Thursday, June 30, 2011

Market needs to reassess the Bengal School artists

With the death of legendary icon MF Husain earlier this month, Indian art has lost its most maverick and popular market maker, so to say. Indeed, there is no second opinion about the fact that Husain played a pivotal role to bring Indian art and artists into the reckoning globally in the last few decades. And with his knock and foot on the door, he was successful in building a niche for other members of Progressive Group artists (PAG) abroad.

Not only did he himself surpass the million dollar mark in auction sales, other renowned Progressives such as SH Raza, Tyeb Mehta, FN Souza, VS Gaitonde, Akbar Padamsee among others also reached these amazing heights. In fact, if one put aside these masterly Modernists, there are not many contemporaries who have hovered near the million dollar auction sales tag and whether they will manage to remain perched there, only times ahead will tell us.

In this context, art writer Ashoke Nag of The Economic Times mentions in an interesting news story that it is necessary for the market to reassess the Bengal School artists. The writer explains: “What is really interesting is that most Bengal masters used to once score quite highly at international art auctions, especially in the mid 80s and early 90s. These included noteworthy names like Hemen Mazumdar, Jamini Roy, Nandalal Bose, the Tagores and subsequent Bengal masters like Ganesh Pyne, Somnath Hore and Jogen Chowdhury."

However, as Ashoke Nag points out, their work seldom reached the dizzy price levels that were effortlessly achieved by the PAG artists. In an international auction in New York, which coincided with the 9/11 terrorist attacks, a painting by Hemen Mazumdar achieved among the tallest prices for Indian art ever in the sale. Husain also used to admire many Bengal masters, so there needs to be a better reassessment of the Bengal School particularly in the context of the Indian art’s Indianness.

A look at the rich Bengal School legacy

The Bengal School artists have invariably lagged behind the high profile Progressives whom they preceded. To start with, Santiniketan gave a thrust to Indian art’s reach and popularity. The famous artists of the era almost belonged to its Kala Bhavan.

Nandalal Bose, Rabindranath, Abanindranath and Gagendranath Tagore were all doyens in their own right. The institution set the pattern and tone for modern art in the country, to nurture a new movement. Unfortunately, it did not last beyond a few years. The impact of the Bengal School movement is still considerable.

Jamini Roy blended a fabulous folk tradition with international sensibilities and subjects. Both Binode Behari Mukherjee and Ramkinkar Baij adopted styles rooted in their captivating cultural foundations rather than searching for a universal space.

Nandalal Bose’s artistic ideas were far-reaching, albeit executed with the same unmistakable simplicity as in the works of Chittaprosad or Hiren Das. This tendency subtly reflected into the oeuvre of artists like Sunil Das and Bikash Bhattacharjee. The depth of the subject matter was treated through a lens of reality or photo-realism.

It is believed that more constructive effort to market the Romantics will push the price bar higher for them. Barring a few exceptions, they have fetched prices in the range of sub-Rs 1 crore (Rs 30-70 lakh) at auctions. In comparison to them, most leading Progressives easily get over Rs 1 crore. The latter created a legacy, which outlasted the Bengal School once basking in glory.

However, the scene is gradually changing. For example, the most keenly watched auction of Indian art last year, of 12 paintings by India's first Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, stayed true to the hype. The works fetched prices between £91,250 and £313,250. The deputy director with auction house Sotheby’s, Maithili Parekh, then quipped that there was a lot of interest in Tagore's works both by private collectors and institutions. This is an indication of the increasing spotlight on the Bengal School and its rich legacy.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A captivating cauldron of art in West Bengal

While the artists considered belonging to the Bengal school continue to perform reasonably at international auctions, the fact remains that they have not managed to scale the million dollar peal attained by the Progressives.

Art writer Ashoke Nag of The Economic Times makes some pertinent observations in this regard (Need to reassess Bengal school in the Indianness of Indian art). A recent exhibition that took place in the city of Zurich eulogized the masters of magnificent Indian miniatures. The curators did not hesitate to place them right at par with some of the greats who belonged to the glorious European Renaissance period.

Amongst other concerted efforts, many of the early Bengal School practitioners made an attempt to modernize the ancient miniature tradition. This foray was led by none other than Abanindranath Tagore. Husain, well aware of the endeavors made in this direction, once counted Ganesh Pyne among the topmost Indian artists.

His art practice evolved out of a subtle synthesis of the practice of artists like Abanindranath Tagore, Rabindranath Tagore and Jamini Roy, seamlessly blended with Indian mythology. Ganesh Pyne also effortlessly fused the then western concepts in his images. Still, the core Indianness evident in this astute amalgam was unmistakable.

The article quotes Kolkata based Chitrakoot art gallery director, Prakash Kejariwal, as saying that Husain was the first artist to notice this, Abanindranath's emphasis on carrying the miniature tradition forward and drawing from Japanese and Chinese schools resulted in launch of a major Bengal School movement. The Society of Contemporary Artists further catalyzed this significant thrust toward modernism. A glimpse of this captivating cauldron of art in West Bengal can be had at an exhibition, entitled ‘Summer Oasis’, at the gallery.

The elaborate exhibit showcases works by the various artists including Nandalal Bose, Jamini Roy, Hemen Mazumdar, Atul Bose and the Tagores, from among the older masters. Works by the later modern masters such as Ganesh Pyne, Somnath Hore, Shyamal Datta Ray, Nikhil Biswas and Bikash Bhattacharjee are also on view.

New Indian art buyers are now emerging

Recent auction results in London and online have thrown slightly mixed results, with works by some of recognized modern masters like MF Husain, who died in London earlier this month, and FN Souza not selling that well in all cases, whereas demand for Subodh Gupta, considered India’s contemporary art poster boy, has fallen, to an extent.

On the other hand, one of the top members of the Husain and Souza-initiated Progressive Artists’ group (PAG), Tyeb Mehta, manage to hit a record auction sale price of $3.24m (including buyers’ premium) at London courtesy Christie’s this month for an untitled figurative work, also doing well elsewhere.

Meanwhile, a different kind of record was set earlier this month by Tyeb Mehta with his work Kali that received a whopping bid of $1m (on its scaling an impressive peak of a $1.31m sale) on Mumbai based auction house Saffronart’s latest sale of art through an innovative mobile-phone bidding application. Both successful and unsuccessful bids totaling more than $3.85 million were received on this wireless auction route, which the online auction company claims is unique.

It also underlines the fact that a class of new Indian buyers is fast emerging for works of art, especially in the in the lower ranges (roughly around $150,000 mark), whereas moving up the price ladder, the news does not seem to be so good.

As is known, the modern & contemporary art market in India peaked in the early and mid-2000s before it witnessed a slump and then starting making a stuttering recovery a couple of years ago. A renowned London-based art market analysis firm, Art Tactic, points out the fact that the market is moving on a palpable ‘negative trend even as other global markets are on an upswing’ with recent auctions coming in almost 20 percent below estimates and close to 18 percent below results recorded last March.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Is the top end of the modern & contemporary art market in India a touch shaky?

It seems as if the top end of the modern & contemporary art market in India is a touch wobbling. Elaborating on the art market scenario, a recent post by art writer John Elliott from his blog 'Riding the Elephant blog’ mentions, “This underlines the fact that, despite its earlier boom, Indian art has never captured China’s level of international attention.

"A China record of $10.2m, more than three times India’s highest-ever price, was paid at a Sotheby’s Hong Kong auction in April for a three-panelled (triptych), Forever Lasting Love, by Zhang Xiaogang, a top contemporary mainland Chinese artist. By contrast, Subodh Gupta, who leapt to the forefront of Indian contemporary artists in the mid 2000s with paintings and installations of shiny pots and pans and other apparent aspects of modern Indian life, has not done well.

Last year in London an untitled 67×90in oil on canvas of an airport luggage trolley fetched only ($250,000) at Sotheby’s, which was about a fifth of a 2008 price for a very similar trolley.
This year at Sotheby’s there were no bidders for a vast 16ftx12ft Gupta installation of stainless steel pails (estimated at £300,000-£400,000).

An oil painting of saucepans pitched around last year’s trolley price also failed to sell. Two more works did not get buyers at Christie’s, while Saffronart wisely did not include him. Other Indian contemporaries however did better. A large Atul Dodiya painting of the artist’s father in Dodiya’s early photo-realist style fetched £265,250 at Christie’s. Jitish Kallat also sold at Christies and Sotheby’s but failed with one work at Saffronart.

But to an extent warning signs are emerging here, with top names such as Raza, Souza and Husain sometimes failing to sell for works that are either not regarded as being an artist’s best or are over-priced. Prices for Husain, who died on June 9, the day of the Christie’s auction, are likely to be tested in New York auctions in September.

The market is now good for new as well as established buyers and committed collectors

The main strand of recovery as far as Indian art market is concerned has been clearly among the moderns, with India’s record price of £2.4m ($3.5m) being achieved by Syed Haidar Raza, another leading veteran Progressive, at Christie’s in London last year.

Hugo Weihe, who runs the Christie’s auctions, says that the results show it is 'necessary to get the quality and the price right to achieve sales.' Dealers talk about difficulty finding and persuading buyers to offer good works that will fetch top prices and it is also necessary to fill auction halls with potential buyers, which Sotheby’s seems to have failed to do spectacularly this year.

Its London auction on May 31 (badly timed on the morning after a bank holiday weekend) realised sales of only £1,620,150 ($2,678,756) compared with Christie’s £4.3m. It sold only half the works available and failed to move the three highest priced works – by Husain, Raza and Gupta.

Analyzing the scenario, a recent write-up by art writer John Elliott from his popular blog 'Riding the Elephant blog’, mentions: “The market has been flooded with works by Husain and Souza in recent years, which has affected demand. Last summer, Christie’s had a spectacular sale of Souza drawings and paintings that were being sold by his family’s estate. This year there were more works owned by the family, but they did not generate the same excitement or prices.

“Tyeb Mehta, who died in 2009, continues however to score well, partly because his works are so distinctive, often reflecting with strong shapes and colors the hard life of India’s poor, and partly because he was not nearly so much prolific as other Progressives.

“This is not a market for investors looking for quick profits, but it is good for committed collectors, newcomers and established buyers, with the best works selling well if offered at sensible prices. The market is waiting to discover what happens now to Husain – there are many of his works waiting to be sold but it is not clear yet when they will emerge, nor what the appetite will be.”
(Information courtesy: 'Riding the Elephant blog’)

Rising stars from the Middle-East region

Ahmed Alsoudani and Adel Abidin, the young artist duo represents their home country Iraq at the prestigious Venice Biennale this year. The two had been sought after at the Venice Biennale, being invited to palazzo dinners.

It’s the first time ever since way back in 1976 that Iraq has opted to take part in the world-famous and keenly awaited art gathering. With the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Syria, all showing up there (again a first for Saudi Arabia), the art from Middle Eastern region was Topic A among the gaggle of aristocrats, celebrities and oligarchs who had gathered for three days of private viewings and frantic partying before the 54th art fair’s official opening.

Mr. Abidin, 38, is apparently the less active networker and talker of the two emerging artists. On the other hand, Mr. Alsoudani, 36, is always keen to express himself, and in his element. He, as the media reports described, seemed to know well every other collector and curator. His abstract paintings often touch on themes of violence, turbulence and war. They are in the collections of Mr. Saatchi and Mr. Pinault, among frequent visitors to his studio.

Curiously, that evening they had met for the first time and seemed as if inhabiting the modern art world’s opposite spectrums - one bling, whereas the other purist, though both agreed about the fast-changing Middle East. In fact, the two are the youngest of six practitioners who form part of the Iraq Pavilion’s exhibition.

They incidentally came of age during the long-drawn Iran-Iraq war, the Kuwait invasion and Saddam Hussein’s rule. Both now are settled in the West (Mr. Alsoudani in New York City and Mr. Abidin in Helsinki). However, their body of works references a collective memory of hardship and strife - in Mr. Abidin’s case, with a subtle touch of wry humor. He stated, denoting the Arab Spring, “The revolution witnessed in the Middle East has made me firmly believe that we’ve the capacity to still believe in our dreams.”

Monday, June 27, 2011

Annual art show at The Royal Academy, London

An integral part of not only the London but the world art calendar, annual Summer Exhibition courtesy The Royal Academy is one among the largest open contemporary art shows across the globe that draws together a wide array of new and recent works by several established, emerging and unknown artists.

The academy, founded by George III in 1768, enjoys a unique position as an independent and privately funded art institution led by eminent architects and artists. It does not receive any public funding so all those supporting the exhibit by submitting works, checking it and through artwork purchases contribute to the cause of supporting artists of promise.

One of the basic founding principles of the monumental Royal Academy of Arts was primarily to 'mount an annual exhibit open to artists of merit' in order to finance the young artists’ training in the RA Schools. The event has been held almost every year sans interruption since 1769. It continues to play a major part in raising funds for financing the deserving students.

Royal Academician Christopher Le Brun is this year’s coordinator. Michael Craig-Martin RA, curating one of the really large galleries, also plays a significant role. Piers Gough RA and Alan Stanton RA have curated the Architecture Room.

The largest space in the academy features a novel approach to a rather traditional ‘salon hang’. This is comprised of a mix of open submission works as well as select works by Royal Academicians. A rich visual experience is offered through the presentation of work hung from dado rail to picture rail. They include Danish painter Per Kirkeby’s large canvas and an apocalyptic painting, entitled ‘Deep Impact’ by Keith Tyson.

The exhibition attracts a good response from entrants each year with more than 12,000 entries recorded this year from over 25 countries. Most works on display are for sale, offering an opportunity to purchase original pieces of art by quality and up-and-coming artists.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Art for a cause!

Cancer Patients Aid Association (CPAA) in association with Mumbai based Cymroza Art Gallery presents seventh edition of Annual Art Exhibition, entitled 'Colours of Life'.

This year’s rich collection of works includes several top Indian artists whose mastery over a wide array of styles and forms is evident. The works on offer incorporate utilizes various mediums, themes and the interpretations. The works are currently on view at Cymroza

Curator Piali Syam has carefully selected several pieces of outstanding quality in order to cater to a larger audience base, incorporating eclectic art buyers and common art lovers . The idea is to present a wide range of works that will suit all budgets and tastes.

The theme for this year's exhibition is ‘Art for life’. “The exhibition will allow art lovers to contribute to the cause as well as take home a masterpiece," the curator informs. Over time, the event has managed to establish a niche for itself in the city's art calendar. Art buyers as well as the artists keenly look forward to the show and the sale.

An introductory note to the event informs: “Every year over 14,000 children are affected by cancer in India. The diagnosis and treatment of childhood cancers takes time and money. Thanks to new developments in treatment, up to 70% of all childhood cancers are curable if treated in a timely manner. However, many families do not have access to effective treatment due to the high associated costs. The exhibition gives art lovers an opportunity to reach out to patients and help them conquer the disease."

Meanwhile, Mr. Y. K. Sapru (Founder Chairman and CEO, CPAA) has launched a ‘Children’s Education Fund’. The fund will support the education of childhood cancer patients, yet another step towards CPAA’s mission of ‘Total Management of Cancer’. Established in 1969, CPAA has a tradition of untiring service to needy cancer patients from all over India, and even neighboring countries.

A show of artist Sudarshan Shetty’s work

Sudarshan Shetty is presenting his recent works at Galerie Daniel Templon, Paris. This will be the second time he has created an installation at Galerie Daniel Templon, following on from 2009’s monumental Taj Mahal.

Born in 1961 in Mangalore, this conceptual artist is renowned for his enigmatic sculptural installations, which are often animated. He is one of the most innovative of the current generation of Indian artists making a name for themselves on the international scene, along with artists such as Subodh Gupta, Bharti Kher and Jitish Kallat.

Sudarshan Shetty creates hybrid constructions that question the merging of Indian and Western traditions. His work also addresses domestic preoccupations and the concept of movement. He is showcasing a disturbingly distorted wooden automobile at Galerie Daniel Templon, finely sculpted in the Indian handicraft tradition. Slowly rotating, the car appears as an archaeological find, raising many questions about the accident—and the civilisation—that forged it.

This animated object created from living material generates a sensation of absence and loss. Sudarshan Shetty uses a decorative façade to examine the fundamental truths of the human condition, offering a brilliant reinterpretation of the traditional still life.

Sudarshan Shetty will be part of two eagerly-awaited exhibitions this spring: Indian Highway IV at the Musée d’art contemporain in Lyon (24 February – 31 July) and Paris, Delhi, Bombay at the Musée national d’art moderne – Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris (25 May - 19 September 2011). One of his monumental installations will also be featuring during Art Unlimited at the June 2011 Basel fair.

The renowned Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum in Mumbai, which has recently undergone a restoration program, selected him for its first exhibition of contemporary art: This Too Shall Pass (2010). Recently shown by Jack Tilton in New York (2010), Gallery SKE in Bangalore (2009) and Galerie Krinzinger in Vienna (2008), in 2009 the artist took part in Art Unlimited at Basel as well as the Indian Highway exhibition at Astrup Fearnley Museet for Modern Kunst in Oslo.
(Information courtesy: Galerie Daniel Templon, Paris)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

‘Art Supports Life’ courtesy CPAA and Cymroza, Mumbai

The works of close to 140 participating artists will help raise precious funds for the education of cancer patients in the city of Mumbai. The collection is entitled 'Colours of Life' – Art Supports Life’

A news report in The DNA India by Jayeeta mazumder elaborates: “One humanitarian cause and 139 artists have given shape to an exhibition that doubles up as a platform for art lovers. In its seventh year now, the Cancer Patients Aid Association (CPAA), in association with Cymroza Art Gallery, holds its annual art exhibition 'Colours of Life' to donate towards the 'Children's Education Fund' to support the education of childhood cancer patients.”

It quotes Naina Kanodia as saying, "We’ve paintings of the masters as well as promising newcomers, so there is a wide spectrum of work to see and choose from in terms of the images displayed and the prices." Its curator Syam, has been quoted as saying, "Having curated the show for the last few years I have been able to comprehend the buyer's need and works that interest them.

"Also, there are a lot of skilled artists across India who have not had much exposure. I scout around for such artists and some of the upcoming artists included are Ananya Banerjee, Ananta Mandal, Jagannath Paul, Sujit Roy Barman, among others." According to the curator, there is not really any particular theme running through the entire collection. She feels the focus should rather be on offering variety in terms of media and subject in order to draw a broader base of buyers.

This year's collection on offer includes artists like Ajay De, Arzan Khambatta, Bina Aziz, Akbar Padamsee, Brinda Chudasama Miller, Suhas Roy, Reena Kallat, Lalitha Lajmi, Jayasri Burman, and Jehangir Sabavala among others. The works are on public display at Cymroza Art Gallery, Bhulabhai Desai Road, Mumbai until July 2, 2011.

A photo-artist's unique show at Tate Modern, London

Tate Modern premieres an important new body of work by the American artist Taryn Simon. ‘A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters’ was produced over a four-year period (2008-11), during which Simon travelled around the world researching and recording bloodlines and their related stories.

In each of the eighteen ‘chapters’ that make up the work, the external forces of territory, power, circumstance or religion collide with the internal forces of psychological and physical inheritance. The subjects documented by Simon include feuding families in Brazil, victims of genocide in Bosnia, the body double of Saddam Hussein’s son Uday, and the living dead in India. Her collection is at once cohesive and arbitrary, mapping the relationships among chance, blood, and other components of fate.

There are 18 different sets or chapters, and the one that provides the work with its title is Uttar Pradesh based Shivdutt Yadav’s story. A column in The UK Independent by reviewer Laura McLean-Ferris mentions: “Yadav discovered that he and members of his family had been listed as dead and the ownership of their land transferred to other relations.

That they are very much alive has been documented by Simon. Among the images on the footnote panel is something horrific, yet almost beautiful. A body, dead from leprosy floats in the Ganges – the body bleached white, the eyeballs pale and swollen, the face turned black with blood.

Presented in a way reminiscent, aesthetically, of any encyclopedia, our eyes get tempted to skim over these images. Individual scenes leap out, however. The reviewer adds: “There were moments I wished I was looking at these images separately, perhaps on a larger scale. That they are locked together in a frame is, however, a statement from the artist about the complexity of each situation – the people, the images and stories, cannot be separated from one another.”

An artist-collector duo constructs a ‘performance art’ experiment

A recent art project involved D.C. collector-patron Philippa Hughes, as the US media widely reported. As part of it, she hosted an artist in her apartment.

The visit, termed as an art performance, was aimed at testing the set boundaries of the formal artist-collector relationship. Pittsburgh-based Agnes Bolt is a Carnegie Mellon University graduate student. She experienced a different new mood and setting at the collector’s 14th Street NW condo. Recounting the early experience, she was quoted as saying: “It has been touch awkward. Hughes remarked: “I didn’t really think it through while agreeing to it.”

Incidentally, Hughes did not pay anything for the art performance, though a contract spelt out the terms of the ‘work’. She was to make ‘nourishing’ meals for the artist twice each day and joined her in bonding exercises. Hughes was supposed to communicate messages not related to art via paper notes, with help of a two-way message portal, which intersected the bubble.

Almost by design, this particular stay was not perhaps intended to pass well. Her piece of work is an endurance performance, which fails or clicks on Philippa Hughes’s ability to endure it. The 32-year-old, upcoming artist set up shop, so to say, in her patron’s 1,000-square-foot condo. Though she stayed in her home, she spent her time there separately.

A transparent polycarbonate enclosure (a bubble of sorts) took up most of the central living space was. Inside it, the artist sequestered herself - a rule that Bolt had imposed: not leaving her bubble, barring by way of dog-agility tunnels, basically structured, slightly expandable tubes.

The artist used them for extending her private zone to include Philippa Hughes’s bathroom or balcony. Visitors were required to crawl through them for seeking face time with Bolt. The performance apparently achieved its desired result. Hughes remarked at one point: “Each day felt like a week.” By then, both the artist and collector had reached a better mutual understanding.

“I hope there is a way that she can take the material gathered over the past week and turn it into something that is universally relevant,” Hughes stated. “It wasn’t really about Agnes and Philippa.” “My primary interest is (having) the experience,” Bolt concluded. “It’s really a piece for one!”

Friday, June 24, 2011

Reviving and expanding the diorama as a medium for contemporary art forms

The miniature worlds of the 38 contemporary artists featured in Otherworldly: Optical Delusions and Small Realities’ at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York transport the viewer into fantastical lands, surreal spaces, and secret environments, challenging our sense of what is real and what is fabricated.

‘Otherworldly’ features artists who are reviving and expanding the diorama as a medium for contemporary art through site-specific installation, video, photography, and even snow globes. Fifteen of the featured photographers will reveal both their hand-built dioramas and resulting photographic images—displayed separately throughout the galleries.

Organized by Chief Curator David McFadden, the display explores the varied approaches to the diorama, featuring artists from around the globe who create dioramas as free-standing sculptures, subjects for photographs, and the basis for animated videos. Each of the tiny built worlds are realized through an intense engagement with a diverse set of materials and a meticulous attention to detail that allows for the production of elaborate environments that are at once familiar and foreign.

“The astonishing and intricate visual effects of the art in Otherworldly both invites and disarms the viewer, pulling one deeper into a fantastical and miniature world,” said Holly Hotchner, the museum’s Nanette L. Laitman Director. “The exhibition has opened up a new arena of exploration that the museum has long been fascinated by—photography.

The works in the exhibition are loosely organized around four themes that provide a narrative thread for the diverse subject matters. ‘Apocalyptic Archaeology’ introduces viewers to architectural monuments and interiors, frequently in ruin, as a means of exploring deterioration and decay. ‘Unnatural Nature’ explores our fascination with simulating lands both real and purely imaginary.

Works pertaining to ‘Dreams and Memories’ question the nature and meaning of recalled experiences, and hidden, secretive spaces and unspoken narratives are examined in ‘Voyeur/Provocateurs.’

“In a social and artistic environment in which digital programming and cyberworlds are embedded in almost every aspect of our day to day activity, these artists are taking the bold step to reengage with the tangible and going back to the roots of artistic practice,” said McFadden.

“They are creating magical worlds that, whether depicting floating landscapes, haunting interiors, or abandoned rooms, are all about place, emotion, memory, and vision—both perceived and created.”
(Information courtesy: The Museum of Arts and Design, New York)

Contemporary photographers go back to the roots of artistic practice in ‘Otherworldly’

Enchanted Landscapes, Fantastic Worlds, and Strange Encounters Abound in 'Otherworldly: Optical Delusions and Small Realities,' a new exhibition that explores the Art of the Diorama.

On view at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York are site-specific installations, photography of fabricated worlds, and snow globes by 38 contemporary artists, including Joe Fig, Patrick Jacobs, Walter Martin & Paloma Muñoz, Didier Massard, Charles Matton, and Charles Simonds among Others.

The artists showcased in the new show on view from June 7 – September 18, 2011 are connected by their dedication to traditional low- tech and hand-made processes. None of the photographic images included in the exhibition have been digitally altered or manipulated. Instead, the featured photographers construct small locales, both mythic and actual, which they then photograph using manual camera and lighting equipment.

For many of them, including Matthew Albanese, Lori Nix, and Frank Kunert, the exhibition will be the first time their built models are displayed for the public. Focusing specifically on dioramas and installations as works of art, the exhibition excludes dollhouses, theatrical sets, maquettes, and architectural models.

Rick Araluce explores loneliness and abandonment in his constructed claustrophobic and desolate spaces. Walter Martin and his Spanish-born partner Paloma Muñoz have become internationally known for the dark, and at times even sinister, scenes depicted in what is a traditionally light-hearted medium: the snow globe.

The late French artist Charles Matton drew inspiration from trompe I’oeil illusions of the 17th century and traditional Dutch cabinet houses. For his internationally recognized large-scale photographs, James Casebere takes inspiration from prisons, tunnels, flooded palaces, and the suburbs.

Joe Fig embarked on a series of in-depth artist interviews and studio visits that led to the creation of exact small-scale dioramas of the studio interiors. Didier Massard creates fictitious landscapes that are hauntingand eerily romantic. Mat Collishaw displays a three-dimensional, spinning, and strobe-light activated zoetrope

‘Otherworldly’ is organized by the Museum of Arts and Design and is curated by Chief Curator David Revere McFadden.
(Information courtesy: The Museum of Arts and Design, New York)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The UK Government Art Collection on public display

Several artworks that have adorned the wonderful walls of the UK's elite corridors of power for over a century have been seen only fleetingly by a privileged few. Now top names figures in British politics have opted to provide a rare insight into the art in government buildings.

It’s an unprecedented move, throwing open to public works from to an abstract sculptural work in Downing Street to a contemporary drawing in the culture department. The glorious Government Art Collection, along with Whitechapel Gallery in London, is staging the first ever public art show in its more than 110 year long history.

Nearly two-thirds of the art collection in possession of the Government that contains close to 13,500 pieces is on display in departments at home as well as embassies abroad at any one time. The rest is in storage. A couple of months ago, a cross-parliamentary group suggested the merging of this collection with other government collections.

Luminaries from the field of politics, comprising the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg and the Prime Minister's wife, Samantha Cameron, have selected work for the new show. The latter has chosen Elisabeth Frink’s bronze sculpture, William Marlow and LS Lowry’s oil paintings and, as well as sculptor Mary Martin’s steel & wood construction. Most of these are normally kept away from public view.

Explaining her choice of the 1776 Marlow William painting, Mrs Cameron stated: "It’s displayed in the White Room often used to welcome 10 Downing Street guests. Another draw of it is the River Thames that is important to London and has also turned so for our family, now that we’re closer to it."

The Minister for Culture, Ed Vaizey, selected drawings by Tracey Emin and Michael Landy. He explained: "I first met Emin about two years ago. For me, she has since become a great guide to art.” Other noted works include a 16th-century unnamed artist’s painting of Queen Elizabeth I, not been seen in public for five decades. It was chosen by Lord Mandelson.

The British Museum won the country’s most lucrative arts award

Considered the UK's largest prize for museums has been given to the British Museum. It won the award for its A History of the World, a BBC-partnered series that charts the millennia through 100 objects. It is the first triumph for a London-based national museum in the competition's nine year history.

‘A History of the World series’ was made in partnership with the BBC and included 100 separate 15-minute programmes on Radio 4 detailing objects in the collection by the museum's director, Neil MacGregor.

The museum beat three considerably smaller institutions also on the Art Fund prize shortlist, won £100,000. It was presented by the culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, at a ceremony in London on Wednesday night.

Michael Portillo, who chaired the judges, praised the museum's use of new technology. He said: "We were impressed by the truly global scope of the British Museum's project, which combined intellectual rigor and open heartedness, and went far beyond the boundaries of the museum's walls.

"Above all, we felt that this project, which showed a truly pioneering use of digital media, has led the way for museums to interact with their audiences in new and different ways. Without changing the core of the British Museum's purpose, people have and are continuing to engage with objects in an innovative way as a consequence of this project."

Mr. MacGregor said the series was a result of working with museums across the UK and that the prize money would be used to pay for a series of spotlight tours, lending highlights from the museum's collection across the country.

‘A History of the World’ involved 550 heritage partners, from Shetland to the Scilly Isles, who worked hand in hand with the BBC to explore global stories through museum collections of every complexion.

Meanwhile, construction on the World Conservation and Exhibitions Centre has started. This important new building will house state of-the-art laboratories and studios for the conservation, preservation and research of the collection; a new special exhibitions suite; world-class stores, and facilities to support the Museum’s extensive national and international loans program.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Venice Biennale visitors confused by Anish Kapoor's installation

Sculptor Anish Kapoor's ‘Ascension’ was supposed to be a major highlight of the 2011 Venice Biennale. A whisp of smoke, which ascends from the floor to a massive extractor fan fixed in the Basilica di San Giorgio’s ceiling. The work tries to emphasize the ‘immaterial becoming object’, as the artist himself suggests.

He was quoted as saying that what is and what seems to be in his work often get blurred. In Ascension, for instance, what interests him is the idea of immateriality turning into an object. He added, “This is exactly what happens in the work: the smoke becomes a column. Also present in it is the very idea of Moses following a column of smoke, or a column of light, in the desert."

Visitors were a bit bamboozled after a tornado-like smoke column spluttered, letting out something more than just a faint stream of vapor. It disintegrated after several meters. According to the artist’s spokesperson, staff on-site had to close the show, after the work did produce less smoke than was usual.

The spokesperson described it as a subtle work of art ‘open to misinterpretation’. But art critics could barely hide their disdain. For instance, Waldemar Januszczak asked: "What should be big, firm and erect is a bit of a flop."

A major museum expert defended the work by stating: "It's rather tricky with site-specific commissions. They are required to live & breathe in that space. Openings may not replicate how it’s going to look during an exhibition. At the start, you’ve 300 people; later on, there may be 30 coming through the door. I’m sure it will be awe-inspiring during the rest of the Biennale.”

However, a confused visitor added that the organizers wouldn't let us in; when they did, it (the installation) didn't work". The Biennale's official site terms it a ‘clear example of that branch of contemporary art research not wanting just to surprise, but to offer the start for reflections on certain actual and delicate issues."

Some important milestones of Husan’s life - I

  • MF Husain was born in Pandharpur in Maharashtra in 1915. His father was an accountant in a textile mill. His mother died when he was two years old. Her passing made a strong impression on him "as seen in his portrayal of his mother", writes Najma Husain in a book, titled ‘Husain's Art’.

  • His artistic skills were noticed by the family with his mastery of the Arabic calligraphy he had to learn as a young boy. Young Husain would sell his books to buy painting tools. He particularly loved painting landscapes.

  • A self-taught artist, his impulses were awakened by the street art and the colors & sights he would keenly observe as he would ride a bicycle. He arrived in Mumbai from his home town as an 18-year-old to pursue his dreams of being a filmmaker.

  • His first assignment was painting cinema signboards to support his family. Working on hoardings and billboards helped him paint using deep colors and bold lines on large canvases when he turned to painting murals and large works of art. He embraced the street around him, living in bazaar lanes where street vendors would peddle their wares.

  • It was in the 1940s that Husain rose to prominence as a painter. Following India's independence he joined the Progressive Artist's Group, a bold new breed of artists like FN Souza, Raza and Akbar Padamsee.

  • The PAG wanted to break free from the traditions and sought freedom in content and technique. Their bold themes were considered anarchic as they brought Indian elements to Expressionist styles and Cubist forms. Artists were considered an elite group who enjoyed the patronage of the royals in pre-Independence India.

  • In 1947 he was invited by Francis Newton Souza to join the Progressive Artists’ Group, an organization that encouraged embracing modernism and breaking free of traditional painting styles, especially the classical miniatures favored by the Bengal School.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Key facets of MF Husan’s life and personality- II

This is the second part of our series that mentions key milestones of the legendary painter’s life and career.
  • Husain's arrival on the art scene soon after Independence in 1947 was hailed as both anarchic and liberating.After winning a prize at the annual exhibition of the Bombay Art Society, MF Husain began showing his work throughout India and abroad at international art fairs. In 1971 he was given a major exhibition at the São Paolo Biennale.

  • MF Husain’s critics often accused him of selling out to the market, but Husain was unfazed. He was termed populist as he would draw crowds to his painting of a mural set to Indian classical music bought for an exorbitant amount.

  • He was targeted by right-wing groups and people who found his paintings of bare-breasted Hindu goddesses offensive. Dejected, the artist left the country following court orders targeting his properties across India.

  • In 2006, Mr Husain publicly apologized for his painting, Mother India. It shows a nude woman kneeling on the ground creating the shape of the Indian map. He also promised to withdraw the controversial painting from a charity auction. In 2008, India's Supreme Court refused to launch criminal proceedings against Mr Husain saying that his paintings were not obscene and nudity was common in Indian iconography and history.

  • In 2008, India's Supreme Court refused to launch criminal proceedings against Mr Husain saying that his paintings were not obscene and nudity was common in Indian iconography and history. He though, never had any bitterness towards his homeland. "What has happened with me is a small thing. We remain a free country," he had stated in an interview. Among his best-known paintings are a series based on the Ramayana and Mahabharata and a series of 45 watercolors, completed in 1975, 'Passage Through Human Space'.

  • His political troubles stemmed from a group of paintings, made in the early 1970s, that included a depiction of the goddess Durga copulating with a tiger, the goddess Lakshmi perched naked on the elephant head of Ganesh, the god of success, and a nude Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of knowledge.

Can and will India finally recognize its most famous modem artist?

Can India rise above its feeble responses of recent years and recognize its most famous modem artist with a museum that will house his work? What will India do now about the memory and artistic legacy of this legend?

The above question is asked by noted art writer John Elliott in his blog ‘Riding the Elephant' blog series. Indian politicians squabbled about perceived rights and wrongs of Husain’s virtual exile from India even as tributes were paid by his son Owais and by friends at London’s Dorchester Hotel. MF was remembered at the meeting for the vast span of his life through most of the 20th century and into the 21st – from 'bullock cart to Bugatti' as one family friend put it (there is a Bugatti Veyron 16.4 in his famous Dubai collection of cars).

Meanwhile people in India could still not make up their minds whether to honor this great painter or leave him forever exiled their minds. Manmohan Singh, the prime minister, who did little if anything during MF’s lifetime to encourage him to return home and defy right-wing Hindu fanatics who were attacking him and his paintings, had the gall to talk about the 'national loss' of an iconic artist….whose genius left a deep imprint on Indian art”.

Too late, the government offered to facilitate the return of the body. Right-wing political leaders, who had helped to keep him in exile while he was alive, also stated that controversies should now be forgotten and he should be brought back to India, but more fanatical voices continued to attack him on the internet. Friends of MF tell me that he definitely wanted to return to India – though he acknowledged that his wealth had grown substantially in recent years when news of his exile spread his fame and boosted his prices.

Providing the answer to his own questions, John Elliott notes: “India welcomed Anish Kapoor, the Anglicized Indian-born artist, with two big exhibitions last year. Rather more urgent than a Kapoor sculpture, surely, is an M.F.Husain Museum in Delhi or Mumbai.”

(Information courtes: ‘Riding the Elephant blog’)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Highlights of Saffronart’s Summer Auction of Modern & Contemporary Indian Art Sale

Saffronart’s indeed hosts some noteworthy masterpieces of proven provenance and exceptional quality. It includes a wide array of works - paintings, sculptures and installations by top Indian artists like Tyeb Mehta, SH Raza, Jogen Chowdhury, G. Ravinder Reddy, Manjit Bawa, and Jitish Kallat, among others.
  • Saffronart notched up total sales of Rs 17.50 crore at its 2011 Summer Auction of Modern & Contemporary Indian Art. The auction was rightly spearheaded by late legend Tyeb Mehta's Untitled canvas (Kali, 1998), incidentally the last work he painted as part of the Kali series. The work’s presale estimate was Rs 1.25-1.75 crore. It sold for a whopping Rs 5.72 crore ($1.31 million.)

  • G Ravinder Reddy's monumental head fetched Rs 1.41 crore, The 1993 canvas by Manjit Bawa, entitled ‘Nayika’, was bought for Rs 1.08 crore. Raza's ‘Carcassonne’ painted in 1951, got Rs 95 lakh. ‘The Bangle Sellers’ by Jehangir Sabavala was bought for Rs 87.5 lakh.

  • About 72% of the lots on offer sold out. Close to 53% did manage to exceed their higher estimate range. Six lots, including Ravinder Reddy, Tyeb Mehta, SH Raza, Jehangir Sabavala and Manjit Bawa ,auctioned over the $200,000 mark.

  • Other contemporary highlights of the auction catalogue were iconic ‘Gopika’ by G. Ravinder Reddy from 2003; bindis & velour fabric done on painted wooden panel (‘Rugged Terrain’, 2007) by Bharti Kher; and an important painting (‘War Dance’) by Jitish Kallat.

  • A healthy percentage of lots in the sale easily surpassed their high estimate, indicating the increasing appetite of collectors for quality works. There is a sentiment that monumental pieces of Indian art are now turning into a valuable asset class. Their increasing prices at major international auctions continue to strike a higher peak and solidify their legitimacy as a good investment proposition.
The Saffronart director, Dinesh Vazirani, was quoted as saying, "Several factors did work in getting Tyeb Mehta's Untitled work the price tag it finally fetched. The work is relatively rare, quite aesthetic. It enjoys excellent provenance. Comparatively smaller format painting, it swung a huge price owing to concerted and strong bidding."

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Blending love of culture & mythology with that of varied materials & surfaces

Born in Kolkata in 1963, Rina Banerjee left India for England and then the United States with her family when she was a young child. Trained as an engineer, she obtained a Master of Fine Arts at the University of Yale in 1995 and settled in New York, while maintaining close links with her homeland thanks to numerous stays in Asia.

Informed by this singular background, Banerjee’s work articulates a unique synthesis of mythologies and religions, anthropology and fairytales, exoticism and mass tourism. Challenging the order of the world in an explosive mix of imagination and materials, her delicate yet danger-tinged work gives rise to creatures that are constantly mutating, and sometimes monstrous, like metaphors of a world in a state of constant becoming.

The artist has a fascination for materials, heritage textiles, fashion, colonial objects and furnishings, historical architecture, and their ability to disguise, animate, locate their inherent meanings in her artwork. The sculptures and drawings, paintings and videos are a fusion of cultures and an explosion of imagination. She states her work explores "specific colonial moments that reinvent place and identity as complex diasporic experiences."

Her preoccupation with the role of culture, mythology, fairy tales, anthropology, ethnography fold the trajectories of race, exotic capital, and the forces of our migration, mobility with tourism and global commerce. Tensions and desires created out of our individual increased travel and access to information technologies have preforiated our boundaries creating a malleability that manages a globalized sense of space and a diminished experience of dominant culture paradigm.

All these facets of her works are evident in a show at Musée Guimet, Paris. After the exhibitions by Chu Teh-Chun and Hung-Chih Peng (summer 2009), followed by Rashid Rana and Chen Zhen (summer-autumn 2010), “Chimeras of India and the West” continues the Musée Guimet’s ambitious project, “The Manufactory of Contemporary Art in Asia,” exploring the interaction of ancient heritages and modern-day creativity.
(Information courtesy: The artist official bio & Musée Guimet, Paris)

The Marrakech Art Fair 2011

After the success of the first edition in October 2010, the Marrakech Art Fair will be back at the Palace Es Saadi from 30 September to 3 October 2011, with some fifty international modern and contemporary art galleries.

In October 2010, more than 10 000 visitors came to the inauguration of the Marrakech Art Fair, the first modern and contemporary art fair in Morocco. Thirty galleries from North Africa, the Middle East and Europe came to meet with art buffs and Moroccan and international collectors. Several sales bore testimony to the great potential of the art market in Morocco. Last year the cultural circuit lent pride of place to the contemporary art of Sub-Saharan Africa with African Stories, an exhibit organized by André Magnin upon the invitation of Hicham Daoudi.

“We are the witnesses of definite enthusiasm in Morocco for contemporary art. Therefore, we felt that a fair was necessary to boost the emergence of our artists on the international scene. The Marrakech Art Fair shows that Morocco is a venue conducive to expression and a market that henceforth has to be taken into account,” says Hicham Daoudi, the chairman of Art Holding Morocco, organizer of the Marrakech Art Fair.

In October 2011, some twenty additional galleries are expected to join the ranks of exhibitors at the Marrakech Art Fair, to represent in Marrakech the very best in modern and contemporary creation in North Africa, while also including the Middle East, Europe and even the Asia Pacific area.

“Our intention is to emphasize Turkish, Italian, Spanish, Greek and Arab galleries because of the existence of a genuine Mediterranean and Middle Eastern culture of which we are a part,” explains Fair Manager, Zineb Daoudi.

Throughout the city of Marrakech, a cultural circuit will exist in the background of the Marrakech Art Fair enabling the multiplication of meetings in conjunction with the conferences and exhibits designed to promote the sharing of art.

This program is geared to the discovery of contemporary creation of artists from the Middle East and other places inked to the history of the ochre colored city while opening up to art lovers the doors to foundations, private collectors and artist workshops.

(Information courtesy: Marrakech Art Fair PR)

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Qi Baishi and other Chinese masters dominate the auction scene

‘A Long Life, a Peaceful World’ (1946), a work of art by renowned Chinese modern master Qi Baishi, fetched $65 million at the recent China Guardian Auctions in Beijing. It, in the process, set a new record for Chinese art scene.

The work of art was presented by the late artist (he died in 1957) as a gift to Chiang Kai-shek, in 1946. According to records, Qi, in a neat gesture of diplomacy, created another work four years later, for Mao Zedong.

The Qi Baishi sale is a major highlight of the Guardian Auctions spring season so far, one of China’s oldest auction houses. Over the last few years, Chinese collectors have increasingly been making their presence felt on international art auction scene. They are dominant in sales around the world, especially that of works by the famous Chinese artists.

As a result, the value of works by several modern masters such as Qi Baishi, Zhang Daqian, Fu Baoshi and Xu Beihong has skyrocketed. These modern artists’ work is apparently in the traditional Chinese style. Last year, they occupied four of the top ten slots in global rankings in terms of auction revenue, as indicated by Artprice.

In the agency’s 2010 list Qi Baoshi trumped Andy Warhol. The former came in at second spot, edging Andy Warhol to third place. Given the latter's recent stupendous streak at the global auction block, it’s yet to be seen whether Qi Baoshi will manage to pull off a similar trick this year as well.

The earlier record for a Chinese painting at any auction worldwide was set at Beijing's Hanhai auction house, last year. This was when ‘Ba People Fetching Water’ (1937) by Xu Beihong sold for $25.8 million. Baishi's work now takes third position overall in the record standings of Chinese art works at auction.

The first place is currently held by the Qianlong vase sold for $85.9 million at Bainbridges in the UK last November, whereas second place is owned by Song Dynasty master Huang Tingjian’s calligraphy that fetched $64 million last June at Poly Auctions in Beijing.

‘Four Bathers by Degas and Bonnard’ and other shows at the Brooklyn Museum

The US based Brooklyn Museum presents a famous and interesting body of work, entitled ‘Four Bathers by Degas and Bonnard’. The monumental series ‘ offers an intimate look at bathing scenes by Edgar Degas (1834–1917) and Pierre Bonnard (1867–1947) completed in France between 1884 and 1925.

This focused installation of four works drawn from the Brooklyn Museum’s permanent collection unites for the first time two rarely seen pastel drawings and one massive unfinished canvas by Degas with a lithograph by Bonnard from his celebrated series of female bathers in full-length bathtubs.

Considering the light-sensitive nature of these extremely popular objects, Four Bathers by Degas and Bonnard will be on view for a limited time. This installation has been organized by Rich Aste, Curator of European Art, Brooklyn Museum. It’s being showcased at at Norman M. Feinberg Entrance, Lobby South, 1st Floor

In a curious antidote, ‘Lorna Simpson: Gathered’ presents works that explore this Brooklyn-born artist’s interest in the interplay between fact and fiction, identity and history. Through works that incorporate hundreds of original and found vintage photographs of African Americans that she collects from eBay and flea markets, Lorna Simpson undermines the assumption that archival materials are objective documents of history.

The exhibition also includes examples of Simpson’s series of installations of black-and-white photo-booth portraits of African Americans from the Jim Crow era and a film work. Equally watchable is ‘Ghosts’, Sam Taylor-Wood’s photographic exploration inspired by Emily Brontë’s classic Victorian novel Wuthering Heights, whose famously atmospheric descriptions of the bleak, wild landscape almost turn that locale into the novel’s third major character.

For many years Taylor-Wood kept a country house in the same West Yorkshire region where Emily Brontë and her literary and artistic family lived. In the ten images from the series being shown at the Brooklyn Museum, Taylor-Wood captures the stark and haunting character of the windswept moors and gray skies surrounding Top Withens, a ruined farmhouse and the alleged setting of Wuthering Heights.

(Information courtesy: The Brooklyn Museum)

Friday, June 17, 2011

MF Husains’s works lie in ‘poor’ condition?

Even as the late legendary artist MF Husain’s death in London is being moaned, 42 of his works that form a mural titled ‘Freedom' are lying in poor conditions, according to the recent media reports.

If the news reports are to be believed, the works are all piled sans any proper protection or attention in a storage room near the Indira Gandhi International Airport Terminal 3. Incidentally, about four years ago, the paintings were unmounted. GMR is the private company that runs and maintains the airport.

It has been a tale of improper handling right from the beginning itself. When the new international airport was almost getting ready about three years ago, artist Anjolie Ela Menon did spot certain unprofessional porters or handlers carrying the paintings - as big as 8x10 feet - like any normal cardboard object.

The veteran artist recalled in an interview with Rana Siddiqui Zaman (news report: Piled up at airport, MF Husain's paintings gather dust, The Hindu) : “I saw (them) shifting the paintings with dirty hands and totally uncovered. When I shouted and asked where they were carrying them so carelessly, the reply was, to a ‘safe place'.”

Incidentally, a GMR spokesperson stated that they were still being retained in ‘safe custody.’ The spokesperson added the works have already been sent to an art consultancy firm, artink, for restoration. When the newspaper's reporter inquired, GMR let it check the room (about 13x15 feet located near T3). The paintings lie there piled up, alongside each other with hardly any space between them, wrapped in standard bubble sheets, it was noticed.

Restorer K.K. Gupta had worked on them courtesy artink informed he had given the private operator (GMR) inputs on keeping them ‘safe’. However, a painting, portraying Indira Gandhi’s facial expressions and moods, is stuck to the wall with a bubble sheet. The rest is all open with protection on just one side. Other paintings are also languishing. Meanwhile, GMR, has assured that the works will be on the walls of the T3 by this month end.

A snapshot of exhibit program at The Phillips Collection

'Kandinsky and the Harmony of Silence: Painting with White Border' (June 11–September 4, 2011) is on view at The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC.

After a visit to his native Moscow in 1912, Wassily Kandinsky (1866–1944) sought to find a way to record the ‘extremely powerful impressions’ that lingered in his memory. Working tirelessly through numerous drawings, watercolors, and oil studies over a five-month period, he eventually arrived at his 1913 masterpiece, ‘Painting with White Border’.

The show reunites this painting with over 12 preparatory studies from international collections that also include the Phillips’s oil sketch, and compare it with other closely related works. Complemented by an in-depth conservation study of Painting with White Border, the exhibit provides viewers with a glimpse into the master artist’s creative process.

This exhibition is co-organized by The Phillips Collection and The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. On the other hand, for the first time in a museum exhibition, The Phillips Collection presents recent works from Frank Stella's Scarlatti Kirkpatrick Series. It has been inspired by 18th-century composer Domenico Scarlatti's harpsichord sonatas.

Made from lightweight resin, the swirling multicolored polychrome forms with coiled steel tubing armatures are dynamic evocations of the colorful sounds and rhythms of Scarlatti's music. Traveling through space, the sculptures perform like objects on a stage.

Each one begins as a hand-crafted model that is scanned into a computer, where Stella refines the design before realizing it at full-scale. Moving at the crossroads of painting, drawing, and sculpture, Stella's Scarlatti K series ushers in a bold new chapter in the artist's exceptional five-decade career.

The Phillips Collection, an internationally recognized museum in Washington's vibrant Dupont Circle neighborhood. Paintings by Renoir and Rothko, Bonnard and O'Keeffe, van Gogh and Diebenkorn are among the many stunning impressionist and modern works that fill the museum's distinctive building, which combines extensive new galleries with the family home of its founder, Duncan Phillips. The collection continues to develop with selective new acquisitions, including those by contemporary artists.
(Information courtesy: The Phillips Collection)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Another Indian face features at the Venice Biennale

Artist Nandita Chaudhari with her deft, expert brushstrokes expertly captures the fathomless forces of the recent tragedy in Japan. Her recent suite of works is driven by the fragility of human and land mass when hit by rampaging forces. Specks of dust that fly and swirl on her canvas tend to symbolize this.

The artist of Indian origin, born in Britain, has been invited to display her work at the prestigious Venice Biennale this year. She isn't a part of the official Indian Pavilion, but is elated to see Indian contemporary art getting it due recognition internationally. She has been quoted as saying, "It’s receiving global attention largely owing to market dynamics and also recognition of its rising equity."

As a migrant, her work is obviously drawn and bound to her roots. Many artists, as she underlines, initially work with specific cultural influences before migrating to locations where they lived and imbibed a totally different socio-cultural milieu. Their body of work is termed as transnational in nature.

Her work carries a mix of varied influences, with some Indian element invariably evident in some form somewhere. There are references to historical data that creep back into her work, apart from traditional iconology. Most definitely, she prefers warmer colors alongside a certain metaphor. The artist tends to identify with international artists who do not go by any set norms or rules. Although their work carries peculiar influence from home country, it would still have one common visual idiom - that of allowing mind to soar above matter.

It was an occasion to remember for the artist when her life size elephant (Boogie Woo) moved to Soho Square in London from her studio. The experience of it coming to life was one of the most memorable moments of her life. It was later auctioned off and acquired by the Chairman of Rothschild.

This young, who has received the Nehru Award, is known for her figurative and nude portraits, in particular. Her body of work has been featured at several leading museums and art institutions, allowing her to establish her reputation as an emerging talent.

Images stranded between memory and actuality

Aicon Gallery in New York presents a solo exhibition of Rajan Krishnan’s most recent series of works.

Ancestry is an extension of his past two projects, Enroute (2006) and Memoir (2007). These large-scale paintings represent a visualized homage to cultures in transition, as the artist revisits his birthplace, only to discover that the river that once thrived there, sustaining and inspiring the communities around it, now appears devastated and devoid of its past vivacity.

The golden sand and placid shimmering currents of the artist’s memory are no more – instead, dark debris, crumbling structures and stark shrubbery have replaced the luscious foliage and life-giving waters of the past.

Ancestry presents a panorama of fifteen portrait-like paintings of individual elements from the landscape surrounding the river, all rendered against a foreboding grey backdrop with neither background nor foreground, focusing our attention directly upon the artist’s chosen subjects and settings.

Masterful details are contrasted by the darkly flattened milieu, dreamingly devoid of time and its effects, yet ethereally stirred by ongoing sensations of serenity and chaos. Thus, these images visualize the transitional geography, culture and iconography of this riverside terrain, and the impacted visual journey of the artist’s retun to his birthplace.

The vast panorama of the exhausted riverbed is seen in ‘There Was a River There…’, a monumental and imposing painting of what Krishnan once viewed as one of the most legendary and beautiful rivers in southern India; in the collective memory of the region – and indeed that of the artist.

For generations Nila’s waterways shaped the culture and lives of those in South Malabar, and the artist’s home state Kerala. Yet, the bleak contemporary existence to which this once powerful icon of India’s cultural and natural history has been diminished leaves his images – like the river itself – stranded somewhere between memory and actuality; between our shared perceptions of the past and the tangible yet continually shifting realities of our present and future.
(Information courtesy: Aicon Gallery, New York)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A solo of recent works by Tejal Shah

Tejal Shah is a visual artist based in Mumbai. Her work like herself is feminist, political and queer. A solo exhibition of her recent works takes place at La Centrale Galerie Powerhouse, Montréal in Canada. Here is the artist's take on her works on view:
“The Incidental Self
I saw her, sitting there
stuffing her mouth with snow

the mirror glinted
a blind reflection

No task too big
nor anything as such

Are you saying that, "nothing happens by chance?"
I nod.
But I am conflicted for a while now,
what does that mean?
It sounds a bit too fatalistic or karmic…

How should I explain that I am born Kurdish?
or that I lost an eye to the land mines, playing in the fields outside Phnom Penh

What constitutes yours and mine?

We own a home together
have two dogs together
a joint bank account
and a shared mortgage

what more do you want from me?

What constitutes good design?

Can you hear me even when my words are borrowed?
Do I burrow a hole in your back, as I lie silently aligned to your vertebrae?

I jump and hop all over you.

For Christ's sake, give me a break.

I never felt so relieved before
until you severed the blood ties
that connected us
as Frida was to her twin or
the dancers of Era Mela Mela.

Never you cease to amaze me.
I am talented, so fucking talented
you have no idea

I prise the door open
open beer bottles with lighters
and mere teeth

I just wanted to say it out loud like my friend did -

Like it or not, I am partaking in what I think of as a supreme
form of art
and you can just go and fuck yourself if you don't like it

What care?”
(Sourced from the artist statement accompanying the show courtesy La Centrale Galerie Powerhouse, Montréal)

An eclectic selection of quality works by Tyeb Mehta and others at a major auction

Saffronart, one of India’s leading online auction houses, will have on offer an eclectic selection of quality works by both contemporary artists and modern masters. The works form part of its annual Summer Online Auction for Art.

Another key modern work on offer at the auction is ‘Untitled (Kali)’ from 1998 by Tyeb Mehta. An associate of the Progressive Artists’ Group (PAG), his career encompassed several decades, media and styles.

Born in the state of Gujarat in 1925, his early forays into art were as a cinematographer in the backdrop of the World War II. Later, in part since the riots and violence during the Partition circumscribed his activities, he took up painting, joining the Sir J.J. School of Art in Mumbai.

The artist uses this work to question the role of unabated violence prevailing in society and in their own individual lives. In fact, from very beginning in his career, manifestations of struggle, survival and violence came to hold a rather deep meaning for him. Given his own experiences, one of the core concerns of Tyeb Mehta’s art practice is almost-endemic and the profound nature of human suffering.

Summer vacations with his grandmother spent in Kolkata apparently provided him with early streak of inspiration to employ the figure of goddess Kali as a motif of the inbred, societal violence that the artist decried. Later, in the mid 1980s, residency at Santiniketan fortified its presence in his art.

For Tyeb Mehta, she was not only a portent of the end of violence and a harbinger of destruction. One of just six paintings of Kali the artist did, the present lot starkly brings out both the creative and destructive forces, the vengeance and the forgiveness her figure stand for. This 1998 canvas, the last one he did as part the series, is in a palette of olive green & brown.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Raza and works by other artists on offer at Saffronart’s 2011 Summer Auction

With a total of 65 lots on offer, the event will take place exclusively at on June 15 and 16.

Saffronart’s 2011 Summer Auction of Modern & Contemporary Indian Art indeed hosts some noteworthy masterpieces of proven provenance and exceptional quality. It includes a wide array of works - paintings, sculptures and installations by top Indian artists like Tyeb Mehta, SH Raza, Jogen Chowdhury, G. Ravinder Reddy, Manjit Bawa, and Jitish Kallat, among others.

Other highlights of this online sale are paintings by FN Souza, Bharti Kher and Anju Dodiya. Among the major highlights of this online sale is an exquisite painting (‘Carcassonne’, 1951) by SH Raza. After he moved to France in the 1950s, the master painter started to experiment with orchestration in his works utilizing as elements of construction the rural France houses and churches.

These new landscapes sans human presence did not denote any particular time or place, though they were largely inspired by the French countryside. One of the citadels that he happened to visit on his sojourns through the country and painted was Carcassonne. It’s the first of two known painting he worked on after traveling to this French town in Languedoc-Roussillon’s southern region.

Here, SH Raza comes up with a tightly composed landscape viewed from over a dark roof in the foreground, as if flattened against the gray-blue sky enveloping it. SH Raza’s early watercolor landscapes, done in the 1940s, apparently had a fluid feel, ‘Carcassonne’ displays a different handling of structure and composition, as well as a deft change of medium influenced by a meeting with the famous French photographer, Henri Cartier-Bresson.

Some of the significant contemporary highlights of the auction catalogue are iconic ‘Gopika’ by G. Ravinder Reddy from 2003; bindis & velour fabric done on painted wooden panel (‘Rugged Terrain’, 2007) by Bharti Kher; and an important painting (‘War Dance’) by Jitish Kallat.

Paris based Duboys Gallery presents ‘This Is Not That’

Binu Bhaskar, Fabien Charuau, Neil Chowdhury, Pradeep Dalal, Dhruv Dhawan, Soham Gupta, Swapan Parekh, Zubin Pastakia, Brijesh Patel and Mahesh Shantaram are the photographers who feature in a group show at Gallery Duboys. It's a new contemporary art venue located in the core art quarter of Paris.

The show at the innovative art space is its curators’ reading of what’s exactly happening on Indian photography scene right now. It’s an exercise that involves putting together photo artists who are intimately engaged with their themes and subjects, in a transparent reflection of how life in the country engages the people.

The participating artists are all linked together by their deft handling of reality and acute empathy for their subject matter. A curatorial note elaborates: “This is a precise photographic approach where they probe reality as a fragment of a much larger and highly complex whole. Instead of recording what’s perceived as real, this approach is rather a preoccupation with the twisting, and the subsequent testing of today’s so-called reality. It is a vision shaped by a certain mode of looking at the world, which tends to take partial reality for granted.”

‘This Is Not That = what is true hidden under multiple layers of illusion...’ is how the spirit of this photography show can be summed up. Underlining the premise of the show, an accompanying note explains, “It’s rooted in a photographic approach wherein the artist happens to probe reality in-depth. Rather than an effort to reproduce what the eye gets to see, the artists begin with no set rules, exploring things in a subjective way.

According to Fabien Charuau, the exhibit gives the participating artists an opportunity to move away from the diktats that have been imposed by curators mostly outside India, who attempt to make peculiar Indian offerings fit the long-standing clichés and stereotypes. Simultaneously, Paris based Centre Pompidou is hosting a major show of contemporary Indian art.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Contemporary Indian photographers in a Paris show- I

Dominique Charlet & Fabien Charuau are co-curators of a photography show in Paris, involving 10 talented contemporary artists from India at Gallery Duboys. Here is a quick introduction to the three of them:

Dhruv Dhawan is a documentary filmmaker and cinematographer living in Dubai. His work is distributed internationally and has been nominated for awards at Tribeca and Hot Docs. His first feature film, 'From Dust', was recognized by the United Nations for its relevance to human rights and issues of governance in the wake of natural disasters.

When he set out to capture people sleeping on the street, he knew he was dealing with sensitive subject matter. "Although these pictures look beautiful, the reality of them is not," The artist says. "A good night's sleep is a universal human need and the reason I have called this project, 'Mumbai: The city that never sleeps' is because these people cannot get a good night's sleep with trucks running by, bright lights in their face, rats gnawing at their feet."

Mahesh Shantaram lives and works in Bangalore. His primary area of interest lies in urban reality rooted in the here and now. He is working on a long-term photo book project that documents modern Bangalore as it goes through interesting times. Following a long hiatus away from home, he returned only to find himself having to resettle in a city that evoked memories, while at the same time, contradicted them. His photos are diary notes from a study of change observed in various neighborhoods of Bangalore city.

Neil Chowdhury's photographic and digital media work explores the relationships between individuals, their societies, and environments in different cultures. Currently, he is working on a project exploring his Indian heritage, entitled 'Waking from Dreams of India'. He is an assistant professor and director of the photography program at Cazenovia College, Cazenovia, New York.

Indian photographers at a show in Paris- II

A show in Paris at Gallery Duboys features 10 talented contemporary photographers from India. Here is a quick introduction to some of the participating artists:

Pradeep Dalal is an artist and writer. His work was recently included in exhibits at Higher Pictures in New York, the Herter Art Gallery in Amherst and at Aljira Center for Contemporary Art in Newark. He has also exhibited at the New York Public Library, Orchard, and ps122 Gallery, and at TART in San Francisco and the Vadhera Gallery in New Delhi. Dalal’s reviews and interviews have been published in ARTWURL, Teaching Photo, Village Voice, and EGO Magazine.

He is a recipient of the Tierney Fellowship, and has an MFA from ICP/Bard College and an MArch from MIT. He works at the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant Program, and is on the faculty at the International Center of Photography in New York.

Born in 1966, Swapan Parekh Studied photojournalism and documentary photography at the international Centre of Photography, New York. Parekh’s work has been published in Time, Life, People, American Photo, The London Independent, Der Spiegel, El Pais, among others. He has been on the jury of the World Press Photo Awards thrice in Amsterdam. His first solo exhibition of photographs, Between Me & I was shown at Photoink in Delhi, Chattejee & Lal in Mumbai and at the Foam Photography Museum in Amsterdam.

His work has been exhibited in several group exhibitions like Photographers in Asia: India: Tokyo (2007); Overseas, gallery Ske, Bangalore (2007); Really True! Photography and the promise of reality, Ruhrlandmuseum, Germany (2004); Century City, Tate Gallery, London (2001); Inferno Paradiso, Umea Museum, Sweden, (1999); Under/Exposed, Stocklom Underground; Xposeptember, Stockholm Fotofestival, (1998); India: A Celebration of Independence- 1947 to 1997, Aperture Foundation, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Indianapolis Museum of Art, Royal Festival Hall (London), Chicago Cultural Centre.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Artists who form part of a contemporary Indian photography show in Paris- III

Dominique Charlet & Fabien Charuau are co-curators of a photography show in Paris involving 10 talented contemporary artists from India at Gallery Duboys. Here is a quick introduction to the three of them:

Akshay Mahajan (b.1985) is probably best known for his portraits of India’s new urban youth - their lives, of stories told, of deception, of misplaced love, of lust, of wanting and of loneliness - show Indian life without embellishment, he explores another side of India; the place that he belongs to and understands.

His recent work focuses on another form of portraiture, that of personal histories. It explores the subjective truth of the moment or the performativity associated with the notions of being young: the imaginings of public and private personas. The work’s subtle formality is the product of intense and intimate observation, communicating a unique sense of time and place.

Binu Bhaskar explores the perpetual motion of humans living in cities around the world. The never-ending universal race to get somewhere or achieve something is captured in a series of highly evocative studies that illustrate the restless human psyche. He has a Diploma in Illustrative Photography (Fine Arts), Photography Studies College, Melbourne, Australia and a Bachelors Degree in English literature, Calicut University, India

Brijesh Patel has been nominated for Prix Pictet 3 in 2011.Based from London, United Kingdom, he is a freelance photographer specializing in editorial and documentary photography. His personal work reflects his strong interest in modern India, the social, economic and lifestyle changes that are being experienced by in excess of 400 million people. He has won numerous awards; the most recent are the Joan Wakelin Bursary from the Royal Photographic Society, and the Winston Churchill Fellowship award.

Kolkata based Soham Gupta is specialized in documenting social injustice and working with disadvantaged children, laborers and the homeless mentally ill. He works with the sole objective of witnessing and documenting injustice in today’s society and raise social awareness about issues that are often overlooked.

Summing up the recent Christie's auction results

The top ten works in the upcoming London sales of the international auction, house, Christie's are:
  • Atul Dodiya's ‘Father’

  • Untied (Figure on Rickshaw) by Tyeb Mehta

  • Jehangir Sabavala's ‘Whispered Intimations’

  • Untitled (Eclipse) - 3 by Jitish Kallat

Also on the top ten ladder are:
  • Untitled (French Doors) by FN Souza

  • Souza's 'Nude Metamorphosed Into Insect'

  • Souza's Landscape with Buildings and an Untitled (Flagellation of Christ) work

  • Nilima Sheikh's ‘Going Away’

  • Jagdish Swaminathan's Untitled (Bird and Mountain Series)
While the Tyeb Mehta work, bought reportedly by a European private collector, scaled a new price peak for the late artist (it fetched £1,973,250 for record against an estimate range of £800,000-1,200,000), artist Nilima Sheikh also created a new record for herself.

One of her artworks on offer got a price of £79,250 in comparison to an estimate in the range of £60,000-80,000. Atul Dodiya’s work received £265,250, comfortably crossing the estimated range of £150,000-250,000. Jitish Kallat got £145,250 (the estimated price was £120,000-180,000).

A Jehangir Sabavala work fetched an amount of £145,250 against an estimated range of £70,000-90,000. Souza's ‘French Doors’ was sold for £97,250, the ‘Nude Metamorphosed Into Insect’ was picked for a price of £85,250 against the lower estimate of £80,000.

A private collector from the UK purchased the ‘Landscape with Buildings’ for £85,250. The Untitled was also bought by a UK private collector for £79,250. Nilima Sheikh's record price, as mentioned above, stood at £79,250, while the Swaminathan work was purchased for £73,250 by an Indian private buyer, against the estimate of £50,000-70,000.

Christie's international director (Asian art), Hugo Weihe and the head of sale, Yamini Mehta stated, "The latest sale is historic in the South Asian Modern and Contemporary Art scene with the passing of Husain. It featured two lots by him, and both of them were well received. It was a fitting tribute to the great master. The success of late Tyeb Mehta work also reflects the continued demand for rare masterpieces."

Saturday, June 11, 2011

A spotlight on the curator duo of ‘This Is Not That’

Gallery Duboys based in Paris hosts an exhibition entitled ‘This Is Not That’ of contemporary Indian photography. Here is a look at the curators’ duo who has conceptualized the event:

Dominique Charlet has served as CEO of Getty Images and also as the director of photo-journalism agency Sygma Presse and Taïga Images. Charlet now serves as Photography Art Director of Duboys. His involvement in contemporary photography includes advisory role with various companies and institutions for their photography collections and related events.

On the other hand, for the last more than a decade, Fabien Charuau has been working from India on a host of photo journalism, portraits and photo documentaries. Besides a solo of a couple of collections at Matthieu Foss, he has showed his work at the Voies Off Festival, France, and the Pingyao International Festival, China.

Fabien’s visual identity is defined by the confluence of two cultures; the one he was born in and the one he lives in. As a Hindi-speaking French man who is married to an Indian and who has lived a third of his life in India, he can effectively be seen as a hybrid of the east and the west, having embraced one world without abandoning the other. In his life in Bombay, he lives with the similarities and contradictions thrown up by two very different civilizations.

His photos float in the current of his everyday life in a continuous, inconclusive journey. Be it his documentaries, photojournalism or portraits; his visual language is defined by the way he looks at the body. He responds intuitively to the infinite possibilities of form that the human body can create. His images conjure a pulsating vitality; as if colours, bodies and events are about to collide into each other. This vital chaos in his work comes from the deep impression that life in India continues to leave on him.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Events to celebrate Rabindranath Tagore's 150th birth anniversary

As part of the 150th birth anniversary celebrations of Rabindranath Tagore, ICCR has arranged the mega art-tour in Germany of an exhibition by Akar Prakar, entitled 'Enduring Legacy'. It consists of some exquisite paintings by leading and upcoming artists primarily inspired by Tagore.

The exhibition represents their view of it as perceived by them. Some of the facets covered are Rabindranath Tagore's pedagogue and also the impact of his art practice, poetry and philosophy on the younger generation of artists from India," Reena Lath, the director of Akar Prakar, mentions in an interview.

It aims at celebrating ‘the continuing relevance’ of the legendary painter-poet and also at encouraging the rich artistic creativity even among the younger generation, according to the director of ICCR (Kolkata), Reba Shome.

The organizers term it a landmark exhibit that is bound to make a major impact since the art showcased is of the highest quality in terms of content and form. It does not merely try to propagate false notions about Indian art and artists. The works are really wonderful, but not merely eye pleasing. Akar Prakar has tried to focus on the prevailing art scene in Bengal. The gallery has carved out an apt profile of their own, looking to sums up the art scene.

Meanwhile, a beautiful bust of ‘Gurudeb’ Tagore now adorns Jongno District in Seoul. A press release from ICCR notes: “Years before Korea was to get rid of foreign occupation, Rabindranath Tagore prophesied in one of his famous poems (The Lamp of the East) in 1929 that Korea would soon rise among the comity of nations like a star. "

As India celebrates the 150th birth anniversary of this great thinker and litterateur, the Republic of Korea partakes in the country’s joy by installing a bronze bust in the cultural heart of Seoul. The four feet high metal masterpiece installed in Daehangro is exquisitely carved by renowned Indian sculptor Gautam Pal. It has been gifted by the ICCR to Korea on behalf of the government and the people of India.

Portraying various facets of the female form

A group exhibition at Mumbai based Jamaat Gallery features works by artists Ajay De, Gautam Mukherji, Bharti Prajapati, Rajesh Srivastava, Rini Dhumal, Samir Mondal, Shankar Kendale, Shiva Sanjari, Senaka Senanayake, and Raja Segar.

These are 10 different artists who all depict the feminine form to be enjoyed and savored on view at Jamaat Gallery, Mumbai. Rini Dhumal from Baroda displays the divine feminine power. The divine faces that he depicts exude strength , knowledge and wealth that is associated with divinity. She prefers to paint in a variety of mediums such as inks, dyes, pastels, acrylic and gold leaf to create captivating canvases. A rich amalgam imparts a great texture and eye-catching composition.

Samir Mondal who is originally from West Bengal and now based in the city of Mumbai is counted among India’s best watercolorists. He works mostly on paper only. His colors create a symphony on canvas and as if flow to his masterly command. The fine medley of colors shows the intrinsic joy of the medium. His contemporary women are bold and beautiful albeit empowered and strong.

Senaka Senanayake again from Sri Lanka is a master in artist who works in acrylic and inks with immense fluidity on paper. He generally depicts the dancers in movement. Shankar Kendale is an artist based in Bangalore. He paints in oils on canvas mostly with a palette knife. The artist’s texturing and interplay of light & shadow that he creates both are indeed beautiful. Showing the rural woman engrossed in her own life is a sight to behold.

Shiva Sanjari originally from Iran is now based in India. The artist work exudes an influence of the French painterly tradition using charcoal on paper. Her fascination of the feminine form tends to exude a sort of Western slant and sophistication apparently of the European world.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Feminine Form at Jamaat Gallery, Mumbai

A new show of figurative paintings (Jun 5, 2011 to Jul 1, 2011) revolves around feminine form that has inspired creative minds down the ages, as an accompanying note states. “She is gentle and strong, coy and bold, pampered and hardworking, compassionate and merciless, calm and fiery, sober and merry. Several artists from India, Iran and Sri Lanka portraying the fascinating form in their own inimitable styles,” the write-up adds.

Originally from Kolkatta, Ajay De is now based in Mumbai. He has a command over the medium of charcoals on paper. His works in charcoal carry a hint of acrylic paint. The women he paints are gentle, yet pensive, and with expressive eyes.

Bharti Prajapati, an artist from Ahmedabad, is known to paint highly stylized female forms, using oils on canvas. The women have beautiful textures and are done in bright colors. Gautam Mukherji, an artist from Kolkata, works with acrylic paint on canvas. He is very much grounded in his culture. His homely women from West Bengal are quite evocative of the Badhralok, as evident in their languid movements, stylized clothes exquisite ornaments and elongated almond eyes. They are very much seeped in an indulgent mode.

Raja Segar from the island country of Sri Lanka has quite a distinctive style that can be termed ‘refractive’. The white light, as can be deciphered, fractures into beams of color. The women he paints are from working class, doing a multitude of tasks like plucking tea, feeding birds and nursing children. The works are acrylic on canvas.

Rajesh Srivastava who hails from Delhi again has a very contemporary look and feel. His unique approach and style is evident in the exquisite miniature works that have jewel-like faces. The faces he paints carry expressive eyes. The body akin to an aerial landscape abstract is done in muted colors. The compositions with mixed media on board are indeed fabulous.

The Feminine Form at Jamaat Gallery, Mumbai

A new show of figurative paintings (Jun 5, 2011 to Jul 1, 2011) revolves around feminine form that has inspired creative minds down the ages, as an accompanying note states. “She is gentle and strong, coy and bold, pampered and hardworking, compassionate and merciless, calm and fiery, sober and merry. Several artists from India, Iran and Sri Lanka portraying the fascinating form in their own inimitable styles,” the write-up adds.

Originally from Kolkatta, Ajay De is now based in Mumbai. He has a command over the medium of charcoals on paper. His works in charcoal carry a hint of acrylic paint. The women he paints are gentle, yet pensive, and with expressive eyes.

Bharti Prajapati, an artist from Ahmedabad, is known to paint highly stylized female forms, using oils on canvas. The women have beautiful textures and are done in bright colors. Gautam Mukherji, an artist from Kolkata, works with acrylic paint on canvas. He is very much grounded in his culture. His homely women from West Bengal are quite evocative of the Badhralok, as evident in their languid movements, stylized clothes exquisite ornaments and elongated almond eyes. They are very much seeped in an indulgent mode.

Raja Segar from the island country of Sri Lanka has quite a distinctive style that can be termed ‘refractive’. The white light, as can be deciphered, fractures into beams of color. The women he paints are from working class, doing a multitude of tasks like plucking tea, feeding birds and nursing children. The works are acrylic on canvas.

Rajesh Srivastava who hails from Delhi again has a very contemporary look and feel. His unique approach and style is evident in the exquisite miniature works that have jewel-like faces. The faces he paints carry expressive eyes. The body akin to an aerial landscape abstract is done in muted colors. The compositions with mixed media on board are indeed fabulous.

Husain: A protean maverick, a prolific artist

In an obituary to the iconic Indian artist, The BBC reported: “One of India's most famous artists, MF Husain, has died in hospital in London aged 95 after years of self-imposed exile. He had been unwell for several months.”

Art critic S Kalidas said Mr Husain was painting until two weeks before his death, and led a "full life". "He could paint anywhere - on the streets, in the studio. He was colourful, agile in mind and body. He was a fast thinking and fast painting man. I have never seen anybody paint so fast," he said.

“Maqbool Fida Husain was India's most iconic and prolific artist - and painted right up until two weeks before his death in London at the age of 95.”A New Delhi based writer on art & culture, Sudha G Tilak, wrote in The BBC News essay: “Husain was a protean maverick who embraced the free market, took to making cinema, angered Hindu radicals at home with his provocative work, gamely took leaving India in his stride, accepted Qatari nationality and loved fast cars, including a red Ferrari that he owned.”

"I have expressed only 10% - 90% is still inside. I don't think I will be able to do it, I think I have to take that with me to my grave," he had said in a recent interview. His peers and admirers marveled at the energy of this indefatigable painter - artist Anjolie Ela Menon says he "ran ahead of all of us - he had such energy".

So much so that he declared five years ago that he planned to work on ‘three major projects’: histories of Indian civilization, ‘other civilizations’ and a history of "cinema which is close to my heart".

When his admirers in India got worked up about his self-imposed exile, he calmly told an interviewer: "Nothing is stopping me; I can return tomorrow. But please know I remain an Indian painter whether I am painting in Paris, London, New York or Qatar..."

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Prominent artists whose works feature in the latest Christie's auction

Works by some of the biggest names in Indian and Pakistani contemporary art are to be sold by the British auction house, Christie's, on Thursday. The sale is led by this picture of a figure on a rickshaw by Tyeb Mehta (1925-2009) - one of the most significant works to come on to the market and expected to fetch up to £1.2m ($1.96m).

Leading the contemporary works is a painting, entitled ‘Father’ (1989) by Atul Dodiya (b 1959), which is expected to sell for up to £250,000. Mr Dodiya is regarded as one of the leading artists of his generation. This picture was part of his first solo show, which was autobiographical and reflected the influences of 20th Century greats such as Edward Hopper and David Hockney.

‘Idol Thief I’ (2006) by Subodh Gupta (b 1964) is, according to Christie's, "firmly rooted in the vernacular of everyday India". Buyers in Singapore, Hong Kong, the UAE, the US and Europe have expressed an interest in this work.

An untitled work by Jitish Kallat (b 1975) is expected to sell for up to £180,000. The artist is renowned for employing a bold and vivid visual language that is influenced by both Asian and European artistic traditions, along with popular advertising imagery.

Neha is exciting oil on linen work by Schandra Singh that is expected to be sold for up to £35,000. Ms Singh is based in New York and her large-scale paintings show people in relaxing situations "as a form of escape from distress".

Also being sold in the auction are less expensive paintings such as this work by Rina Banerjee. It is expected to sell for up to £12,000. Ms Banerjee is based in Manhattan in the US and her work has been exhibited at the Bronx Museum of the Arts and Whitney Museum of American Art. A work by Khadim Ali is also comparatively less expensive. Put together in gold leaf and signed and dated in Urdu, it is expected to make up to £8,000.

(Information courtesy: The BBC NEWS)

New Christie's auction that ‘represents the very best of South Asian art’

The British auction house, Christie's, is carrying out a major sale that presents the market with one of the most exciting groups of contemporary South Asian art ever to be offered at auction," according to Yamini Mehta, director of modern and contemporary South Asian art at the auction house.

A well-known artist whose works form part of the sale is Francis Newton Souza. This painting from 1958 is expected to fetch up £500,000. Executed during a high point of his career, it utilizes 'savage brushstrokes and a fiery palette while maximizing use of space by constructing a cityscape from a series of overlapping, highly-faceted geometric forms. The overall affect is one of fractured stained glass', Christie's experts say.

Some of the most sought-after works submitted to the auction by Mr Souza's family are a pair of paneled glass French doors (half of which can be seen above) that were once a prominent feature of his studio flat and are expected to fetch up to £120,000. Each door comprises 30 drawings which provide a montage of "windows" into the artist's imagination.

An important modernist work is an untitled piece done in 1955 by Akbar Padamsee (b 1928), an artist whose work has recently gained new momentum and weight on the international stage. This picture is expected to sell for up to £400,000. It is a rare and early work executed during his time in Paris.

Mention must be made of ‘Going Away’ by Nilima Sheikh. Apart from exhibiting her work in India and internationally, she has lectured on Indian art at many venues in her home country and internationally. Going Away is expected to fetch up to £80,000.

"The sale as a whole is expected to generate in excess of £4m and represents the cream of South Asian art," a Christie's spokesman has been quoted as saying.

(Information courtesy: The BBC NEWS)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

'Organics' as the core theme of a group show

Twelve Gates Art Gallery in Philadelphia presents 'Organics', a group show of works by Amina Ahmed, Delna Dastur, Ina Kaur, Antonio Puri, Gurpran Rau, and Nitin Mukul. The idea is to highlight the multifariousness of the organic art genre by collating organic works with different inspirations and origins - placed within the realm of the social and personal identity of the South Asian American art.

The force behind Antonio Puri’s work is the deconstruction of identifiable social labels to evaluate the idea of one's existence. Gurpran Rau creates surfaces, which evoke weathered walls that reveal underlying histories and denote passage of time. Nitin Mukul contrasts elements of ‘both the terrestrial and urban’ and employs forms that ‘refer to the worlds constituted by both the biological and social’.

The recurring elements in Amina Ahmed’s work are geometry, repetition and rhythm whereas the richly saturated colors of artist Delna Dastur’s are inspired by nature. Ina Kaur focuses on identity trapped in the continuum of cross-cultural negotiation. Amina Ahmed, a current member of the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts NY, presents an installation that explores pattern and measurement, working with the fivefold symmetry. Here Ahmed explores the way her work “organically unfolds and re-folds tracing the steps of an underlying path.”

Delna Dastur received her BA in Art History from Wellesley College and MFA from American University. She is currently a faculty member at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. and The Art League of Alexandria. Ina Kaur is a native of New Delhi and currently heads the drawing and printmaking area at the University of Tampa. Her work focuses on identity caught in the ‘continuum of cross-cultural negotiation.’

Juxtaposition is a major theme in Mukul's artwork. He uses a range of media such as painting, video, installation, and set design. Antonio Puri’s artwork is as complex as the idea behind them, using layers of veneers, glazes, and varnishes. Gurpran Rau is a San Francisco based artist. She studied art at New Delhi Polytechnic, La Sorbonne, The École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-arts (Paris), and Purdue University. ‘Organics’ features a selection of Rau's work that are organic mixed-media.

(Information courtesy: Twelve Gates Art Gallery, Philadelphia)