for ‘her image of outstanding quality, providing a well-articulated view of contemporary India, and for introducing a new aesthetic into Indian photography’. The celebrated photographer quipped in an interview (DNA India, Kritika Kapoor):
“I think I've been intrigued more by the structure, sequencing and interiority of certain literature and have attempted to see if it might be possible to explore these in the photographic book. My book 'Go Away Closer' marks this shift to the inner worlds and leads up to 'Dream Villa'.”
Chronicling more than 100 published and unpublished images, from her solo exhibition, entitled ‘Myself Mona Ahmed’ to some of her most recent works presented in ‘Dream Villa’, the book also includes essays on her works penned by Aveek Sen, recipient of the ICP Infinity Award for photography writing in 2009 and Sunil Khilnani, who has authored the widely popular publication, ‘The Idea of India’.

Dayanita Singh is considered one of India’s most accomplished and skilled photographers. She is among the most respected of her generation who has in turn, managed to inspire a whole new generation of photo-artists, to explore the medium. She shares her sources of inspiration, stating,
“Many writers have influenced my work greatly - Italo Calvino, Michael Ondaatje, Sunil Khilnani, Geoff Dyer, Amitav Ghosh and Vikram Seth... Some I could only read, some that I had the privilege of traveling and conversing with. They have influenced the shifts in my work and often my work has been addressed to them (in the book 'Sent a Letter').”
Her work has been extensively exhibited in prestigious galleries and museums all over the world. The book accompanies a traveling retrospective exhibit of her oeuvre.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Musée Guimet refocuses on Asia wih a new show

Rashid Rana is known to address immediate political and social concerns through ironic and subtle juxtapositions. His work vacillates between the micro and the macro, as the artist looks to create a composite image that is arranged from nearly thousands of ‘pixels’, often portraying mundane scenes of life in Lahore. They can be called miniaturized photos that revolve around his city.

‘Perpetual Paradox’ is the title of his new series of recent works on view at the Musée Guimet. With this new exhibition, the Paris based museum has stepped into the fascinating realm of contemporary art. For record, its illustrious predecessors visualized the institution to possess extensive collections of some exquisite objects. During its founder Emile Guimet’s lifetime (1836-1918), the museum, increasingly began focusing on Asian civilizations, even while devoting a special section to the religions of Ancient Egypt. Its fabulous collections have become enriched over time.

The aim of this vast museum renovation program that was adopted in 1993, started in 1996, and just recently completed- has been to make sure that this famous institution founded by Emile Guimet can continue to assert itself as a leading centre, right in the heart of Europe, for the appreciation, research and knowledge of rich Asian civilizations. It also focues on the latest developments in advanced museum science as well as new requirements for the display/conservation of art.

Its president Jacques Giès justifies the new approach of the Musée Guimet, as amplified by ‘Perpetual Paradox’. He states:
“The museum is much more than a mere safety-deposit box for antiques. In view of the rising value of the Asian dynamic in our modern-day world – where Asian cultures are for the first time in Western history making a place for themselves that grows larger every day- the time has come, we believe, to reflect on and reconsider our notion of the museum.”
He along with documentary researcher Caroline Arhuero has curated the Rashid Rana show. Arianne Levene and Églantine de Ganay are the guest curators.

Friday, July 23, 2010

A solo show of recent works by Rashid Rana in Paris

The Musée Guimet, a leading museum in France, presents the new solo exhibition ‘Perpetual Paradox’ by celebrated Pakistani artist Rashid Rana. This is for the first time that the contemporary creations of the artist are being showcased in the country.

Rashid Rana is considered to be his country's greatest contemporary artist because of his digital photomontages, sculptures and video installations. Originally a painter, well-known in the public eye in Pakistan and several other Middle-Eastern and European countries, he has for the last ten years chosen to work on digital imaging, allowing him to associate opposing elements in the same piece by inlaying micro-photographic details and creating pixellated images.

By associating the seen with the unseen, the artist highlights the hostility between cultures, holding responsible those who create today’s images and therefore play a role in the construction of tomorrow’s traditions. The artist states, “In this age of uncertainty we have lost the privilege of having one world view. Now every image, idea and truth encompasses its opposite within itself.”

Roughly twenty of his disconcertingly paradoxical pieces will be scattered among the museum’s permanent collection, offering a unique opportunity to compare contemporary art with the Musée Guimet’s age-old Asian pieces, thus placing a question mark above tradition and the 'illusion of permanence', from the depths of time to the modern age.

The exhibition appears hand-in-hand with the current exhibition, ‘Pakistan: Where Civilisations Meet - Art from the Gandhara, 1st-6th centuries AD’. It runs until 16 August, and offers a unique opportunity to discover 200 Greco-Buddhist pieces characteristic of the Gandhara, mixing classic Greek and Indian art in a fusion of genres and styles. These two exhibitions dedicated to Pakistan provide a one-off chance to experience ancient heritage alongside contemporary creations. The show ‘Perpetual Paradox’ continues until October 15.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Artist Bari Kumar in a joint show at Bose Pacia, New York

Bose Pacia presents ‘Material Witness’ comprising the latest works by Bari Kumar and Mondongo. The Los Angeles-based artist features along with the Argentinean artist collective, Mondongo. Both independently explore theories of voice and representation of materials and subjects.

Mondongo includes artists Juliana Laffitte, Manuel Mendanha, and Augustina Picasso who began collaborating in 2000. Born in Andhra Pradesh in 1966, Bari Kumar studied at J. Krishnamurthi’s Rishi Valley School, and later did a BFA (Graphic Design) from the Otis/ Parsons School of Design, Los Angeles.

Their insightful pairing of subject matter and medium results in a visual meditation on the agency of ubiquitous materials and the moments of meaning in life - purposeful or prescribed. Large-scale ‘paintings’ in the show are constructed with a host of unconventional substances. By using materials intrinsically linked to the message the objects become complicit with it. The works themselves turn both the perpetrator and the perpetrated, thus building a vacuum of intense representation. A curatorial note states:
“The initial meeting of the artists was a truly happenstance event and the impulse to create a visual conversation between their works has been strong from the first discovery of their separate projects. Eessentially a painter, he began to experiment with fabric constructions in 2007.

"By using a commonly acquired and viewed material to depict a related but far more contentious form, the artist emphasizes questions of voice, marginality, and inherent meaning. Mondongo's work has followed a similar path. The group has created realistic representations of portraits, landscapes, and objects using commonplace and specifically coded materials.”
In this exhibition, Bari Kumar’s work is predominantly of fabric constructions. He has depicted segments of nude bodies with the material conventionally utilized to cover them to emphasize their shifting contexts covering and the miscommunications caused when such distinctions do not any longer follow an expected trajectory. On the other hand, Mondongo artists have used Plasticine (similar to play-dough), mirror, make-up, thread, tar etc.

The preview shows a selection of the works to form part of the full-length exhibition in September.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Celebrating soccer artistry through artworks

In one of our recent posts, we referred to our very own football crazy artist’s Riyas Komu concern for the sorry state of this truly global sport in India. In his project ‘MARK HIM, he spoke of footballer Sailendra Nath (Sailen), who led India to the first Asian Games gold. Komu in his new series of works depicted the chasm of several seas (or Cs) that lies between Subrato and Cesar.

The message he wants to pass: “Even as we support the likes of Julio Cesar we could just move backwards and appreciate a bit our own Subratos.” The show tried to revisit memories of one of the oldest sport in India. It was as much about art as about a game and also about the art and socio-political dimension of football.

There is no doubt about the fact that The FIFA World Cup 2010 has drawn everyone’s attention. The climax has just been reached with Spain grabbing the coveted trophy long missing from their winning showcase. Off the field, an ambitious art exhibit has been arranged in celebration of soccer artistry.

On view there are works from some of Europe’s most famous contemporary artists, such as Ed Gray and Sir Peter Phillips, along with some not-so-known artists from North Korea whose photo-realistic paintings depict the soccer professional as proletarian hero. The five works show strapping soccer players from the country with earnest much like the Korean players at the WC.

Robert Spaul, the exhibit’s general manager, stated in an interview:
“I thought we would get some fairly predictable peasants working in the fields with soccer balls. What we got was some really photo-realistic-type paintings. An artwork that you’re going to frame and hang in your office or at home becomes a long lasting reminder of your experience, your trip to Africa and this important event.”
The comments aptly sum up the spirit of the show.

Iconic images of the FIFA World Cup

On eve of the FIFA World Cup tournament, special auctions for the African collection along with the commissioned international collection are being conducted online by Graham’s Fine Art Auctioneers. Bidders can check the works at the gallery at Melrose Arch in Johannesburg or online for the event.

Clint Strydom’s high-contrast black & white photos project the rural side of soccer. Barefoot pre-teens, who sport broad smiles, are seen kicking a ragged, rounded object through sand and dirt. Strydom pointed out that hardly anyone of them would ever get to see the World Cup stadiums. Their love for the world’s most popular sporting activity is in abject contrast to millionaire players inside the stadiums. They are privileged enough to secure hugely lucrative endorsements.

The US goalkeeper Tim Howard and some of his teammates purchased signed prints of his photos. The works were presented to the president of FIFA, Sepp Blatter. Marcus Jansen, a painter from America, came up with urban expressionistic works that set the popular sport in a surrealistic asphalt jungle.

Apart from Clint Strydom, another South African artist Esther Mahlangu’s paintings are also there. Done in the style of the Ndebele wall painted works, colorful geometric designs used for decorating houses of the Ndebele people from the southern Transvaal region in the Northwest. The exhibit’s managing director, Craig Mark, mentions in The New York Times interview:
“With simple geographic shapes, she’s actually managed to portray the game. There are several South African artists involved and they each have their own unique styles. Each has been selected for that very reason. We feel that their works have the power to become iconic images of this World Cup.”
A South African sculptor, Keith Calder, came up with a series of bronze statues, comprising several large-format versions – over nine feet - on display in many public spaces around Johannesburg.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Artworks inspired by South Africa’s first World Cup

A new international exhibit in South Africa has 160 artists, meticulously selected by a team of curators. The works are inspired by soccer and South Africa’s first World Cup. Artists from the continent apart from five from each of the 32 participating countries in the WC were commissioned to create original works of art celebrating the game. The outcome is an eclectic show. The exhibit’s MD, Craig Mark, has been quoted as saying in The NYT:

“There has always been a natural synergy between sport and art and culture. If you go back and look at bushman art, early cave painting, you see sport being illustrated within those paintings. In Africa, football plays a very important role in terms of our daily experience. You have a lot of these artists having never come to Africa but interpreting what they feel Africa is all about within their works, some of which are very abstract in nature. There’s definitely a soccer theme that carries throughout. In some of the works, animals play quite a strong role.”

This is the first time ever that soccer’s world governing body has chosen to license original art works for a show. It was challenging to identify artists from countries like North Korea with so little known about them, but the organizers accomplished the task. According to the exhibit’s general manager, Robert Spaul, the official imprimatur of tournament organizers meant the participation of some top name artists from across the globe was ensured.

Instead of merely tom-toming the global spirit of the sport, Clint Strydom like his fellow South African artists has opted to highlight the game in a vastly different light, depicting its human side and giving it a reality check. The works certainly add a new dimension and perspective to the event from several sensitive artists’ viewpoint.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The new decade may well belong to ‘modern art’

The modern art seems to be in focus, luring both investors and speculators to it. The trend should be checked from a broader perspective, as proclaimed by art expert Kishore Singh in a recent article. As he states, it can be safely stated that the art market was over-heated not because of the higher prices paid to a rare quality works but because the vast contemporary market.

This is largely because ‘modern art’ has had a short history in the country. So there are not many of Raja Ravi Varma's co-painters, or Amrita Sher-Gil's contemporaries that we can think of? Because ‘studios’ then hired artists to paint in the style that was in fashion an demand at that time. Works by several talented artists were clustered in an ambiguous ‘Anonymous’ category. Almost no detailed research has been done to identify who they were.

We’ve seen more artworks by more artists since the forties. However, the numbers have still been low as compared to Western countries since there were fewer patrons. Perhaps the ‘modern school’ didn’t appeal to those fed on a tradition seeped in more sentimental aesthetics. As a result, they hardly received any recognition. The art expert elaborates:
“A number of artists who worked through the fifties, sixties and seventies would have remained for all purposes unknown, had not the heady pursuit of scarce artworks and a booming art market in the last decade led to their resurrection from a state of near-anonymity.”
In the context of today’s art market scenario, the fact remains that the Indian art market is grossly undervalued. When it fell from Rs 15 billion mark in 2008 to just about Rs 8-9 billion, the signals it gave were not only about the ‘low’ value tag of Indian artists but also about the lack of good art in the market. The art expert reasons that this is in part owing to what we term ‘modern art’. It is works of such ‘rare’ quality that will do for prices in the coming decade something that investors concerned with short-term swings should not overlook.

How can the collector decide the ‘right’ price to pay?

Confidence among investors for Indian modern art is now restored, one may say, with a series of successful auctions that indicates prices are on an upward trajectory. Speculators are also back in the fray, lured by the rising prices and increased confidence levels. The modern art is in spotlight, in particular. So how can the collector decide the ‘right’ price to pay? Art expert Kishore Singh puts forward an interesting assumption in one of his recent columns:
”If we accept that for a country of India's size, there were very few painters to begin with, and then accept the global average that only 10 per cent of an artist's work can be considered of exceptional quality, then the amount of such art is rather limited and getting scarcer as it ends up in the hands of intuitions/collections unlikely to re-sell it.”
To put things in proper perspective, here are some stats: The highest prices for Indian art were attained in 2008. In the first decade of the new millennium, the range significantly moved higher from just Rs 1 million to almost Rs 100 million. The same quality of artworks will witness the price band move further higher in the coming decade. How much is anybody’s guess?

High disposable incomes coupled with the democratization of markets led to greater appreciation of Indian art, driving up the prices. It was a combination of both hype and quality. Hysteria created was evident in the new benchmarks set in auctions. The first painting to break the Rs 10 million barrier and each successive new price benchmark created further frenzy.

Soon 'art for art's sake' gave way to the notion of 'art for investment's sake'. But that wasn’t to continue forever! Recession reined in the art market as speculators beat a hasty retreat. Now things are looking up again. And let us hope that the history won’t get repeated again. But then that’s market for you.

Long live the investor and the modern art masters!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Om Soorya explores the idea of life, death and confusion about the universe

Om Soorya explores the idea of life, death and confusion about the universe The Guild Art Gallery presents the second solo show for Om Soorya. The exhibition comprises his recent works that continue an exploration of his stylistic surreal landscapes.

Born in 1977, Om Soorya completed his MFA from University of Hydrebad and his BFA from College of Fine Arts, Trivandrum, India. He has had shows at the Birla Academy of Art and Culture, Mumbai,Nature Morte Art Gallery, Delhi, Kalakriti Art Gallery, Hydrebad and Khoj, New Delhi.

Om Soorya’s paintings show neither the past nor do they really represent our own surroundings. They have neither nightfall nor daybreak, neither cities nor villages, but images of both rural and urban life. He takes a cue from life around that is surrounded by a spate of contradictions. He adds:
"Villages become urban when you displace someone, often improperly, from one place to another. I talk about the nature of reality and urban and rural juxtapositions as a search for the constant truth in the reality, which surrounds me. Reality doesn’t merely mean the socio-political arena; it relates to the most inner truth of everything.

"Conscious mind enters the real world and it searches for the logic in reality. Here, all doubts on reality emerge by itself, from the realms of the conscious mind. The question of existence and the reason of birth, growth and death are the phenomenon to be unveiled. At the same time, there is an inherent obligation to live. Concurrent to this thought, the unconscious mind manifests an imaginary world of dreams. Sometimes the nature of the idea is a kind of contradiction on the present realities."
In essence, his work is being just like a pendulum: in between the anxieties over the present realities and the quest for total existence. The idea of life, death and confusion about the universe, recur in his works.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Unraveling another face of artistic India

A show at the musée du quai Branly, Paris unravels another face of India: The India of indigenous populations and folk communities, or Adivasis. Spread over the entire territory and identified in the 1950 census, these populations keep up their artistic traditions while being in constant contact with the dominant Indian population.

Equally well-known for living traditions such as dance, music and theatre that developed at the fringes of the huge Hindu communities, they still remain barely known to the Western world.

For long, the representations of the Adivasis were full of prejudices far removed from reality, as much for the Indians as for the foreigners. The exhibition thus reveals their true face, and showcases their amazing artistic productions. ‘Other Masters of India: contemporary creations of the Adivasis’ includes photographs, wall paintings of the Rathava tribe from Gujarat, tribal bronze figurines from Orissa and Chattisgarh, sculptures from North-Eastern India, wooden sculptures from Karnataka and from Bihar and architectural bas-reliefs crafted by the women artists from Chattisgarh.

A curatorial note to the exhibit (general curator : Jyotindra Jain; associated curator : Jean-Pierre Mohen) elaborates: “These people produce astounding creative visual art works that are as utilitarian as they are sacred and quite different from the standard renowned works from the Indian art scene. For the very first time in France, showcases the most representative material, day-to-day, artistic and religious productions of these Indian populations in a thematic and multidisciplinary approach thereby allowing the public to discover an important but still highly unrecognized part of the contemporary popular art scene in India.”

Coming from collections of the musée du quai Branly, European and Indian museums as well as private collections and specific orders from Indian artists within the framework of the exhibition, the showcased objects bear testimony to the vibrancy of the artistic traditions of these different communities, and to their evolution and their exposure to the outside world.

The exhibition culminates with the monographs of world-renowned painters Jivya Soma Mashe and Jangarh S Shyam.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

‘His Story’ by Hindol Brahmbhatt: Meditative yet visually dramatic

‘His Story’ is the title of a new series of works by Hindol Brahmbhatt on display at the New York based Tamaraind Art Gallery. His large-scale multimedia paintings or ‘painterly installations’ depict portraits of some great artists from the past.

Why has he opted to paint them and what do they stand for? Providing a clue to them, the curaorial note states:
“Famous artists throughout history depicted in speculative portraits are reduced to their vulnerable cores suggesting a critique on how a glorious past becomes a product’ of contemporary time. In this context, the images serve as incisive commentaries of perception and experience. Meditative yet visually dramatic, they allude to the unpredictable confluence of torched wood, etched text on plexiglass and oil on canvases.These large, contemplative works created in a unique and personal idiom reveal an acute awareness towards pushing Mediatic Realism to the next level.”
During his formative years, the artist was a witness to the contemporary art scene when Mediatic Realism seemed to be the norm among the Indian artists. He adapted his style to incorporate the mediatized images, but soon grasped how the same images could easily be employed with different techniques for developing a unique personal idiom.

Hindol Brahmbhatt’s practice hinges on his painterly style of constructing iconic imagery. The resultant mixed media works often blend different times and spaces as well as diverse elements from the various cultures, to present a mesmerizing and mystical milieu. They tend to traverse the narrative space of ubiquitous conventional realism wherein time, space and subjects that inhabit pictorial space combine to form a congruous whole.

To express the incongruity and resultant chaos is a formal device employed in his storytelling technique. The artist states:
“I believe in truth of opposites. For every argument, there is bound to be a counter argument that can be equally valid. I try recreating & relocating the known and the imagined visual references, filling them with alternative meanings.”

An artist who weaves the present and past to convey his concerns

Artist Hindol Brahmbhatt’s practice revolves around attainment of thematic and stylistic unity. Its broad objective is to form a language that calls for continuity and intuition. This infinity of composition reminds us that each work is a part of a greater body of images and ideas. These are schematic images of evolution, growth and creativity. The messages need not be ‘analyzed and solved’; they simply exist.

Beyond the visual appeal it may exude, the subject matter essentially underlines that history has now become a display item, as conveyed through the portraits of historical figures. In fact, Hindol Brahmbhatt treats his work as a documentation of historical reality in contemporary context even while he looks for clues of social changes. Thus emerges a universe that the viewers can identify with, albeit from a new perspective! He leaves it to them to interpret it and draw their own conclusions.

With a wide artistic range and broad visual vocabulary - based on soothing colors and an uncomplicated treatment of the core subject - he brings out the complex reality of urban life. Despite a restrained usage of colors and forms, his work is striking in terms of composition and content. The artist chooses to distil his visual vocabulary for a maximum impact.

The works resonate with an outward simplicity of the subject matter. They subtly hide and progressively heighten complexities of the inherent drama. His technique involves starting with an image in photographic emulsion, and later adding acrylic, shellac, clay, sand etc. to build textures of incredible variety and sensitivity, and in the process, unpacking mythic pathos and historical ironies.

The artist meticulously experiments with the images culled from past and present reference points until he is able to deduce the desired effect. He often uses cheery visuals of urban life for depicting one side of life, whereas iconic portraits carved on dark charred wood, represent the hardships endured. His pointed observations coupled with his imagination give a contextual touch to his art that looks to not only please the viewers’ eyes, but also touch their souls.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

‘Cinema Verite Redux’ at Gallery Sumukha, Bangalore

Bangalore based Gallery Sumukha presents an art exhibition, entitled ‘Cinema Verite Redux’. Curated by Shaheen Merali, the exhibit comprises works by artists Parvathi Nayar, Ravikumar Kashi, Subba Ghosh, Attila Richard Lukacs, Charly Nijensohn, Marina Roy, and Prasad Raghavan.

The selection for the title proposes a familiarity of intent with a particular type of cinema and documentary format that has evolved and is popularly recognized as cinema verite. An accompanying note elaborates:
“The dependence on chance, of probable encounters, can be seen as one of the factors that unites these artists' works with cinema verite. Chance played a formative part of the Dadist movement, but these works vary in the way chance is used to consolidate a longing to record from fragments of concerns. Part of the sustaining aegis in many of them is found in their use of diverse research of their project. A second, and more commonly recognized condition of cinema verite is found in its desire to avail itself of excessive technical equipment, which could interfere or create a distance with its subject. ‘"
Cinema Verite Redux’ lets bring back of some of the above mentioned evaluatory and technical strategies as inventive tropes for gaining a proximity to the world. There are Oil on wood Portraits by Attila Richard Lukacs; video installations by Marina Roy’ cutout paintings on canvas stretched on wood by Subba Ghosh; Inkjet prints by Prasad Raghavan; black & white Drawings by Parvathi Nayar, video installations by Charly Nijensohn, and Photography by artist Ravikumar Kashi.

In quest of a commitment to the ‘inspired gaze’, the seven participating artists have featured works that serve as notations of salvation, a clear ground to recover informed ideas and a staunch commitment entrenched within the aesthetic and political intimacy of their belief. The group show allows a uniquely different artistic method and, hence, arguably a different artistic outcome in its inscription as well as embedment into its vivacious visual surfaces.

Friday, July 9, 2010

What makes still-life paintings special?

Britannica Encyclopedia mentions ‘still life’ as ‘'depiction of inanimate objects for the sake of their qualities of form, color, texture, and composition.’ For a large part of the art movement, it was confined to its existence as a subsidiary element in a ubiquitous composition.

Early Netherlandish still-life painted works that depicted skulls, candles as well as hourglasses as allegories of mortality, or combined fruits and flowers of all seasons to allude to nature’s cycle. An interest in observing and representing the material details of the environment in realistic way was a key catalyst to the still-life style.

Sadly, this genre might some out of context, especially when several younger artists now evolve their practice with help and support of technology. It still plays a key role in their working processes, and they might have seldom sketched a bottle of wine or a vase of flowers sitting on a table, as most senior artists of the earlier era have dome to fine tune their craft. In fact, one can test the true mettle of an artist the way he or she draws/paints forms in still-life. Dwelling on the interesting topic, art critic Kishore Singh notes in a recent column:
“True, still-life as we know it is an inherited idea from the West, and one belongs in that sense to our painterly past. But in the way it continues to fascinate both artist as well as collector, I would wager that as a subject it is still to reach its sell-by date.”
We have witnessed some exquisite examples of still-life paintings at recent exhibitions. Though the fact remains that not many of these kind have managed to command the dizzy heights of record-breaking prices (that have come the way of fantastic figurative works), the expert feels that it still remains the best measure of an individual artist’s persona, his mood (while at the time of painting the work) and also his or her craft.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

'Andy Warhol: The Last Decade' show

'Andy Warhol: The Last Decade' is the first U.S. museum survey to examine the late work of this celebrated American artist. The show is organized by the Milwaukee Art Museum.

Encompassing nearly fifty works, the exhibition reveals his vitality, energy, and renewed spirit of experimentation. During this time the Andy Warhol (1928–1987) produced several works, in a considerable number of thematic series format and on a vastly larger scale, than at any other point in his forty-year career. It was a decade of great artistic development for him, during which a dramatic transformation of his style took place alongside the introduction of new techniques.

Andy Warhol continued to expand upon his artistic and business ventures with commissioned portraits, print series, TV productions, and fashion projects, but he also reengaged with painting. In the late 1970s, he developed a renewed interest in abstraction, first with his Oxidations and Shadows series and later with his Yarn, Rorschach, and Camouflage paintings. His return to the hand-painted images in the 1980s was inspired by collaborations with Jean-Michel Basquiat, Clemente, and Keith Haring.

The exhibition concludes with his variations on Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper, one of the largest series of his career. Together, these works provide an important framework for understanding Andy Warhol’s late career by showing how the artist simultaneously incorporated the screened image and pursued a reinvention of painting. The New York Times review mentions:
"Its 45 paintings represent around 1 percent of the more than 3,500 that the Andy Warhol Foundation estimates Warhol produced during his last decade. Still, the show floats a startling idea: Warhol made some of his best paintings during these years. Spurred by his sensitivity to criticism, by the example of younger painters he had influenced and perhaps by his own boredom, he became more fully himself as a painter, retrieving and expanding upon parts of his sensibility left behind in his rush to become Andy Warhol, Pop artist."
'Andy Warhol: The Last Decade' has been curated by Joseph D. Ketner II, Henry and Lois Foster Chair of Contemporary Art, Emerson College, Boston. The Brooklyn Museum presentation is organized by Sharon Matt Atkins, Associate Curator of Exhibitions.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Om Soorya's solo show at The Guild Art, NY

The Guild Art, NY presents the second solo show for Om Soorya. It’s a new body of paintings that further explores surreal landscapes. This Kerela born artist, now based in Hyderabad, produces surreal dream-like landscapes that look to decipher the fine line between the real and the perceived. They are occupied by both negative and positive energies he depicts in an array of fascinating forms.

His usage of pigment is intuitive yet fluid. The rich tones along with lines varying from watery blurs appear very much like a twilight zone. The artist did his MFA from University of Hyderabad and his BFA from College of Fine Arts, Trivandrum. Om Soorya's work has been showcased at major art galleries in India and abroad. During the artist in residence program of Pro Helvetia, he spent a couple of months in St. Gallen in May 2009. His resultant series of watercolors, entitled ‘Silence-Breathless’, dealt with the slavery and its impact on today’s modernist India.

The project he worked on was an extension of the subject matter he had been engaged with for a while. Inherently, the body of work looked to the certain rural aspects of his life. It was a small autobiographical unwritten history of a locality of his childhood in north of Kerala. Explaining how he lives in the midst of contradictions, the artist quips:

"Villages become urban when you displace someone, often improperly, from one place to another. I talk about the nature of reality and urban and rural juxtapositions as a search for the constant truth in the reality, which surrounds me. Reality doesn’t merely mean the socio-political arena; it relates to the most inner truth of everything. Conscious mind enters the real world and it searches for the logic in reality. Here, all doubts on reality emerge by itself, from the realms of the conscious mind.”

In essence, the mystical idea of life, death and the utter confusion over the universe, concurrently recur in his work. It underlines the fact that aesthetics is as vital to him as core content, an aspect that is anply evident in his new show.

‘Invisible Cities’ at Aicon Gallery New York

‘Invisible Cities’, a new show at Aicon Gallery, New York features several talented artists, including Jayashree Chakravarty, Devang Anglay, Pooja Iranna, Dilip Chobisa, M. Pravat, Damon Kowarsky, Sanjay Sundaran, Mahreen Zuberi and Gigi Scaria. Its title and theme takes a cue from ‘Invisible Cities’, legendary writer Italo Calvino's novella.

Interestingly, the theme substitutes India for Venice, and explores the core concept of motherland - from within and without. ‘Invisible Cities’ imagines several fictional encounters between Kublai Khan and Marco Polo, at the Mongol ruler's court. Polo is supposed to give field reports on the cities within the vast empire as Khan tries to find out why the empire is crumbling.

Polo cannot follow and speak the court's language, and expresses through objects from his baggage like salt fish, drums, necklaces or warthogs' teeth. He points to them all with gestures. He replaces these with words gradually in order to depict the cities. We ear of unjust cities, those being continually constructed, those suspended in the heavens. Finally Khan, like the reader, gets suspicious of the factuality of these tales - and realizes in the end that Polo is returning to one city continuously, that he himself hails from: Venice.

The exhibit starts off by wanting to know: how do artists think of India - often described as being beyond a simplistic definition, open to the Orientalist gaze of international travelers like Marco Polo? Can one see and perceive cities merely through one's own cultural origins? Can one only describe them partially or through powerful metaphor? How do they subvert the closure of inert descriptions of travel guides? As a curatorial note elaborates:
“The show explores these varied notions through a variety of media, created by artists of both South Asian and European extraction, featuring video installation by Gigi Scaria; works on canvas by Jayashree Chakravarty and Sanjay Sundram; etchings byDamon Kowarsky; mixed media work by Devang Anglay, M. Pravat and Dilip Chobisa; sculpture by Pooja Iranna; and digital works on paper by Mahreen Zuberi.”
The interesting show continues till July 17, 2010.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Ideas to unlock the value of Indian art

Seeking to know why India tends to undervalue its treasured art and artists, Deloitte India MD Roopen Roy makes some interesting observations. Following are the excerpts of a recent article by him in The Financial Chronicle:

“According to certain estimates, the business of art in India has probably touched $1 billion a year if one included all cross-border transactions. But a large part of this value is hidden in the parallel economy and much of the 'trading' is conducted under the fiscal radar. Indian artists and painters are becoming more prominent and coveted in the global art bazaar. High net worth individuals in India now have the urge of sourcing art from across the globe. Therefore, a thoughtful and sensible approach must be formulated by India.

The Ficci Committee on Art and Business of Art under Rakhi Sarkar released a report in April, entitled ‘Art Industry in India: Policy Recommendations’. One of its key recommendations was: the ministry of culture (which is directly under the prime minister) should craft and publish a National Art Policy in consultation with all stakeholders, which would include artists, industry, galleries, traders, collectors and buyers of art. A core objective of this policy should be the radical reduction of bureaucratic red tape.

There is a compelling case for simplifying procedures and streamlining the regulatory requirements to ensure that artists, art galleries and other stakeholders have a reduced number of touch points with government departments. The dice of the tax regime is loaded against the blossoming artists. Artists generally experience variations in their income levels due to irregular sale patterns. This fluctuation of income between tax years can be adverse for artists due to the progressive slab rates applying to individuals, which impose higher tax rates as taxable income increases.

To adjust the income fluctuations artists experience, one of the recommendations is to amend the tax laws and the artists to have an income-averaging concept. This concept prevails in Australia, Germany and other countries. Corporate philanthropy is encouraged in many other countries, such as Australia and the US. Corporate establishments contribute voluntarily to the art sector. The government should consider allowing a full expense deduction for the amount of donation made for the cause of art, the columnist concludes.

‘Art Industry in India: Policy Recommendations’ from The Ficci

“The right to freedom of speech & expression to artists is guaranteed under Article 19 (1) (a) of the constitution of India. Clear procedures, processes and standards must be laid down to protect them from reckless allegations of obscenity and of being anti-national. Hooligans cannot be allowed to take law into their own hands. Summons to the artist or issue of warrant of arrest must be after due judicial scrutiny and balancing of interests."

Above is the observation made by Deloitte India MD Roopen Roy in his recent newspaper (The Financial Chronicle) column in the backdrop of a report released by The Ficci Committee. Among its several suggestions, ‘Art Industry in India: Policy Recommendations’ has sought exemption from basic customs duty on import of all types of works of art. The committee has suggested a uniform VAT rate for art at 1 per cent across states. This will take away the incentive of keeping the art trade in the parallel economy.

Analyzing its findings in context of Indian art’s apparently suppressed valuations for various reasons, the writer notes: "The artists, who are at the heart of the value creation, scarcely have a fair share. Middlemen and the collector, or investors, take most of it away. Is it possible to entitle artists to a reasonable percentage of the sale price on all subsequent re-sales for a specified number of years?"

Elaborating further, the columnist states: “Vincent van Gogh died, by a self-inflicted single gunshot wound in his chest, miserably poor and lonely. In his entire life, Van Gogh sold only one painting Red Vineyard at Arles. In great agony he said, “I cannot change the fact that my paintings do not sell. But the time will come when people will realise that they are worth more than the value of the paints used in the picture. If a law, such as the one I have just suggested existed, then Van Gogh may have lived longer, produced more masterpieces and, who knows, died a rich man surrounded by many friends.”

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Indian galleries at Art Basel – II

Five galleries from India presented some of the best works, reflecting the current art trends, to a global audience at the just concluded Art Basel 41. These included top names, such as Chemould Prescott Road, Chatterjee & Lal, Sakshi, Nature Morte, and Gallery SKE.

Sakshi gallery presented Taiwan’s Chen Chieh-Jen, whose video work explored issues connected to globalization, in particular labor, consumerism and migration related concerns. Chemould was featured in the new Art Feature section that had select solo presentations, juxtapositions and thematic exhibits from artists representing a wide range of cultures, generations, and artistic approaches.

Its curated booth had two artists from different generations: Bhupen Khakhar and Atul Dodiya. His recent shutter paintings respond to iconic paintings from the 1970s by late Bhupen Khakhar, called ‘trade series’ – namely, ‘Janta Watch Repairing’, ’Sheikh Shoe Mart’ and, ‘Shanker Saloon’ where he depicted middle-class figures from a wide range of professions.

On the hood of each of the rolling shutters are mentioned the actual names of the Bhupen Khakhar’s paintings, giving you the feeling of actually entering ‘Khakhar’s shop’. While the politics of the 1970s provoked him to give an image to and celebrate the diverse workers common across urban India, the new shutter works by Atil Dodiya poignantly refer to the historical moment when their work and lives were traumatically interrupted and threatened.
The presentation at Art 41 Basel contextualized the two artist’s works from these important time periods and the relationship between their respective oeuvre.

Art Basel continues to witness experiments and innovations to sustain the art lover’s interest. Since 2007, it has set aside a section (in the context of Art Unlimited) for a certain type of object: the vinyl record, a symbolic object of the 20th century, especially as many artists now have opted for vinyl as an artistic medium. The new Art Parcours program positioned contemporary art within the city of Basel in an unprecedented way. It was also heartening to see India and Indian artists firmly in the spotlight during this global celebration of art.

Indian galleries at Art Basel - I

It was a real celebration time for contemporary Indian art at Art Basel 41 event that featured five leading galleries from the country.

At Art Statements section, Gallery SKE presented ‘Zero Knot’, an installation and publication by Sreshta Premnath, who examined the spectral figure of the monument – a memorial from the past, pointing toward its historic conception of a future – always gesturing towards something which could never have been…Like the mathematical zero knot, the monument was a cipher, simultaneously absent and present.

Chatterjee & Lal presented Nikhil Chopra, known for his performance-based practice. He conceived a project that wove positions associated with museum display around the residues of a performance undertaken in the environs of a Mumbai based museum earlier this year. On the other hand, Nature Morte displayed works by artists Suhasini Kejriwal, Schandra Singh, Thukral & Tagra, Gauri Gill, Atul Dodiya, Aditya Pande, and TV Santhosh.

Among the most impressive sections at Art Basel was Art Unlimited, a platform for projects transcending the classical art-show stand. The lineup of artists read like a cross-section of leading figures from the international art scene. They featured exclusive video projections, large-scale installations, massive sculptures and live performances. The section also presented 26 one-person shows of young artists this year.

On the other hand, projects by international artists on the exhibition square and at Isteinerstrasse engaged directly with the viewers as part of Art Public. If the Art Film program featured a varied program of films by and about artists with different themes, the 2010 special Artist Book show highlighted Artists' fanzines.

Bringing together various 'historical' examples and experiments by the latest publishers, it offered a source for numerous hard-to-find works little concerned with classic distribution. Leading publishers of editioned works exhibited the results of their collaboration with renowned artists at the Art Edition section. Art Salon incorporated talks, panels, book signing and other presentations on the current state of the art world.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Depicting the 'tragedy' of Indian football

There is evidence of a rudimentary ball being kicked around in China more than 2,000 years ago. Other countries like ancient Greece and Rome also lay their claim to the legacy of football.
In his show, entitled ‘MARK HIM (2008)’, Riyas Komu referred to the sorry state of Indian football. He spoke of footballer Sailendra Nath (Sailen), who led India to the first Asian Games gold.

The artist in his new art show is referring the chasm of several seas (or Cs) that lies between Subrato and Cesar. Alphabet C precedes S even as the S in Subrato and the C in Cesar curiously make similar sounds. The difference, unfortunately, is that the latter sounds a bit more familiar than Subrato until he is your classmate, colleague or cousin.

This report well could have sounded like a legal paper sans emotion or any decorative effect. However, it took its own curve like a free kick to get airborne; this even as the local lad strives to set himself free from his isolation and open the defining penultimate phase of his outer and inner 'homecoming' with a curiously characteristic interplay of reality and dream. If the football World Cup is an ambitious dream, the banal bylanes back home represent the bitter reality. Right down the vortex of cultural amnesia, the human tragedy here is taking a spiral… And if only he was part of that the World Cup team!

The grass perhaps had turned into thorns beneath those bare feet. Nearly half a century later he can only expect thorns as a member of the suffering population facing a stifling denial and a sense of amnesia that pervade his home country's cultural landscape. Those thousand odd balls that rush towards him, might take him with them past the goal line. Subrato has a lonely and enduring walk back to fetch them back. As he returns, we can recount Julius Ceasar’s words: "How many ages hence Shall this our lofty scene be acted o'er In states unborn, and accents yet unknown!”

Friday, July 2, 2010

An artist kicks off to bring Indian football back to glory

India’s football legacy doesn’t just belong to individual glories. The Durand Cup, the country’s oldest football tournament in India, is also the 3rd oldest football competition in the world. The city of Kolkata hosted League football long before Real Madrid or even before FIFA existed. But how many sport-loving people take the trouble to go and see Durand Cup and why should they? Why have things come to such a deplorable pass?

These were the discomforting questions that Riyas Komu raised in his solo show, entitled ‘MARK HIM’ at The Guild gallery, a couple of years ago. Apart from showcasing his works, he also started a debate on the subject. The artist himself is very much passionate about the game. Often he arrives at the local football ground to play the game, which to him is ‘more about connecting socially.’

His ‘Subrato to Cesar’, a new body of works at Mumbai’s Gallery Maskara rekindles his passion tinged with a touch of sadness. An accompanying note mentions:
“We have just indulged in passing the ball amongst ourselves in our own half without making much progress even when much of the opposition to our soccer advances have come from within. It's therefore time to move back into the locker room and take a fresh look at the game that most of us love. Our own footballers are a forgotten lot! When we join the world to celebrate the world cup dreams, much of which would be played out on the TV and other media, we must open our eyes to other realities that are immediate to ourselves. Here is an invitation to an effort that in some way would be able to make a beginning. ”

Even as we support the likes of Julio Cesar we could just move backwards and appreciate a bit our own Subratos. The show can just be the starting point. You’re welcome for the ‘kick off’, Riyas Komu concludes.

This new show tries to revisit memories of one of the oldest sport in India. It's as much about art as it's about a game and also about the art and socio-political dimension of football that we often tend to ignore.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

‘Contemporary Printmaking in India’ show

A show, entitled ‘Contemporary Printmaking in India’ at Mumbai's Jehangir Art Gallery brings together 100 printmakers from across the country under one roof.

Curated by Priyasri Patodia, the exhibition looks to explore the varied finer aspects of the art of printmaking even while exposing the keen public eye to its different approaches and methods. Printmaking is a disparate genre that can produce intaglio, aquatints, lithography, etching and so on. The show provides an informed view of the condition of the technique in India. It also gives the perfect opportunity for raising many questions regarding the idea of ‘identity'.

It hopes to galvanize the art form and explore aesthetic issues and follow artistic implications of printmaking as a popular genre of Art. It tries to destabilize the pre-conceived notions about the medium in the minds of art lovers. An accompanying note states:

“The fascinating history of printmaking as an artistic medium in Indian art scenario that starts in colonial representation of Indian contents and the evolution of the medium through Raja Ravi Varma’s prints till now has been a neglected segment. Veteran Printmaker Jyoti Bhatt has taken personal efforts to be a guide and mentor to the curator Priyasri Patodia, in the conceptualization and creation of the show.

“Today even though artist have undoubtedly exposed and used printmaking as their language of expression yet too often the viewer and the buying public is unaware of the difference between photo mechanical reproductions, and original prints made by printmakers. Our endeavor is to re-look and involve art lovers in this wonderful space of printmaking.”

The preview takes place at Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai on July 6, 2010. The Contemporary Printmaking in India' show gives a fascinating glimpse of India’s top artists and their printmaking.

Unveiling the passion and joy of printmaking

The idea behind a new, ambitious printmaking show courtesy Priyasri Art Gallery in Mumbai is to showcase the nuances of this unique medium, as well as track its past and present. Previously, printmaking used to be a chosen medium by many masters. In recent time though, fewer artists are experimenting with it for various reasons. The show looks to promote the art of printmaking by bringing it back into spotlight.

Among the artists whose works have been featured as part of the show are Jai Zarotia, Jatin Das, Anjoli Ela Menon, Akbar Padamsee, George Martin P J, Ghulam Mohammed Sheikh, Akhilesh, Amitabha Banerjee, Harren Das, Jagannath Mohapatra, Archana Hande, Arpan Mukheree, Sudhir Patwardhan, Sunil Darji, Arpita Singh, Atin Basak, Atul Dodiya, Anupam Chakravarty, Annupam Sud, Bhaskaran.R.B, Bupen Khakhar, Sunil Padwal, Surrendar Nair, Vilas Shinde, K.G.Subramanyan, Debraj Goswami, Paritosh Sen, Pinaki Barua, D.L.N.Reddy, Vishaka Apte, Yogesh Rawal, Zakir Hussain, F.N Souza, and Avijit Roy.

Other participating artists in the show include Baiju Parthan, Kashinath Salve, Kavita Nayar, Jinshook Shinde, Manjit Bawa, Nalini Malini, Jogen Chowdhary, Jyoti Bhatt, Krishna Reddy, Lalita Lajmi, Lalu Prasad Shaw, Om Soorya, P.D.Dhumal, Paramjeet Singh, Prathap Mod, Rajan Fullari, Rajesh Pullarwar, Ranbir Kaleka, Rini Dhumal, Riyas komu, Sanjeev Khandekar, Sanjeev Sonpimpare, Somnath Hore, K.Subbana, NagDas.V, Naina Dalal, T.Vaikuntum, Tanuja Yadav, Vaishali Narkar, Walter D’Souza, Yashpal Chandrakar, Krishen Khanna, and Sakti Burman.

Through their exciting works, the exhibit looks to give birth to a new dialogue - as a question of interpretation of the encounter with the other - in the real time interval of the interviewing tryst. And the prints, they keep the record of such an event. Self-effacing, but altogether real, a breaking or a wounding, inscribed into the very body of this beautifully produced test.