Thursday, July 7, 2011

Let India’s culture czars recognize the glory of Venice

Ranjit Hoskote has termed the official Indian art exhibition at the Venice Biennale ‘Everyone Agrees: It’s About to Explode’. No doubt, it’s quite a curious title that suggests the very different and unusual kinds of energies unleashed in the country today.

His final choice of artists to join the pavilion is equally unusual: the Desire Machine Collective based in the Northeast; New York-based artist Zarina Hashmi, Kerala/Delhi’s Gigi Scaria and Kolkatta/Amsterdam’s Praneet Soi.

Somewhat contrary to its title, the show, as an expert put it, tends to come across as ‘understated, elegant, and beautiful’. The Outlook writer Maseeh Rahman mentions in the Venice Diary: “In a straw poll that I conducted, almost 90 percent of the people responded to the exhibition quite positively, with the Italian viewers identifying most with minimalist creations by Zarina Hashmi. After struggling almost all though her life, this 74-year-old art practitioner has finally got her due and the kind of recognition she well deserves.

Pointing to an 'oddly timed permanency', Rahman notes that the Indian pavilion at the prestigious Venice Biennale is rather a temporary one; it’s only for this year’s event. “I had heard that the Republic of China had lobbied quite hard for a permanent space in 2007. Why not India could do the same? It might seem too much to hope for, perhaps. But then miracles, it seems, do come in pairs.

…after the impressive inauguration, organizers of the Biennale decided to offer us a permanent pavilion, and it was accepted. It will cost Rs 15 crore for two decades for both the art & architecture Biennales hosted every alternate year.

The writer concludes in his diary with remarks: “I murmured a silent prayer to Santa Maria – ‘Let not the PMO - the most blinkered on culture we have ever had - overrule it. And let the spirit of our ancestors, who did recognize the glory of Venice, prevail...” That says it all!

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