Sunday, July 31, 2011

'India section' in Prague

The 2011 Prague Biennale that opened for public viewing a few months ago, comprises three main sections – ‘Expanded Section’, ‘Art in General’ and ‘Focus Italy’.

‘Crossroads: India Escalate’ is a segment specifically devoted to the contemporary art from the country. It has been curated by Kanchi Mehta. One of the biggest and most keenly awaited art fairs in central Europe, this is the fifth edition of the biennale with a newly added India pavilion, in another indicator of the growing stature of the country’s rising stature in the domain of art internationally.

The four-month long event has given a place of pride to contemporary Indian art with a special pavilion that showcases about 50 works including paintings, drawings, sculptors, installations, and performance art by more than 20 senior and emerging artists including Sudarshan Shetty, Nikhil Chopra, TV Santosh, Riyas Komu, Gigi Scaria, Vivek Vilasini, Sarnath Banerjee, Monali Meher, and Shreyas Karle,

Among the artists featured, Charmi Gada Shah has conceived a façade for the art fair. Titled ‘Common Wall’’ the installation (4-ft-by-3-ft) is, in fact, part of a wall she chanced upon between houses in Miraj, a district in Maharashtra. The artist finds it quite fascinating how much one is able to learn about a house that gets demolished even by the remains of its façade. She found it a ‘very exciting’ experience to present her my work at the biennale. The feedback has been positive, she states.

Also on display as part of the India showcase is a 'donkey' by Sakshi Gupta made of fiberglass and sand, It apparently represents ‘one who has accepted the knowing that one doesn’t know'. The chance to show her art at the prestigious event means a lot to her, as she reveals in an interview. "It’s like an extension of myself being there."

It's a heartening fact that the contemporary Indian artists are getting the recognition and fame that is much deserved and long due thanks to prestigious exhibitions in Europe and other parts of the western world. The 2011 Prague Biennale is the most recent example of this trend.

Contemporary Indian art in spotlight at a prestigious biennale event

The ‘Crossroads’ section at this year’s Prague Biennale showcases many renowned and highly talented artists from India. Curated by Kanchi Mehta, it features some of the forms, themes and multitude of mediums explored by them.

Artists featured from India include Nikhil Chopra, Anita Dube, Minam Apang, Sarnath Bannerjee, Sonia Jose, Ranbir Kaleka, Sakshi Gupta, PS Jalaja, Monali Meher, Justin Ponmany, TV Santosh, Shreyas Karle, Riyas Komu, Tejal Shah, Shah Betancourt, Gigi Scaria, Charmi Gada Shah, Sudarshan Shetty, Shine Shivan, T Venkanna, Avinash Veeraraghavan, and Vivek Vilasini.

There is a definite line of thinking and process that links the seemingly disparate choices of artworks made, states the curator, who has made an effort to offer an overview of India's dynamic and thriving art talent from the new generation of artists. The curator obviously wants to represent the trajectory of contemporary Indian art and the way it is shaping, to move to an altogether different level. In the process, it is imbibing an array of influences from the life and people around, accepting them with an open mind.

Among the participating artists, Sarnath Banerjee, primarily a graphic novelist, creates work that reflects the subversive spirit or nature of the form. His installation of pencil drawings at Prague, ‘Middle-Class Hero’, narrates the tale of the legendary Marxist revolutionary, Che Guevara. The artist explains that the work looks to address the Left liberal movement’s hypocrisy,

According to him, the work is an attempt on his part to introduce an element of narrative that Indian art lacks. On the other hand, TV Santosh's engaging oil-on-canvas juxtaposes varied images and influences from the media with features, news, views and articles about the pro-democracy uprising in Egypt.

Through ‘Another Story from a City Square’, he tries to explore the way today’s news media is defining, to a larger extent, the relationship of an individual with the world outside. He has been quoted as saying: "News reports tend to act as our extended visions. They eventually become an integral part of our day-to-day experiences."

Saturday, July 30, 2011

A backgrounder to the 5th Prague Biennale

The proliferation of large-scale international recurrent exhibitions of contemporary art has been one of the most important recent transitions in the contemporary art world.

Intersecting new and existing networks, these exhibitions and the institutions that produce them have been responsible for considerably reshaping the contemporary art world over past twenty-five years. Over one hundred biennial organizations currently operate around the globe. They often share similar objectives, practices and considerations – from the curatorial and artistic strategies to political and economic agendas.

In this backdrop, The 5th Prague Biennale takes place in a new location, Mikrotechna Praha 4. With this new venue the significant event reconfirms its nomadic nature, remaining transgressive and ready to change its skin. Directed by Helena Kontova and Giancarlo Politi and curated by Nicola Trezzi, the event attempts once more to be a barometer of contemporary art of today by seeking new realities and emerging artists.

The main course of the 5th edition is again a large section devoted to painting titled ‘Expanded Painting’, seeking to propose a new season for international painting. The biennale presents unexpected visions from Canada, India and Scandinavia, original work from Italy and Germany, and extensive sections devoted to the Czech and Slovak Republics. As from the last edition, the Prague Biennale also features PHOTO.
The 2nd edition of PHOTO includes young and emerging photographers paired internationally with leaders from Central Europe.

The Biennale Foundation operates internationally as an independent organization providing a platform for contemporary biennial organizations and professionals within the biennial industry. It strive to establish contacts between biennial organizations and facilitates exchange of information, experiences and expertise within a GLOBAL NETWORK of partner organizations. The art body assists partner organizations to critically reflect upon their mission and to DEVELOP and implement the highest standards of practice.

The 5th Prague Biennale runs until September 11, 2011.

(Information courtesy: the 5th Prague Biennale website)

Friday, July 29, 2011

Rising popularity of hand-painted Bollywood memorabilia

If you ever wished to possess an accessory that reminds you of the biggest Bollywood blockbuster, Sholay, that can well become a reality. You can get a jazzy yellow hand-painted belt. Then there is or a Deewar t-shirt or the Mother India sling bag with some superb images painted on it.

You can now have those quirky ‘popular culture' fancy items for keepsake made specially by some of those very few original Bollywood poster painters. A dozen of them working for Indian Hippy. It’s a curious collective of the dying breed of poster & billboard artists from the Hindi movie industry. Mostly, Bollywood poster artists would get paid a fixed amount per sq ft of a banner. They were rendered jobless after the advent of digital printing in the nineties.

A majority of them had lost their source of livelihood, just performing some odd jobs at construction sites, and barely surviving. These days, they paint for peanuts for political rallies.
Now there is a ray of hope for them thanks to people like Hinesh Jethwani, the brain behind the collective that blends art, utility and nostalgia.

The bewildering hand-painted Bollywood memorabilia comes in different shapes and sizes. It can well be customized to suit your needs. There is no dearth of ideas ranging from wooden painted folding chairs to painted wallets, from captivating cushion covers to attractive tea kettles, from wonderful wall murals to customized, exquisitely hand-painted wedding billboards.

The painted billboards can act as a perfect backdrop for a family occasion. The objects can add a unique charm to your living room, for sure. On the other hand, Indigreen has on offer eclectic eco-friendly Hindi movie-based products and accessories. Bollywood poster artists design them.

The hand-painted merchandise has caught fancy of the Bollywood-crazy audiences especially the youths. The demand for such quirky accessories is fast growing. One reason could be their affordability. They are reasonably priced in the range of Rs 1000 to 5000 plus, depending on what you buy.

An art installation that erases boundaries between real and reel life

An intriguing installation piece plus elaborate photo booth by artist Srinivas Krishna in a cozy corner of TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto accompanies a retrospective of Bollywood icon Raj Kapoor, acknowledging his contribution to the industry. It demonstrates how his films deftly tapped into the aspirations and conscience among viewers in the milieu of a newly independent India.

The retrospective was held as part of the Indian Film Academy Awards (IIFA). As the artist explains, his idea rewinds to the then photo studio. Indians in the 1950s would have their best possible portraits taken, against a peculiar formal motif. The self-images signified what they aspired to – relive the characters onscreen.

The idea here is if photo studios are where they explored another dreamy possibility of existence, they would visit the cinema hall to explore similar such multiple possibilities. That’s what the filmmakers like Raj Kapoor offered to the public.

That’s the very theory or latent thinking the artist has tried to reconstitute. In his piece, the backlit Bollywood beauty has tilted her head, lips parted gently and her lover softly holding her cheek, a prelude to a tender kiss. And in this romantic moment, you find the lover’s face changing - no longer the legendary actor-director Raj Kapoor, as his face gets digitally altered. He turns into the filmmaker-artist, Srinivas Krishna, himself and the face at other times, morphs into common people.

The concept does have a novelty touch and feel to it: it’s like having your picture portrayed yourself in the role of a famous Hindi movie start, to fulfill that long cherished desire of yours! Next to a mini-cinema running scenes from Awaara and Shree 420, two of the filmmaker’s biggest hits is a high-tech photo studio.

Visitors can have their portraits in it, placed via Photoshop into everlasting images from Raj Kapoor’s landmark projects. It’s virtually the Photoshop equivalent of getting your photograph snapped with your face peeping through a round hole in a peculiar painted placard. This very idea makes the art project a unique one – as it erases the boundaries between real and reel life.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Brand building through art and Indian corporate world

Ancient as well as medieval monarchs, as is well-known, were the avid patrons of arts and culture to build some goodwill. Today, in keeping with the changing times, we perhaps need to substitute them with the corporate kings in the role of the patrons of the different forms of arts…

There has been a tradition of multinational corporations putting huge sums on arts and crafts. For instance, watchmaker Swatch is one of the major sponsors for the prestigious Venice Biennale. Financial institutions like UBS and Deutsche Bank patronize the art events on a regular basis. The Frankfurt headquarters of Deutsche Bank has close to 1,500 pieces of art on display. UBS has been a sponsor for Art Basel, Switzerland.

Generally speaking, the concept of art sponsorship is still at a nascent stage in India. But things are gradually changing. For example, as we have grasped in an earlier post, Infosys is already doing its bit in the domain of art by sponsoring an elaborate Indo-French art exhibition that looks to facilitate a cultural exchange for building relations between the nations and their people.

Infosys has sponsored the event, as it matches the company’s broad philosophy of cultural integration. According to the company, the aim is to boost the image further as a top Indian IT firm, though it not much to do with persisting negative sentiments prevailing about outsourcing, as the company does not face any such difficulties in France.

In a way, it’s a new way forward for any Indian corporate entity when it comes to brand building through art, some sort of a pilot, which is open to such ideas, although it would wait to see the effects created by the current show. According to renowned brand strategy specialist, Harish Bijoor, corporate India will pursue such initiatives more vigorously in the future.

Showcasing the country and its culture abroad gives a positive image to brand India as a whole. Whenever such a positive hue is given, a brand associated with it like Infosys, in this case is bound to gains. There’s bound to be a connect, one way or the other.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Berlin contemporary art scene & economics

Mitte, Berlin's oldest and innermost district, is, technically and sentimentally, the middle of the reunified city. In the 1990s, Mitte was shorthand for "art." And art meant the Oranienburger Strasse, Mitte's brief, straight thoroughfare, which once served as a magnet for artists and galleries, but has since morphed into an open-air mall.

Given over to food-court-worthy restaurants and high-turnover shops, it suggests cultural stagnation as much as urban renewal. There are still galleries hiding here. Sprüth Magers, one of Berlin's most prestigious galleries, reveals its location discreetly, with a small sign hidden inside a doorway.

Its relative unavailability is a reminder that Berlin has become a major contemporary art center, but contemporary art is hardly at the center of Berlin life. Important shows may go entirely unnoticed in local papers. And commercial galleries are more like warehouses, apparently empty except for the staff, and the occasional out-of-town collector.

With Germany's financial capital in Frankfurt, and industrial wealth spread throughout the west, Berlin has maintained a vicious circle of artistic appeal. No financial elite means no property boom, and no property boom means cheap studio space, and cheap studio space means ever more artists. Mr. Gaillard, who came here on a grant two years ago, decided to stay, he says, "for selfish reasons." He keeps a large apartment in the former east as a de facto warehouse.

Cyprien Gaillard, a young French artist who now calls Berlin home. "I need space for my archive," he says, referring to his collection of photographs and film footage, which he uses in multimedia installations. "And I'm a book collector. I need space, and I can't afford having such a space in Paris." About to turn 31, he is a rising star in the international art world, and he spends most of his time away from the city. "But it's really pleasant to come back." Berlin is "unambitious in a good way," he says.

Berlin likes to tout the names and numbers of its art scene, but the open secret is that artists tend to leave after a few years, if only to be replaced by other artists. Mr. Gaillard says he is here to stay, but he seems bound for something like superstardom. It's easy to imagine him, in the not-too-distant future, at home in a Berlin-size apartment in a Parisian arrondissement.

Infosys sponsors a major Indo-French art exhibition

Sponsoring an ambitious Indo-French art exhibition in Paris is the way of bridging and building cultural harmony in lucrative foreign markets for Infosys. In a major development in this regard, the company is promoting ‘Paris-Delhi-Bombay’, an ambitious exhibition at the Centre Pompidou, Paris. The idea is to boost its own brand image.

The Centre Pompidou is one of Europe’s largest museums for modern art. The show, conceptualized over two years by its president Alain Seban, tries to make a taste of contemporary Indian landscape available to the people in France. With 30 artists from India and 17 from France, Seban wants to facilitate a smooth exchange of culture for building long-term relations between the two. Finding it quite an appropriate match with the broad theme of cultural integration it wishes to push, Infosys opted to sponsor it.

However, art sponsorship in India is still at a rather very nascent stage, according to well-known curator Shwetal Patel, who points to more pressing matters and areas where they can use their CSR resources. Vice president & global head (SAP Practice) at Infosys, Rajesh K. Murthy, states that the company's move is aimed at bringing the two cultures together as part of a confidence building move for improving their image as an Indian IT firm.

Murthy added that sponsoring it had nothing to do with negative sentiments towards outsourcing, as they don’t face any such issues in France. It’s a new way for an Indian firm, some sort of a pilot, which is open to such ideas, although it would wait to see the effects created by the current show. An event of this nature, the company feels, has quite a few positive outcomes. An exchange of cultural ideas makes people follow each other better, and work more efficiently.

Another positive outcome for Infosys is indirect boost to its expansion plans by overcoming the culture and language barrier.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

France celebrates Indian art and culture with a rich rendezvous

This year, France is celebrating Indian way of living, the country’s rich art and glorious culture by offering itself as a vast canvas for eclectic expressions of art & culture with a very distinct Indian flavor.

Until 19th September, France is fully engaging itself in a unique cultural exchange.
Paris and Lyon both have come alive with fabulous expressions of contemporary Indian art with three 3 separate events, namely Indian Highway VI at the Musée d'Art Contemporain in Lyon, Anish Kapoor at The Grand Palais, Paris and "Paris-Delhi-Bombay.

The first exhibition is a unique concept planned out as a road movie across 3 continents. After London, Oslo and Herning, it has moved to Lyon. Works by over 30 talented artists are on view. ‘Indian Highway’ undergoes a curious transformation with each episode, ending with the unusual unveiling of a "grand scheme". The fourth episode is on display at Lyon till the end of this month.

Simultaneously, The Grand Palais sports a nave engulfed by a vaulted glass, iron & light steel ceiling that for the past couple of years has been the site for ‘Monumenta’, an exhibit featuring a massive installation work by a single artist each year. After Anselm Kiefer, Christian Boltanski and Richard Serra, Monumenta 2011 hosts Anish Kapoor. The UK-based artist of Indian descent works his magic in the huge 13,500 sq m nave of the Grand Palais.

He has used a range of materials such as polished mirrors, fatty wax or powdered pigments and concrete for producing a memorable and thought-provoking works. Considering the depth and appeal of his past endeavors, and many of the illustrious artists that have hosted by Monumenta, this installation-sculpture is a breathtaking showcase of the world-renowned artist's skills.

Last but not the least, The Centre Pompidou in Paris hosts ‘Paris-Delhi-Bombay...’ that works like a study of Indian-French society through a simultaneous exposure to both Indian and French artists’ works.

Contemporary Indian art is in much demand in Singapore

Gallery owners in Singapore are keen to promote the contemporary Indian art in the country. For instance, the Gallery of Gnani Arts curator and co-owner Vidhya Gnana Gouresan says it has taken time to establish the gallery which opened in 2003, and adds that they complement group and solo shows by Indian artists based in India with those of artists who are based in Singapore. The idea is to add to the local arts landscape and create new platforms for creative exchanges."

Ms Adiba Hashim, who plans to open a gallery in Singapore early next year, claims the market has space for more Indian art: "I feel the Government's efforts to promote the arts, Singapore's location and the art lovers it has been drawing make it the perfect place to launch a gallery. In keeping with global art trends, Indian art is much in demand in Singapore too."

But the best part about being in Singapore is the window it provides to various cultures. "In London, people are often concerned about the last train. The conversations in Singapore are a lot more relaxed. Whether I am at an arts or cultural event or at a dinner party with expats, I can access different worlds with ease," she says."I see Singapore as a rojak cultural facility, a bridge which connects so many different cultures of the world."

A news report by Deepika Shetty ( mentions: “Among the successful Indian artists based here is Ms Kumari Nahappan, an interior designer who became a full-time artist at the age of 37. The Malaysia-born Singapore citizen is well-known here and abroad for her paintings, sculptures, installations and mixed media work. Ceramic artist Madhvi Subrahmanian, who moved to Singapore from the United States, has had several successful shows here and in India.

Another artist Sunaina Bhalla, who moved here from Japan in 2003, has her work in several important collections. She says her initial years in Singapore were difficult and, after a few group shows here, she decided to concentrate on showing her work in India. Singaporean artist Manjeet Shergill, who became a full-time artist in the 1980s, agrees there are more avenues for artists now.”

(Information courtesy:

Sunday, July 24, 2011

‘Living Legends of Indian Contemporary Art’

The 2011 spring in France has been a memorable for India, taking its art and cultural scene to a new high. The French government has been celebrating since the beginning of the year ‘Indian Spring in France’, with a series of events of cutting-edge contemporary and modern art, visual art by the Indian masters and dynamic performing arts.

According to Jerome Bonnafont, French ambassador, the India ‘big bang’ will last through the whole summer in Paris till autumn". A project titled, ‘Living Legends of Indian Contemporary Art’, has been one of the high points of the exquisite showcase. It consists of docu-movies on the legends like Ram Kumar, Akbar Padamsee, SH Raza and the late M.F. Husain. The four documentaries have been produced by the Lalit Kala Akademi (LKA) and directed by Laurent Bregeat. An 80-year-old, Raza sits is known for his favorite form, the bindu.

Laurent Brégeat, a Paris-based director, has deftly brought to life the life and journeys of these most iconic Indian artists through his documentaries. The one of Raza is called ‘Raza: The Very Essence’. The 55-minute video-audio film is part of the series, commissioned by the LKA.

According to its director, Ashok Vajpeyi, there is not enough documentation on Indian artists of different eras, including the Progressives. The idea has been to build an authentic record of these veterans, their life, passion for art and struggles. Each documentary brings out the elaborate life sketch of the artist in spotlight, their studios, their way of life and their vision.

Though there are ample books and other text based resources that mention most of these aspects, the films do offer critics' viewpoint, the artists’ own perspectives and a chance to watch them at work. Along with contemporaries Husain, and Francis Newton Souza, he played a key role in carving out the forward-looking and path breaking progressive art movement. The director knows Raza and others well, so he was chosen to direct the series.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Art institutions world over keenly watching contemporary Indian art

India is experiencing dramatic socio-political transformation alongside remarkable economic growth. With a keen eye on the country’s past and an informed view to the future, the new-generation artists are responding to these changes, as they look to examine their social, political, economic and religious implications.

Their work often revolves around the outwardly stable economic and social situation that has brought India into international spotlight, at one level, even while capturing the travails of the common people– a byproduct of skewed progress, at another level. Impressed by the depth and maturity of their expressions, several prestigious museums now prominently display Indian art.

Here are a few instances:
  • The Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) houses preeminent collections of world art, including one of the most encyclopedic collections of Indian art in the US. Stretching its rich collection to the present era, the museum also hosted ‘Bharat Ratna’ (Jewel of India), a collection drawn from Mr. and Mrs. Rajiv Jahangir Chaudhri.

  • The Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA) based in Shanghai hosted a milestone exhibition, entitled ‘India Xianzai’ a couple of year ago. It was a ‘timely investigation of the increasing presence of contemporary Indian art in Asia, and the encounter between what really constitutes Indianness in the context of today’s art and 'global' community.

  • Massachusetts based Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) has established a unique international position as the possessor of a comprehensive collection that showcases both breadth and depth of stupendous Indian artistic achievement. It presents solo and group shows of modern & contemporary artists, insightful publications, and programs towards engendering appreciation of Indian art and culture.
The trend is largely being driven by immense curiosity among aware art lovers to explore India’s astonishing transition from a humble agrarian economy to an economic superpower with complex socio-political connotations as seen through the eyes of premier artists.

Their work reflects the real India, traversing pre-conceived notions and leading to a greater understanding of the depth and diversity of the country’s rich culture, new-found spirit and dynamic way of living, which is unique, yet universal even in its Indianness.

The growing presence of Indian art internationally can be attributed to its new-generation artists, who respond to the country’s socio-political, economic transformation and its implications.

Celebration and lament of a disintegrating world

London based Aicon Gallery presents a solo by Baiju Parthan, ‘Dislocation’ (Milljunction Part 2). The artist has stated: “Mumbai being a cosmopolitan city, consists of a floating population, of immigrants from various parts of the country. Each one of these communities and individuals has their own version of Mumbai as their recollection of getting to know and comprehend Mumbai.

"The most homogeneous/coherent recollection of Mumbai I have heard is of Bombay as a city of textile mills. During British raj it was called the Manchester of the east because of the textile mills. The typical Bombay chawl culture and the resulting ethos which get depicted as the Bombay in Bollywood movies belongs to this era of textile mills. (Chawls are one room tenement apartments with a common toilet where the mill workers used to live.)

"Then in 1982 there was a major mill strike and the mills shut down one by one. Today the mill sites and the chawls are being developed into premium residential towers. I have chosen to look at the vestiges the fast disappearing mill presence through a handful of icons. How the familiar is erased all the time to make way for the new. At the same time it is not nostalgia, but is a lament.”

The exhibition presents a suite of works. In some, different styles of painting exist within a single frame, in others it seems like two different time zones are pictured simultaneously. Parthan also subtly uses mirroring within some of the works and in others the surface is interrupted by dripping computer code. This gives rise to a dizzying sense of multiplicity. Parthan has said:

Parthan's new works are both celebration and lament, archaic and super-technological. His use of mirroring, time-lags and alternate realities suggests a world, or a mind that is disintegrating, the products of a restless gaze that never settles on one thing, or one time zone, for long.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Analyzing the increasing presence of Indian art on global canvas

A new generation of talented artists that is meticulously mapping these tumultuous transformation in their unique visual idiom are chiefly responsible for India’s artistic emergence.

Urbanization and migration create a major impact, leaving behind distinct class demarcations; geographical boundaries are being re-set and maps are getting re-drawn; urban centers are growing by leaps and bounds, whereas the separation between city, state and country has gradually blurred, generating visible fault lines.

Concepts of life and existence continually shift for many people, and their living conditions change rapidly. In this context, today’s consumerist society and a fast-expanding global market are often the focus of these socially sensitive artists’ work. It traces the myriad possibilities, tackles the complex challenges, and grasps the inherent risks involved in a new world order in which every event has multiple shades. Indian mythology and history are also the point of departure in many of them.

During the recent years, several contemporary Indian artists have received increasing appreciation globally. Through diverse forms of expression and perspectives they pose questions about what it means to live in present-day India - a country whose socio-economic growth and cultural development have been accompanied by tumultuous social changes. Many prestigious international fairs such as Art Basel and the Venice Biennale are featuring leading Indian galleries, recognizing the country’ artistic emergence.

To sum up, India’s fast flourishing contemporary art scene coupled with the recent economic upheavals have prompted critical questions related to culture and social structure in a nation caught between a dependence on global developments and an independent mindset.

Today’s generation of dynamic and socially aware artists demonstrates, on the one hand, a constantly changing cultural feedback related to their very roots; on the other hand they are very much interested in exploring new global visual idioms.

No surprise, the increasing presence of Indian art internationally can be attributed to their works that respond to the country’s dramatic socio-political, economic transformation and its implications.

The Harry Potter Tribute Exhibition

A new interesting art event, ‘The Harry Potter Tribute Exhibition’, is a captivating collection of work gathered through open submissions and private invitations, all e common love for all things Harry Potter. Opening the exhibition to coincide with the final Harry Potter film release, the exhibit features over 50 artists and nearly 100 tribute works in paintings, sculptures and installations.

Gallery Nucleus in Alhambra is hosting a collection of art essentially inspired by J. K. Rowling's wizarding realm. The tribute event features an array of works that reflect a fascination for all that is magical. The exhibit that continues until August, is the culmination of a compilation of work done over two years on the gallery's Harry Potter blog. Ben Zhu, one of the curators of this show, stated that they had selected the ‘higher-level fan art’. It features art from professionals like movie poster artist Drew Struzan, Mary Grandpré, known for illustrating the bewildering book covers of the Harry Potter novels’ US editions, and Disney artist Bill Perkins,.

Another curator Wade Buchanan quipped: "The thing I noticed about the exhibit is that most everybody who contributed to the show is a fan. Every piece that has some sort of endearing virtue to me is there. It is not just somebody like, 'I am now going to do a themed piece on Potter.' You can well know that they are all sincerely a fan, inspired by it. It is like small details in the pieces, which stand out, that maybe only avid fans would pay attention to."

The gallery is renowned for its several offbeat events as well as themed shows that it conducts like ‘Edward Scissorhands’, 20th anniversary tribute show in April, and ‘Zombies in Love’ hosted last year that included zombie-themed art, live performances and a zombie walk. The immense appeal and craze of Harry Potter is why it decided to create the Hogwarts-themed show.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A show that traces intriguing Indian film art history

Toronto based Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) is hosting the much awaited and much talked about North American debut show of Bollywood Cinema Showcards. It revolves around Indian film art of more than three decades right from the 1950s to the mid-1980s. It’s an enchanting visual journey through the glorious history of Hindi movie poster advertising.

The show has been conceived by the Institute for Contemporary Culture (ICC) at the ROM premises in collaboration with the Hartwick Collection. The show is on view in the special exhibit gallery on the Museum’s Level 3 until October 2, 2011. It coincides with another major North American debut of IIFA (International Indian Film Academy) Awards in Toronto. The two events provide a significant historical context to new-age Bollywood Cinema.

The showcards also contribute to the celebration of 2011 in Canada as the Year of India, designated by a India-Canada bilateral treaty. The show embodies the quirky style of India’s cinematic culture with a dazzling display of rare, vintage images – colorful hand painted collages specially commissioned to advertise a newly released film, originally shown in display cases outside theatres.

The ROM invites visitors to experience the diversity and beauty of the South Asian sub-continent. The Sir Christopher Ondaatje South Asian Gallery is first and largest museum gallery in Canada primarily devoted to this culture, with more than 350 objects in thematically organized areas like religious objects and sculpture, arms and armor, miniature paintings, textiles spanning and decorative arts over 5,000 years.

The Institute for Contemporary Culture is the renowned museum's window leading to contemporary societies. Playing a major role within the historical, it examines current socio-cultural and political issues throughout the modern world in thought-provoking exhibits of contemporary art, architecture & design presented in different galleries. In addition, several public events like lectures, debates, performances and film series further explore certain relevant themes that form part of ICC exhibitions.

A series of public events, lectures, and performances will accompany the Bollywood Cinema Showcards exhibition that traces Indian film art history.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Bollywood Cinema Showcards exhibition in Toronto

The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) is hosting the much awaited North American debut show of Bollywood Cinema Showcards. It revolves around Indian film art of more than three decades right from the 1950s to the mid-1980s. It’s an enchanting visual journey through the glorious history of Hindi movie poster advertising.

The show has been conceived by the Institute for Contemporary Culture (ICC) at the ROM premises in collaboration with the Hartwick Collection. The show is on view in the special exhibit gallery on the Museum’s Level 3 until October 2, 2011. It coincides with another major North American debut of IIFA (International Indian Film Academy) Awards in Toronto. The two events provide a significant historical context to new-age Bollywood Cinema.

The showcards also contribute to the celebration of 2011 in Canada as the Year of India, designated by a India-Canada bilateral treaty. The show embodies the quirky style of India’s cinematic culture with a dazzling display of rare, vintage images – colorful hand painted collages specially commissioned to advertise a newly released film, originally shown in display cases outside theatres.

The ROM invites visitors to experience the beauty and diversity of the South Asian sub-continent. The Sir Christopher Ondaatje South Asian Gallery is Canada's first and largest museum gallery devoted to this culture, with over 350 objects in nine thematically organized areas including religious objects and sculpture, decorative arts, arms and armour, miniature paintings and textiles spanning over 5,000 years.

The Institute for Contemporary Culture is the museum's window on contemporary societies around the globe. Playing a vital role within the historical museum, it looks to examine current socio-cultural and political issues throughout the modern world in thought-provoking exhibits of contemporary art, architecture & design presented in different galleries. In addition, several public events like lectures, debates, performances and film series further explore certain relevant themes that form part of ICC exhibitions.

A series of public events, lectures, and performances will accompany the Bollywood Cinema Showcards exhibition.

Celebrating ‘Year of India’ with an interesting movie showcards exhibit

Bollywood has been deeply enrooted to the cultural traditions of the East. Keeping this in mind, The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) is celebrating ‘Year of India’ with an interesting exhibit revolving around bewildering Bollywood History.

The Institute for Contemporary Culture (ICC) presents North American debut of Bollywood Cinema Showcards: Indian Film Art from the 1950s to the 1980s. According to Dr. Deepali Dewan, ROM curator of South Asian Arts and Culture states, the exhibit provides a chance to explore and witness the amazing evolution of a specific form of advertising avenues primarily associated with the mainstream commercial cinema that is centered around Mumbai.

A museum official has been quoted as saying, “These cards combine paint and photography. They present a unique aspect of superb South Asian visual culture. These originally produced by local artists, the showcards used to be thrown out at the end of a movie’s run usually. It’s indeed remarkable that the collection has managed to survive at all.”

During this time period also on view is another interesting exhibition, entitled ‘Embellished Realities: Indian Painted Photographs from the 1880s to the 1940s.’ This show brings together about 75 works drawn from the permanent collection of ROM that has been not been shown in public before. Produced from the onset of photography in India in the 1840s, the focus is on photographic portraits almost totally covered with paint for enhancing the subject. By mixing the technique of photography and the art of painting, the artists then created a genre of special Indian visual culture.

The works remain a precursor to Bollywood showcards, as the intriguing concept of enhanced photos and embellished realities to complement the realm of fantasy created by Bollywood. ‘Embellished Realities’ is on view in the H.H. Levy Gallery, Level 1, until March 2012. Together with Bollywood Cinema Showcards, these two exhibitions present a 100-year survey of Indian visual culture related to the Indian photography and film industry.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A show that helps us to discover Indian realities as well as imagined lives

One major takeaway from the lavish ‘Paris-Delhi-Bombay’ exhibition by around 50 Indian and French artists at Paris' Centre Pompidou running until September 19 is that India-centric and Indian-inspired art does not fit into neat compartments. But that has not deterred its curators from the ambitions of explicating view of contemporary India through art and looking to seek correspondences between the French and Indian visual languages.

But the converse happens instead and it tends to accentuate differences more than similarities. While French artists have an established aesthetic, their Indian counterparts look to rewrite rules and challenge clichés, as they do from a country deep in the throes of economic and social transformation.

Mapping the exhibition and its takeaways, an essay by Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi in The TIME magazine (Indian Summer at Centre Pompidou) mentions: “There is nothing conventionally Indian, for example, about artist Sunil Gupta's photo-essay Sun City. In the series of exquisitely staged images, an Indian man takes on a white male lover and transgresses sexual norms in a revealing work about sexual subterfuge as the postmodern obsession with identity.

"A video installation by Amar Kanwar, The Scene of Crime, tells a tale of industrial greed and environmental degradation in eastern part of India. It’s a brilliant reworking of forms of narrative - a book of handmade paper carries text printed on one page whereas images pour over the opposing one from an overhead projector. The quietude of words tends to unite with an opera of images.

“Contributions from female artists are rather cosmopolitan and defiantly personal. Cocky images of historic female characters by Pushamala N feature consummate usage of light. An unnerving Silence (Blood Wedding) by Anita Dube comprises 13 odd talismanic and eerie objects that resemble flowers and necklaces, and echo themes of loss & fertility. A sublime installation of metal automobile parts vy Sakshi Gupta arranged in the geometric patterns of a rug evokes India’s industrialization."

‘Paris-Delhi-Bombay’ helps viewers discover Indian realities as well as imagined lives.

Key aspects to consider while building a quality portfolio

Each artist and his or her works make for their own supply-and-demand equations. Critical factors like who previously owned it; who's keen to buy the work; which gallery/ museum showcase them; and, of course, who's selling them and at what price matter.

Bear in mind the fact that art marketplace is not for speculators. One should gather as much knowledge and insight as possible of the artist one is interested in. Grasp finer aspects of select artists’ work with potential. If you choose well, the value of the work acquired could well jump in matter of a few years.

Don't get so attached to it that you would never weigh the option of selling piece. First and foremost, decide whether you want to be a medium-term investor or a long-term collector.

If you don't have the time, or inclination, to do the fieldwork and trail around an array of galleries, you can approach professional advisors. Seeking their expertise means there’s an implied assurance that the work is of a long-term value irrespective of the market vagaries.

The specialists will devote requisite time, energy and research, to suggest you some of the best names. They constantly visit the art colleges, attend art fairs, take part in seminars, talk to scholars, are in touch with market participants and check auction records to find artists who are likely to do well in future.

Based on their study, they build a database of quality artists to invest in with the potential to offer good returns. Their advice will help you to tap the immense potential of art as a rising asset class. In case of an emerging artist with loads of talent, albeit yet to be discovered or fulfilled in terms of market potential, the prices are obviously more affordable.

It makes sense to buy work of lesser known names with immense talent. Potential purchasers, in most cases, are offered privileged access and would, in all probability, be not likely to find it easily through commercial art venues.

Visual art isn’t the only cultural realm that is expanding.

Singapore’s newest arts area has grown to include about a half-dozen galleries in the last few years, including Ikkan Art International and Light Editions that displays regional photography. Housed in a bustling warehouse that serves the neighboring container port but is only ten minutes by taxi from the central business district, the unadorned space with its freight elevators and exposed pipes certainly looks right for the part of avant-garde art hub.

Visitors get to see art that ranges from work by young regional artists to aboriginal masters before slurping down a bowl of the famed, pungent bak kut teh (pork-rib soup) at the Outram Park Ya Hua Rou Gu Cha coffee shop, a five-minute walk away.

A cadre of young Singaporeans is striking out on its own to begin independent boutiques and fashion labels to prove that there is a distinct Singaporean identity, far from the malls, observes Naomi Lindt, The New York Times writer in a travel essay (Expanding the Cultural Realm in Singapore).

“In Singapore, creativity is no longer frowned upon,” said Kenny Leck, who became one of the movement’s pioneers when he abandoned a career as an accountant and opened BooksActually in 2005 with Karen Wai, his business partner. Filled with the pair’s collection of vintage typewriters, cameras, accordions and toys, the shop is the kind of place that can’t keep magazines like Monocle and Granta on the shelves.

With the goal of fostering a salon-type atmosphere, BooksActually regularly invites emerging artists, authors and playwrights to hold events and readings at the shop, recognizing that many of them have nowhere else to go. Events are advertised on the store’s Facebook page and a blog.

Bolstered by its slow but steady success, the store recently moved to Yong Siak Street in the up-and-coming residential neighborhood of Tiong Bahru, also home to the White Canvas art gallery, whose exhibitions are accompanied by artist-led talks and dinners, and Strangelets, a quirky design shop.

Monday, July 18, 2011

A public-private partnership to enhance Singapore’s cultural profile

A decade ago, visitors interested in art and design were, for the most part, limited to contemporary-art-shy commercial galleries and exhibitions at foreign cultural centers like the Goethe-Institut or Alliance Française.

There were — and still are — institutional options like the National Museum of Singapore, the Singapore Philatelic Museum and the Singapore Art Museum, which became the city-state’s first visual arts center when it opened in 1996 (and will remain as such until the National Art Gallery, Singapore opens in two years), points out Naomi Lindt of The New York Times in a recent article.

As for local fashion design, it barely existed; most people shopped at brand-obsessed malls. True to its hands-on, centralized nature, the government believes it can change this image. With the stated goal of turning Singapore into a ‘global arts city’ by 2015, it has invested more than a billion dollars over the last 20 years in new museums and cultural institutions like the $487 million performing arts center, Esplanade and SAM at 8Q, a space dedicated to cutting-edge work at the Singapore Art Museum.

It has lured starchitects like Moshe Safdie and Norman Foster to build glittering new hotels like the Marina Bay Sands and the Capella Singapore, and recruited the art world icon Lorenzo Rudolf to organize Art Stage Singapore, an Art Basel-like event that debuted in January. Some 32,000 visitors showed up to see works by artists including Anish Kapoor, David LaChapelle and Takashi Murakami.

While the government of Singapore is luring international artists and architects, local gallery owners, artists and entrepreneurs are finding innovative ways to nourish homegrown art and fashion and, at the same time, challenge the image of a buttoned-up Singapore, better known for its sparkling high-rises and mall culture than an independent arts scene.

Where to see art in Singapore
  • Light Editions, 39 Keppel Road; (65) 6223-1102 (by appointment);

  • Ikkan Art International, 39 Keppel Road; (65) 9088-7056;

  • Rojak: Information at

  • Post-Museum, an independent performance-gallery space with an attached vegetarian cafe in Little India. 107 Rowell Road; (65) 6396- 3598;

  • Valentine Willie Fine Art, 39 Keppel Road; (65) 8133-1760;

  • White Canvas, 78 Guan Chuan Street; (65) 6220-8723;

Singapore’s changing art and cultural profile

Called a ‘cultural desert’ too many times to count, the Lion City has never been associated with the thriving art and design scenes of places like Jakarta or Bangkok. Rather, it’s seen as a bastion of sanitized, chewing-gum-free efficiency, admired for its modernity and order in otherwise chaotic Southeast Asia.

Tracing Singapore’s changing art and cultural profile, The New York Times essayist, Naomi Lindt, mentions: It’s a place where creative expression hasn’t been cultivated. In efforts to protect its power, the People’s Action Party, which has dominated politics since the republic’s establishment in 1965, has enforced strict speech laws that affect everything from freedom of the press to performance art.

Such entrenched stodginess, critics say, has come at the price of authenticity. The Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas infamously used Singapore to illustrate his term the “generic city” in a 1996 Wired interview, and even Lee Kuan Yew, the former prime minister, said that a Singaporean culture was unlikely to emerge anytime soon, according to an article in The Straits Times in 2006.

Many of those involved in the independent cultural scene — including Rojak’s 34-year-old founder, the architect Torrance Goh — are working on a grassroots level to create an authentic cultural identity for the city-state.

“Many Singaporeans are playing with new ways of examining themselves, and I wanted to create a platform for that,” said Mr. Goh. “The system doesn’t allow for spontaneity, so we are bypassing the patronage network and doing it ourselves in overlooked, public spaces.” Other recent locations of the six-year-old event have included the offices of an ad agency and a backstreet in the Little India neighborhood.

Chun Kaifeng, 29, an artist whose intricately assembled installations of mundane domestic scenes earned him the Singapore Art Exhibition Prize in 2009, recently participated in a group show organized by Valentine Willie Fine Art entitled “Beyond LKY,” which examined life after Mr. Lee, Singapore’s most powerful figure. The Valentine Willie gallery is one of several contemporary art spaces that have recently popped up in a warehouse in the Tanjong Pagar Distripark.

In fact, a series of exhibitions are featuring paintings, drawings, installations and photographs that explore topics like the immigration and national identity, something that can incur fines and prosecution by the government.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

A show of contemporary Indian art slated later this year in Italy

A new proposed exhibition at MAXXI, the National Museum of XXI Century Arts in Rome is set to offer a vast representation of the creative panorama of one of Asia’s largest regions later this year to reflect the economic, social and cultural developments of the past two decades.

Beginning with the definition of the highway as an element of connection between the migratory flows moving from the periphery towards the city, Indian Highway speaks about technological development, the economic boom and the growing global centrality of this subcontinent in the world of the arts since the 1990s.

The exhibition (22 September 2011 - 29 January 2012) is an itinerant collective show that, through a vast selection of works, presents the multiform panorama of the Contemporary Indian artistic scene. Indian Highway offers an exciting opportunity to learn about Indian artistic research and constitutes the first investigation by an Italian museum of the art of this fascinating country.

It is curated by Julia Peyton-Jones, Hans-Ulrich Obrist and Gunnar B. Kvaran together with Giulia Ferracci, Assistant Curator MAXXI Arte, and organised in collaboration with the Serpentine Gallery, London and the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, Oslo, Norway.

MAXXI, the National Museum of XXI Century Arts, is the first Italian national institution devoted to contemporary creativity and conceived as a broad cultural campus. MAXXI is managed by a Foundation constituted in the July of 2009 by the Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Activities and houses two museums: MAXXI Art and MAXXI Architecture.

The programming of the activities – exhibitions, workshops, conferences, shows, projections, educational projects – reflects MAXXI’s vocation as a place for the conservation and exhibition of its collections but also, and above all, a laboratory for cultural experimentation and innovation, for the study, research and production of the aesthetic contents of out time. The MAXXI building is a major architectural work designed by Zaha Hadid, located in Rome’s Flaminio quarter and featuring innovative and spectacular forms.

Pulp Art: The Robert Lesser Collection

In 1901 a group of nine artists and a businessman founded the Society of Illustrators with the object to promote the art of illustration and to hold exhibitions.

The 90 works on display at the Museum of American Illustration courtesy the society are now a part of the collection of the New Britain Museum of American Art, promised gift of Robert Lesser, who started collecting pulp paintings, comic books, and comic-character toys in the 1950s. As a student at the University of Chicago, Lesser’s literature studies combined with his fascination with popular culture kindled his interest in studying and collecting pulp art and comic memorabilia.

In 1975 he wrote ‘A Celebration of Comic Art and Memorabilia’, an informational collector’s guide; in 1997 he published ‘Pulp Art: Original Cover Paintings for the Great American Pulp Magazines’, a full-color collection of pulp paintings and history that includes expert interpretation.

The style of artwork created for pulp magazines is often compared to Norman Rockwell’s cover designs for the “Saturday Evening Post,” but the character of the paintings was quite disparate from Rockwell’s jovial depictions of everyday life. Pulp Art flaunted unsettling images of violence, racism, sex, and crime. The publishing houses that produced pulp fiction destroyed much of the artwork produced for the magazines after printing. The images weren’t suitable for display in homes or museums so artists and auctioneers deemed them worthless. Tens of thousands of pulp paintings were created, out of which only a small number survive today.

The virtual National Museum of American Illustration, where artworks from the ‘Golden Age of American Illustration’ and from other eras are presented in the ‘Gilded Age’ architectural frame of Vernon Court (1898). Visitors can appreciate our American Imagist Collection as a medley of beautiful pictures, but also as a historical overview of our unique culture.

These works sum up the country’s visual history, as if illustrating American civilization. The original paintings and drawings in the Collection were created for reproduction in books, periodicals, advertisements, and art prints. In the process, illustrators created iconic images, a mythology of history, and a virtual catalog of bygone styles and days.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Prayas Abhinav’s unconventional curatorial project at The Guild, Mumbai

The “sidereal time” along with its voice may transform into anything that it seeks – with tools like desire, recklessness and confusion towards this. Space then will be persuaded to take on many other contours, and will dream with the things it contains. The reason why perhaps time cannot be cast in any permanent mold – but for nostalgia, for some time!

We witness fracturing of our experience; into the time that that we sell to earn our keep and also the time we don’t. All is work time, what’s the “sidereal”? ‘If all time is eternally present, All time is unredeemable,’ - Buirnt Norton, T.S. Eliot

‘On The Sidereal’ is an unconventional project that takes place at Mumbai’s Guild Art Gallery from 18 to 26 July, 2011. The public exhibit will be on view from July 27 until August 28. Among the participating artists are Eelco Wagenaar, Amitabh Pandey, Asim Waqif, Kiran Subbaiah, Tahireh Lal and Prayas Abhinav who has also curated the project.

Prayas Abhinav is based in Bangalore.He has honed his art skills at the Center for Experimental Media Arts as part of the Srishti School of Art, Design & Technology in Bangalore. Having taught at the Srishti School, he has also been a researcher at s (CEMA), apart from being a faculty at Dutch Art Institute and Center for Environmental Planning and Technology. He has received fellowships from Sarai/ CSDS (2005), Center for Media Studies (2006), and Openspace India (2009).

His projects have been presented at Exit Art, New York (2010); Periferry, Guwahati (2010); Futuresonic, Manchester (2009); Wintercamp, Amsterdam (2009); 48c: Public Art Ecology (2008); Urban Climate Camp, ISEA (2008); Khoj (2008); Sensory Urbanism, Glasgow (2008); The Paris Accord (2006); and First Monday, Chicago (2006) among others. He has also taken part in the exhibitions like ‘Continuum Transfunctioner’, exhibit320 in New Delhi (2010); ‘Contested Space - Incursions‘, Gallery Seven Arts, Delhi (2010), and ‘Astonishment of Being’ at the Birla Academy of Art & Culture, Kolkata (2009).

Understanding the dynamics and mechanics of time

‘On The Sidereal’ is an interesting project arranged by Mumbai-based Guild Art Gallery. Curated by Prayas Abhinav, it is based on a premise that time is the material with which we can construct our waking experience.

What would we really make of it if the fountain of youth; eternity itself, suddenly lands up at the doorstep? Amidst things that surround us, we try to decipher meaning. And we exchange the time available on our hands with things we aspire for. Jung's Alchemist happened to seek a spiritual process within the world of material things. Things that rise above their very thingness to be nothing at the same time, were the desire and hope of many.

If that chase was to be cut short, what is it that we would replace it with? Time. Just empty time. Sheer void; a thing that falls into an infinite abyss… And for now, to stay with the curious process of knowing the abyss a bit better, we will term it ‘sidereal’. It sidesteps our knowing of multiple realities and universalities, in a way, but still forms a part of our existence and experience.

How do you then plug a void plugging a void?: R. D. Laing

What should we do after de-shackling time from its intrinsic commodity exchange value? Not many can bear naked time’s weight of. We seek to dullen, diffuse and fragment our awareness of it. Also, media creates a dreamy realm for our waking selves that placates us, offers us a sense of periodic piecemeal victory and look to keep us engaged, locking us in, and preventing our ‘sidereality’ to be brought to life.

Catharsis is achieved only from a liberal pollination of desires as well as use-values for our sidereal time lapse. Looking to camouflage a personal theatre on the inside with disengagement and boredom is a defensive tactic from the barrage of the tabloid newspaper and reality TV. It is obvious that the everyday & the mundane do hide a performance space of adventure, poetry and passion, in very private envelopes of time.

Friday, July 15, 2011

A rising interest in Web based art buying

Here are a few instance, suggesting the growing interest in Web based art buying:
  • The VIP Art Fair, a weeklong online event that mimicked the mechanics of a traditional art fair with virtual booths, attracted a large international group of blue-chip galleries last January and, despite some well-publicized technical glitches, was seen as a success by dealers and collectors.

  •, a venture that will use Pandora-like technology to help art buyers find pieces and the galleries selling them, has already lined up heavyweight supporters like the dealer Larry Gagosian and Jack Dorsey, a founder of Twitter. And most major auction houses also now allow online bidding for sales happening in the physical world.

  • The average price of an artwork won through an Artnet auction is about $6,800 now, up from $5,600 last year, which wouldn’t come close to paying the commission on most high-end auction sales. But Artnet is one of many companies that believe the time might finally be right for a sizable portion of the art market to begin migrating online, the way sales for specialized items like rare books and antiques already have.
Main reason for starting to buy through online auctions (one recent acquisition was a small Elaine de Kooning work on paper) for some has been the prices. An online art buyer explains: “My sense is that a lot of the sellers aren’t taking a haircut by having to go through galleries, and so those savings are coming to me.”

Artnet chief executive, Hans Mr. Neuendorf, said that while they operated in a different world from Sotheby’s and Christie’s, he believed that it had only begun to mine a huge swath of the secondary art market that will move onto the Web. “I think they’re very happy doing what they’re doing; we’re not even on their radar,” he said of the major auction houses. “And that’s good,” he added: “because it gives us time to catch up…”

(Information courtesy: 'A Resurgence in Art Buying Over the Web', Randy Kennedy of The New York Times)

Art buying online is reviving

Art sellers have been waiting for it to happen for many years. Sotheby’s tried online-only sales for lower-priced works in the late 1990s, but, like Artnet, it abandoned the initiative a few years later, convinced that buyers simply were not willing to pay four- or five-figure sums for art they had not seen in person.

In an insightful news report (A Resurgence in Art Buying Over the Web), Randy Kennedy of The New York Times, notes; “While online bidding and fairs and services like essentially serve as a digital bridge to bricks-and-mortar galleries and auction houses, Artnet officials say that much of the art market below a certain price level will soon operate almost entirely in the virtual realm.

Auctions on Artnet take place around the clock, eBay-style (though the lots close only on weekdays, so far), and the company vets sellers and relies on their photographs and descriptions of the provenance and quality of artworks. A buyer, who pays a 15 percent commission, usually sees only a single picture of the work and often doesn’t talk to the seller, who could be an art dealer, a private collector or an artist’s family. (Sellers pay a 10 percent commission.) After the auction, the buyer pays the seller, and the work is shipped.

“It’s one thing to point out to someone where they can find something and give them a gallery’s phone number,” said the company’s chief executive, Hans Neuendorf, referring to many other online art-selling services. “It’s another thing to make a sale online. That’s a sea change, in my opinion, and it’s happening.”

The CEO added that several factors led Artnet, a public company based in Berlin, with offices in New York, to venture back into the field. One was the comfort people have begun to feel with online commerce in general, he said. But the more important factor was the considerable increase in the last decade in the number of people who spend money on contemporary art as a pastime or as an investment.

(Information courtesy: 'A Resurgence in Art Buying Over the Web', Randy Kennedy of The New York Times)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Is online art rising up the popularity and demand scale?

Buyers tend to see online art sales as more accessible and transparent than sales in the gallery world, with its reputation, fair or not, for being a kind of exclusionary club. And as many online art vendors like to point out, there are far more $5,000 and $10,000 prints and photographs in the world than there are $50,000,000 Warhols changing hands at marquee auctions.

According to Michael Moriarty, the chairman of Skate’s Art Market Research, a consulting firm that closely follows Artnet’s business, his analysts had been skeptical about Artnet’s ability to make online auctions a significant part of its business.

In an analysis of the trend, Randy Kennedy, The New York Times writer, states in an article; “Artnet has long been known as the Bloomberg terminal of the auction business; it made its name even before the advent of the Web by building a database of historical auction prices that now numbers in the millions, on which collectors, dealers and auction houses like Sotheby’s and Christie’s rely.

“But the company’s online auction business has now moved more than 6,500 pieces, generating $2.5 million in commissions on $12 million in sales for Artnet in 2010, including a few high-dollar outliers, like a Richard Prince painting that sold for $295,000 (before commissions). The business is not yet profitable for Artnet, but the company says that is only because it has been spending considerable money to develop the auctions.

It projects that they will begin to turn a profit toward the end of next year. “Now it seems that the technology has reached a point, and the market has evolved to a point, where this kind of business is really gaining traction,” said Mr. Moriarty, a former lawyer for the Securities and Exchange Commission. Of Artnet, he added, “It’s not going to be long before they’re going to have to worry about a lot of competition.”

(Information courtesy: 'A Resurgence in Art Buying Over the Web', Randy Kennedy of The New York Times)

An artist who seeks inspiration from her experiences and socio-political concerns

Whether painting her own world, portraying her immediate realm (in the 1970s and ’80s) as her children grew up, or trying to engage with the burning issue of dowry deaths, in her sensitive serial folios, of a girl who died because of the indifferent of her marital family, Nilima Sheikh seeks alternative ways of expression.

The sensitive artist further counts the presence of parallel textual narratives as well as performative forms in her practice. She has also done illustrations for children’s books apart from painting sets and backdrops for dramas; quietly letting these experiences seep into her work: sometimes large, hanging captivating canvas scrolls richly painted on both sides and sometimes miniatures on paper. Through means like oral poetry tradition, folklore, contemporary historical annotations and her own experiences, she has explored the variables of varied feminine experiences.

The artist has stated: “I’ve no problem in (sharing) emotional views or using sentiment. For me it is important. But I also don’t wish to just put it out there on the wall, as something to be stared at all the time and amongst other things. I didn’t want to trivialize (the issue).” In a broader context, Nilima Sheikh maintains that she doesn’t reject modernism as a mode of our work, sensibility etc. However, there are some things one needs to find a way around, as she explains.

“Modernism does allow some freedoms, albeit it has certain closures. And I feel my job (as an artist) is to work around them - open up, open up & open up. In modernism, illustration is a bad word; so is sentiment and maybe even narrative. You open them up. So in a sense, that is the constant effort.

“Also with history, and certain stereotype in artistic expression: of for example, a lovely tree with a moon hidden behind it. That would appear one of a worst order to depict something romantic, but therein lies the challenge as one needs to ‘uncorrupt’ it so form has been a significant aspect of my artistic struggle, in a way, to say something. The choice is part of the whole context and content. One must be striving to constantly change them; they are not necessarily fixed things, and need to be reread and reactivated, she sums up.

Ravaged landscape of picturesque Kashmir inspires this sensitive artist

Though Nilima Sheikh grew up in the capital city of India, Kashmir has invariably had a place in her heart. Incidentally, she spent her early years in the land, blessed with pristine beauty and cursed with endless violence, and had shared a sort of curiously vexed relationship with it. Nilima Sheikh’s series ‘Each Night Put Kashmir in Your Dreams’ took eight long years to fructify.

The show almost got shelved. As its opening neared, the Kashmir Valley flared up in fresh violence. The distraught artist decided to cancel the event, asking, ‘what meaning does it really have, given the reality?’ However, photographer Ram Rahman and others Sahmat members made her to change the mind. Commenting on the complex history of the state, she states, “The turmoil is owing to our lack of understanding (of the place and people there) as Indians. For example, even while most of us know about Kashmir’s rich Hindu and Islamic heritage, few are aware of Buddhism’s deep imprint of there. The artist’s role is to bear witness - to both the past and present.”

For several years, Nilima Sheikh has assiduously and actively engaged with the historical fates and trajectories of turbulent landscape. In her work inspired by Kashmir’s ravaged landscape, there is a deft blending of historical textual references and medieval verses, contemporary writing and folktales from/on the state. Visual references originate from Himalayan, Turkish, Persian, South Asian and at times even pre-Renaissance Italian art. What emerges from this intense exploration is a series of introspective works on paper and scrolls on canvas.

After the inner turmoil that she experienced post the Gujarat riots in 2002, she was spurred o take up a long-pending art project that dealt with the Kashmiri poet Agha Shahid Ali’s soul-stirring verses full of pain that inspired it. Nilima Sheikh won’t term references in her work as religious, but more art historical in nature, all part of a history that we tend to term tradition or mythology. Actually it is history, part of one’s past, she explains, adding that it’s not merely western art history.

Techno art for iPad-wowed audiences

Famous Indian ad guru K V Sridhar, fondly known as Pops, has evolved his own unique style of painting without canvas, paper, or paint thanks to the tech-savvy, iPad-wowed viewers. He is now keen to advance the ‘painting’ technique further. The techno-domain of digital painting has come in spotlight thanks to the iPad, as one can paint with a brush in one’s hand and easily can smudge lines etc.

After displaying his works at Mumbai-based Scarecrow Gallery, he has opened up a channel of interaction with aspiring artists for exploring the new genre of art. The founder director of the gallery, Manish Bhatt, has been quoted as saying: "When the entire world is in the realm of cutting-edge technology with air taxis and hybrid cars, we wish to be something more than a gallery. We wish to give art a whole new perspective. Pops is doing just that." He discovered the latent talent in Sridhar while he was doodling something on his tablet and offered him a chance to exhibit his work.

His works done on an iPad, and printed on archival canvas have drawn rave reviews. ‘iPOPS - a preview’, his path-breaking exhibit comprised paintings, took place last month followed by a workshop. The ad guru says he started painting at the tender age of 3, and was greatly inspired by Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo.

He even studied at an art school and held several solos during 1976-81 and featured in many group shows as well. Until 1979-80s, he would regularly paint but once he took up advertising as a career, he had to keep aside painting. His artworks are in the collections of Salarjung Museum, the AP Lalit Kala Akademi (LKA), and many other private collectors in India and internationally.

According to the curator of the show, Niyatee Shinde, his revolutionary work deftly locates itself in the dynamic domain of new media art and presents degrees of conceptual sophistication after a cursory viewing. Sridhar reveals he is keen to experiment with his style.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The fashion trendsetter Yves Carcelle loves and patronizes Indian art

Nothing could probably stop Yves Carcelle from arriving for probably the biggest occasion for contemporary Indian art in Paris, France. His love and passion for art is simply awe-inspiring. Even at the ripe age of 60 plus, he watches every bit of development in the field and keeps looking for new, exciting talent.

The head honcho of internationally renowned fashion label Louis Vuitton made it to the event on a wheelchair, having broken his leg. His presence added a touch of aura to an ambitious show of contemporary Indian art, entitled ‘Paris-Delhi-Bombay’, at the Centre Pompidou.

While viewing and collecting art is mostly a personal passion just like wearing fashion, again a matter of one’s taste and choice, the haute couture trendsetter- art collector is hopeful to make it a larger and broad based activity in India. He wants to expand the label in leading metros of India, New Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai – as well as other cities. The brand is looking for the right opportunity in Chennai and Puducherry.

Carcelle is a self-proclaimed Indophile, whose his association with India started nearly two decades ago. He crisscrossed almost all corners of the country. An avid art lover, he reveals he was always fascinated by Indian art. In 2006, the brand’s Paris based art gallery, Espace Culture, hosted a group show of Indian and French artists.

Sharing his love for contemporary Indian art, he states in a recent interview: “My personal discovery of art from India began with that exhibit. Travel is a mode of cultural exchange. It’s our sincere aim to try and give back to a country and its people we engage with.”

This is why he patronizes art and artists from India, as evident in collaboration with Sudarshan Shetty in 2010 for a giant art installation in Milan. They actively supported the debut exhibition by world-renowned sculptor Anish Kapoor in India. According to him, though Indian art is now booming, it still has some distance to travel before making it to the big league.

Thought-provoking exhibits courtesy the Flag Art Foundation

Through painting, sculpture, photography and installation, One, Another explores coupling and interconnectedness in the realms of love, nature and spirituality. Historically one another is an abbreviation of the one the other and in that form was used only for two people. The clause one another reflects this reciprocal relationship and action between them. The separation of the two words by a comma emphasizes the distinction of a whole and its parts.

Emanating from the painting The Lovers completed in 1963 by Remedios Varo, the exhibition incorporates reoccurring motifs of mirrors, nature, cosmos and existential forces to investigate themes such as transformation, sexuality, love, narcissism and identity. Featured artists include Diana Al-Hadid, Agnieszka Brzezanska, Louise Bourgeois, Joseph Cornell, Tom Friedman, Robert Gober, Subodh Gupta, David Hammons, Jim Hodges, Cindy Sherman, Swoon, Rachel Whiteread, Remedios Varo, and Fabio Viale.

Another thought-provoking exhibition at the venue showcased works by Josephine Meckseper, who employs window displays, vitrines, installations, photographs, films and magazines to draw a direct correlation to the way consumer culture defines subjectivity and sublimates the key instruments of individual political agency. The artist presented new works focusing on retail environments and modernist concepts.

The Flag Art Foundation is an exhibition space for contemporary art at the Chelsea Arts Tower located in the heart of New York’s art district. The program includes 3 to 5 professionally-curated shows each year. Each consists of works by established and emerging international artists.

Their objective is to encourage the appreciation of contemporary art among a diverse audience. The venue provides a unique educational environment in which visitors can view, contemplate, and engage in active dialogue with the artworks. Curators select and borrow from a variety of sources to include a wide range of work in each exhibition. It also serves as a resource that facilitates loans of contemporary artworks to museums around the world. An extensive database of available works is maintained and made available to curators.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tracing the fast-changing face of Indian art

A new insightful volume about major artists of this generation who has taken Indian art to new heights begins with an introductory essay, entitled ‘New persuasions in contemporary Indian Art’ by Gayatri Sinha. The titles of the essays incorporated in the book are self explanatory.

‘Baiju Parthan: Prophesies in Pixels and Paint’; ‘Jayashree Chakraborty: Landscape in time and space’; ‘Surendran Nair: Openness of secrecy’; ‘Pushpamala N.: Self in stills, conflict within the frame’; ‘N.N. Rimzon: The metaphor of irony’; ‘Anita Dube: A lover’s discourse’; ‘Nataraj Sharma: simulated realities & virtual experience’; ‘Atul Dodiya: between the baroque & the minimal’; and ‘Sudarshan Shetty: transforming contemporary sculpture’.

Other artists in spotlight are ‘Bose Krishnamachari: History, memory & postmodern Pastiche’; ‘Anju Dodiya: Beauty’s dark underside’; ‘Subodh Gupta: Object world’; ‘Shibu Natesan: reading the contemporary moment’; ‘TV Santhosh: Between the Satanic Verses and the axis of evil’; and ‘NS Harsha: Making of Good things’ inform us about the crux of their practice.

‘Bharti Kher: of Monsters, misfits…’; ‘Jagannath Panda: Negotiating shifting ground’; 'Riyas Komu: the seekers mind conversation’; ‘Jitish Kallat: Guilt gilded in gold’; ‘Shilpa Gupta: Tracing figures of absence’ are among the other essays. Each of them is accompanied by succinct artists’ conversations with Parul Dave Mukherji, Deepali Dewan, Grant Watson, Arshiya Lokhandwala, Vyjayanthi Rao, Deeksha Nath, Sharmini Pereira, Brinda Kumar, Latika Gupta, Sasha Altaf, Shaheen Merali, Ullekh N.P., Nancy Adjania, and Ranjit Hoskote, among others.

This thoroughly researched document puts the spotlight firmly on the best artistic talent from the country and their outstanding work that addresses a range of issues like the expanding city, religion and mythology in the context of modern urbanizing India, war and violence. With a touch of humor and irony, depth and insight, they deal with some of the complex aspects of our social polity through multiple devices.

‘Voices of Change’, in a way, acquaints us with the changing face of Indian art by encapsulating the practices, themes and thoughts of some of the top contemporary artists from the country.

Spotlight on top 20 contemporary Indian artists

The idea of a recent volume, entitled ‘Voices of Change: 20 Contemporary Artists’ (publisher: Marg; pages: 308; price: Rs 3,500), by Gayatri Sinha is to map the contours of their art practice that deals with various facets of challenging day-to-day existence in a country marked by opulence as well as its seamier underside.

This eclectic collection of essays, launched last year to coincide with a group show courtesy Religare Art, signals an informed inter-textual reading of the new generation of Indian artists that has left an indelible scene in the 21st century. Establishing themselves in international sphere and drawing applause as well as curatorial attention, they explore several pressing issues of concern to the modern Indian society in a wide array of media like photography, painting, drawing, large scale sculpture, video installations and mixed media work.

In this context, this seminal volume collates views of several renowned scholars, critics, anthropologists, and museologists, to offer a unique perspective. Incidentally, these artist’s creations formed part of an exhibition, entitled 'Looking Glass', curated by Gayatri Sinha. It engaged different cultural organizations, later translating the project into an art walk. The idea was to build an art movement and create a dynamic platform to encourage learning, appreciation and recognition of Indian art. That’s exactly what the book looks to achieve.

The author has edited a number of noteworthy research documents like ‘Art and Visual Culture in India: 1857-2007’ (Marg Publications, 2009); ‘Indian Art: an Overview’ (Rupa Books, 2003); ‘Woman/ Goddess’ (1998); ‘Expressions and Evocations: Contemporary Indian Women Artists of India’ (Marg Publications, 1996). The renowned art expert has contributed to several Indian and international publications. Her core areas of enquiry are woven around the structures of gender and iconography, economics, social history and media.

As the title suggests, the ‘voices of change’ records the new tunes and trends in contemporary Indian art.

Monday, July 11, 2011

A well-researched document that focuses on talented artists of our era

Author-curator-researcher Gayatri Sinha’s concerns as a researcher essentially involve constructing a language in order to create a solid theoretical framework for understanding the complex elements that enter and make Indian praxis.

She has given lectures on Indian art– its past and present, at the National Museum, Japan, Foundation in Tokyo, Tate Modern in London, Tate Britain, Asian Art Museum in Singapore etc. She has curated a series of show in India and across the world.

An intriguing mix of some known and upcoming, young and senior, emerging and established names, whose works respond to the present complexities and realities, have generated immense interest in the contemporary Indian art, not just within the country but globally.

In this context, talking about the core concept of ‘Voices of Change’, she states that the artists featured not only work on different media and revisit their own art forms, but also reflect on the dramatic transformations occurring around them.

The writer-editor of the volume adds: “In the 1950s and 1960s, Indian art was largely influenced by the Nehruvian contradictions. The 1970s marked a phase of social conflict. There was a sense of gradually moving away from the ideals of art. Art followed a whole new trajectory in the 1980s and thereafter. It displayed critique about issues like injustice, violence and terror. Artists are now the forerunners in bringing these to the people’s notice.”

Baiju Parthan, Jayashree Chakraborty, Surendran Nair, Pushpamala N, N.N. Rimzon, Anita Dube, Nataraj Sharma, Atul Dodiya, Sudarshan Shetty, Bose Krishnamachari, Anju Dodiya, Subodh Gupta, Shibu Natesan, TV Santhosh, NS Harsha, Bharti Kher, Jagannath Panda, Riyas Komu, Jitish Kallat and Shilpa Gupta are among the significant names whose art, life and practice has been covered in the book.

‘Voices of Change’ is a well-researched document that puts the spotlight firmly on talented artists of our era and their outstanding work that addresses a range of contemporary issues and concerns.