Monday, October 31, 2011

A massive public sculpture worth $10 million

Just 60 miles from the ubiquitous Stone Valley Quarry, workers are scurrying around a mammoth 21-foot-high, 340-ton solid granite boulder; marked by an expanse of dust, roaring bulldozers, boulders and cut granite hillsides - to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art on Museum Mile. If everything works well, this bewildering boulder is slated to hover over a cut in the earth on the museum’s grounds, and be open for public viewing, by the end of next month.

California-based sculptor Michael Heizer’s Levitated Mass is in keeping with his reputation of huge outdoor installations, with extensive usage of earth and rock. More than a brash occupation of outdoor space, what makes it really ambitious is the whole logistics of moving Heizer’s rock, dynamited out of a hillside. It’s a trip that takes the boulder right through the heart of a highly congested urban center:, through 120 miles of journey - nine nights at six miles per hour – cutting across highways, overpasses, bridges and sharp turns.

The exercise, almost five years in the planning (with sketches of it done way back in the late 1960s), is nothing short of a massive military movement. Emmert International, known to move very large objects, is overseeing the relocation of a gigantic rock as the artist wants.

The rock raised off the ground by hydraulic lifts is put in a cradle; steel trusses built around it, all part of a modular tractor having 22 axles, each carrying brakes and 196 wheels. Along with the rock, it will weigh almost 1,210,900 pounds. The rig, about 295 ft long x 27 ft wide, requires a team of 12 people, to run it.

Teams will be deployed for lifting telephone and power lines, swinging traffic lights to the side and laying down plates on suspect patches of bridges or roads. Once the ‘rock‘ arrives at the museum, its new address, disassembling the transporter as well as sliding the boulder to center it over a 456-foot-long slot already slashed into the ground, will take place. The whole project will cost close to $10 million.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Fairytales relooked at, artistically

Art and fairytales in a broader Indian context have invariably moved and jelled together right since the advent of storytelling. However, the relentless march of modernity has worked in both ways, causing it to fall by the wayside as well as prompting artists to reinterpret them in newer ways.

The popular Bengali legend of two princes, who both battled the demons, finds a novel expression in Sanjay Bhattacharya's captivating composition ‘Lal Kamal, Neel Kamal’. The leading artist tries to interpret the tale in a pictorial animation of two puppet princes astride horses, crossing swords with bellowing demons. Ink drawing and wet oil impressions of colors have imparted the figures with a comic book look and feel so that they strike a chord with children.

‘Roop Katha’ has just been on display at the India Habitat Centre, New Delhi. The artist has been quoted as saying: "I love the fairy stories from ‘Thakurmar Jhuli’ (Grandmother's Bag of Stories), the traditional anthology of myths. I’ve in a way, grown up with them. They easily translate into art since they are simple and narrate about the war between good and evil."

In fact, Indian visual art tradition has revolved around fairytales and Vedic myths for the last several centuries since the Indus Valley settlers crafted metal and wood. "Fantasy, legends, racial memories and resonances from the past - both known and unknown - have been the source of artistic creation the world over," a recent IANS news report quotes the chairman of the Lalit Kala Akademi (LKA), Ashok Vajpeyi, as saying that the depiction of fairy tales and myths somehow weakened in Indian modern art.

Ina Puri, a renowned art critic and curator has conceived the series of ‘Roop Katha’. According to her, art has essentially evolved from narratives when you look at its tradition and evolution. Indian folk art still continues to sustain on the power of fairytales and traditional folklore, she asserts.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Indian representation at the Signature Art Prize

The APB Foundation Signature Art Prize in conjunction with the the Singapore Art Museum (SAM) acts as a prominent platform for both established artists as well as emerging talents. It reflects developments in the contemporary art landscape of this region. Out of the 130 nominated works of art, 15 have been chosen by the elite jury panel as Finalists.

Indeed path breaking in their artistic insight and core concept, expression and technique, these works will be vying for the coveted prize, the People's Choice Award and three Jurors' Choice Awards. People can vote now for one of the Finalist’s artworks to win the special People's Choice Award by selecting their favorite work. Sheba Chhachhi's ‘Water Diviner’ is among the APB Foundation Signature Art Prize finalists this year.

Providing a backgrounder to it, an essay by Alexander Keefe mentions: “The work evokes a complex way of thinking about the (Yamuna) river - not just as a hydrological problem to be managed, a pollution issue to be dealt with–and also not just as a goddess to be worshiped by devotees oblivious to the way that industrial and commercial development together conspire to destroy her body—but crucially both: somehow bringing these twinned notions into taboo wedlock.

The images she uses in the work, the dreamlike fragments from paintings painfully juxtaposed with the nightmare filth that the river is forced to carry, pull us into a consideration of the bulldozers waiting to enact the riverfront's latest re-enchantment, its newest triumphalism - transformation into a level ‘village’ for the Commonwealth Games - and the biggest temple in the world cum IMAX theater that presaged its arrival, that bathed the whole endeavor in a preemptive sacred glow. How fitting that the artist conjures such visions in this dark forgotten room, itself the object of so many damp, half-complete re-inscriptions.

A short walk to the south of the library takes you to Chandni Chowk, its erstwhile central canal lying entombed in stone, its waters blocked, diverted and shit in, forced underground. And yet. Fugitive streams still spill dirty in the black Yamuna and together they take flight to the Ganga and the ocean, carrying with them all the filth of man's endeavor, and the bodies the whole enterprise dumps so casually into its flow…”

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The new Warhol app offers a glimpse of his life and art

One of the art world’s most charismatic figures, Andy Warhol has always enjoyed wide appeal among experts and masses. Underlining his appeal, a new app released for iPod Touch, iPads iPhones and Androids will offer users in-depth archival materials, excellent images, film and interesting video clips spanning his whole career.

The idea has been conceptualized and put together by Pittsburgh- based the Andy Warhol Museum with a mobile app platform provider, Toura. The new and comprehensive Warhol app will let mobile users see behind-the-scenes footage of the famous artist and his work like his ‘Mao’ (1972), ‘The Last Supper’ (1986) and ‘Self-Portrait’(1986).

A world-renowned US artist, filmmaker and author, Warhol is a leading figure in the Pop Art genre. His paintings and prints of movie stars, soup cans, the US Presidents and other American icons made him one of the most celebrated artists globally. Throwing light on his aura, art critic Robert Hughes had once written: '''Painting a soup can is not a radical act in itself. What was actually radical in Andy Warhol was that he adapted the very means of production of soup cans to the way he produced paintings, turning them out en masse - consumer art mimicking the process and also the look of consumer culture.''

A visitor to the Warhol Museum, when he or she stands in front of one of his paintings and then watches a video of the artist actually engrossed in finishing the canvas, will draw greater insights thanks to a curator. The museum experience will be enhanced after viewing related works and reading more in-depth information.

The app is so designed as to function both at the venue and on its own. It showcases extensive collection of Andy Warhol work in the museum. The site elaborates that it lets users examine artworks and related ephemera in the collection with detailed view of supporting text and audio- visual material. It features via six navigational categories an interesting behind-the-scenes glimpse at several of his works done by Warhol during his dramatic career.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The prestigious Unilever Series features Tacita Dean at Tate Modern

Tacita Dean is the new artist to create a special commission for Tate Modern's much-fancied Turbine Hall as part of the prestigious Unilever Series.

A talented British artist now located in Berlin is best known for her usage of film. They serve as portraits or deft depictions rather than merely conventional cinematic narrations, skillfully capturing fleeting natural light or some subtle shifts in movement. The artist’s static camera positions and long takes as if, unfold events unhurriedly. Other works try to re-construct events from memory like an infamous thwarted effort to circumnavigate the world.

Considered one of the best living artists of her generation in Britain, she avoids media attention and does not always make headlines. In that sense, she has maintained a low-profile. However, the prolific nature and the quality of her oeuvre have won her critical acclaim. Revealing her inspiration and art processes, she has stated: “The heart of my process is the editing. It's almost as if I court chaos in the filming because I know I have this period later when it will just be me and it."

Her film works usually follow a very distinctive aesthetic, keeping in line with the tradition of early 20th century hand-held-camera style of 16mm pictures. They tend to take the form of portraits, highly personal in nature, of figures she admires. They are akin to poetic and open-ended documentaries, or passionate painterly meditations on light.

Tacita Dean’s 11-minute silent work acts as a tribute to the ‘magical art’ of analogue film now under threat from the digital technology. Her work appears like a filmstrip with sprocket holes. It’s comprised of images of the sea, trees, flowers, an eye and a grasshopper, projected on to the back of a quaint and darkened Turbine Hall.

Her new commission designed to respond to the Turbine Hall’s architecture leaves the viewer spellbound. The prestigious Unilever Series featuring Tacita Dean runs at Tate Modern from 11 October 2011 until 11 March, next year.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Modern British artists (MBAs) are catching the collector’s fancy

The impressive prices beyond estimates drawn by a clutch of modern British artists at Sotheby’s earlier auction, marked their dramatic upward journey. Here a Stanley Spencer oil work, ‘Sunflower and Dog Worship’ (1937) was the star, surpassing its estimate of £1m-£1.5m and fetching a whopping £5m. New auction records were set for Jazz Age chronicler Edward Burra, Patrick Heron and Graham Sutherland apart from a Lucian Freud work on paper.

Why have the MBAs, as they are popularly known, for so long out of spotlight in comparison to their more dynamic continental peers, suddenly started to stir? According to the Sotheby’s 20th-century British Art specialist, Frances Christie, there are several reasons for this turnaround in their fortunes.

First, the expert observes, that the string of some amazing private collections that the auction house has recently offered, including those in possession of Lord & Lady Attenborough as well as Robert Devereux, sold in 2009. The Stanley J Seeger collection ‘redefined the market’ for St Ives artists Peter Lanyon and Patrick Heron, almost a decade ago. She adds, “These collections released museum-quality pieces onto the market, a revelation to many of the non-British collectors, who didn’t realize how innovative indeed our artists could be.”

Equally vital was the new-found attention of top international museums, which helps raise the profile and stature of British art internationally. Recently, Wyndham Lewis was featured at the Fundación Juan March in Madrid; the vorticists were seen at Tate, whereas Britain & Stanley Spencer are on view at the Kunsthal,

Another market analyst observes that British modernists are luring keen buyers from across the Atlantic. Many of the postwar British artists like William Scott (who specialized in still lifes and landscapes, influenced by abstract expressionism) and Peter Lanyon had strong ties with the US, attracting the attention of art lovers there. The rather slow start and low-profile nature of modern British art means many of its exponents are ‘good value for money’ even at this point of time.

Monday, October 24, 2011

A series that juxtaposes Australia’s environmental concerns and the Indian independence movement

Artist Jonathan Jones’s untitled (salt) on view at Mumbai based Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke collates a number of contemporary works of art that respond to research done in India.

This Aboriginal Australian artist developed the series by investigating the correlations, which exist between Australian and Indian post-colonial cultures, curiously from within an Aboriginal paradigm. This pointed to a shared cultural dialogue in myriad materials like salt & the built apart from natural environs of architectural features as well as designs. The exhibition addresses this dialogue in several different ways.

The core subject of salt emanated from the environmental degradation and the gradual destruction of his traditional country in the south-east of Australia. Rising salt, owing to colonial farming practices over years, encrusts the landscape, inflicting a massive damage. The artist deftly acknowledges the paralleled Indian history in which salt has played the role of a catalyst for change.

Jonathan Jones references the Independence movement under Mahatma Gandhi and the Salt March. His work ‘revolution’ a group of light sculptures along with works on paper, denote contemporary concerns of the damage and social upheaval because of the commercial harvesting of salt from the Rann of Kutch.

An accompanying text excerpted from Anna-Marie White's curatorial essay elaborates that Australia’s environmental concerns and the Indian independence movement are cantilevered by the artist against each other seamlessly in the structure of revolution to construct one narrative. A suite of dense albeit minimal graphite drawings based on meticulous surveys of salt crystal structure complement these sculptures.

Another core objective of his practice is to understand the symbiotic relationship shared by the individual and the community. This is acknowledged by grouping lights that overlap and simultaneously share space for creating one body of light quite similar to ways a community will operate. Individuals and light sources here act as the reference points in process of reading the body of light.

On the other hand, untitled (lean-to), a site-specific artwork, sits within the artist’s practice of sheathing cultural patterns, as traced in fluorescent lights, in the pervasive and banal material of blue tarpaulin.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Deciphering different shades and definitions of devotion

Elaborating on a new group show, entitled 'Devotion-Invocation', Art Positive director Anu Bajaj states, "The concept of devotion for me is not restricted to religious fervor. It also encompasses positivism in one's attitude to life in its varied spheres be it commitment to a cause, belief, person, profession or society.

"The works present multifaceted interpretations of devotion and the way it transforms things and individuals. There are works that evoke peace and spiritualism and others that provoke disquiet and action.”

Art Positive is a unit of Bajaj Capital Art House. 'Devotion-Invocation' at the venue is the sixth edition of their annual art show. The works collectively explore the theme of devotion in a contemporary context, offering the viewers an aesthetic panorama of expressions that resonate around concepts ranging from the physical to the spiritual.

The show has been curated by Sushma Bahl, according to whom its title was open for artists to explore it in any which way they liked. The curator further explains: “Though devotion is often seen in a religious context, which is devotion to an icon, a religious figure or a person, one can also be devoted to an idea or principle or cause.

"It may also be perceived or reflected as ardent or selfless affection or dedication to someone or something. One can be devoted to one's work or passion. It can also turn negative when devotion turns into obsession or blind love..."

Given the freedom to interpret the concept in any which way, some of the artists have also dared to examine it in a somewhat negative turn where devotion turns into obsession or blind love. They not only explore the theme in its divine, iconic and religious context, but also in its philosophical and rational interpretations. The displayed paintings, sculptures and installations meander around one's devotion to an idea or principle or cause.

A group show, ‘Devotion – Invocation’ in New Delhi

‘Devotion – Invocation’ is the title of the 5th annual show of Delhi based Gallery Art Positive. It’s a large show with more than 75 new works by several contemporary Indian artists. The work on view cuts across genres, and encompasses an intriguing geographical spread.

The exhibit spread across both floors of the re-designed and recently expanded venue also presents itself as an art book cafe plus an artifacts’ store, offering art lovers a holistic overview of the current art practice in India.

The group exhibition features works by more than forty renowned and upcoming artists including Akhilesh, Akkitham Narayan, Arun Kumar HG, Arijoy bhattacharya, Chotulal Sharma, Bratin Khan, Dileep kumar Sharma, Dharmendra Rathore, Gagan Vij, Enas MJ, Jayshri Burman, Gopal Swami Khetanchi, Kazi Nasir, Manish Pushkale, Paramjit Singh, and Prithvi Soni.

Other artists whose work forms part of the show are Manu Parekh, N S Rana, Sanjay bhattacharya, Puja Bahri, Sanatan Dinda, Sekhar Roy, Shail Choyal, Satish Gupta, Seema Kohli, Shobha Broota, Shipra Bhattacharya, Sidharth, Subodh Kerkar, Shuvaprasanna, Suhas Roy, Suman Roy, Subrata Saha, Sudip Roy, Venkat Bothsa, Vinay Sharma, Suresh Kumar Muthukulam, Sakti Burman, Vrindavan solanki and Lalu Prasad Shaw.

Among the participating artists, paintings by Akkitham Narayanan appear as geometric configurations of attention-grabbing abstract forms. Marked by a predisposition towards the purity of painted form, he strives to create a fusion of Indian tantric art laced with the European sensibility.

In the art practice of talented artist Arun Kumar HG, elements of visual documentation deftly interspersed with both still and moving forms around current mindless obsession with production, consumption and disposal of delicate cultural threads are employed to connect and contradict.

In the process, he reinterprets ideas and issues related to desire, fantasy and realities of life. Dharmendra Rathore’s work, marked for its colorful imagery, carries a meditative streak. His canvases are comprised of balanced compositions in abstraction and figuration.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Yamuna-Elbe public art project: Making the river part of the creation

The Yamuna-Elbe public art project is a unique idea conceived as part of the India Week celebrations in Hamburg. It aims at making people rethink their sacred and need based relationship with the river and the fragile ecology it supports by making the river part of the art.

Most of the works done by Indian and German artists are to be lined up along the two riverbanks. Signifying the general apathy, artist-environmentalist Ravi Agarwal, a co-curator of the project has been quoted as saying, “While the river Yamuna is really on nobody’s mind in New Delhi, the city of Hamburg has actually maintained the tidal data of the river for the last 100 years for each day.”

The Indian art practitioner along with Till Krause, a Hamburg-based artist, has worked out the contours of the socially and environmentally relevant art project. The latter runs Galerie für Landschaftskunst. According to him, there is now a concerted move to deepen Elbe because of its significance to the city’s economy.

However, such steps do not address the issue of ecology or tell us whether progress development also means sustainability,” the artist duo points out. To underline the importance of the subject, Atul Bhalla has conceived a 12- part series of a photoperformance on Elbe. On the other hand, in the capital city of India, the challenge is of slightly different nature – that of getting people to ‘experience’ Yamuna.

About 42 km of the river flows through Delhi. But for a stretch of 22 km of it, the large parts of it are clean and naturally blue. But nobody probably knows this. The public art project is aimed at taking participants on this ‘Blue River Tour’ for which the state government will operate special buses.

The riverfront will come to life from November 9 to 23 with installations, theatre shows, music concerts, writing workshops, photography competitions, and river walks. Gigi Scaria’s 25-foot-high, fascinating fountain, which has taken nearly a month-and-a-half to be put up, will keep pumping water from the river and purify it as it’s pushed up.

The artist intends to make similar fountains nearby several other polluted rivers of India. “We worship rivers and yet dump sewage in them,” he moans a strange love-hate relationship that we share with our ‘holy’ rivers. Sheba Chhachhi plans to take people across the river in specially-altered boats equipped with video projection.

Friday, October 21, 2011

India Week Hamburg 2011

For the fourth time since 2007, Hamburg is celebrating the city's close and friendly relations with India. ‘The India Week Hamburg’ is a biannual program of events that addresses current developments in India's economy, politics, art and culture and India's relations with Hamburg and Northern Germany.

‘The India Week Hamburg’ 2011 takes place from 16 to 23 October. The event is packed with more than 40 interesting events will pay witness to the versatile relationships between India and Hamburg. During talks and panel discussions, experts will be discussing economic relations, while also addressing political and social developments in India.

The cultural program comprises screenings, concerts, dance and theatre performances, exhibitions and arts projects. During the presentation of the India Week 2011, State Councillor Wolfgang Schmidt said: "India ranks next to China as Hamburg's major Asian trading partner. But also in science, education, ecology and culture, we are maintaining a lively exchange. Relations are strong, and yet we would like to identify ways of enhancing collaboration, unearth future potential, assess potential risks, and, most importantly, discover further opportunities. The India Week is the ideal platform for addressing all these questions."

"Hamburg plays a significant role in promoting Indo-German relations in trade and economic fields, in science & technology, education & culture. India is growing at the rate of 8 per cent but still there are challenges in terms of improvement of infrastructure sector. India Week will certainly provide Hamburg businesses a window to learn a little more about the opportunities available in India and also to understand Indian culture," added Ms M. Subashini, India's Consul General in Hamburg.

Some of the projects and program will continue beyond the India Week, for instance the Yamuna-Elbe river project in New Delhi and the Bitfilm Festival in Bangalore. What is more, at the 823rd port anniversary celebrations in Hamburg in May 2012, India will present itself again as a partner country.

Artist Gulammohammed Sheikh’s new solo

A solo exhibition by artist Gulammohammed Sheikh at the New Delhi-based gallery Rabindra Bhavan includes many recent works, in addition to exclusive and exquisite works being exhibited in India for the first time. Importantly, it is his first exhibition in the capital city of India since 2001.

This major exhibition features his seminal work ‘Kaavad: Home’ that premiered at ‘Chalo India: A New Era of Indian Art’, an exhibition at Tokyo’s Mori Art Museum in 2008. A mobile wooden shrine or a kaavad is basically a traditional object that contains painted narratives used by of Rajasthan’s Kaavadiya Bhats (travelling performers) as a prop for their art of storytelling.

As they narrate their stories, they would open up the kaavad, and reveal a new layer, to build a sense of curiosity and anticipation to the sight of the inner core after that long-delayed moment. To Gulammohammed Sheikh, this portable and popular format not only presented the possibility of greater visibility but also could rest within it narratives to combine the same in different permutations and combinations just by the folding/unfolding act of its doors.

Each curious combination maps a whole new journey, a different narrative: his kaavad serves as a medium through which our social, cultural, political belief systems- new and he old, of the past and present - could be examined. The diverse archive of references incorporates multitude of elements like contemporary citations of violence, migration, displacement, as well as fabled journeys, quotations by Kabir and autobiographical accounts.

To this thinking and sensitive artist, this is also a quiet personal space, the world as Home that initiates a conversation between personal histories and characters from both real life and art. Each facet of the kaavad narrates a different tale, albeit all deftly interwoven. Being large in scale and stark in effect, they tend to immerse the viewer in their very physicality, blurring the gap between real and imaginary, art and life.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A monumental work that puts together past and present, history and recent events

A new solo by senior artist Gulammohammed Sheikh takes place at Rabindra Bhavan, New Delhi. It features a monumental piece by him, ‘CITY: Memory, Dreams, Desire, Statues & Ghosts: Return of Hiuen Tsang’, which was shown as part of ‘Place.Time.Play: India-China Contemporary Art Exhibition’. Specially created for the the West Heavens Project in Shanghai last year, it around the 7th century famous Chinese-Buddhist monk, Hiuen Tsangor Xuanzang of Tang Dynasty.

Hiuen traveled to India (known as West Heavens then in his country) to bring home a set scriptures, which were to serve as the foundation of the Chinese schools of Buddhism. If in ‘Kaavad’, he was inspired by a Mappamundi ‘s (medieval European maps of the world) cartographic format, his landscape here blends the bare drawings of old archeological site maps and the visuality of a satellite image like Google maps.

The work looks to explore the various possibilities of inhabiting one space even while creating other spaces like memories, dreams, desires etc. Envisioned as Hiuen Tsang’s return to the City (in perhaps Gujarat) wherein the city is itself split into two halves–the floor panels acting as an archaeological site and the standing panels map as the living city affected by recent violence, with apparent reference to both history and memory.

Dr. Kavita Singh mentions, “This exhibit is a culmination: bringing to their fullest amplitude many of his themes, motifs and obsessions, which have haunted Gulammohammed Sheikh’s work for the past three decades… That the works presented mark a particular high-point in his oeuvre, however, is first apparent in the monumental scale of many of those on view. Gradually, they present themselves, on a sustained viewing to be also at the point at which the densities of meaning, the weight of elegiac beauty, and the intensity of affect find their most condensed and highly intense expression.”

The exhibition also includes a selection of his gouaches, papier-mache works and oil canvases , alongside other 'Kaavad' shrines plus hand-painted and digital books.

Water as a medium for artistic expression

A group of artists dives into the dynamic, varied and beautiful world of water as part of an exhibition, entitled at ‘Ripple Effect: The Art of H2O’, at the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM). Inspired by natural phenomena such as fog, snowflakes and geysers, the 16 artists featured in Ripple Effect explore water in its liquid, gas and solid states as a rich source for creative expression.

‘Ripple Effect’, in PEM's interactive Art & Nature Center, highlights water as a medium for artistic expression and hands-on exploration. Visitors encounter water in its different states - solid, liquid and gas - as they investigate artworks inspired by rivers, geysers, snowflakes, fog and more.

Water's allure to contemporary artists as a creative medium is quite compelling, especially in relation to the unique, life-giving properties of this substance we so often take for granted. The show presents works of art in a variety of mediums, including blown glass, photography, clay and sound, and challenges visitors to consider this life-sustaining substance often taken for granted.

"Not a moment goes by that we don't encounter water. It surrounds us in the air we breathe and fills every cell in our bodies, yet we rarely take notice of it - except when we don't have enough of it or encounter too much of it," states Jane Winchell, curator of Ripple Effect and PEM's Sarah Fraser Robbins Director of the Art & Nature Center. "We invite visitors to experience water as a unique artistic medium and to consider its remarkable physical properties, which also make life possible."

Water is the only natural substance on earth that exists in three forms - liquid, solid and gas. ‘Ripple Effect’ is organized around these physical states and features artworks, media elements and hands-on stations that let visitors explore the art and science of water. Compelled by water's movement, moods and life-giving properties, many artists who work with it focus on the liquid state.

They work with myriad forms of ice, ranging from intricate snowflakes to towering glaciers. Being invisible, water vapor is a challenging artistic medium. But water vapor in transition to liquid - in the form of clouds, fog, mist or steam - has also captured artists' imagination.

(Information courtesy: PEM)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A boy talks to Gandhi and an artist listens

Artist Atul Dodiya’s new show, entitled ‘Bako exists. Imagine’, at the Mumbai- based Chemould Prescott Road gallery is a sort of crystallization of the idea of assemblage and astute meaning-making.

With the paintings in oil, acrylic & marble dust plus an installation of wooden cabinets that contain works of art and found objects, he reverts back to his formative years, when his influences were unrealized, unshaped and raw. It’s a celebration of my childhood heroes and also my growing up, he quips. Among them are Satyajit Ray, Bhupen Khakhar, Jasper Johns, Francois Truffaut, his father, Bollywood villains, Joseph Beuys and last but not the least, Mahatma Gandhi. It’s really staggering.

All the 12 paintings on view as part of his new showcase, according to his wife and an artist herself Anju Dodiya, a rather strange mix of the deeply personal and a sort of literary fantasy with a humor, which has saved him from becoming obscure, so to say.

The eastern suburb of Ghatkopar, where he works and stays is full of a tumultuous existence marked by heavy goods trucks, rickshaws and buses that negotiate its clogged roads. A home to middle-class housing societies and small businesses, it’s a new, complex India in the making, like the city’s many other suburbs. Atul Dodiya says, “It’s an India that interests me, encompassing my quintessentially Indian concerns—the changing city, for example, the contrasts and the conflicts in a city.”

The writer quotes Paris-based Indian art collector-gallerist Hervé Perdriolle, who says: “The multi-faceted aspect of Atul Dodiya’s work is rich and dense. Where many of the contemporary artists develop just one facet of their research to (create) a form of conspicuous repetition, he does not hesitate at all to expand his research and themes.

“The speed at which his works are done, for runs at bienniales, fairs and exhibitions, leaves little time for deeper analysis. But that takes time, and yet the work fascinates as much as the artist himself seems fascinated by his peers.” Added to this lifelong dogged involvement with his very roots and India’s rich art history is the artist’s antiquated, almost Gandhian approach to the forces of the market.

Souza's photographs by Ida Kar

To coincide with a retrospective of Ida Kar’s photographs at London’s National Portrait Gallery, Grosvenor Vadehra presents Portraits of F.N. Souza (1957 – 61) taken by her and never exhibited or published before.

The exhibition opened in London earlier this year followed by Delhi (The British Council), Mumbai (Pundole Art Gallery) and Goa (Goa Centre for the arts), this month. A talk with experts and acquaintances of the artist take place alongside the show at each venue. The renowned Armenian photographer, Ida Kar (1908-1974), established her photographic studio in Cairo after spending some time in Paris where she married Victor Musgrave. He opened Gallery One in London (1944) where she started working as a theatrical photographer.

Ida Kar was most famous for the photos she took of writers and artists. Many of them became defining portraits and in effect, vital social documents of post-war Britain cultural life. She had had her first solo in London at Gallery One in 1954. Her photos included those of artists like Tsugouharu Foujita, Stanley Spencer, Alberto Giacometti, Le Corbusier and Man Ray. She was the first photographer to have a major retrospective at the Whitechapel Gallery (Ida Kar: Portraits of Artists & Writers in Great Britain, France & the Soviet Union).

F.N. Souza was associated with Gallery One as he had his solo there in 1956. The founder member of the Progressive Artists Group in India, he remains one of our most important and internationally recognized artists. Ida Kar took several images of him. Many of them are now being exhibited. These photographs taken during 1957-61 document a crucial phase in the careers of the two artists. They show Souza in his studio and elsewhere.

The exhibit series and the allied events shed light on this period of his life and the fruitful relationship between Souza and Kar whilst the two creative personalities were immersed in flourishing art scene of London.

A legendary artist and a photographer bound by artistic thread

Ida Kar (1908-1974) was an Armenian photographer, who after spending a period in Paris established her own photographic studio ‘Idabel’ in Cairo. There she met and married Victor Musgrave who went on to open Gallery One in 1944 in London. Here she started as a theatrical photographer, taking sophisticated shots of young actors.

However, she became most well known for the photographs she took of artists and writers, some of which have become defining portraits and important social documents of cultural life in post-war Britain. She had her first solo exhibition in London in 1954. Her photographs included those of artists Stanley Spencer, Tsugouharu Foujita, Alberto Giacometti, Man Ray and Le Corbusier. She became the first photographer to be honoured by a major retrospective at the Whitechapel Gallery in 1960.

The Armenian-born photographer is credited with having redefined artistic portraiture, blending it with reportage, marked by simplicity of composition and bewildering black & white contrast. She portrayed renowned international artists, writers and scholars with a deeper understanding of how their studios and materials transformed into the centre of their very existence and how their idiosyncratic personalities were deftly woven into the process of discovery.

A traveling photography exhibition of portraits of legendary artist F.N. Souza by Ida Kar is set to be hosted in different cities of India after its launch at Grosvenor Gallery, London. The founder of the Indian Progressive Artists Group, Souza is one of India’s most important and recognized artists. She took several images of Souza.

The rebellious artist was one of the founders of the Progressive Artists’ Group (PAG). Souza’s portraits belong to 1957 – 1961, an important phase in his life as he was at the peak of his career. F.N. Souza’s portraits by Ida Kar serve as a visual documentation of his personality as an individual and as an artist.

What forms the crux of artist Atul Dodiya's inspirations and influences

Artist Atul Dodiya’s new show, entitled ‘Bako exists. Imagine’, at the Mumbai- based Chemould Prescott Road gallery is a sort of crystallization of the idea of assemblage and astute meaning-making.

With the paintings in oil, acrylic & marble dust plus an installation of wooden cabinets that contain works of art and found objects, he reverts back to his formative years, when his influences were unrealized, unshaped and raw. It’s a celebration of my childhood heroes and also my growing up, he quips. Among them are Satyajit Ray, Bhupen Khakhar, Jasper Johns, Francois Truffaut, his father, Bollywood villains, Joseph Beuys and last but not the least, Mahatma Gandhi. It’s really staggering.

All the 12 paintings, according to his wife and an artist herself Anju Dodiya, a rather strange mix of the deeply personal and a sort of literary fantasy with a humor, which has saved him from becoming obscure, so to say.

The writer quotes Paris-based Indian art collector-gallerist Hervé Perdriolle, who says: “The multi-faceted aspect of Atul Dodiya’s work is rich and dense. Where many of the contemporary artists develop just one facet of their research to (create) a form of conspicuous repetition, he does not hesitate at all to expand his research and themes.

“The speed at which his works are done, for runs at bienniales, fairs and exhibitions, leaves little time for deeper analysis. But that takes time, and yet the work fascinates as much as the artist himself seems fascinated by his peers.” Added to this lifelong dogged involvement with his very roots and India’s rich art history is the artist’s antiquated, almost Gandhian approach to the forces of the market.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Project 88 at Frieze Art Fair

India’s representation at the prestigious Frieze Art Fair is in the form of a group show of works presented by Mumbai based Project 88. The gallery features works by artists Rohini Devasher, Sandeep Mukherjee, Tejal Shah and Raqs Media Collective.

The works on view comprise of sculpture and photographs by Raqs Media Collective, new media works by Rohini Devasher, Tejal Shah’s performance based photography and paintings by Sandeep Mukherjee. It will also be part of the Sculpture Park with Neha Choksi’s large scale cement sculpture.

Among the participating artists, Sandeep Mukherjee did his B.F.A. from Otis College of Art & Design (Los Angeles) and later an M.F.A. from UCLA. His select solos have been held at venues including Sister & Cottage Home, Los Angeles; the Margo Leavin Gallery, L A; Brennan and Griffin, New York; Nature Morte Gallery, Delhi; and the Pomona College Museum of Art in Claremont, CA. His noteworthy group shows include those at the UCLA Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; the Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, San Francisco; and the Museum of Contemporary, L A.

Key areas of artistic contemplation and subsequent discovery to Rohini Devasher are pattern recognition as well as pattern formation within organic form apart from an astute understanding of the universal underlying structure within surrounding nature’s complexity.

Raqs Media Collective group ((Monica Narula, Jeebesh Bagchi, Shuddhabrata Sengupta) has been variously termed as artists, curators, media practitioners, editors and researchers. Serving as proactive catalyst of cultural processes, their body of work traces the contemporary realities in a quirky manner. It has been showed widely at major international galleries and in events.

Tejal Shah is a visual artist based in Mumbai. Her work like herself is feminist, political and queer. She works with a variety of media such as video, photography and installation. Just like herself, her work is starkly feminist, queer and sharply political in approach. It has been exhibited prestigious galleries, museums and international film festivals.

‘Urban Space, Counter Gaze’ by Shruti Gupta Chandra

Urban spaces, their unavoidable role as an aspirational desire, the angst they generate and also the fact that they are slowly but surely eating into pristine rural spaces is what forms the crux of artist Shruti Gupta Chandra’s new series on display at Gallery Artspeaks, New Delhi.

A case in point is her ‘I Hope To Find’, a large-sized acrylic on canvas, which acknowledges this intrusion through symbolism of staircases, to point out how it’s dramatically altering the rural landscape, and irreversibly affecting their environmental balance and even rewriting their social history.

In another work, titled ‘Castles in the Air’, there are four panels of 40” each, which comprise the flight of stairs, seemingly taking the climber into an ideally transformed urban space wherein all can enjoy equal rights and justice. Curator Johny M.L Says: “This flight of spiral stairs surfaces in four different frames, which constitute one single work. The images of stairs in each frame denote different possibilities of movement. It’s almost like watching the same scene, albeit from different distances. Shruti Gupta plays up a virtual zooming purely for aesthetic reasons. Here, the twist is rendered when the artist opts to abstract the flights into a stream of some paper like filings in one of the frames.”

Giving a broader perspective to her series, the curator concludes that the artist interestingly choose to evade the idea of ‘femininity’. Though not a feminist in strict sense of the term, she passes counter gazes through a clever aesthetic ploy at a male-dominated society through male nude bodies. Though she portrays suggestive androgynous bodies in her works occasionally blurring the societal divides, she infuses them with a sort of strong musculature.

This counter gaze apparently comes from her formal training as an artist. Yet, this gaze suggests the artist’s contained albeit carefully cultivated gender politics. Her works while aesthetically negotiating the urban spaces, also counter the dominant male ideology on a level playing field of pure aesthetic expressions.

Frieze Art Fair 2011

The world-renowned Frieze Art Fair features world’s top contemporary art galleries. It includes specially commissioned projects, a talks program and an artist-led special education schedule. The event takes place in Regent’s Park, London this week. It draws over 60,000 visitors every year. They include artists, collectors, curators, gallerists and critics, and the general art-loving public, enjoying the whole cultural experience.

The fair focuses on contemporary art and artists. Unlike most other fairs, it’s housed in a bewildering bespoke temporary structure located in Regent’s Park, sans the settings of a trade show, making it both lively and energetic. Since its inception, the fair has collaborated with several talented architects like David Adjaye, Caruso St John and Jamie Fobert, well known for their work on art galleries and museums.

The idea behind the setting and realm of the fair is to make it a unique experience through exciting works and eye-catching changes to the décor, design and surrounding spaces. The so called power duo behind the fair is Amanda Sharp and Matthew Slotover. In a recent interview, they mention: “Frieze gave us access to a world that we did not even know existed. Through the event we had to get involved with so many more aspects of the business of art. However, it has never precluded two of us from having conversations with artists. We spend as much time possible with artists as ever, and most of our friendships are with artists."

The London art fair, now in its ninth year, has witnessed the art bubble inflated to blinging proportions and then deflate, before stabilizing a bit. When it began in 2003, it drew 27,700 visitors and amassed roughly £20 million in sales. These days, the number of visitor hover around 60,000 plus. The fair organizers stopped giving the total sales figures since 2005. While they are not likely to reach the earlier dizzy heights, it's fair to say they are still reasonable.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Deciphering the impact of all-pervasive urban space and a a male-dominated society

Emerging artist Shruti Gupta Chandra’s new canvases unravel the complexity of the process of urbanization. Her life-size painted works often comprise strong figurative forms. Their inherent stark masculinity exudes an overpowering and lingering sense of physicality. In her latest solo, entitled ‘Counter Gaze’, though, she opts for a marked change in her artistic process and form.

The scale of her canvases remains the same – some of them as large as 6 ft x 5 ft – and so does her core concern about people trapped within randomly growing urban spaces. However, this political/gender critique surfaces in subtle tones. To attain this effect, the artist has switched from her earlier homo-centric figurative language, to more abstract visuals full of grids & staircases.

‘Counter Gaze’ is the launching exhibition (October 11- 31, 2011) of New Delhi based Gallery Artspeaks India after first having been hosted at Galerie Romain Roland, Alliance Francaise. According to the gallery director, Ashwini Pai Bahadur, it was an obvious choice to host her solo for their launch since Shruti Gupta’s paintings, which include non-conformist subjects, exude technical brilliance. They transform the urban jungle around us into an engaging piece of art.

The artist has been quoted as saying: “While it’s obvious that urbanization takes place for the development of human beings, we cannot overlook the fact that it also contributes to their own suffering.” She has tried to capture this irony of human existence in her work. As curator of the show Johny M.L explains, one person gets divided into many through fragmentation, giving rise to a state of ‘mutiplicity’ in today’s highly complex/ed modern, urban society.

The dichotomy crops up as an inhabitant of this teeming metropolis nevertheless feels lonely. Faced with gaping loneliness and an inevitable breakdown of relationships, one constantly searches for emotional sustenance, giving rise to a vacuum in an individual’s life that the artist tries to grasp in her thought-provoking works.

Gripping ‘grids' that deconstruct existing realities

A new visually arresting body of work by an emerging Indian artist on view at New Delhi based Gallery Artspeaks incorporates deft usage of ‘grids' to deconstruct existing realities.

Shruti Gupta in her new series of works, entitled ‘Counter Gaze’, builds a lot of grids on her pictorial space so that a viewer can negotiate her reality in both an aesthetic and philosophical way. For instance, in ‘Towards And Away’ and ‘The Folds Opened Out’, these grids, almost having the serenity of a gauche on paper or linen, could be interpreted as the abstract representations of the urban-scapes.

Curator Johny M.L mentions: “Grids create a filter and ground of moderation through which the realities could be negotiated, captured and re-constructed in novel fashions. Artists of the post-modern times have effectively used the possibilities of grids, both virtual and real ones, in their works.

The apparent haziness or the presence of a transparent veil like coat over these works in fact provides a general ‘grid space’ to them even when the artist does not consciously create grids of negotiation in geometrical shapes. One can see the artist’s involvement with the beauty of the human body in most of these works too, although considerably moderated and muted.

While she has chosen to now create visual planes of abstract color schemes, she incorporates solidly drawn male human figures but distorted to some extent to emphasize the feeling of dislocation of these human beings. Shruti Gupta’s human figures are depicted as thoughtful beings (‘Alter Ego’, ‘As The World Spun’), representing the dizziness of those caught in the dynamics of urbanization.

In ‘Yesterday Unravels, Today Engulfs’, the artist creates this movement in the form of a trapeze net or huge mosquito net tied within a historical architecture that represents the old and sustainable urbanization projects. In this net, human beings are seen as if they were washed away by a gushing stream; a metaphor for the dynamics of history.

On the other hand, In ‘I See, I Wait, I Believe, she uses the human figure as an isolated being within a complex landscape of grids, to depict the fact that one is alone in a very special way in urban life.

Where’s the Asian art market headed?

An uneven set of results from Sotheby’s autumn Hong Kong sales that wrapped up last Thursday indicates that the surging Asian art market is pausing for breath amid rocky times for financial assets such as stocks. While the auction room was crowded with bidders from mainland China and the British auctioneer switched between English and Chinese as he called out prices, a fifth of the 41 pieces failed to sell. The sale came near the end of a week of auctions for wine, art, jewelry and other collectibles.

The sales in Hong Kong are a barometer of the Asian art and collectibles market, which has come to be dominated by newly wealthy mainland Chinese. They have helped the city become the world’s third largest auction center after New York and London. Art market observers said Asian buyers are getting pickier amid the wobbling financial markets. Sales of big-name Chinese artists are being snapped up while mid-tier names are being passed over. (AP)

Whilst Chinese art has steamrolled to fresh highs, with its market share of the global contemporary art auction market having grown from 0.9 percent in 2002 to 27.7 percent in 2010, according to art consultancy ArtTactic. The market is prone to manipulation and speculation by aggressive syndicates playing the sector and hyping up artists almost like venture capitalists. While few went as far as describing the Sotheby's sales as a tipping point, some say the softening demand presented a potential opportunity for certain categories including ink works and more traditional, scholarly asset classes. (Reuters)

The slump in the art market may well be a thing of the past, if these current and upcoming initiatives are anything to go by. From on-ground and virtual art fairs to privatised funding and corporate backing, of late artists are receiving support from all quarters. Feroze Gujral, model-turned-entrepreneur, started Outset India this year as a means to attract private funding for art in India.

She sums up the scope of India’s art market saying, “The contemporary Indian art scene is growing at a fast pace, second only to China. It is considered as a serious business with a turnover of over $350 million in 2011. It is an investment taken very seriously by all. Our country has immense potential to flourish in this space.” (Hindustan Times)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Tracking the growth trajectory of Indian art market

Studying the Indian art market from a broader perspective, Mukti Khaire, a Harvard Business School professor and R. Daniel Wadhwani from the University of the Pacific, looked at the emergence of modern Indian art as a category in a comprehensive research paper. Until the early 1990s, it was largely characterized as ‘decorative’ in international art circles. Since it was identified with that category, its value remained low.

It was after 1995 that Indian art was classified as modernist and therefore ‘fine art’. It was then accepted as having more aesthetic and economic value than ascribed earlier. Several prominent auction houses translated the changing academic discourse into fathomable constructs, enabling a larger group of participants and lay consumers to follow its finer points. As the understanding of modern Indian art spread, its value automatically increased. This resulted in a greater media coverage, which naturally expanded the circle of interested stakeholders.

The market is now largely driven by collectors focused on specific artists and works in spite the looming slowdown threat. Even as the focus remains on the top three modernists, there are several other modern artists doing well apart from an array of talented contemporary artists, experimenting with forms, themes and mediums, to build an identity of their own. Importantly, most Indian artists enjoy a high resale value, constantly surpassing expectations over the past five years.

In a quest to target today’s discerning and choosy buyers, the top auction houses are choosing to focus on quality works. Incidentally, most top lots at recent sales are dominated by traditional and modern art. Value deals, if one can spot them with help of specialists, are available in the range of Rs 2-10 lakh.

The market conditions currently provide investors a good scope to acquire some quality works. Incidentally, most top lots at prominent sales were dominated by traditional and modern art. Progressive modernists, such as FN Souza, VS Gaitonde, Tyeb Mehta, Raza and Husain also have witnessed good demand.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

One of India’s most significant female artists ever

‘Amrita Sher-Gil: A self-portrait in letters & writings’ (Publisher: Tulika Books) offers some interesting insights into her extraordinary life spread across India, Italy, Hungary, France and the UK. Her correspondence, carrying notes and annotations by established artist-curator and her nephew, Vivan Sundaram, portrayed her mesmerizing personality laced with a touch of history.

Obviously, she was passionate in her commitment to artistic ideals and absolute in terms of her quest for the Indian idiom. Sample her views on art processes and philosophy in a letter she wrote to one of her critic friends. “Ironically enough, good art never appeals at first sight. In fact, I will go so far as to say that more often than not it repels. Bad Art, on the other hand, based as it is on cheap effect, appeals immediately to the artistically underdeveloped mind and therein lies its danger.

“Because though taste, of course, like every other faculty, can be developed, and when trained in the proper direction should qualify everyone to distinguish a bad work of art from a good one and enable people to develop a genuine preference for the latter, it is unfortunately very seldom that people attempt to develop this faculty even to a moderate degree,” she notes.

“There are people who have the illusion that there are no absolute values in Art and believe, therefore, that personal taste is the only standard by which a work can be judged, and consequently dub everything that repels them as bad with the certitude and intolerance that can only be the outcome of ignorance...”

Her works and life history were presented at Haus der Kunst, Munich in 2006-07. Lauding her achievements, an accompanying note stated: “The Indian-Hungarian artist, an emblematic figure only comparable to frida kahlo, was a true protagonist of artistic modernism in India. Her work was a culmination of several different things like (Indian) cult and exotism, politics and sexuality as well as a curious mixture of contrasting visual cultures.

Legendary Indian female artist Amrita Sher-Gil’s life journey - I

Born in 1913 in Budapest to a Sikh father and a Hungarian mother, Amrita Sher-Gil was the first significant Indian female artist to attain fame internationally. The family came to India in 1921, where did her early schooling. Her father Umrao Sher-Gil was an armature photographer who photographed himself and his family over the course of five decades.

They brought out the close relationship that father and his sensitive daughter shared. Possessing extraordinary painterly skills and talent, she received her artistic grooming in Florence, and later joined the Ecole des Beaux Arts, Paris where she studied from 1930 to 1934. She tried on different personae and explored her own hybrid identity.

Her early works reflected the academic style she was trained in. She simultaneously experimented to represent the non-western body in her paintings. An admirer of artist Paul Gauguin, the influence of realism was palpable in some of her works, particularly in the time period between the two world wars.

However, she also experimented with ways to represent the non-western body in paintings like ‘Sleep (1933)’ of her younger sister. She felt haunted by an intense longing for coming back to India’, as the artist herself had revealed, ‘feeling in some strange inexplicable way that there lay my destiny as a painter.’

In 1934 the family moved to Shimla. She painted vigorously and traveled widely, observing and represent India’s rural life. Exuding a joie de vivre, her practice was gradually characterized by a sense of melancholia, even while eyes firmly fixed on the timelessness of a pretty object. With ‘Three Girls’ (1935), she visibly switched to a flatter, more modern composition from the academic, realist style of painting. A pair of paintings (‘Hill Men’ and ‘Hill Women’) she painted in the same year, depicted Indian villagers, evoked a sense of dignity and pathos.

Astounding life journey of one of India's greatest female artists - II

Art collector Karl Khandalavala, whom Amrita Sher-Gil met in 1936, initiated her towards Indian art. She was influenced by her visits to Ajanta and Ellora. Her subsequent body of work reflected her growing urge to create a modern style of painting, entirely her own yet quintessentially Indian yet. From the late 1930s onwards, her paintings became slightly more naive in style, the colors richer, and the figures further simplified.

The representation of secluded women in their moments of private thought was a recurring theme in her oeuvre as she became acquainted with the isolated lifestyles of lonely women in India living on feudal estates. Her paintings evoked this inner realm of resignation, boredom and idle pastimes. She returned to Hungary in June 1938 to marry her cousin, Victor Egan. Her last unfinished painting shows a view from the window of her Lahore studio, where they finally settled.

Many of her paintings in the early 1930s in the European style included several self portraits, apart from paintings of her life in Paris, still life studied, nude studies, and portraits of her friends. The self portraits captured the own persona in many moods, revealing a curious streak in her personality. The artist also yearned for her home country, and her roots. She came back home in 1934.

She appropriated in particular the language of miniatures. Her return to the homeland became a kind of self-discovery voyage, after her confrontation with art scene here and her own sexuality. Her female protagonists, often portrayed in their own secluded private spaces, were mostly from humble backgrounds. The legendary artist died at the age of 29 in 1941 in Lahore.

Her enchanting oeuvre is a unique blend of sharp commentary on the prevailing socio-cultural milieu and the philosophy of painting. Mere 29 years of life and awe-inspiring artistic achievements therein still evoke immense curiosity among art connoisseurs. Ironically, she could enjoy limited success and recognition, as an artist in her lifetime.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Pavilion of Art and Design (PAD) in London

The celebrated fair organisers’ duo of Patrick Perrin and Stéphane Custot return with PAD London 2011, describing it as the strongest ever edition of the event since its launch in the yera 2007.

Known for its suave sophistication, its eclecticism, and the consistent quality of its displays, the Pavilion of Art & Design (PAD) London is recognized today among the top modern art & design fairs not only in the UK but also internationally. A meticulous selection process has put together some of the best dealers in their respective fields.

The event boasts close to 60 renowned exhibitors from Europe, North America and Asia, to transform Berkeley Square into an elegant emporium of the most coveted artworks within the diverse genres of Modern Art, Design, Decorative Arts, Tribal Art and Photography from 1860 until today.

Moët Hennessy is sponsoring a major of Design or Decorative Arts piece donation to the Victoria & Albert (V & A) as part of the Moët Hennessy-PAD London Prize. The judging panel is chaired by the architect-designer Nigel Coates. It’s comprised of several prominent personalities in the domains of art, culture, fashion, communication and business like Jasper Conran, Tom Dixon, Allegra Hicks, Karla Otto and Bella Freud. Previous editions have witnessed the V&A acquire prestigious pieces from Carpenters Workshop Gallery (UK) and Friedman Benda (USA).

Discussions of PAD, launched by French art dealers Perrin and Custot, often mention its ‘gallic chic’ and ‘foreign flair’. The event invariably oozes international allure – from a roll call of leading exhibitors from across the US and Europe to the Ola!-glam visitors who gently trip through its Mayfair marquee.

David Collins, a Dublin-born designer-architect renowned for his luxury interiors & design, has been specially invited to dress the fair’s entrance area this year. The prestigious Pavilion of Art and Design (PAD) fair runs at Berkeley Square, London until October 16, 2011.

Top 100 personalities of the art world in year 2011

The ArtReview Power 100 is released by the international magazine by this time of the year. It’s a comprehensive compilation of the art world’s most powerful and impact-making personalities, who are ranked on basis of their influence over the production of art, financial clout and activity. The list includes artists, collectors, gallerists and curators. Here’s a quick rundown of the The ArtReview Power 100 list for the year 2011:

1. Ai Weiwei
2. Hans Ulrich Obrist & Julia Peyton-Jones
3. Glenn D. Lowry
4. Larry Gagosian
5. Anton Vidokle, Julieta Aranda & Brian Kuan Wood
6. Nicholas Serota
7. Cindy Sherman
8. Iwan Wirth
9. David Zwirner
10. Beatrix Ruf

11. Gerhard Richter
12. Alfred Pacquement
13. Adam D. Weinberg
14. Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev
15. Marc Glimcher
16. Klaus Biesenbach
17. Eli Broad
18. RoseLee Goldberg
19. François Pinault
20. Marc Spiegler & Annette Schönholzer

21. Mike Kelley
22. Barbara Gladstone
23. Marina Abramovic
24. Matthew Slotover & Amanda Sharp
25. Patricia Phelps de Cisneros
26. Bice Curiger
27. Marian Goodman
28. Peter Fischli & David Weiss
29. Bernard Arnault
30. Nicholas Logsdail

31. Jay Jopling
32. Liam Gillick
33. Ann Philbin
34. Dominique Lévy & Robert Mnuchin
35. Victor Pinchuk
36. Franz West
37. Maja Hoffmann
38. Agnes Gund
39. Tim Blum & Jeff Poe
40. Dakis Joannou

41. Rosemarie Trockel
42. Iwona Blazwick
43. Udo Kittelmann
44. Monika Sprüth & Philomene Magers
45. Matthew Marks
46. Gavin Brown
47. Takashi Murakami
48. Jeffrey Deitch
49. Adam Szymczyk
50. Anish Kapoor

51. Emmanuel Perrotin
52. Okwui Enwezor
53. Boris Groys
54. Artur Zmijewski
55. Michael Morris & James Lingwood
56. William Wells & Yasser Gareb
57. Anne Pasternak
58. Michael Ringier
59. Steve McQueen
60. Sadie Coles

61. Daniel Buchholz
62. Toby Webster
63. Germano Celant
64. Damien Hirst
65. Slavoj Zizek
66. Jeff Koons
67. Thaddaeus Ropac
68. Brett Gorvy & Amy Cappellazzo
69. Tobias Meyer & Cheyenne Westphal
70. Chang Tsong-zung & Claire Hsu

71. Yana Peel & Candida Gertler
72. Christine Tohme
73. Richard Chang
74. Helga de Alvear
75. Walid Raad
76. Bernardo Paz
77. Tim Neuger & Burkhard Riemschneider
78. Massimo De Carlo
79. Mario Cristiani, Lorenzo Fiaschi & Maurizio Rigillo
80. Massimiliano Gioni

81. Dasha Zhukova
82. Vasif Kortun
83. David Hammons
84. Philip Tinari
85. Miuccia Prada
86. Shirin Neshat
87. Jason, Jennifer, Mera & Don Rubell
88. Christoph Büchel
89. Elena Filipovic
90. Sheikh Saud bin Muhammad bin Ali Al-Thani/Sheikha Al-Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa

91. Maureen Paley
92. Christian Boros & Karen Lohmann
93. Victoria Miro
94. Anita & Poju Zabludowicz
95. Kaja Silverman
96. Johann König
97. Nicolai Wallner
98. Franco Noero & Pierpaolo Falone
99. Leonid Mikhelson
100. Gregor Podnar

‘The Art of Drawing’ at the Guild

The Guild, Mumbai presents ‘The Art of Drawing’ curated by Sudhir Patwardhan, a preview of a two-part show at Sudarshan Art Gallery, Pune. Its purpose is to bring together some of the different kinds of drawing done by Indian artists today.

Works by the artists Dilip Ranade, Gieve Patel, Himmat Shah, Jyothi Basu, K.G. Subramanyan, Krishen Khanna, Parag Tandel, Sudhir Patwardhan, Tushar Joag and Vilas Shinde have been chosen with a view to give the viewer some sense of the variety of ways in which drawing is still used as a tool of exploration, and as a mode of expression.

An accompanying note by artist-curator, Sudhir Patwardhan elaborates: “The impulses behind drawing, the reasons why artists draw, are multiple and varied, and the drawings that result from such varied impulses look very different from each other. A studied rendering of a model in the studio is different from a quickly rendered sketch of a figure seen in the street. An idle doodle is different from a charged venting of emotion on paper.

Drawings done to clarify a vague idea in the mind are different from drawings done to abstract the essential forms in nature; and the list can be as long as the number of artists who do drawings. However, till not too long ago, the activity of doing some form of drawing daily was considered essential for every artist. It was part of the discipline of being an artist and was considered the foundation on which an artist built. It was essential for keeping the connections between eye, brain and hand alive and alert.

In the last few decades drawing seems to have lost this generally accepted eminence in the creative process. Firstly, with the spread of photography from the beginning of the twentieth century, the reign of one kind of naturalistic or academic drawing came to an end. Nevertheless, drawing still flourished in the modern period.

Artists found new uses for and purpose for drawing. And the forms that drawings took multiplied. In the past twenty years or so however, with the advent of the new media in art - video, photography, installation etc. and the spread of the computer in design and architecture, drawing seems to have receded somewhat from artists’ practice. Its position in the academic curriculum too is unstable and its need is not universally felt,” the curator states.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Historic masterpieces worth £100m allegedly destroyed by thieves

Five stolen paintings, which included a Matisse, a Modigliani and a Picasso worth a whopping £100 million, reached a street dustbin and were crushed by a rubbish truck, according to media reports.

Police, authorities and art lovers in Paris and across the world were left shocked when a lone, hooded burglar in May last year climbed into the capital city's Musée d'Art Moderne just opposite the Eiffel Tower, to the five celebrated oeuvres that he managed to cut from their frames and then rolled up.

A faulty alarm system helped him escape with ‘Pastoral’ by Henri Matisse (1906), ‘Dove with Green Peas’ by Pablo Picasso (1911), ‘Woman with Fan’ by Amedeo Modigliani (1919), ‘Still Life with Candlestick’ by Fernand Leger (1922) and ‘Olive Tree near l'Estaque’ by Georges Braque (1906).

London’s Art Loss Registry termed the Pink Panther-style robbery probably ‘one of the biggest ever art heists’, considering the prominence of the artists, the high profile of the museum and the estimated value of the paintings, roughly at 100 million euros and even worth twice that, according to some experts.

The Serious Crime Brigade officers took over a year before placing - the alleged thief and his two accomplices - under investigation. According to media reports, one of them is a watch repairer, who confessed that he destroyed the canvasses and threw them into a rubbish bin.

Detectives though, remain skeptical about his account. But if it’s true, the destruction of the landmark masterpieces would be a huge blow to the world’s art heritage. French art museums in particular, have faced criticism after a spate of robberies in recent years. Just months before the modern art raid, a scrupulous thief walked out of a Marseilles gallery with Degas' The Chorus right under his coat. The FBI estimates put the market for stolen artworks at £3 billion annually. Interpol has close to 30,000 stolen pieces’ record in its database.

The Duchess moves into the arts world

The Duchess is keen to support Britain’s national arts institutions, like The Tate, the National Portrait Gallery, the V&A and the National Gallery. She will be reportedly holding a series of meetings with curators and directors at galleries and museums, to follow the finer aspects of arts world.

The Duchess, according to media reports, might become the official patron of select national museums and galleries apart from being an ‘ambassador’ for institutions with existing Royal links like the V&A. She is also expected to support many smaller, lesser-known arts bodies.

The 29 year-old Duchess has a genuine interest in the domain of arts. In 2001, she spent a few months at the British Institute in Florence studying art history, before joining the University of St Andrew's. Incidentally, she met Prince William there while reading a history of degree in art.

She is quite eager to bring her own knowledge and keen interests to the fore as part of her future official role. According to a royal aide, the Duchess is interested in the visual arts with strong links in the world of art, so she wishes to see where she can give her support going forward.

She is meeting authorities at arts institutions to grasp their workings and things like how exhibits are put together and how artworks come together, before making her decision about supporting some of the organizations. The Royal circles would also most likely welcome her move into the arts world.

The Queen herself, has good knowledge of fine art. The Duke of Edinburgh is a designer & painter, who often painted with the artist Edward Seago, also his close friend. The Prince of Wales is an accomplished watercolorist whereas Lady Helen Taylor spent quite a few years working with Karsten Schubert, the contemporary art dealer. On her part, the Duchess has an interest in photography.

The UK Royal Family connections with the world of art

The Royal correspondent of The UK Telegraph throws light on the Royal Family connections with the art world:
The Queen - The Queen is hugely knowledgable about fine art, with the Royal Collection among the finest collection of art works anywhere in the world. In keeping with Royal tradition, she is particularly keen on collecting pieces of Fabergé. Next year, the Queen will allow Buckingham Palace to be used as a canvas for a projection of a montage portrait in her image, created by schoolchildren. She is also Royal Patron of the Royal Academy of Arts.

The Duke of Edinburgh - The Duke is an accomplished artist, and several of his landscapes hang in Royal residences. He was a close friend of the late artist Edward Seago, with whom he often painted. He is also a champion of design, and founded the Prince Philip Designers Prize in 1959. Prince Philip is honorary president of the Friends of the Royal Academy.

Prince of Wales - The Prince of Wales is a keen watercolourist, and was tutored as a young man by artists including Seago, John Ward and Derek Hill. Prince Charles often paints landscapes while holidaying at Balmoral and Sandringham and has exhibited and sold many of his works to generate income for his charities. He is a champion of the arts and several of his charities reflect this. The Prince is also honorary president of the Royal Academy Trust.

The Earl of Wessex - After leaving the Royal Marines, Prince Edward pursued a career in theatrical production, working for Lord Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Theatre Company. He went on to run his own theatre and television production company, Ardent Productions, for more than 10 years. Many of the charities Prince Edward supports are linked to the arts.

Princess Michael of Kent - Princess Michael of Kent has long been involved with the arts. She is was formerly President of Partridge Fine Art antique dealership in Mayfair and works with the Galerie Gmurzynska in Switzerland. Princess Michael is also an author and interior designer.

Lady Helen Taylor - The daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Kent, Lady Helen Taylor worked for several years with the contemporary art dealer Karsten Schubert, and once said she turned down the opportunity to represent the artist Damien Hirst. She is married to the art dealer and gallerist Timothy Taylor.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Concerns and inspirations of a celebrated Indian artist

For an Indian viewer, Dodiya’s intellectual rigor is discreet and playful, mentions The Mint writer Sanjukta Sharma in a recent essay (‘The great assembler’) on eve of his new show. In this sense, he is an Indian artist primarily for Indians.

Leading collector Anupam Poddar, who owns three works by Dodiya—Destination 1 (1984), acquired in the early 1990s, Petals (2000), acquired in 2000, and B for Bapu (2001), acquired in 2002—says: “Contrary to this perception, I think that he has done well for himself on the international scene. The question for me is how one views international success.”

He used to work at his father’s home in the same neighborhood until a few years ago; there, he said in an earlier interview to Lounge, neighbors constantly dropped by to give him their feedback—“some valuable and some not”. From the old studio in a chawl, he envisioned and created works that looked outward to the city, to the history of Indian art, to artists he admired and later, very deeply, at Gandhi and at ideas of nationalism after the Gujarat riots, and chiseled the idiom for his hyper-referential art.

In the new show on view at Mumbai’s the Mumbai- based Chemould Prescott Road gallery ideas of nationalism and Mumbai’s transformation, which have engaged him ever since the late 1990s, are conspicuously absent. Words scribbled in white on a black canvas, some of which are mounted on wooden frames, resemble blackboards.

The words could be written in chalk, except they are oil on canvas, rubbed on the edges to create an effect that looks like chalk smudged by a duster. On each canvas, occupying a secondary, corner position, are figures made with oil and marble dust. The words are English translations by Arundhathi Subramaniam and Naushil Mehta of a work of absurd fantasy, Bako Chhe Kalpo, by Gujarati author Labhshankar Thaker.

“It is a work that has been with me for many years. The idea of a 10-year-old boy having a conversation with Gandhi, not about big ideas of nationhood or patriotism but of ordinary things, reminds me, personally, of a lost time,” he tells the writer.

What’s the mood like at one of the world’s top art fairs?

This autumn's Frieze fair is all set to opens (13–16 October 2011). But what’s the mood like at one of the world’s top art events? Here is a quick look at the news report that give us an insight:

“Collectors are being more cautious,” said the London-based adviser Tania Buckrell Pos, who has Russians and Asians among her clients. “A few indicated they thought prices may even come down a little. Nonetheless, Frieze will attract a lot of attention and there will be some solid buying activity.”

New works priced at less than $500,000 tend to be the main draw for collectors who fly in for Frieze and its satellite events. “My clients are ready and itching to buy work,” said the New York-based adviser Heather Flow, who will be visiting Frieze and its satellite events. “The majority are American and our focus is on works under $30,000.” Others are less confident about the outlook for contemporary pieces. (Bloomberg)

Will Chinese buyers ride to the rescue? Will the super-rich decide painting and sculpture is a better investment than volatile stocks or risky debt? Those are the big questions on the art world's lips as hundreds of galleries and collectors descend on London for the annual post-war and contemporary frenzy centred around the October 13-16 Frieze Art Fair in Regent's Park.

Matthew Slotover, co-founder of Frieze who is considered one of the art world's most powerful figures, conceded that concerns over slow economic growth and Europe's debt crisis could weigh on the fair. But he, like many others, argued that investors may prefer to put their money into a painting than a paper asset."It is something tangible and real," he told Reuters in a recent interview, stressing that personally he would not treat art as a financial investment alone. (Reuters)

Frieze grew up with the art world, too: like many of the artists who were young in the 1990s, it has grown from the improvisatory, homemade early days into an international business. The Masters fair, which will run next October alongside Frieze, with about 70 galleries, is a fascinating development.

When the world is deep in recession and economic uncertainty, it seems a curious time to be envisioning such rapid expansion. But Matthew Slotover and Amanda Sharp (the two who set up the fair) are confident, pointing out that all their previous developments came in economically gloomy times: the magazine in recession-hit 1991, the first fair in the aftermath of the dotcom crash. The art market, they argue, has not been as badly hit as other industries, with Frieze holding fairly steady in size. (The Guardian)