An interesting and vivacious Venice Diary in The Outlook by writer Maseeh Rahman provides us a glimpse into the Indian presence at the prestigious event at the vibrant venue, known as the Mecca of art world.
The writer starts off by reviving of a previous visit there. It was in 2007, probably for the first time, that the Biennale organizers offered an official country pavilion to India. It’s considered a much coveted prize and honor at this most prestigious international art extravaganza.
Nations lobby hard to get in. Sadly, that wasn’t in India’s case. The curator then flew to Delhi to make the enticing offer. However, India’s culture secretary retorted: “Why should we really participate? And anyway, kindly come through the proper channels.”
The Outlook writer notes: “People whom I met in Venice were rather open-mouthed about New Delhi’s stupidity that year. So I can well be excused for believing it would take not less 116 years (the number of years the Biennale is now old) before our babus could wake up to the significance of culture to create a compelling national image (nine percent growth and nuclear bombs aren’t enough!). I had though, overlooked something- throughout history, with its Virgin Mary cult, Venice has been known as ‘the city of miracles’.
That it happened is thanks to India’s culture secretary Jawahar Sircar and Lalit Kala Akademi (LKA) chairman Ashok Vajpayee. Funds were sanctioned quickly; Ranjit Hoskote was put in charge as curator, and Sudhakar Sharma was chosen as the commissioner.
Indeed, the opening of India pavilion on June 3 at the 12th century magnificently derelict Venetian docks, the Arsenale, is a major event. In spite of those last-minute hiccups, the anticipation at the opening gave inkling of a historic moment. The exhibition goes on until November 27, 2011.
The curator, Ranjit Hoskote, has wisely opted to steer clear of the inherent pitfalls of creating a ‘nationally representative show’. The four artists, who form part of it, do speak in their own distinctive voices and have their unique themes to work on.