Monday, February 28, 2011

How art assets are taxed?

Art is now widely recommended by experts not only in India but internationally as a safer and reliable investment avenue. Financial advisors recommend it as an alternative asset class for long-term purpose. They do so largely owing to its immense potential for appreciation. If you buy the right works of art, they can yield multifold returns. What matters is the selection of right artists with help of professional advice.

Of course, not everyone will be buying art for the sheer love of it. There are commercial considerations to it, which is understandable. So you need to take into account several vital factors. Listing some of them, investment expert Gautam Nayak, mentions in a column (‘Beyond The Tax Book’; The Mint):
“You need to factor in, for instance, the lack of a transparent and open market for art and, consequently, the low liquidity. Also, if you opt to decide to invest in art, you should know how you would be taxed on such investments.”

The tax aspect is also to be considered with care. The question to be asked in this regard is: Can you consider that a sculpture or a painting is a personal asset that you have acquired for sheer personal pleasure? If you say so, is any gain you happen to make on the sale of such work (painting or sculpture) therefore, is not taxable?

This was indeed the case until March 31, 2007. Till this point, art (painting or sculpture) was not considered or treated as a tangible capital asset. As a result, any (monetary) gains that were made on sale of such assets were not subject to any capital gains tax provisions. So what has now changed about the process?

This is what we are going to follow…We are going to take into account the taxation related factors while acquiring art.

Tax implications of selling and buying art

Can investor treat a sculpture or a painting acquired as a personal asset for his or her personal pleasure? If one claims so, are gain made, if any, on their sale (painting or sculpture) taxable? It wasn’t until March 31, 2007.

After the modified provisions were put into effect, the gains made from art sale were not considered tax-free any longer. This was the case after an amended definition of capital asset. It widened the list of objects for purpose of computing capital assets.

Now, assets like paintings, drawings, sculptures, archaeological collections and for that matter any art form that one happened to buy or sell are liable to capital gains tax. In fact, the new Direct Tax Code (DTC) - to come into effect from 2012 (April 1, 2012) and currently in the form of a Bill that awaits enactment - has proposed extending the levy of wealth tax to objects such as drawings, paintings, sculptures, archaeological collections and every other work of art.

So what are the implications of the changes? Investment expert Gautam Nayak elaborates in an explanatory article (‘Beyond The Tax Book’; The Mint): “If you happen to hold the sculpture or painting for three years (at least), the gains that you make out of its sales would be considered as long-term capital gains. And the gains would then be computed by indexing the cost applying the cost inflation index.

"The gains will be taxed at 20% - the effective rate probably being less than 20% of the actual monetary gains. This is on account of the benefit of cost indexation. And if you sell a work of art within three years of buying it, the gains then would be termed short-term capital gains. They then would be taxable at normal tax slab rates.”

Also, keep in mind the fact the sales tax (value-added tax, in other words) you would pay on the purchase of an artwork would also form part of cost of acquisition to compute your capital gains made from such transactions.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Seven key factors regarding taxation of artwork sales

Some of the key factors regarding tax and works of art as an asset are as follows:
  1. Art was not earlier considered or treated as a tangible capital asset. As a result, any (monetary) gains that were made on sale of such assets were not subject to any capital gains tax provisions. This was the case until March 31, 2007.

  2. Post the modified provisions, such gains were no more tax-free. The amended definition of capital asset widened the list of objects for purpose of computing capital assets, including paintings, drawings, sculptures, archaeological collections.

  3. The new Direct Tax Code (DTC) to come into effect from 2012 (April 1, 2012) currently in the form of a Bill that awaits enactment, also has proposed extending the levy of wealth tax to objects such as drawings, paintings, sculptures, archaeological collections and every other work of art.

  4. If you happen to keep an artwork for a period of three years (at least), the monetary gains out of its transaction would be tantamount to a long-term capital gain.

  5. The gain you make would be computed on basis of cost indexation. This will be done taking into the account the prevailing cost inflation index. The gains computed thus will be taxed at 20%. The effective rate, however, would be less than 20% of the actual monetary gains owing to cost indexation.

  6. If you sell it within three years of having bought an artwork, the short-term capital gains would be taxable at normal tax slab rates.

  7. The sales tax (value-added tax) you would pay on the purchase would also form part of cost of acquisition to compute your capital gains made.
Another pertinent issue is the cost of maintenance and restoration. If you have purchased an old work of art (painting, drawing or sculpture) and have spent for its restoration, can you choose to claim the cost for deduction purpose while calculating your capital gains (by treating it as a normal expense)? Here too, legal provisions are in the form of certain ifs and buts…

Tax Provisions regarding maintenance and restoration cost

In this post, we shall consider specific provisions regarding the cost of maintenance and restoration of an artwork for taxation. If you have purchased an old or damaged work and have incurred a cost to repair the same, you may think that the cost is automatically eligible for deduction purpose. But the issue is not that straightforward.

There are certain preconditions while calculating your capital gains. According to tax law provisions of the land, a restoration cost would not be allowed to be deducted from an individual’s income, unless he or she has earned from that work of art, say by renting it out to a gallery or an exhibition venue.

Only in such a scenario, the amount spent on restoration could be claimed as a deduction from the income made. If you are not able to claim the expense, such restoration cost could probably be claimed at the time of sale, as a cost of improvement.

However, you should be able to substantiate the fact that the painting was indeed in a damaged condition when you actually bought it, and its value has been enhanced through by restoration. The restoration cost of an artwork- essentially being a cost of improvement - would be considered eligible for indexation. And this is from the year in which the cost was incurred.

Now let us look at another finer aspect of the cost of maintenance. If you store any work in a vault, is it possible to claim its storage expenses for deduction purpose? Such expenses are in a way expenses of holding on to your asset. They do not actually contribute to its enhancement or improvement or earning of income from the asset in any way.

So storage costs are normally not considered for a deduction either from your normal income, or from both short term or long term capital gains earned out of its sale.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

ROUTE / ROOT Arunkumar H. G. and Sunoj D. at The Guild

Mumbai's Guild Art Gallery presents 'Route / Root', a show of recent works by Arunkumar H.G. and Sunoj D.

An essay by Veeranganakumari Solanki mentions: An economic structure evolving from the urban environment thrives on consumerism and capitalism; the readymade and customised; exclusive and LARGE scale. This is reflected in the outcome of the demand and modes of production to merge nature into an urban lifestyle. Arunkumar H. G. and Sunoj D. question the creation and implementation of the terms rural and urban. The hybridism of these two landscapes is reflected in the contemporary development of demand and supply in the economy.

There has been a pattern in the migration of the population from rural to urban sectors; so much so, that the disorganised growth of cities is blurring recorded boundaries on maps. The term hybridism has become inherent in a world where a majority of the increasing population’s desire is to identify themselves with the urban world. However, there cannot be a complete disconnect, because the rural and the urban function on the basis of co-existence. Genetic farming to create Pomato(es) – makes life simpler and all in one – is it? Garden lamps root themselves with wires in the soil to create the earth’s new topography ... Blame it on the stars that shine, blame it on the rain...

Arunkumar H.G. graduated in Sculpture, Faculty of Fine Arts, M.S. University of Baroda. His recent solo was ‘Tract’ at Nature Morte, New Delhi. Some of his group exhibitions include ‘Freedom to March’ Ojas Art New Delhi, ‘Changing Skin’ The Fine Art Co. Mumbai, ‘Snow’ curated by Ranjit Hoskote, New Delhi, ‘Size Matters…or Does it ?’ Lattitude 28, New Delhi and ‘A New Vanguard’ Saffron Art and The Guild, New York.

Sunoj D. graduated in Painting from Karnataka Chitrakala Parishath, Bangalore. His recent solo show was ‘Between Land and Sky’ - Grosvenor Vadehra, London. Some of his group exhibitions include ‘Indian (sub)way’ curated by Yashodara Dalmia at Grosvenor Vadehra, London, ‘GH: Krumbiegel: Whatever he touched he adorned’ curated by Suresh Jayaram at the Max Muller Bhavan, Bangalore, ‘Lost in an urban maze’, Palette Art Gallery, New Delhi, ‘Someone you know’, Sølyst Artist in Residence Center, Denmark, ‘A New Vanguard’, Saffron Art and The Guild, New York and ‘House of Mirrors’ curated by Deeksha Nath Grovenor Art Gallery, London.

An international art biennale in Kochi in 2012

India's thriving art scene is all set for a new event modeled on the prestigious Venice Biennale that will highlight works by 60 artists around the world.

The Kochi-Muziris Biennale will be held in January 2012. It is going to be the first event of its kind in the country, featuring international artists. Importantly, the event will focus on creation and art education, rather than commerce and sales.

The three-month show, to be partly funded by the state of Kerala, is conceived by artist-curator Bose Krishnamachari and Riyas Komu. It will use different industrial spaces in Kochi and exhibit areas in the ancient port of Muziris, in the tropical south of the country. The latter has been quoted as saying that the idea was under consideration for quite some time, and a Biennale would act as a platform to bring quality international art to India.

Artists working in diverse mediums are going to be invited, including those from neighboring Pakistan and China. "We'll definitely have some known artists (taking part). It's important to have them, especially for the inaugural edition. A list of participants would be finalized in the next few weeks," Riyas Komu stated. Young lesser-known artists with huge potential will be showcased alongside more established international figures to draw in the crowds. The aim is to establish India on the international art scene.

The organizers believe that Kochi would be an ideal location for its picturesque physical beauty, and its historic role as a cultural crossroads in the times when it was a prime center of the spice trade that took place around the Arabian Sea. An array of ancient warehouses and dilapidated structures of the bygone era will be used to display works.

The proposed biennale has chalked out an initial budget of around Rs 100 million ($2 million). The organizers hope to establish it on the international contemporary art calendar like Venice, the Basel art show and the Shanghai art fair, in the years to come.

'Feminine Syntax: Personal Biographies' at Lemongrasshopper, Ahmedabad

A show curated by Rekha Rodwittiya features Kim Kyoungae, Kim Seola, Lee Hayan , Karishma D'souza, Sonatina Mendes and Malavika Rajnarayan.

The curator of the group exhibition at Ahmedabad based Lemongrasshopper states that the works act as an intimate space of consideration and reflection, which desires to hold dear the personal and the fragile, within a contemporary art environ, growingly beginning to impose the demands for grand as well as epic proclamations. The curatorial note elaborates:
“Like the weaving of a tapestry, the many different threads that knot and come together are what finally make for a complete picture; and as lives interweave too, these spaces of communion hold exquisite value. Feminine sensibility in art is often from those territories that engage with the politics of gender and which chart a history that is crucial to contextualizing self representations."
The participating artists are well conscious of the collective histories they opt to belong to and one that may be viewed as the legitimate legacies of feminist discourse. Their works – equally nuanced and evocative - imbibe oral histories of a multicultural social milieu that become the stage of greater interventions and elaboration. Shared associations, conflicts, cultural investigations and parallel histories are all wrapped in the pursuit of a visual language. The aspects have been distilled to articulate passages of existence for these six women.

Lee Hayan, Kim Seola and Kim Kyoungae are from South Korea. The Indian participation is in form of Karishma D’souza and Sonatina Mendes – both from the state of Goa, whereas Malavika Rajnarayan hails from Bangalore. Incidentally, all three are now based in Baroda, now a site of collective journeys converging for their artistic exploration.

A recurring motif in Rekha Rodwittiya’s paintings is the female figure, evoking diverse shades of feminine emotions and concerns. Her female protagonists often get elevated to iconic proportions.The artist quips that she has invariably identified with those who are marginalized.

Friday, February 25, 2011

How and why to understand ‘nonsensical’ abstract art?

Curators, auctioneers, gallery owners and historians tend to work with a contradiction. On the one hand, they are expected to work with elite clients who know the art jargon and history. On the other hand, they must make art accessible to the public and to draw the next generation of collectors.

This is tricky. If you talk to people not belonging to the artistic milieu, they find it tougher to relate to and identify with contemporary art. A very small percentage of them visit museums or galleries. They often stare at abstracts bemusedly and ask that oft-repeated query: “What does this mean?” Columnist Shoba Narayan, narrating her experience, recounts in an essay (‘To understand abstract art…’, The Mint):
“The last time I took a group of schoolchildren into a museum, an interesting variation of this very question came up. I was going through my usual spiel about Renoir and Raza, when one kid piped up with the question, ‘How do I understand this painting?’ It was a beautiful piece of abstract art by Ram Kumar devoid of anything figurative. There were no hooks from reality the viewer could hang his understanding on...”
So how do you really approach this artwork? How do you get it? The essayist has thought about this artistic dilemma for years and she now believes that she has found an answer to it. Do you really want to understand art? Then just try doodling. When you look at an abstract work and feel, ‘My five-year-old could perhaps have done this. And better,’ I tell you, ‘Try it,’ she notes.

Doodling, in fact, is what most of us used to do. It’s what children do before the work takes shape. While doodling an abstract, you grasp how difficult indeed it is to conceive because you’ve to make a call as to when it’s actually finished. You then realize that it’s not so simple to conceive something ‘nonsensical’.

Taxation angle to selling and buying of art

Any income earned by an individual while owning a work of art (painting, drawing, sculpture) such as rent for letting it for display purpose in an exhibition area, or a fee for reprinting the same in a publication, would be taxed as normal income. This would be classified under the income head ‘from other sources’.

Would the artwork be subjected to wealth tax? The definition of asset under the Wealth Tax Act, until now, doesn’t include such works of art, and, therefore, are not subject to any wealth tax for now. However, DTC provisions to come into effect from April 2012 propose to extend the wealth tax levy to all art assets.

How they are to be valued? This would be a matter of debate as valuation of art can be subjective. Luckily, the prevailing wealth tax limit is extensive enough at Rs1 crore. Art would continue to be subjected to capital gains tax under the new DTC regime as all types of property, barring stock-in-trade, are going to be termed capital assets. Investment expert Gautam Nayak, states in a column (‘Beyond The Tax Book’; The Mint):
"The DTC proposes to modify the long-term capital gains tax rate to normal tax slab rates. However, the benefit of cost indexation would be available if the asset has been held for at least one year from the end of the year in which the asset in question is acquired (instead of the existing three years).”
If you receive a gift in any form of art whose aggregate value is more than Rs50,000 in a year, it will be subjected to income-tax. If you buy such works at concessional prices and the concession value is more than Rs50,000 during a year, the value of the concession you obtained will also be subject to taxation as a deemed gift.

But what does constitute a concession (more so because the market value happens to be subjective) is debatable. If the work has been recently acquired from a dealer, the sale price can be considered as the market value. In essence, from taxation angle, selling and buying of art has many finer provisions that you need to get sorted out with help of financial experts.

A fictional tale that mixes art, commerce and personal ambitions

Steve Martin is a renowned actor, who has won Emmys for his TV writing apart from a couple of Grammys for comedy albums. He regularly writes for the New Yorker. Importantly, he loves and collects art - Seurats, De Koonings, Hoppers. So what could get more logical or natural than to blend his love of fiction with his love of art?

Incidentally, ‘An Object of Beauty’ (Grand Central Publishing; 292 pages, $32.99) is his first full-length novel. It’s an intense examination of how commerce and art intersect in New York (‘Auctions were, and still are, spectator sports, wherein the contestants are money.’). “Providing a peek inside the auction house along with the back rooms of various Chelsea galleries (‘from which new art was mined and trucked into residences of Manhattan’) the novel exposes logic-defying prices and strange rituals of the contemporary art world,” notes The Guardian, a prestigious UK publication

‘An Object of Beauty’ is a curious mix of fact and fiction revolving around the painterly realm and extreme human emotions evoked by the central character of his part real, part fictional tale. The drama begins in the mid 1990s, leading up to the recent recessionary phase wherein author Steve Martin mixes his flair for words an utmost passion for art.

Steve Martin makes nuanced observations about the nature and approach to collecting. The book makes a serious attempt to document the financial and creative ripples largely made possible by Andy Warhol’s self-aware pop art. Largely, it makes an interesting read for the intriguing insight it offers into the world of contemporary art.

Lacey Yeager is little concerned of consequences of her quest; no matter who would get crushed and bruised along the way. Revealing her intriguing persona, an introduction to her fictional account aptly recounts: “Lacey is captivating enough, ambitious of taking the NYC art world by storm. Initially groomed at Sotheby's and keen to keep climbing the social and career ladders fast, she charms old and young, the rich and even richer, men and women with her liveliness.
Her magnetic charisma results in ascension to the highest tiers of the city. It’s a journey parallel to the soaring highs and also the lows of the art world and the country, starting from the late 1990s through today.”

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Rameshwar Broota’s intriguing metamorphosis photographer

Veteran artist Rameshwar Broota’s new series of photographic works will be on display at Vadehra Art Gallery, Delhi (March 6 until March 31). Over 20 large size recent photo image series by him, entitled ‘Open Enclosures’ was earlier showcased at Shridharani Gallery, Triveni Kala Sangam from February 12, 2011 till February 21.

The intricately textured photographs by the artist-filmmaker carry the minutest of detail. Their scale is much larger than his other images. The exhibit is earthier in nature this time,” according to the artist, implying that there are more open spaces and a less number of objects with emphasis on detailing, as in his paintings.

For example, a seven-feet long image of a dried up river bed that he captured in Himachal is comprised of a landscape - barren yet stunning sans human element. The satire with which he has framed a donkey and a tractor in it captures your attention. Both seem cut off from the landscape that they belong to.

Construction overdrive in his favorite vistas of Himachal has apparently inspired some works. A top angle photo of a mountain side is photographed cluttered with houses. The fine detailing seems very much like a miniature work of art. Another photo image ‘Where Does The Ganga Flow’ is of a chaotically developed Haridwar. The top angle shot again shows his knack of capturing both the hidden story and the overt subject. Another evocative photograph is ‘What Lies Beneath’.

Known for his strong masculine forms - actually intricate monumental drawings – Rameshwar Broota now infuses his photographs with a similar sensibility, albeit with a twist. The human forms like the diptych ‘No Dog, No Elephant, No Mouse’. A half-covered faceless human body in it dreams away even as a plane takes off , and another one depicting a human figure that looms large over a cluttered city (incidentally, Greece) are well juxtaposed with aerial shots. His metamorphosis into a photographer is indeed intriguing.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

'Somewhere Else (Ailleurs)’ explores the spirit of Expeditionism and adventurism

Joanna Malinowska, Fabrice Langlade and Luc Mattenberger are three artists who base their work on sojourns of a particular kind. They can be classified in the expeditionist genre. It’s about a journeys and destinations travel.

Malinowska was on an expedition to Arctic regions. Langlade intends to install on the Mongolian steppe a porcelain bridge, whereas Mattenberger is one who takes on the moon itself. Incidentally, they feature in a new exhibition, entitled ‘Somewhere Else (Ailleurs)’ at the gallery L’Espace Culturel Louis Vuitton, Paris.

As curator, Paul Ardenne, points out, “These artists feel the pressing need to relocate themselves in order to create. They do not establish or convey their visual (message) on any precise point of land, initially. They are rather concerned with wandering or moving about; they create while engaging in cultural roaming and physical nomadism.”The exhibition tries to reinforce this concept in its own way, demonstrating that migrations are not merely correlated to misery in the context of globalization, as we tend to believe. But they can be also for aesthetic purpose. A press release elaborates:
“The search for the Other, in its need for interaction, drives Yann Dumoget and
Marc Horowitzr. Lucy and Jorge Orta demonstrate a commitment to the abolition of
nationalities. The expedition also takes the form of the memory of a distant
experience, like that of artist Tïa-Calli Borlase.For Olivier Leroi and for Alix
Delmas, the somewhere else is not only geographical but also contextual.”
Expeditionism is essentially a modern investigation into the perennial philosophy of why we move away - in search of adventure or of self-discovery. It’s different from other ubiquitous artistic concepts associated with journeys and travel. Just to give an example, Bas Jan Ader, a Dutch conceptual artist, lost his life in search of a miracle - trying to conquer the Atlantic in a pocket cruiser, in 1975.

A growing number of artists nowadays choose ‘somewhere else’ as the setting for their adventurous creative endeavors. They travel back & forth, with or without a motive; create or base their art work outside of its conventional place of production - the studio or the gallery. In some cases, these ‘expeditionist’ artists well know where and why they are going. For them, it’s encountering new challenges, and exploring new spaces.

'Somewhere Else (Ailleurs)' is on display at L’Espace Culturel Louis Vuitton, Paris, till May 8, 2011.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

‘Concepts & Ideas – 2011’ at CIMA, Kolkata

India is one of the world’s oldest continuous civilizations; its various communities live in several centuries simultaneously, creating multiple and opposing narratives. Author-thinker Ramachandra Guha in the prologue to his new book, ‘Makers of Modern India’, describes India as the ‘most interesting country in the world.’

The notion of India in the West which is increasingly becoming common place, skims over the peculiarities, oddities and contradictions. The idea is nurtured and spread by even the local media and advertising worlds. This version 2.0 of an increasingly rich and materialistic India is fanned by the demands of politicians and business people driven by commerce, vote banks and market places.

But this foregoes a closer more intimate exploration of the scramble for precious commodities, the rapid dispossession, in recent years, of tribal communities (who are still forest-dwelling) and farmers. The catastrophes quietly going on in the rural interiors is absent in the many books being published and the media.

The larger, more human challenges confronting India are generally avoided; they are neither colorful or vibrant, or suffused with a mystical faith that a dynamic minority of producers and consumers will somehow achieve, social and economic change by ‘trickle down’ effects. This version - the tawdry, the cruel, the melancholic - is recently finding expression in popular cinema and in the visual fine arts.

The three artists in a new exhibition at ‘Concepts & Ideas – 2011’ at Kolkata based CIMA Gallery do not exactly plunge us into this universe. Instead, they make us do what good art is supposed to do – interpret, reveal and makes us witnesses. Each of the three artists examines a silent issue plaguing life and living in India. Sheba Chhachhi looks at the human effects and affect of rapid urbanization and the relationship between myth and ecology. In her work, aesthetics goes together with advocating justice and equity and critiquing contemporary society.

On the other hand, Anjum Singh’s sculptures express her perspectives on urban, metropolitan issues, the chaos, the garbage, the shattering disfigurement of a city and yet how alluring it is for the consumer society in India. Praneet Soi engages with the questions of migration and displacements. He examines parallels which link his practice as a painter to a political approach to subject matter.

(Information courtesy: CIMA, Kolkata)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

‘Time Unfolded’ at DLF Place in Saket

The KNMA has just unveiled its new premises at Saket’s DLF Place. However, the current venue is just a temporary repository for Kiran Nadar who intends to move to a more spacious space in the few years. She is already scouting for a venue that she terms will be a ‘permanent, iconic resting spot’ in her untiring quest to expand her 300-work collection further.

A criticism against the collection though, is that it’s merely an assemblage of several trophy art pieces. The former head of Christie’s (India) and independent art dealer, Mallika Advani, has an observation about Rajiv Sawara’s pre-modern & modern Indian art collection: “It’s quite unusual to find one with so much of depth. They have selected works, which best represent the artist, critical to being a good collector.”

The KNMA collection or exhibition, as we’ve followed in an earlier post, traces a visual trajectory of the Indian contemporary & modern art. ‘Time Unfolded’ is broad in nature more than being deep, with rather buzzy works of art by a host of artists instead of giving an in-depth insight of any.

While it does revolve around thematics, spread across categories like ‘the body’ and ‘landscapes in the city’, they seem as an effort to string together the major works that Kiran Nadar has acquired over the years. The KNMA director and the exhibit curator, Roobina Karode, points out that more than half the exhibit pieces were acquired only in the last year. The idea was to have all the great artworks since the museum ought to exude the ‘wow factor’.To sum it up succinctly, the KNMA is essentially a peek into a collector’s impulses.

For any average Indian museum visitor, it gives a good opportunity to check quality works like Sudarshan Shetty’s Taj Mahal installation, an Anish Kapoor sculpture and an enameled jewel-studded canvas by Raqib Shaw - the pieces usually seen at an elite art fair, museum or a high-profile gallery that they may be wary to visit.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A solo show of veteran artist Jeram Patel

Jeram Patel’s abstract works are on view at Kolkata based Harrington Street Arts Centre. His new solo exhibition of recent Works bears testimony to the potency of his oeuvre. The Baroda-based artist is considered one of the doyens of his era. His is one of the foremost names on the Indian art scene that formulated a new visual identity and method of abstraction.

The most striking about his art practice is the vibrancy and energy it generates. In the present suite of works, he has primarily only black & white. He alludes to no real or fathomable form as such. Like those of his famous contemporary, Jagdish Swaminathan, his works are replete with a strong suggestive force taking a physical form at times. They evoke mystical mental states. His paintings exploit the latent potential of juxtaposing black & white.

Born in 1930 in Gujarat, he studied drawing and painting at Sir JJ School of Art, Mumbai, and later at typography and publicity design at Central School of Arts and Craft, London. The veteran artist has had solos in London, Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai apart from representing India at the Tokyo Biennale (1963), the Sao Paulo Biennale (1963), the Third World Biennale at Baghdad (1980) and the Festival of India, London (1982).

A recipient of the National Award from the LKA (1957, 1963, 1973 and 1984) and National Award for Design (1976), he has also won a silver medal from the Bombay Art Society (1960). He was awarded Emeritus Fellowship from the Government of India in 1994. Jeram Patel was till recent associated with the Faculty of Fine Arts, Baroda University.

The recent canvases unleash a force of tremendous magnitude. His ‘boxes’ exude a more soothing feel with the wedges, grooves and geometric shapes that have been hollowed into mirror-like surfaces. The sides demarcated with lines like concentric tree rings, some with chips of colored ceramic at their bottom are akin to fixed forms. At times, this creates an illusion of movement just like shreds of clouds on the skin of a lake.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A significant group show that features three masters

Art Musings, a leading Mumbai based gallery, has unveiled the third edition of its series ‘Resonance’ that features India’s most renowned masters, namely SH Raza, Sakti Burman and Anjolie Ela Menon.

SH Raza's work exudes that mystic touch of Hindu philosophy. His ‘Bindu’ has become more of an icon - sacred in its symbolism - placing his work in a unique Indian context. For this group show, the veteran artist is presenting a series based on ‘Bharat’ and ‘Nav Bharat’. His images are essentially improvisations on an essential theme: that of mapping out of the mind’s a metaphorical space.

On the other hand, Sakti Burman has come up with a suite of paintings done in various sizes that depict a dazzling Dreamland. The internationally celebrated artist Sakti Burman's paintings tend to evoke the look and feel of a weathered fresco. He makes use of a marbling effect, which is achieved by a fine of blending of oils with acrylics. He employs pointillism to apply paint.

His travels to Italy and subsequent exposure to its Renaissance fresco paintings have greatly influenced his evolution as an artist. He blends the Italian and classical Ajanta cave murals to create a realm wherein fantasy, poetry and fable coalesce. In it, imaginary anthropomorphic creatures co-exist with flowers and trees birds in a near perfect harmony.

Last but not the least, Anjolie Ela Menon is renowned for her experimentation coupled with a touch of innovation. After a brief spell at the JJ school of Art in Bombay, Menon worked and studied in Paris at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in 1961-62 on a French Government scholarship. The artist incorporates diverse cultural influences, with traces evident of Greco-Roman and Byzantine traditions.

The works tend to create a creative friction by deftly juxtaposing the popular image and the classical icon. In this exhibit, Anjolie Ela Menon presents a spectacular large work, entitled ‘Bird in a Golden Cage’, apart from a series of small paintings executed in her trademark style.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Works on view at a San Jose Museum show - I

San Jose Museum Of Art presents a major group show, entitled 'Roots in the Air, Branches' from this month, extending until September 2011. Here is a quick glance at the works to be showcased to provide a perfect overview of Modern and Contemporary Art of India.

Manjit Bawa

Born 1941, Dhuri, Punjab
Died, 2008 New Delhi
Hunting, 1982
Acrylic on canvas; 32 ¾ x 41 ¾ inches
Private collection

Vasudeo S. Gaitonde

Born 1924, Nagpur, Maharashtra
Died 2001, New Delhi
Untitled, 1954
Oil on paper; 11 x 12 inches
Private collection

Maqbool Fida Husain

Untitled (Horses), circa 1970s
Oil on canvas laid on board
43¼ x 25 ¼ inches
Collection of Anand Rajaram and Kaushie Adiseshan

Untitled (Lady with Lamp), c. 1960
Oil on canvas; 49 ¾ x 35 ¾ inches
Collection of Asha and Rajeev Motwani

Untitled from the “Ramayana” series, 1978
Acrylic on canvas
60 x 90 inches
Private collection, Woodside, California

Untitled (Horses), circa 1970s
36 x 60 inches (image)
Collection of Naren and Vinita Gupta

Untitled from the “Mother Teresa” series, 1989
Acrylic on canvas; 51 x 91 inches
Collection of Anita and Sridar Iyengar

Untitled from the “Raj” series, 1985
Watercolor on paper; 38 ¼ x 30 ½ inches
Private collection

Krishen Khanna

Born 1925, Lyalpur (now Faislabad, Pakistan)
Lives and works in New Delhi
The Drunken Poet, 1994
Mixed media on Paper; 29 1/8 x 21 3/8 inches
Collection of Anita and Sridar Iyengar

Scribe, 2002
Oil on canvas; 37 ½ x 28 ½ inches
Private collection

Ram Kumar

Born 1924, Shimla
Lives in New Delhi
Untitled, 1967
Oil on canvas; 32½ x 20 inches
Private collection

Untitled (Benares), 2008
Acrylic on paper; 21¾ x 29½ inches
Private collection

Tyeb Mehta
Born 1925, Kapadvanj, Gujarat
Died 2009, Mumbai
Untitled from the “Diagonal” series, 1976
Oil on canvas; 44 x 35 inches
Private collection

Indian art show courtesy San Jose Museum -II

Here is a glance at the established artists and their diverse works to be showcased courtesy San Jose Museum Of Art:

Madhvi Parekh

Born 1942, Sanjaya, Gujarat
Lives and works in New Delhi
Durga, 2005
Acrylic on canvas; 60 x 72 inches
Collection of Asha and Rajeev Motwani

Ganesh Pyne

Born 1937, Kolkata
Lives and works in Kolkata
The Dancer, 1968
Tempera on canvas; 17 x 21 inches (image)
Collection of Anita and Sridar Iyengar

Sayed Haider Raza

Born 1922, Barbaria, Madhya Pradesh,
Lived and worked in Gorbio and Paris, but maintained ties to with frequent visits)
La Nuit, 1971
Oil on canvas; 31 ¾ x 39 ½ inches
Private collection

Acrylic on canvas; 39 ¼ x 39 ¼ inches
Collection of Asha and Rajeev Motwani

Jamini Roy

Born 1887, Beliatore, West Bengal
Died 1972, Kolkata
Painting on paper; 26 x 15 inches
Collection of Anita and Sridar Iyengar

Jehangir Sabavala

Born 1922, Mumbai
Lives and works in Mumbai
Untitled from the “Pilgrim Painting” series, circa 1970s
Oil on canvas
Private collection

Francis Newton Souza

Born 1924, Goa
Died 2002, Mumbai
Untitled, 1964
Oil on board; 30 x 24 inches
Private collection

Self-portrait with Maria
Oil on canvas; 67 x 51 inches
Collection of Kiran and Shiv Nadar

K.G. Subramanyan

Born 1924, Kuthuparamba, Kerala
Lives and works in Baroda
Untitled, 2004
Reverse painting on Mylar film; 30 x 20 inches
Collection of Anita and Sridar Iyengar

Zarina Hashmi

Born, 1937, Aligarh
Lives and works in New York
A House of Many Rooms, 1993
Portfolio of four etching and text
Printed on black on Arches Cover white paper
Chine Collé on handmade n paper; 17 x 29 inches
Collection of Joyce E. Brodsky

Crawling House, 1994
Cut and molded tin
Overall dimensions variable
Collection of Joyce E. Brodsky

Jagdish Swaminathan

Born 1928, Simla, Himachal Pradesh
Died 1994, New Delhi
Untitled from the “Bird, Mountain, and Tree” series
Acrylic on canvas; 36 ½ x 50 ½ inches
Private collection

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Overview of San Jose showcase of Indian art – III

An overview of the group show, entitled ‘Roots in the Air, Branches Below: Modern and Contemporary Art of India’, at San Jose Museum Of Art:

Alexis Kersey

Born 1977, Mysore
Lives and works in Mysore and Goa
Lucky, Lucky, Lucky, 2008
Mixed media on canvas and wood; 80 x 56 inches
Private collection

Bari Kumar

Born 1966, Vakadu, Andhra Pradesh
Lives and works in Los Angeles
Nothing (else) Matters, 2008
Oil on canvas; 48 x 72 inches
Private collection

Sheila Makhijani

Born 1962, New Delhi
Lives and works in New Delhi
Watch It!, 2005
Oil on canvas; 48 x 80 inches
Private collection

Suhasini Kejriwal

Lives and works in Kolkata
Untitled, 2006
Mixed media on canvas; 84 x 47 ½ inches
Private collection

Surendran Nair

Born 1956, Onkoor, Kerala
Lives and works in Vadodara
An Acrobat from the “Corollary mythologies” series, 1997
Watercolor on paper; 24 ¾ x 19 inches
Collection of Anita and Sridar Iyengar

Neti, Neti: The Doctrine of the Forest
(Cuckoonebulopolis), 2009
Oil on canvas; 71 x 47 inches
Private collection

K.P. Reji

Born 1972, Kerala
Lives and works in Vadodara
The Tailor, 2003
Oil on canvas; 60 x 83 ½ inches
Private collection

Rekha Rodwittiya

Born 1958, Bangalore
Lives and works in Vadodara
Encrypted Soliloquies, 2004
Acrylic and oil on canvas; 59 ½ x 48
Collection of Anita and Sridar Iyengar

Nilima Sheikh

Born 1945, New Delhi
Lives and works in Baroda
After Amnesia, 2001
Tempera on Sanganeri paper attached to cloth
Three panels: 39 1/8 x 27 inches (overall)
Private collection

Valay Shende

Born 1980, Nagpur, Maharashtra
Lives and works in Mumbai
Untitled, 2007
Fiberglass, fabric and copper; 66 x 32 x 32 inches
Private collection

Anjum Singh

Born 1967, New Delhi
Lives and works in New Delhi
Wet Garbage Only, 2006
Oil on canvas; 90 x 78 inches
Private collection

Chintan Upadhyay

Born 1972, Partapur, Rajasthan
Lives and works in Mumbai
Untitled (Designer baby), 2008
Mixed media on fiberglass, metal cage; 53 x 29 x 29 inches
Private collection

Works at San Jose Museum show - IV

A quick look at the prominent artists and their works to be presented in a group show at San Jose Museum Of Art:

Dhruvi Acharya

Born 1971, Mumbai
Lives and works in Mumbai
Sink, 2007
Synthetic polymer paint on canvas and panels; 48 x 48 inches
Private collection

Vinod Balak

Born 1982, Kerala
Lives in Hyderabad
Vishnu with Bonsai, 2006
Oil on canvas; 52 x 76 inches
Private collection

Rina Banerjee

Born 1963, Kolkata
Lives and works in New York
Pink silly bubbly and naughty they floated out of Eurasia ready for explosions, 2009
Ink, acrylic on watercolor paper; 30 x 22 inches
Private collection

Ashutosh Bhardwaj

Born, 1981 Indore, Madhya Pradesh
Lives and works in Baroda
Induced Epidemic, 2007
Oil and acrylic on canvas; 96 x 180 inches
Private collection

Anju Dodiya

Born 1964, Mumbai
Lives and works in Mumbai
The Churning, 2005
Acrylic and gold paint on fabric; 72 x 45 inches
Private collection

Atul Dodiya

Born 1959, Mumbai
Lives and works in Mumbai
Untitled, 1999
Watercolor, charcoal and acrylic with marble dust on paper; 45 x 45 inches
Collection of Anita and Sridar Iyengar

Vibha Galhotra

Born 1978, Chandigarh
Lives and works in Delhi
Untitled (Beehive), 2006
Bronze and metal trinkets
Brass ghungroos (approximately 8,000), fabric, wood and steel; 6 x 49 x 25 inches
Private collection

Chitra Ganesh

Born 1975, Brooklyn, New York
Lives and works in New York
Scissors, 2005
Mixed media on paper; 56 x 39 inches
Collection of Anand Rajaram and Kaushie Adiseshan

G.R. Iranna

Born 1970, Singhi, Bijapur, Karnataka
Lives and works in New Delhi
Voice of Innocence, 2007
Fiberglass; 30 x 12 x 30 inches, 9 bags
Collection of Anand Rajaram and Kaushie Adiseshan

Jitish Kallat

Born 1974, Mumbai
Lives and works in Mumbai
Universal Recipient – 8, 2008
Acrylic on canvas, bronze; 91 x 68 inches (canvas)
14 x 12 ½ x 17 inches each (bronze sculptures)
Private collection

I want to be tree, 1999
Acrylic on canvas; 58 ½ x 82 inches
Collection of Kiran and Shiv Nadar

Anish Kapoor

Born 1954, Mumbai
Lives and works in London
Untitled from the “Kubi” series, 2006
Gouache on paper; 31 x 36 ½ inches
Private collection

Friday, February 11, 2011

Zarina Hashmi’s solo show

Zarina Hashmi’s solo is on at Gallery Espace, New Delhi. ‘Maps’ in the exhibit along with the series, entitled ‘Cities I called Home’ are evident of her keenness to depict the realities and challenges of her ‘nomadic’ existence. A sense of poignancy coupled with meditative longing is visible in other works like ‘Coin’, ‘Wall III’, ‘Blinding Light’ and Noor featured in the show.

Zarina Hasmi begins a work not with a visual or an image but a word. Much of poetry, politics and art is essentially centered on the valorization of the place known as ‘home' - the metaphor of ‘shelter'. She has once stated: “Home is the centre of my universe; I make a home wherever I am based. It’s my hiding place - a house with four walls - sometimes four wheels.”[

Born in 1937, Aligarh, she did her B.Sc. (Honors) from Aligarh Muslim University, and then studied printmaking at the Atelier, Paris between with S. W. Hayter (1963- 67) and also wood block printing at Tokyo’s Toshi Yoshido Studio (1974). She has had several solos, such as ‘Paper Houses’, Gallery Espace, (2007); The retrospective, Counting 1977-2005, Bose Pacia, New York (2005), ‘Cities, Countries and Borders’, Chemould, Mumbai; ‘Maps, Homes, and Itineraries’, Gallery Lux, San Francisco (2003), ‘Home is a Foreign Place’, Korn Gallery Drew University, New Jersey (2002).

The artist has received residencies at the Women’s Studio Workshop and Art-Omi in Omi, New York. She was given the N. Y. F. A. Fellowship (Printmaking/Drawing/Artists Books). Her work is represented in several prestigious collections, such as Victoria Albert Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris.

Is her art political? Well, it could well be in a sense that a work of art is supposed to provoke a spirit of curiosity and inquiry into the state of the present. When she casts a look around her, the artist finds there are enough things to question ‘the notion of safety, security as well as refuge, but she vociferously proclaims no manifesto. She rather raises oblique queries sans any final pronouncements.

Indian art lovers' globalized tastes and a thriving market

Just as the prolonged economic boom in China has contributed to globalized tastes and a major art scene in recent decades, India is now experiencing its own, relatively modest version of that phenomenon. For example, many newly moneyed visitors were clearly curious about their options at the AIS 2011. They were also buying, across a wide spectrum of prices. A recent news report in The New York Times mentioned dealers reporting brisk sales of contemporary Indian works for as much as $400,000…

The vogue for art buying was strong enough by this year’s Art Summit to attract galleries from 19 countries outside India, and the expanded fair also drew representatives from a handful of foreign museums like the Tate Modern, interested at the very least in the “spectacle and schmoozathon,” as one local dealer put it.

And in a scene reminiscent of “satellite” events held around more established art fairs, Feroze Gujral, a well-known socialite, invited four artists to put up an installation in a gutted villa that her family had acquired in the city’s most exclusive neighborhood. Then she staged a party. Still, the summit faced its share of typically Indian challenges. Thugs threatened the exhibition of India’s most famous painter, M.F. Husain; the Hindu right has for years railed against Mr. Husain for his representations of Hindu goddesses in the nude.

Among those who came to view Mr. Husain’s paintings was India’s most powerful politician, Sonia Gandhi, head of the ruling Congress Party, and her visit too proved a headache. Inconveniently for the art-viewing public, she came toward the end of the last day of the fair. The police closed the gates, effectively shutting down the fair earlier than scheduled, leaving dealers and would-be Art Summit visitors angry. And Mr. Husain himself did not attend. Out of fear, he lives in self-imposed exile in Dubai and London.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Indian art market -the road ahead

After the finer recalibrations that subsequently followed (after the global recession and a rapid fall it witnessed), the contemporary Indian art is poised for glory again. However, all parties concerned are bound to be more cautious this time around. According to an insightful report by ArtTactic, the first signs of ‘green shoots’ were seen last March. The London based art market research firm is cautiously bullish on Indian art.

Besides the fact that contemporary Indian art market has come full circle, it was the defining decade (2001-10) when the very contours and perspectives of art practice took a complete about-turn. As writer Anindita Ghose of The Mint notes in a recent essay, mapping the changes:
“The 2002 Documenta, a major exhibit of contemporary art (It takes place every five years in Germany), heated up the scene by inviting Raqs Media Collective to showcase their work. This indeed was the beginning of the collective’s engagement with the contemporary art world that has resulted in some highly compelling installation work in recent years. The 2009 Venice Biennale, too, invited performance artist Nikhil Chopra to represent India, establishing a new way in which emerging artists from India would engage in the global dialogue—with more confidence.”
But what lies ahead of us? The new decade has started off on a perfect note. Anish Kapoor, the internationally celebrated British sculptor of Indian origin, finally forayed into India, to set the tone. The event made big news, underlining the most fitting endnote to the defining decade. It’s quite the metaphor then that the sculptor’s ‘Sky Mirror’ stationed in the NGMA lawns, looks skywards.

Of course, as the writer rightly notes that we still have miles to go especially in terms of building a viable and lasting infrastructure for both art education and art appreciation. However, it does seem like the term ‘art’ itself has acquired a newer energy and meaning in the nation’s consciousness. This is a positive development that bodes well for the years and decade to come as far as contemporary Indian art is concerned.

Boom and the bust - Indian art has seen it all...

So what are the other prominent developments in the domain of Indian art as far as the decade just gone by is concerned? Anindita Ghose of The Mint has compiled a few in an in-depth column. We list some of them below:
  • Mumbai based Gallery Chemould, one of India’s oldest and the most recognized venues for contemporary art, moved to a bigger space in 2007. Meanwhile, a host of new galleries such as Galleryske in Bangalore, Chatterjee and Lal and Project 88in Mumbai - were founded.

  • New publications of art news and serious criticism such as Art & Deal and Art India flourished. New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University decided to institute graduate courses in art history, which are producing a new generation of aware art critics and museologists. In 2008, India got its first real international scale fair, namely the India Art Summit.

  • There was another significant factor, which orchestrated the upswing. This wasn’t an auction house or even an artist. It was a gallery. Bodhi clearly changed the rules of the game. It was founded by Amit Judge in 2006 in Mumbai. Known to be a dynamic entrepreneur, he set up popular coffee chain Barista, among other businesses.

  • Bodhi, at its peak, had branches in Singapore, New York, Berlin and New Delhi. The artists it represented with panache and style across the globe, simply loved it. If it was among the most prominent emblems of the Indian art market’s dizzying rise at one point, it also epitomized the market’s free fall. When the recession hit the art market in India in 2009, all of its international outfits were shut. And prices of some of its coveted artists fell by an astonishing 50-70%.

  • The total sales of the three major auction houses for Indian art (namely Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Saffronart) was just under $5 million at the peak of the meltdown in early 2009. In comparison, the sales figure had crossed the $ 21 million mark in the summer of 2008.

  • However, experts saw more virtue than vice in this free fall. When the bubble finally burst, it inadvertently sifted the genuine collectors from the sheer speculators. The art world reestablished that much needed crucial connect between pure artistic achievements and reasonable prices something that had gone completely haywire during the market boom...But then boom was again round the corner!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

2001-10: Tracking the major milestones

The years 2001-10 witnessed many interesting and significant developments that changed the face of contemporary Indian art scene.

Internationally celebrated artist from India, Subodh Gupta, became the first from the country to achieve credibility across the globe. After Husain, he probably became the most recognized face in the art circles. He featured in several prestigious charity events like Bono’s RED Campaign. And this certainly wasn’t a flash in the pan kind of a thing.

In fact, there hasn’t been a Biennale or a major international art event in the past few years, which he hasn’t participated in - from Art Basel to the elite Venice Biennale, and most other leading fairs in Zurich, London, Paris, Seoul and Brisbane.

Other talented artists from India such as TV Santosh, Atul Dodiya and Jitish Kallat did acquire an artistic vocabulary, which rightfully internationalized their loyal collector base. Their practice was getting more ambitious and bigger too, prompting galleries and museums to scale up curatorial practices as well as ramp up their spaces to accommodate them. Several female artists acquired centerstage, Bharti Kher and Mithu Sen, to name a couple of them!

Tracking the healthy development, Anindita Ghose underlines the fact that most importantly, this was the decade (2001-10) when the creature termed the Indian art collector really came into being and into its own. The essayist notes:
“Up until this decade, serious collectors of Indian art such as Emmanuel Schlesinger and Charles Herwitz had been European or American. Collectors like Anupam Poddar, Rajshree Pathy and Kiran Nadar are promising additions functioning outside the market realm. Poddar’s 7,500 sq. ft non-profit Devi Art Foundation is in effect India’s first contemporary art museum. And the good news is that the Indian government is working to make this sort of philanthropy tax efficient.”
We shall continue tracking the fascinating journey of Indian art to rewind its past (especially the decade gone by) and also peep into the promising future.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The RPG Art Camp 2011

An art camp as a concept has certainly taken root on the Indian art scene. Informal settings at these camps tend to bring out the lighter side of otherwise reclusive artists who are temporarily drawn out of their shell. The occasion provides just the right setting and mood for informal exchange of ideas. A perfect example of the is the annual RPG Art Camp.

Back again, as is the case at this time of the year, the eagerly awaited event on the Indian art calendar has just unfolded, having taken place in the first week of February at Marve beach in western Mumbai. Providing a backgrounder Megha Mahindru of The Hindustan Times mentions in a news report (A bungalow with a view):
“Every year, Harsh Goenka’s beach bungalow at Marve transforms into an artist residency of sorts. Several artists come together for the RPG Art Camp that features an array of talent from across India and the globe. What started as small camp in 1991 is now a calendar-marked event for the city’s art fraternity.”
The director of Arts Trust, Vickram Sethi, quips that the camp is a captivating confluence of artistic thought. He adds: “Artists go back to college days, and it’s akin to painting in the class room. The process of questioning starts all over again. The exchange of ideas is always intense. Each participating artist finds a meaning and reason (at the end of it).”

Senior artists here are able to guide the budding talent, thus providing a unique opportunity to the latter to grasp a few tricks of the trade. For them, the art camps serve as the perfect learning experience whereas it's an opportunity for the veterans to get acquainted with the new trends in terms of styles and techniques.

Established and emerging artists, such as Paresh Maity, Anjolie Ela Menon, Krishen Khanna, Arijoy Bhattacharya, Abir Karmarkar, Avishek Sen, Binoy Varghese, Mousumi Biswas, Nandita Kumar, Neeraj Goswami, Vibha Galhotra, Pradosh Swain, Puja Bahri, Nupur Kundu, Rajesh Ram, SN Sujith, Rajan Krishnan, Tong Zhengang, Purnna Behera, Vijender Sharma and Shahabuddin among others featured at the RPG Art Camp this year.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Defining moments of the decade gone by...

This was a decade when sales figures made more news than talented artists or art commissions, notes Anindita Ghose of The Mint publication in an insightful essay. Following are some of the observations in the essay that we have summed up for you:
  1. The 2000s started, in a way, in the mid- 1990s. Sotheby’s auction house held the first sales devoted to Indian art about a decade and a half ago (in 1995) in New York. The auction flagged off a gradual ascent of contemporary Indian art on the global scene.

  2. Contemporary Indian art continued to enjoy a spillover of this significant milestone. However, the shallow and immature art market was not perhaps able to contain the euphoria. As it happened, prices started spiraling out of control, to unreasonable levels.

  3. Between 2005 and 2006, the canvas turned murkier. Some fanciful investors and gallerists allegedly colluded to shore up bids in a false manner. And in all of this muddle, the quality of art being churned out became a secondary factor; it almost turned into an assembly line.

  4. The best illustration of all this chaos perhaps was a spate of art funds that sprung up that promised a lot, but only flattered to deceive. They failed to deliver, thus disappointing the investors and shaking their faith in Indian art’s ability to live up to the hype. On the continuing upside that defied logic, the mad boom spurred unsustainable ambitions.

  5. This frenzy witnessed was very much in tandem with the largely money-minded upmove in other regions of the world, albeit on a bit different scale. On the one hand, contemporary Indian art was celebrating its million-dollar dazzling debut, Damien Hirst from the UK was tagging his much-hyped diamond-studded skull at a far higher scale. The British artist’s ‘For the Love of God’ sold for $100 million.
In the upcoming posts, we shall track the decade further for its highs and lows...

The journey of Indian art in the new millennium, so far

Sudarshan Shetty’s 2006 solo show titled ‘Love’ had a stainless steel dinosaur making love to a shiny sports car as its centrepiece. Love, according to the artist, takes root with a very basic human emotion. However, it turns into a market phenomenon, at the other end of the spectrum. The installation served as an apt metaphor for the old fancying the new and in love with it.

This well illustrates an eventful decade for Indian art that made curiously strange bedfellows with the bazaar, according to writer Anindita Ghose who in an elaborate essay in The Mint tracks tumultuous ten years of the new millennium in which sales figures apparently remained more in spotlight than artists or art commissions. This was a decade when the definition of contemporary Indian art took a marked about-turn.
  • Between the year 2000 and ‘10, the auction circuit for Indian art and artists witnessed a boom – rallying from just around $5 million to a whopping $85 million.
  • Saffronart, among India’s largest online auction houses was launched at the start of the new decade. It fast elbowed its way onto the auction scene alongside a few other prominent international market players such as Sotheby’s and Christie’s.
  • Several aspects together underwrote the Indian art bazaar’s phenomenal growth: the rising economy, the new-found affluence of its financially empowered population, the global interest in the impressive ‘India story’ and so on. Art was the obvious newfangled frontier.
  • Right at the vanguard of this wave of interest in Indian art were works by the veterans such as FN Souza and SH Raza. A painting by India’s celebrated modern artist, Tyeb Mehta, fetched $1.58 million at a Christie’s auction in 2005 in New York. Mahishasura was the first work of art in India that managed to breach the $1 million barrier. And since then, it has been broken on several occasions.
We hve tried to track the fascinating journey of Indian art in this series of articles and shall keep you updated and informed - about its progression and trajectory in the near future.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Works of a 'monumental' nature on view

Chicago based Walsh Gallery hosts a ‘Monumental’ show, involving top contemporary artists, true to its title. Largely a collection of founder Julie Walsh, the showcase falls into three major categories: personal narrative, specific historical events and current events.

There is a wide array of works on view, in terms of scale or context. Subodh Gupta, Jitish Kallat, Atul Dodiya and Ravinder Reddy are among the major names from India. A curatorial essay states: “These artists have pushed the boundaries of scale to create works of a monumental nature. Often embedded in these works are the ideas of historical commentary, whether of a personal narrative or global nature.”

Jitish Kallat's 5 lenticular prints ‘Death of Distance’ juxtapose text from a tele-company advertising mobile coverage across the country, for just a rupee a day, with a story of the suicide of a poor girl who didn't have a rupee to buy food. A 6ft graphite rupee stands adjacent to the work. Subodh Gupta's large-scale oval installation ‘Chimta’ of stainless steel tongs (made in India) exposes some of the clichés as he explores the issue of just how ‘Indian’ contemporary art from the country needs to be.

Referencing Egyptian and African sculpture, Ravinder Reddy's gold leaf covered 6ft fiberglass bust is at once a contemporary deity’s portrait and a tribute to that which over time endures - woman's strength of character. Atul Dodiya's ‘E.T.’ is a shop shutter comprising multiple layers. On the outside of it is a painting of a historical moment when Sundaram Tagore and Einstein met in India. Its outside part represents the great ideals of how his country could be. When it’s lifted, the shutter shows a surreal landscape painting with a skeletal scribe on top of an airplane, dropping either bombs or food packages on a desolate landscape.

At other end of the art spectrum, Aicon Gallery (London) analyzes the emergence of Indian Modern Art. On the occasion of his 150th birth anniversary, the art space hosts Rabindranath Tagore's works. It focuses on paintings by Jamini Roy and also looks back to Kalighat Paintings that had a foundational role in the development of Indian Primitivism and were exhibited as early as 1871 in London. Artists then saw a proto-modernism in its simple, sharp and direct forms. Art scholar Partha Mitter has argued that apart from Tagore, the two artists key to its development were Jamini Roy and Amrita Sher-Gil.

Awe-inspiring wells on huge canvases stir emotions

Referring to Gieve Patel's 'Wells' series, distinguished Indologist-linguist David Shulman says: "Sooner or later, if you keep coming back to the painting, you can't help but feel that it is looking at you. In some canvases, in fact, the well looks uncannily like a huge, convex eye staring at you from some nearby vantage point. We know of such experiences:

Rilke wrote a famous poem about them, ‘The Archaic Torso of Apollo’, ending with the words: ‘There is no point/ that does not see you. You must change your life.’ Many great works convey precisely this demand on the viewer. You are being observed, as if by a living being that inhabits the space of the canvas, which is anything but flat, just as the mirror is never two-dimensional.

It's now a different kind of mirror that we have before us: not simply an infinite, generative reservoir, a plenitude of being, but an active, seeing mirror which just happens to have taken you in. Here the act of generating forms is already past; textures and shapes already exist, as if imprinted by the world on the eye that is staring at the world.

The vertigo we were feeling before gives way to an eerie sense that we are not alone. But whose eye is it? And how does it happen that there are also spaces, objects, realities outside the eye? You were looking down into the well, and now you discover that the well calmly examines you, knowing you to be both inside and outside it. In the light of that scrutiny, subtle shades capture your attention—magenta, dusty green, airy blue; they move lightly through the domain of the well, unstable, not quite at home. They move you.

In 'A Spray of Blossoms' the well itself is strangely disembodied, ethereal, as if floating in space, not rooted in the earth. Never was a well so enchanting and so unwell-like. By now the depth is all surface—a metaphysical resolution of our problem. No wonder Gieve Patel paints wells on such huge canvases. Indeed, the longer one looks at them wells, the more free surface becomes apparent, as if the truly compelling business of seeing were somehow taking place there, where no image comes into focus and where the well can see you best."

(Excerpted from David Shulman's essay,On Wells and Clouds; courtesy The Guild)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

‘Wells, Clouds, Skulls’ by Gieve Patel at The Guild, Mumbai

Mumbai based Guild Gallery presents the preview of a new series by Gieve Patel, entitled ‘Wells, Clouds, Skulls’. The exhibit is the preview of the solo scheduled for May 2011 at Bose Pacia, New York.

Gieve Patel is a well-known painter and writer. His paintings are in public and private collections in India and in other countries, including the National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi; Bharat Bhavan, Bhopal; the Jehangir Nicholson Collection, Mumbai; the Museum of Modern Art, Menton, France; the Peabody Essex Museum, Massachusetts, USA. He is a recipient of Woodrow Wilson and Rockefeller Fellowships.

Elaborating on his oeuvre, a press release mentions of the large scale, monumental and vivacious versions of his current series of painted works (Looking into a Well), which are evocations of the splendor of the physical world around. They are suggestive while at the same time of explorations of the highly complex inner recesses of the human psyche. His drawings of clouds fill us with a vision that challenges our very notions of artistic form.

As the artist points out, clouds are invariably in the process of both forming & dissolving, and since both the activities happen congruently, we witness a world of endless instability. His charcoal drawings depicting skulls sure are formally inventive. They are though, free from the macabre. He displays here both a detached vision and intense involvement, in equal measure.

The drawings appear to be presented sans an obvious context, there’s not being even a base line that would suggest a resting surface for these skulls. This lends them a fleeting feeling of an existence in a contemplative and philosophical space. The three themes of his new show seemingly embrace the three different worlds of our passing existence. Subtle connections tend to weave back & forth between them as we see this suit of work.

An international show that reflects dynamic new art practices

The significant show at Queensland Art Gallery marks the end of this millennium’s first decade. The ambitious project at renowned art space in Brisbane focuses on works created and acquired specifically in this period. It largely draws on the gallery’s comprehensive collection, all-encompassing in its geographic and generational scope.

A press release states: “Over the past decade, we have seen the different ways in which technological, political and environmental issues have direct global impact and how these get reflected in contemporary art! The show presents a gamut of dynamic art practices and also examines the role of the art museum in these fast-changing times."

Among a host of international artists featured in '21st Century: Art in the First Decade' , Bharti Kher and Thukral & Tagra represent India. The former employs stick-on bindis as a central motif in her practice, to symbolize the ‘third eye’. Now a popular decorative accessory for Hindu women, she perceives the daily ritual of applying it on forehead as offering the prospect of seeing the world with fresh eyes. The artist uses it to transform various objects and surfaces letting the viewer look at them anew.

Rashid Rana’s work also forms part of the magnificent mix. His photo images, composed of thousands of pixel-like images, range in a wide range of subject matter from Bollywood to Lahore’s urban scenes. His digital photographic processes, akin to traditional miniature paintings, emphasize the contemporary nature of his subject.

Thukral & Tagra offer a vibrant take on contemporary Indian society. Their refined aesthetic reflects in painting, sculpture, installation, graphics, interiors, and product design. Simultaneously, Nature Morte (at its New Delhi venue) hosts a solo of the artist duo, who with their characteristic use of pop culture imagery, seductive colors, sardonic wit and insightful juxtapositions, address serious themes through a humorous façade.

‘Put it on, Again!’ is comprised of paintings, consumer products and sculptural installations that deal with a bold theme against the backdrop of traditional perceptions of sexuality and the increased representation of sexualized bodies within the Indian media landscape.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Showcasing the best of Asian art

A large-scale museum show of spectacular contemporary masterpieces brought from top private collections was organized by the Singapore Art Museum. It showcased the most exciting of Asian artistic and visual creativity.

The scintillating show, focusing on the very best of the Asia Pacific and the region’s most promising emerging artists, brought together dealers, collectors and art professionals from East and the West.

This superb collectors exhibition alongside Art Stage Singapore, an international fair, gave an opportunity to see a representative selection of significant works by some of Asia’s most critically acclaimed contemporary artists, such as Shen Shaomin, Zeng Fanzhi, Liu Wei (China), Agus Suwage (Indonesia), Nam June Paik (Korea), Yoshitomo Nara (Japan), apart from Shilpa Gupta, Subodh Gupta, TV Santhosh and LN Tallur from India.

The Marina Bay Sands hotel-casino hosted Art Stage Singapore, inviting more than 100 galleries from 18 countries, mostly from the Asia-Pacific region, including Seven Art Limited, New Delhi; Arushi Arts, Delhi; The Guild Art, Mumbai; LATITUDE 28, Delhi; Gallery Maskara, Mumbai; Nature Morte, Delhi/ Berlin; Nitanjali Art Gallery, Delhi; Gallery Sumukha, Bangalore/ Chennai; Shrine Empire Gallery, Delhi; and Volte, Mumbai – add a dash of Indian flavor to the showcase.

The event brought together region’s top galleries along with some European contemporary pieces. It displayed works in an artistic context through a series of special projects and curated presentations. Special lectures on Asian contemporary art were arranged for collectors and wealthy potential buyers.

Project Stage, a comprehensive curated platform, was dedicated to cutting edge artists and innovative art spaces on the Asia Pacific art scene. It was aimed at discovering the next big emerging artists and galleries from the region, so that they could engage with the international art scene. Fariba Alam, Samanta Batra Mehta, Ranbir Kaleka, Sonia Mehra, Vijai Patchineelam, Rajesh Ram and T. Venkanna rounded off the Indian participation.