Monday, April 30, 2012

Why does Indian art market need a bigger thrust?

Though the future is seemingly bright, why everything is not right for with the current art scene of our country, or so feels India's high profile collector Kiran Nadar - the wife of HCL Technologies founder chairman Shiv Nadar!

A case in point is the surprisingly poor showing of Indian artworks at the recent auctions. SH Raza's monumental canvas 'Village With Church', as reported by Art Expo, didn't find any takers at the recent Sotheby's Modern & Contemporary South Asian Art auction in New York, whereas another portrait of a scientist painted by late MF Husain fetched about Rs 1.2 crore , way below the boom time bids.

Latest figures on state of the world art market China’s standing as the undisputed leader with an impressive 30% share. Despite all the hype, India lags behind its powerful neighbor with a small percentage. It’s not to doubt the vast potential of Indian art market, but apparent lack of will or infrastructure to capitalize on the same that’s clearly more worrying.

According to Nadar, Chinese art market is solidly and actively supported by the government there. There are at least hundred private museums in Shanghai and Beijing, whereas India only has a handful of private art collecting institutions such as the Devi Art Foundation that are buying works. The state institutions stultified by bureaucracy hardly buy any contemporary art.

There is not enough depth to collectors’ base, which makes it difficult to sustain and expand the market. Unless high net worth individuals (HNIs) are exposed to quality work by younger and upcoming artists, the scenario won’t change. To instill love for art among masses, Kiran Nadar has devoted herself to the cause of building up her museums. She believes art is the country's glorious heritage that must be cared for.

The art aficionado says that more people should be made to visit museums like abroad, where it's common to families going to museums together. The entry to KNMA is free in keeping with her philosophy.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Retaining the regional flavor to art

A series of contemporary positive developments may pave the way for art lovers and collectors to move to the serene South India.

Sunitha Kumar Emmart of Bangalore’s GallerySKE founder makes it a point to show at least 5-10 artists in a year. One of the recent shows featured Škoda Prize-winner Navin Thomas who had on view live birds and even dead insects. According to the gallerist, the idea is not to display pretty pictures alone.

For record, the gallerist began with just three artists almost a decade ago, and now represents many of the country’s major names like Sudarshan Shetty and Bharti Kher. Emmart has been quoted as saying: “The troubled market is obviously on everyone’s head. However, people are quietly creating new work here in Bangalore; it’s a space wherein they can be truly productive. There needs to be that core idea of building one common language; what and how does it really matter if it’s south Indian or north Indian art?”

Yet, concerted efforts to expose the tradition of south Indian art to the rest of the country can work both ways. For instance, Apparao is set to bring two of young Chennai-based artists, Janardhanan and Sunil Sree to New Delhi for the first time ever sometime this year.

Ashish Thapar and Ebenezer Singh from Chennai started Singh & Thapar Projects about four months ago in the capital city. It’s a space in Connaught Place for them to present lesser-known artists from south India like Aparajithan Adimoolam and Sharmila Mohandas. A recent event, Art Chennai, and the keenly awaited Kochi-Muziris Biennale point to the broader trend. A series of performance, talks and exhibitions mark the events. .

The former consisted of different events at multiple sites, such as the Taj Coromandel that hosted a conference plus an artist residency. The city-based festival included top artists like Atul Dodiya, Nilima Sheikh, Jitish Kallat, C. Douglas, M. Senathipathi, and Arpita Singh.

Why art business schools are thriving?

The director of London-based Sotheby’s Institute, Jos Hackforth-Jones, had stated in an interview last year that their enrollment figures had steadily increased over the last few years, especially in programs that offer professional development expertise. The school’s specialist short courses with the focus on career progression include areas like Asian art, the art market & business of art.

So why art business schools are thriving? Oil-rich benefactors and governments in Doha, Qatar and other Arabian nations are keen to set up museums and collections. The Gulf region seems to be emerging as a hub for art business schools. What seems to be hampering the efforts to create a network is the underlying shortage of structures and skills, such as archiving, proper cataloguing and conservation.

Established schools like Paris based IESA (the Institut d’Études Supérieures des Arts) see this as a huge opportunity. Its co-founder Françoise Schmitt recently explored the prospects of a staff training module with the Doha Museum. Simultaneously, the schools are keenly looking for growth in these so-called emerging markets.

Recent auction sales suggest the art market is set to bounce back after having taken a hit during the economic crisis global. These developments present an opportunity to them. Far from feeling the post-recession pinch, these institutions haven’t really felt the financial crisis at all. In fact, enrolment in IESA’s courses rose to 1,000 from 700 a year ago. Most art business schools have a similar tale to tell.

According to an estimate, the European Union art market alone employed 270,000 professionals directly in a year’s time, plus not less than 107,500 people in various other support services. Drouot Formation in Paris, the Drouot auction house’s continuing education department, has received a higher number of applications for its professional programs. These are 40 and 50 years old wanting to bring their respective entrepreneurial skills to the expanding art market. The schools guide them on their ideas and projects in order to help them get conversant with the art market.

Thematic works by Sunoj D., Abhishek Hazra, Orijit Sen and Abir Karmakar

An interesting thematic exhibition of paintings by four talented artists, namely Sunoj D., Abhishek Hazra, Orijit Sen, and Abir Karmakar takes place at Galleryske, Bangalore. A curatorial note reveals the thought processes behind the works on view:

Orijit Sen

Punjab, the fertile land of the five doabas, draws both sustenance and identity from its great rivers that flow down westwards from the Himalayas. The landscapes of the region have undergone dramatic changes in modern times. Some aspects of life have also been torn apart. But through good times and bad, Punjabis remain upbeat about themselves. It is this special something that the artist has set out to capture through these images - which he hopes will serve as a reflection and celebration of the irrepressible Punjabi spirit.
Abhishek Hazra
His work continues his engagement with the social history of science. In this new work, he focuses on the origins of Bengali scientific terminology in the early 19th century and looks critically at the politics of translation. The work also tries to contextualize the dynamics of its own consumption: how seemingly self-anthropologizing artworks tickle the liberal sentiments of History’s sovereign authors.

Sunoj D

I do not know what 10 pots of plants at home or the calendar with images of landscapes, or a few shells in a bathroom, or the plastic flower bouquet can do for me. However, there is still a need to have something from nature in my urban domestic environment. I am interested in this particular human - nature relationship, in which humanity tries to remake nature. I feel that sometimes our relationships with nature is alienated or morphed into a differing newer reality that accepts the artificiality of nature as something natural or real. I articulate such relationships through natural/artificial, real/imagined visual images in my work.

Abir Karmakar
In May 1994, I travelled to Kolkata for the first time, all alone. While spending the night in a hotel I felt the urge to feel the space and to do so I decided to go to bed naked only to realize the absence presence of the previous occupants. In May 2010, I made a bed and invited three strangers (to me and to each other) mostly from the same age group to sleep on that bed each on a different night for three consecutive nights.

I asked them to sleep naked as they come from a joint-family and never went to bed without clothes as because of the lack of personal space. I have never been interested in binaries - male/female, private/public, right/wrong, real/friction, but in the area that connects, blurs or overlaps them.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

NGMA hosts Rebecca Horn’s versatile works

National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA), Delhi and the Union Ministry of Culture in collaboration with the Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen (Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations, ifa), Germany are hosting an exhibit of art installations, entitled ‘Passage through Light’ by one of the country’s most versatile artists, Rebecca Horn.

An array of mediums and forms like drawings, kinetics, sculptures, installation, photography, action, video, film, performance and text are evident in her works. This is the third show organized by the NGMA as part of the Permanent Cultural Committee of India and Germany including firstly, Günter Uecker, Fluxus and now Horn.

Meanwhile, on the grand occasion of 60 years of fruitful Indo-German diplomatic relations, a collaborative event is being held, scheduled to continue till early 2013. It has a thematic focus on ‘StadtRäume – CitySpaces’, and mull over the implications of rampant urbanisation and several challenges posed by the rapid pace of change in both German and Indian cities. Aspects such as sustainable urban development and architecture, cultural space and mobility, education and urban are prominently featured through performing and visual arts events.

A celebrated German artist, Rebecca Horn, presents her body of work known to challenge set perceptions on contemporary art. The exhibit is an interlacing of film and sculpture that have been the major constituents of her work. Elaborating on it, an accompanying note states, “Emotionally charged text sequences verbalized on film, accompany the objects on view as a poetic text. They reflect and interpret the tale as it runs in the scenes. To reflect her deep understanding and engagement with India, the artist has made an installation.

The work derives from the country’s traditions. Materials like sarees, clay, mirrors and bamboo have been embedded into it with precision. A regular participant in ‘documenta’, the Kassel art exhibition, her debut show took place in 1972, before she rose to international fame. Rebecca Horn’s works are being presented courtesy ‘Germany and India 2011-2012: Infinite Opportunities’ at the NGMA, until 20th May.

What does drive institutional art collections?

Just along the Boston-based Charles River, the Sloan School of Management has built an extensive permanent collection. It also shows a considerable commitment to hosting public art. In keeping with the Percent-for-Art program of MIT - whereby up to $250,000 for each capital investment is put aside for procuring public art. Sloan now houses to several major public artworks.

‘Ring Stone’ by China’s Cai Guo-Qiang, the recent Percent-for-Art commission was chosen for its ability to metaphorically embody strong relations – both cultural and business – between China and MIT Sloan. An alumnus and also CFO of the College of William & Mary’s Mason School, Bob Mooney, points out the importance of their identity in selecting works for the new Miller Hall. The collection slows their pace and propensity to celebrate and reflect on their history” according to Mr Mooney, while inspiring them to think creatively and view things differently.

Mason’s collection, reflective in nature, is composed of donations from alumni and friends. It’s part of a broader student exposure to the liberal and diverse arts during their programs. While cultivating innovative thinking among students is an objective, art is fundamentally used for reminding students that imagination and beauty are important parts of our lives. Perhaps above all in a highly competitive job market, one cannot really under-estimate the significance of MBA students being interesting and multi-talented people.

John Quelch, the dean of Ceibs, also perceives a need for the humanities to offer a rounded and holistic business school experience. According to him, this need is acute in contemporary China. Young entrepreneurs there risk a sort of ‘spiritual vacuum’ while pursuing financial opportunities. In an effort to create a more creative campus, he is adopting a rather novel approach. Quite in contrast to the art trusts of several of its US counterparts, the business school is set to launch an art investment fund. It will be run an endowment.

Friday, April 27, 2012

A new thematic group show

The curatorial director of Ojas Art, Anubhav Nath, has conceptualized a new thematic show to mark the opening of their new permanent space.

Roti, Kapada, Makaan are the factors fundamentally decide of an average Indian’s desire quotient. The three commodities (food, clothing and shelter) have indeed become contesting factors and also flashpoints of politic-economic and socio-cultural conflicts, defining existence of human beings. The title is a reminder of political slogans - a war cry for politicians as they seek votes. But, then these are also the universal demands of each person.

With the fast-changing values of human life and sheer physical or materialistic contexts of existence, these elements play more of an inclusive part than definitively exclusive roles as witnessed during the pre-globalization era. In fact, each constituting entity has now become a new subject of discourse in contemporary times.

The works collectively explore how artists – more than 20 of them, including Ram Rahman, Rameshwar Broota and Manisha Jha - envision these basic desires and portray them in their works. They together represent an array of mediums - photography, sculpture, video art, installations, graphic art, and paintings.

As a curatorial intervention, Anubhav Nath, has included oleographs with old zardosi work by Raja Ravi Varma. They throw light on the clothing of Gods and Godesses. It’s the luxurious imagery by the maestro that the majority hold dear while thinking about their deities.

Until this point, Ojas Art has been largely operating in the Web realm sans a brick-and-mortar structure, though it has held several exhibits like ‘Expressions at Tihar’, a two-year long project at Tihar Jail wherein the inmates produced works in conjunction with contemporary artists. Now, Ojas Art will finally have a concrete presence.

The idea is to create a flexible, creative art destination. The new gallery looks impressive with a spacious structure against a manicured garden dotted with sculptures. The imposing Qutub Minar towers just above the 60-year-old premise.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Austerity measures hurt global cultural exchanges

Europe’s acute economic problems, and the subsequent austerity programs meant to tackle them, are coaxing several arts institutions to curtail programs, grants and tours.
The New York Austrian Cultural Forum’s director and president of the EU National Institutes for Culture’s New York branch, Andreas Stadler, states: “Culture is a basic need. People should have the right to explore it. Over all, culture is definitely much higher on our political agenda than it’s here since it is linked to our identities.”
France and Germany, the largest and also among the better places economies in Europe, are facing the least problem and can even allude to increased financing for certain officially favored programs and genres, which are seen as promoting images of the countries abroad, like film and arts.
But other countries with governments led by technocrats or conservatives like the Netherlands, Britain, Italy and Hungary have had their respective culture budgets cut down. So have others now being forced to slash public spending to stay in the euro zone, including Portugal, Greece, Spain and Ireland.
For example, in the Netherlands’s case, the culture budget is getting brought down by about $265 million, or close to 25 percent, by the start of next year. Taxes on cultural events’ tickets are to go up from 6 percent to 19 percent, although sporting events, zoos, circuses and movie theaters are exempted. Halbe Zijlstra, the state secretary (education, culture & science) has termed his focus as being ‘more than quality, a brand new vision of cultural policy’, wherein an institution must justify it does economically even while competing for limited funds.
In practical terms, what it has meant is that smaller companies, those engaged in more experimental and avant-garde ventures in particular, suffer the most owing to the projected cuts. Large, established institutions, such as the van Gogh Museum, the Rijksmuseum, the Dutch National Ballet and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, are in a comparatively better position to manage things and fend for themselves.

A fine blend of fashion and contemporary art

Fashion and Art are akin to warp & weft, intertwined naturally and seamlessly into each other. And a new breed of talented, young contemporary practitioners is now keen to create a visual idiom for abstract narratives with motifs drawn from the domain of popular fashion. It’s a beautiful blend of two overlapping skills.

There are artists whose background in architecture of fashion helps them. For them, it’s a fine blend of two diverse albeit harmonious streams that meet at multiple points. For instance, a textile designer-turned artist from Pakistan Faseeh Salim makes use of textiles, knits, embroidery, mannequins and fibers as mediums to create installations that resemble fashionable object on the surface but actually are art works with a much deeper meaning to them on the canvas.

The artist terms them ‘journeys in pure self-expression’ with an acute social, cultural and political message. The Lahore-based artist was recently in India as part of a residency program.

He knits bewildering body-like sculptures with mystical matex fiber that gets shrunk when it’s exposed to heat along with steel fiber. The sculptures knitted on knitting machines are molded to suggest the ‘fluid body statistics in the realm of fashion and its close relation with clothes, which have to fit.

Kolkata-based Paula Sengupta often reverts to the days of Bengal partition to blend them with deft elements of both fashion and textiles in her visual narratives. The varied skills of installation art and traditional fashion drawings also meet in Archana Hande's ‘Copy Master ji’.

It’s a new mixed media work that shows how she often utilizes textile printing technology on mediums such as wood blocks for transforming conventional art practice into innovative and decorative designs, which comment on urbanization and globalization. For her everything can be art. Even though art and fashion are distinctly different mediums, they both express an inner urge to create.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Why business schools collect art?

Is it reasonable to link business education with the tangible and rational? If the answer is mostly in affirmative, it’s intriguing that several business schools in the West greatly emphasize and in certain cases tend to devote sizable resources, to their art collections. Like most schools’ compilations, that at the University of Chicago Booth School does not have any investment angle in mind. According to the collection’s development in-charge, Canice Prendergast, they see themselves as educators, and not investors.

Reflecting its core aim of embracing conceptual challenges, the collection is largely abstract and contemporary. Simply because a subject matter seems removed from how you learn doesn’t mean you should completely ignore it - often it’s exactly what you should actually embrace partly as perhaps no one else is, feels the professor, who adds that their interest is that of opening student’s minds to the thought that one can make a statement in a way that’s not always literal and not necessarily obvious”, says Prof Prendergast.

Challenging photography work - incorporating an evocative series by artist Wolfgang Tillmans – is well highlighted within the collection. It’s not only at University of Chicago Booth School that challenging artworks are understood as suitable complements to a challenging curriculum. Clearly motivated by a lack of artistic inspiration during his time at Harvard, MBA alumnus Gerald Schwartz is one who has been procuring eclectic and thought-provoking works for his alma mater for more than two decades.

The renowned Schwartz Art Collection has expanded to over 200 pieces that the benefactor insists should be displayed in public arena, well-frequented by students. Curator Sharon Black states, the key for them is impact, and not posterity. While revealing that many artworks could easily fetch handsome amounts at auction, she maintains that they are not in any way a pure financial investment. Procured on basis of merit and donated in trust for MBA students, the collection is not something they would ever want to sell.

A retrospective of Damien Hirst works

Hirst first came to public attention in London in 1988 when he conceived and curated Freeze, an exhibition in a disused warehouse which showed his work and that of his friends and fellow students at Goldsmiths College. In the nearly quarter of a century since that pivotal show, Hirst has become one of the most influential artists of his generation.

A new exhibition of his works at Tate Modern is probably first ever substantial survey of his works in a British institution and will bring together key works from over twenty years. The exhibition will include iconic sculptures from his Natural History series, including The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living 1991, in which he suspended a shark in formaldehyde.

Also included will be vitrines such as A Thousand Years from 1990, medicine cabinets, pill cabinets and instrument cabinets in addition to seminal paintings made throughout his career using butterflies and flies as well as spots and spins. The two-part installation In and Out of Love, not shown in its entirety since its creation in 1991 and Pharmacy 1992 will be among the highlights of the exhibition.

The world-renowned sculptor, installation artist, painter and printmaker, was a leading figure in the group of ‘Young British Artists'. He studied at Goldsmiths College, London (1986–9), and in 1988 curated the exhibition Freeze. His works are explicitly concerned with the fundamental dilemmas of human existence; his constant themes have included the fragility of life, society's reluctance to confront death, and the nature of love and desire, often clothed in titles which exist somewhere between the naive and the disingenuous.

Dead animals are frequently used in Hirst's installations, forcing viewers to consider their own and society's attitudes to death. Containers such as aquariums and vitrines are used as devices to impose control on the fragile subject-matter contained within them and as barriers between the viewer and the viewed. The animals are preserved as in life, but at the same time are emphatically dead, with their entrails and flesh exposed.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Financial support for arts getting fiercely slashed

1. The world-renowned opera house La Scala in Italy faces a shortfall of $9 million because of substantial reductions in subsidies.

2. On the other hand, government financing in the Netherlands for arts programs has been slashed by a good 25 percent.

3. Portugal has gone a step further to abolish its Ministry of Culture intself.

The above instances suggest how European governments are rapidly cutting their financial and infrastructural support for culture. And it’s American arts lovers who are now starting to feel the pinch.

As a result of the financial crunch, some ensembles are curtailing their productions, looking to raise money from donors, some of them in the US, potentially putting them in direct competition with arts organizations there.

For American art lovers used to the best and among the most adventuresome European cultures on well-rounded tour in this country, the severe belt-tightening is starting to affect both the quality and quantity of arts exchanges.

At least three European troupes expected to perform at the beginning of the year at New York’s Under the Radar theater festival, for example, had to back out as they couldn’t afford the traveling costs, and so also the hapless organizers.

The artistic director of this much-touted event, Mark Russell was quoted as saying: “It’s putting a serious crimp in many international exchanges, more so with smaller companies. It’s a frustrating environment that we are in right now - tight in part because of our own fall, but because more generally now that whenever we get around to the pressing international question, we’ve a meltdown and are back to zero.”

For art administrators and artists in Europe, such situation is deeply disquieting, perhaps even revolutionary. Europe, in contrast to the US, has embraced a model that sees culture not as a mere commodity, in which market forces decide which products will survive, but as a legacy to be nurtured and preserved, including diverse art forms, which might lack mass appeal.

‘Alternative Perspectives’ at CIMA, Kolkata

Alternative Perspectives at Kolkata-based CIMA art gallery depicts a world where nature, memory and imagination play the role of a man. Within this exhibition, one enters a whispering world; a mysterious, sometimes strange universe often experienced, it would seem, singularly.

A curatorial note emphasizes: “It would be a cliché if we were presented with the world of women; instead we wander into the imaginings of women, written “by eye” rather than “by ear.” Expressions of inner feelings; moods, whimsical thoughts, preoccupies and dominates in this show. The sources are clear – Literature, particularly fables, folk art traditions and eastern philosophy.

The artists, are not interested in portraying recognizable individual characteristics – meaning does not depend on “likeness;” memories and imagination are stirred by the visual media, much as it may happen to us, when we read a verbal description.

Anju Chaudhuri abstract landscapes are actually patterns and colors that are in continual balletic flux.” Nature on the artist’s canvas is not trapped into stable, descipherable forms of trees and hills. Form is freed from itself; it floats adrift.

A self-taught artist Shakila has evolved into one of India’s most original artists. As a young child, her passion for art was nurtured by a professor in statistics who was also a member of the Society of Contemporary Artists. From simple pastoral themes, her work has progressively become more complex and depicting socio-political concerns."

The woman is pivotal in Rini Dhumal’s artwork; her titles would suggest divinity but in fact, the faces have been retrieved from her memory. They are women (dependent widows) from the artist’s grandfather’s zamindari in what is now Bangladesh. The drawings reflect Dhumal’s Santiniketan leanings. The works in this exhibition – color etchings, lithographs, mixed media paintings and ceramics, attest to her versatility.

Rashmi Bagchi Sarkar’s works express an anxiety – an environmental and ecological anxiety. The single child of a single mother, nature was her refuge and retreat. She paints following the Japanese iwa-enogu method, a medium which is derived from nature – created by a process of crushing semi-precious stones and shells, mineral ores and animal glue and mixing these to form the pigment. Her current series suggests a sense of foreboding and a palpable sense of dread.

Last but not the least, Jayasri Burman stubbornly refuses to be lost and be anonymous in the mass of contemporary artists who explore new media because it’s ‘smarter’; instead she has invented an idiom which has been developed by her Kala Bhavan teachers, Binode Behari and Ramkinkar Baij!

(Image courtesy: CIMA, Kolkata)

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Paintings by Badri Narayan reflect a calm moment of reflection

Mumbai-based art gallery, The Viewing Room, presents a solo exhibition of recent works by Badri Narayan. Like his engaging and multi faceted persona, the artist’s paintings probe and bear testimony to the peculiar human predicament. Here is a quick recap of his art career, life and philosophy:
  • During his illustrious career filled with many milestones, he has always deeply introspected about his art and life. A streak of self-reflection coupled with an honest autobiographical perspective is the driving force behind his wonderful body of work over all these years.
  • Born in Andhra Pradesh, in 1929, the self-taught artist has been passionately painting his pet themes for close to five decades now. Since his debut show at the Hyderabad Art Society in 1954, he has held more than fifty solos in India and internationally.
  • Among his selected group exhibitions are 'Black is Beautiful', India Fine Art, Mumbai (2010); 'Sacred and Secular', India Fine Art (2009); 'The Root of Everything', Gallery Mementos, Bangalore (2009); ‘Different Strokes’ courtesy Tulika Arts, Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai (2007-08); ’50 Years of Art in Mumbai’, NGMA, Mumbai (1998); and Jehangir Nicholsan Collection, NGMA, Mumbai & New Delhi (1998), apart from participation in 'Moderns', Royal Cultural Centre, Amman, Jordan courtesy Lalit Kala Akademi, Delhi (2008).
  • His artistic achievements have been appreciated in form of several honors and awards, such as Padma Shri (1987); Senior Fellowship for Outstanding Artists from the Government of India (1984-86); National Award, LKA, Delhi (1965); gold medals from Hyderabad Art Society (1949,54,60,62); and awards from AIFACS, Delhi (1962,63,66) as well as Bombay Art Society (1957,58,59,70).
  • Playful in nature, the paintings by Badri Narayan reflect his very personal sense of beauty and aesthetics. Profoundly sober and soothing, the central figure in these compositions is often rendered in what seems to be a dream state. A quietude and stillness prevails in these works, enhanced by a subdued palette. Contemplative in tone, they suggest a calm moment of reflection. The figures bound to each other are simultaneously engrossed in their own thoughts.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

A bold exhibition explores physicality in Arab art

At a time of intensified sensitivity concerning ethnic groups in European countries, the organizers of ‘Le Corps Découvert’ (The Body Revealed) at Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris do not feel there will be any trace of provocative streak or any controversy.

According to the curators, the show aims to break down clichés regarding the Arab world. The multiplicity of works done by artists from across the Arab countries address a hitherto taboo theme: the bodily depiction in Arabic art. Historically speaking, artists from the Arab world have tended to focus on vegetal, floral and geometric motifs as well as calligraphy. Representations or references of the human body have mostly been avoided.

However, on the 25th anniversary of the celebrated art institute, an elaborate mixed-media show of over 200 works shows, the body, quite contrary to popular belief prevailing in the west, has always been present in the work of many Arabic artists. It does occupy an important place in the oeuvre of many popular contemporary artists.

"It started to surface in the work of a few Arabic artists when they learnt painting the way European painters did," explains curator Makram-Ebeid. In fact, at the beginning of the 20th century, it was not really unusual for the elite few including artists to go to Europe to study. 'Pioneer' artists like Khalil Saleeby, Moustafa Farroukh, Georges Daoud Corm, and Georges Hanna Sabbagh had a dialogue with many European contemporaries.

Instead of a chronological approach, the show highlights certain repetitive themes, which recur in these artists' work like beauty, suffering and desire. It becomes amply evident that if 100 years ago artists from Arabic countries were not keen reluctant to paint the nudes, over the last two or three decades, the body appears more frequently.

The curators perhaps suggest that if the nude tends to constitute a sort of ‘blind spot’ for several of the monotheist religions, the tight grip of religious beliefs on a community might precisely end up producing the kind of art of the dogmatic propagators disapprove. The manner in which the contemporary artists tackle the subject testifies their resolve to respond to unwelcome constraints.

A venue that exclusively promotes international art

Galerie Isa, founded by Ashwin Thadani, was inaugurated in December 2011, among the few such venues in the city of Mumbai to exclusively showcase international art in India.  An ardent Indian contemporary art collector, he also started compiling works from across the globe a few years ago. The thought of bringing international art to the country then struck him.

Housed in a 3-century old colonial structure, the space has a split level space of roughly thousand sq ft on each level giving it a wonderful character and feel. Their main objective is to promote quality international art to the small, albeit aware collector base present in the Indian market.

For this, it plans to host at least one solo exhibition every quarter with cutting edge design and aesthetics elements, focusing on the practices of individual artists. The aim is to introduce people to a kaleidoscope of challenging mediums making the endeavor unique and diversified.

The gallery is currently hosting the works of Angel Otero. Born in Santurce, Puerto Rico, in 1981, the artist is known for his unique process-based paintings. Much of his oeuvre has been influenced by fragments of memories located in photographs and other scattered family memorabilia juxtaposed with the gestures of early 20th century painting, his new body of works highlight his unique practice as a form of narrative in itself.

The artist often employs process as a means of confronting deep, highly personal memories. He looks to archive select moments in his life it by creating scope for surprise and discovery. In a way, his work swings and negotiates between the individual and art history.

Through his innovative method of oil paint scraping, Angel Otero venerates historical oil painting even while taking it head on. His 'deformation' approach to paint his artworks, first across glass and then once dry, flaying the dried paint, to reconstruct the whole composition across large canvasses, suggests how he perceives the complex process of reconfiguring both historical and personal narratives.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Ruminations on art and beyond

The eclectic group of artist Sudarshan Shetty, his wife Seema, art critic S. Kalidas, art collector Lekha Poddar, and The Mint columnist Shoba Narayan spent some together in Thiruvaiyaru town, just beside the river Cauvery in south India. She writes: “We have spent the day visiting the nearby temples, including Darasuram, which in my view is one of the best-preserved temples in Tamil Nadu.”
They were in Kerala to attend the Festival of Sacred Music. Chennai-based Prakriti Foundation holds it every year. The festival is held in Thiruvaiyaru, a holy town on the banks of the Cauvery. The Festival is attempting to revive this temple town through rural tourism. The hope is to bring in more people and offer them music, temples and later, home stays.

The artist waxes eloquent about the stone carvings in the temple and the fine examples of Chola architecture. So what is Poddar looking at these days? “Indian terracotta,” is her reply. Earlier that week, Shetty and Shoba Narayan had lunch together at GallerySKE in Bangalore. His gallerist Sunitha Kumar Emmart had sent over a home-cooked seven-course spread.

The columnist mentions: “Shetty’s father, Adve Vasu Shetty, was an acclaimed Yakshagana artiste who could hold audiences spellbound with his renditions of Vali and Sugreeva. “I find the aesthetic strategies of that form—Yakshagana—compelling,” says the artist. “You have to hold your audience through your ability to elaborate on what you are thinking and playing.”

In Mumbai, he grew up in a culturally rich, if materially poor household, with visiting Yakshagana musicians and performers who interacted with him and his sisters. Being poor while young was a gift, he says, because it allowed him to take risks. There was nothing to lose. He is the second person who has extolled the virtues of being poor while young to me. But money has its uses, he says, because it allows you to dream big.

Shetty’s monumental public installation, Flying Bus, now stands in the Maker Maxity complex in Mumbai. Over lunch, he narrated that his father had to confront philosophical questions about Ram’s deceit while killing Vali and make it come alive for his audience. What would Vali think and say, asks Shetty rhetorically. The same could apply to his bus: Why would a flying bus think?

World's wealthiest companies and professionals love collecting art

Over last few decades, the world's wealthiest companies and banks have created art collections, which are the envy of many leading museums. Top companies around the world are sitting on immense artistic riches the public seldom get to see.

The JP Morgan Chase Art Collection, founded by David Rockefeller, has over 30,000 pieces, including works by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Cindy Sherman and Andy Warhol. In Britain, the banks RBS, HSBC and Barclays all have large caches of art — unlike BP PLC that despite drawing environmentalists’ protests accusing it of using art sponsorships to whitewash its oil-stained image, does not have a large corporate collection of its own.

From among Indian business families, an experienced advertising professional, philanthropist, international bridge player, communication & brand building expert, all rolled into one, Kiran Nadar also actively promotes Indian art and artists. Having shaped the NIIT brand, which grew out of businessman Shiv Nadar's vision along with Rajendra Pawar, she also serves as the Trustee of SSN Trust and Shiv Nadar Foundation.

The Kiran Nadar Museum of Art (KNMA), her brainchild, aims to function as a site of mellifluous confluence rather than just a compilation. It treasures a wide array of works, which highlight the vibrant visual trajectories of modern & contemporary art, especially in the post-Independence phase.

Kumar Mangalam Birla is also a known art aficionado. The business doyen believes that art is a matter of private choice. He is most emotional about his father, Aditya Birla's paintings – the 'reproductions' of various classics. Tina Ambani’s captivating collection - not limited to a particular genre or a school - spans modern & contemporary Indian art. The works document a vast array of themes like history, culture and lifestyle with meticulous attention to detail and spellbinding intricacy.

The connection between the world of art and business is indeed strong and a deep-rooted one…

Thursday, April 19, 2012

A grand dream envisioned by Bose Krishnamachari and Riyas Komu

Bose Krishnamachari and Riyas Komu, the two Mumbai artists, who are originally from Kerala, have planned a grand extravaganza of contemporary art.

As a creator, curator and practitioner of art in various forms and domains, the former likes to challenge and defy conventional concepts of art practices. ‘Panorama: India’ curated by him offered a fascinating overview of contemporary Indian art at ARCO Madrid 2009. Though he had put up a show, entitled ‘Double Enders’ (2005), comprising artists from his home state Kerala, he believes that art cannot be bound by regions.

On the other hand, Riyas Komu’s oeuvre refers to the paradoxes of the urban situation that he paints with cynicism and compassion; with dejection albeit tinged with hope and sympathy. The duo seeks to establish the Biennale as a hub for artistic engagement.

Through a curious collation of contemporary art practices from across the globe, their vastly ambitious project seeks to celebrate the participative spirit of art, even while invoking the truly historic cosmopolitan legacy of the new modern metropolis and that of the ancient port of Muziris, its mythical predecessor, in the tropical south of the country.

The Kochi-Muziris Biennale, a proposed international exhibit of contemporary art in the scenic state of Kerala, makes for a significant development. If the vision of its futuristic organizers comes into reality, India will have its first major biennale event of a genuine global scale and scope, emulating those in Berlin, Liverpool, Venice and Dakar.

If everything goes according to the plan, art lovers will witness a truly grand showcase of works by both Indian and international artists across a wide variety of mediums like painting, sculpture, installation, new media, film and performance art.

With it, a dialogue for a new aesthetics and politics deeply enmeshed in the very Indian experience, albeit open to the winds blowing in from far-away worlds, is well possible, the organizers believe.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A historic hub set to emerge for meaningful artistic engagement

Kochi is among the few Indian cities where pre-colonial traditions of captivating cultural pluralism still flourish. They pre-date the post-Enlightenment concepts of cultural pluralism, multiculturalism and globalization that can be traced to Muziris.

The site is currently under excavation, and it’s vital to explore and also retrieve the past memories in context of the present status, in order to posit alternatives to cultural and political discourses emanating from the specific histories of America and Europe.

Slated to be held in various spaces across the historic venue such as the newly-restored Durbar Hall as well as its serene surrounding islands like Willington and Bolgatty, the 2012 Kochi International Biennale modeled on the Venice Biennale envisions mass participation through debates, discussions, seminars, talks, workshops, screenings, educational activities and a series of shows in unusual spaces. It emphasizes creating site-specific installations, bringing life back to heritage buildings, and reanimating disused houses.

The Biennale will involve people from across the cross-sections of contemporary art world, including top artists like Atul Dodiya, Bani Abidi, Zakir Hussain, Tallur L.N., Alfredo Jaar, Fiona Tan, Gabriel Orozco, and Wangechi Mutu, to name a few. Young and upcoming practitioners will also get an opportunity to display their talent alongside the more known international figures. In a way, the platform seeks to project the new energy of artistic practices in the subcontinent.

An introductory note elaborates: “It will introduce contemporary international visual art theory and practice to India, showcase and debate new Indian and international aesthetics and art experiences and enable a dialogue among artists, curators, and the public; it seeks to reflect the new confidence of Indian people who are slowly, but surely, building a new society that aims to be liberal, inclusive, egalitarian and democratic.”

The time has come to tell the story of cultural practices distinct to the Indian people and local traditions, practices and discourses shaping the idea of India, it emphasizes...

What made Tagore an icon in Germany sans modern communication?

A new multimedia exhibition at Galerie Max Mueller, Goethe-Institut in Mumbai takes a novel look at communication from two diverse: legendary poet-painter Rabindranath Tagore's highly evocative communication with Germany, and different elements of today's worldwide communication habits on the go , especially among younger people.

Explaining the concept, a curatorial note states, “We now take globalization for granted! It is not unusual in 2012 for a pop star or actor from one corner of the planet to draw near-instant fame worldwide. But a century years ago, when a humble man from Bengal caused a sensation half way across the globe, it must have seemed nothing short of a miracle.

The multi-talented Tagore, to some a mystic, philosopher and teacher, to others a poet and artist, first went to Germany in 1921, a few years after he won the Nobel Prize (literature). Lecturing in biggest cities there, Tagore was like a soothing balm to the wounded soul of a nation just starting to recover from its defeat in World War I. It was plain to see how a messianic figure, symbolizing a new spirituality and a vastly different path through life, was exactly what many countrymen were yearning for.”

Tagore further enhanced his status as one of top ‘celebrities’ in Germany's in two subsequent visits, when he met with icons such as Albert Einstein and mounted exhibits of his expressionist paintings. Rabindranath Tagore indeed had a profound impact not only on Germany, but also on many Western nations' perception of the East and its ideas as well as people.

That he experienced such success well before the widespread usage of today's ways of all-encompassing mass communication might seem astonishing when Internet has transformed the way now we communicate. Young people have taken to mobiles nearly as quickly for personal communication exchanges.

The multimedia exhibition by Jenner Zimmermann, which features text, films and an interactive site, tries to put the two ends of the spectrum in proper perspective.

The 2012 New Museum Triennial

The 2012 New Museum Triennial in New York features thirty-four talented artists, artist groups, and temporary collectives, totaling over fifty participants - born between the mid-1970s and mid-1980s. Many of them have not exhibited in the US before.

The exhibition, entitled ‘The Ungovernables’, takes inspiration from the curious concept of ‘ungovernability’ and its transformation from a pejorative key term employed for describing unruly ‘natives’ to a defiant strategy of self-determination and civil disobedience. It’s meant to suggest both organized and anarchic resistance, carrying a dark humor about the potentials and limitations of this generation.

‘The Ungovernables’ is about the urgencies of a restless generation that came of age after the revolutionary movements of the 1960s-70s. Through orm and materials, works included in it the show explore impermanence and also an engagement with both the present and future. Many of them are provisional, performative and site-specific, reflecting an attitude of resourcefulness.

In Adrián Villar Rojas’s sculpture, monumentality and transience are juxtaposed. Rendered in clay, the work depends on cracks on the surfaces - the object’s inevitable failure, and also that of meaning, as well as the guaranteed transformation of each idea and object back to dust. It’s dust that is repurposed, re-imagined, and then re-formed.

When Danh Võ learnt that the Statue of Liberty is merely a steel armature enveloped by a copper skin, Danh researched the hammering process, which gave her shape. The artist employed craftsmen for replicating skin of the statue for his work.

Julia Dault looks to manipulate materials of modernity like Formica and Plexiglas in unconventional temporal arrangements, which can never be repeated. In the artist’s works, labor is reliant on the conditions of a specific space - her strength to create a work at a particular point of time, and also the uncontrollable accidents that her materials determine.

A new media collective & alternative space, House of Natural Fiber, has combined art and microbiology to teach safe ways to brew homemade fruit wine to locals even while amplifying and sampling the peculiar sounds of the distillation process for composing electronic music.

Monday, April 16, 2012

An artist who looks to grasp complexity of contemporary issues

Sheela Gowda's visual idiom tries to grasp the complexity of the contemporary issues, including violence and suppression, as she works toward layers of meaning even while striving to trim the form to the extent possible, so as the reference or the source is discreetly suggested; not stated literally.
Her ‘Collateral, a sculpture of ash, made through rolling, arranging and burning of incense on mesh frames to create intricate patterns, had fragmented appearance that suggested a broken landscape ravaged by war.

On the other hand, ‘Darkroom’ emerged as a standout moment in the Indian art survey courtesy Serpentine, as she transformed oil drums salvaged from laborers into a low dark hut that resembled their makeshift homes. After stepping inside, the apparently infinite space with tiny pinpricks, transformed its ceiling into a starry sky.

The artist's most recent solo, entitled ‘Therein and Besides’ at Iniva, marked her debut in the UK. For the sizzling showcase, she again explored a new set of materials like tar drums and blue plastic tarpaulins to unfold a narrative on miseries of the working class.

Her ‘of all people’, made up of countless wooden chips, roughly carved into votive objects by craftsmen, formed part of peculiarly painted composition of larger frames and doors, also revealing the marks of weathering and insects’ infestation. Moving through this eerie environment, one was invited to recalibrate the ensuing experience from different heights and perspectives.

Elaborating on her style, The Guardian art write mentioned: “As well as using incense, she turned old bits of house timber into battered versions of abstract sculpture and fashioned ropes of human hair into looping drawings. Cow dung, thread and spice were all been transfigured in her intriguing installations, subtly bringing to light the lives of those on the economic margins. Though a city girl, her interest in the rural traditions of India can be traced back to her father, who was a well-respected of Indian folk music and artifact archivist.”

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Vagaries of Indian art collection scene

Most records and major noteworthy sales in recent years have involved works by the Progressive artists and their associates, like Tyeb Mehta, MF Husain, Akbar Padamsee, and Jehangir Sabavala. Serious collectors start wisely with them, but when they tend to underplay the focus on other important artists they collect, it is rather detrimental to their valuations.

Sadly, between the Progressive artists and the more recent contemporaries like, Atul Dodiya, Bharati Kher, Subodh Gupta, Manjunath Kamath, and Riyas Komu, there seems to be a ‘lost generation’ that is less celebrated than the attention-grabbing Progressives. Making his point, art expert Kishore Singh had notes in one of his essays in The Business Standard:

“Though the contemporaries tend to grab more eyeballs, can one recall their buyers? A general belief is that the works by contemporary artists end up in either in institutions or museums that rob them of the intimacy people-led or ‘personal’ buys can evoke. It does little towards generating the much-needed competitive spirit among collectors.”

Collectors looking for contemporaries shrewdly perhaps base their worth on attractive bargain values today, which have the potential to become tomorrow’s masterpieces. In this, they apparently follow the artists often being promoted by the world-renowned collector, Charles Saatchi.

As is widely known, the London-based famed advertising guru has turned his passion for art into a public frenzy. Every time he opts to buy a particular artist, or supports one, new markets and price highs are made. Sadly, the process goes the other way, too. So every time he decides to dump an artist’s work, his or her prices inevitably fall. Perhaps India needs its very own Saatchi.

At a broader level, there can be a debate over the fact whether Indian collectors and their passion for art fails to draw requisite media attention. But a positive change is definitely taking place in this regard. A case in point is the wide media coverage last year to a display of renowned art patron Jehangir Nicholson’s comprehensive collection.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

G.R. Iranna's ‘Limning Heterotopias’

The New Delhi-based Gallery Espace hosts G.R. Iranna's solo exhibition, entitled ‘Limning Heterotopias’. It features his latest body of works, including paintings on canvas, watercolors and sculptures.

The works collectively serve as an extension of the artist's ongoing visual meditations on the ephemeral, illusory, and indeterminate significance of human existence, as well as his enduring preoccupation with existential questions about the ‘collective solitude’ of faith and its frailty, the vicissitudes of spiritual journeys, and the fraught location of belief in quotidian life, a curatorial note by Maya Kóvskaya reveals.

It elaborates: “Buddhist monks figure as motif prominently in these works, as do the wooden "spiritual journey" sandals of religious pilgrims, monks, fakirs, and sadhus, and their bowls for begging alms. As with Iranna's earlier works, however, religious figures and iconography function as metaphors for larger human questions, rather than representation of particular religions, per se.

Whether using his trademark "splotched surfaces" to offer an entry point beyond the spatio-temporal manifestation of images on the canvas, or his characteristically absent backgrounds, or his palimpsest layering of trace outlines, such as tree roots and branches or schematized cityscapes, and human figures, Iranna's visual language turns on the creation of what philosopher Michel Foucault called 'heterotopias'.

These are ‘intersections between real and virtual spaces’ that function as interstitial vectors allowing us to see ourselves in the "unreal, virtual space that opens up behind the surface." Iconically resembling a mirror, bridge, or boat, a heterotopic space ‘is a floating piece of space, a place without a place’ contained within itself. Subsisting on the margins of society in a self-contained, ritualistic space constituted by shared notions of birth, death, life and transcendence, the Buddhist monk is a self-peripheralized being—a quintessential heterotopic subject.

In his sculpture works, the rubber nipples protruding from an ornately framed bag of grains; the ‘veins and arteries’ red and blue electrical wiring connecting wooden sandals; and the intersection of iron nails in the sandals of the fakir, all embody a heterotopic ‘in-between’ of connectivity that simultaneously contains separation—the cycles of need and nurture, life and death, intake of sustenance and excretion of waste, or the tenuous space between the bequests of the alms beggar and the blessings he bestows.

To 'limn' something is not merely to 'depict in painting or words,' or to 'highlight' or 'outline a form,' it is also 'to draw a line' that functions as a heterotopic space between being and perception. G.R. Iranna's new works do just this: limning heterotopias, they take us on a journey into the liminal space of thresholds, and ask us to go beyond the surface of the canvas and find ourselves in the shadows of the ‘in-between’, the curator concludes.

An ardent collector looks to create art culture

Open six days a week, at no entry fees, Kiran Nadar’s new museum venue is another example of a new trend of cultural philanthropy that can be attributed to seasoned collectors Lekha and Anupam Poddar and their Devi Art Foundation in Gurgaon. Established in 2008, it’s a multi-level exhibit space hosts several well-curated rotating shows. What sets apart the new eclectic initiative is the location - a shopping complex visited by thousands of people daily - that works to serve her vision.

On her part, Kiran Nadar has been collecting art for close to two decades, which she now wants to be made accessible to the masses. The opening show at KNMA, entitled ‘Time Unfolded’, deftly traced a visual trajectory of the Indian contemporary & modern art. It featured nearly 70 paintings sculptures and other works by early Bengal School artists like Jamini Roy to innovative contemporary multimedia practitioners like Vishal Dar. In its debut week itself, the new museum venue registered an average of a hundred visitors or so each day.

Her hopes to build on the popularity through a range of promotional activities over time, to widen the museum's appeal. A complete museum shop has on offer prints, books and a range of art memorabilia. To conduct guided tours for groups, schoolchildren in particular, special support is available. Kiran Nadar hopes that children will form a significant chunk of the potential visitors. She cites how families visit museums in the New York city and how experiencing art there is a weekend activity.

According to her, we in India must reacquaint ourselves with the art that we are producing, but there are sadly few avenues for that.” Elaborating on the idea, her public statement for the museum’s grand launch, mentions: “Given what museums such as the Guggenheim have done for Bilbao or what the Museum of Islamic Art is doing for Doha, Qatar, we hope to build a definitive world-class museum that will add to the splendor of New Delhi.”

Friday, April 13, 2012

'Monochrome' – From Clay To Craft’ and ‘Nayika’

Nandan Purkayastha at Art Musings
Mumbai-based Art Musings presents the debut solo exhibition of artist Nandan Purkayastha, entitled ‘'Monochrome' – From Clay To Craft’. His intricately detailed pen and ink works on paper are on view at the gallery. It is perhaps one of the most endearing visual celebrations of an ancient religious ceremony.

The series is based on the ancient custom of Durga Puja. The paintings that form part of the series offer a rendering to the process through which the purpose evolves. From preparation to packing, it's more a feeling and living of the art and harmony than religion!

The series takes one through the entire process from creation, devotion, celebration to immersion. It becomes a means of altering ‘dust thou art and unto dust thou returns’ by conveying how an idol can never be the means of exalting spirituality.

The idols of Durga are sculpted from clay and reach their end by dissolving into the river-beds, a yearly routine, time-bound. Yet, the lessons that one learns and the sentiments that one attaches, the belief one holds and the craft one creates, is timeless.

‘Nayika’ at Out of The Blue Art Gallery
A show revolving around the theme of ‘Nayika’ – female protagonists - by Vishal Sabley takes place at Out of The Blue Art Gallery, Mumbai. It’s an eclectic art space as part of a classy restaurant that also has been promoting affordable art for more than 10 years. The foodie's delight is also art lovers' paradise, having hosted several exhibitions, providing visual treat to the walk-in guests.

The current exhibition on view epitomizes what is best, most enchanting and enlivening in Indian culture, the Nayikas. The works deal with themes of feminine identity active strength coupled with angularity, yet was also supple by turns reflecting the many forms of feminine energy.

Artist Vishal Sabley's paintings are visual poetry with evocative yet grateful postures. They portray Shringara Rasa, the mood of love. They are shown is dramatic moods with soft and bright colors. They wear different hairstyles and their gazes various, and dressed in bright costumes wearing striking ornaments adorning the neck, waist and the head – a real visual and sensual treat.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Art and false notions of prized possessions

British government plans to cut taxes for the rich. The upcoming Olympic Games are going to cost billions of pounds and the National Galleries of England & Scotland. And just recently, the authorities had bought a single work of art from the Duke of Sutherland for £45 million ( Rs. 3,600 million) with added money from the government and patrons. The motive was to ‘save the painting for the nation’.

The Duke of Sutherland, although richer through the sale, has received applause for resisting the temptation of selling it on the open market. It is said, he patriotically sacrificed twice or perhaps more of that sum through this particular sale.

Renowned columnist, author and screenplay writer based in London, Farrukh Dhondy, while pointing out how the country is almost bust, yet sharp ironies beset its impending bankruptcy, makes the following observations about the work, Titian’s ‘Diana and Callisto’.
  • It’s acknowledged as one of the great works of the Renaissance and one of a pair, its twin being Titian’s Diana and Actaeon. Together they have fetched £95 million and have been valued at three times that price — hence the praise for the Duke’s patriotic sacrifice.

  • The paintings are not in any sense part of Britain’s heritage. Titian was born Tiziano Vecelli in the state of Venice and his paintings were commissioned mostly by the Italian church and nobility. In later years, he was patronized by Phillip II of Spain who married Queen Mary of England, but Titian’s works didn’t come to Britain through such an alliance, though the Diana paintings were commissioned for the Escorial in Madrid. Classical and Renaissance artifacts were acquired by the aristocracy of Europe through the ages and changed hands through coercion or commerce.

  • Even so, I would agree that Titian’s Diana and Callisto is in the top rank of civilization’s artifacts and though judgment of a painting is ultimately in the eye of the beholder, few would equate a Titian or a Tintoretto with the efforts of, say, a contemporary Indian artist who illustrates horses in a faux-modern style.

Why businesses dabble in art?

Corporations collect and invest in art for various reasons. Turning a profit is perhaps the least important of this. Some major companies like to see backing talented artists as a way of fulfilling corporate social responsibility, or philanthropy purpose - artworks can be lent to galleries and museums for special shows.

Then there are corporate entities that use art for the purpose of flaunting their wealth. The former chief executive of Royal Bank of Scotland, Fred Goodwin, often boasted about the David Hockney in his plush office. Sometimes, artworks are used for enlivening the drab work environment.

It was in the 1970s that Deutsche Bank of Germany started collecting art. The bank now has a trove of over 56,000 works, by artists like Joseph Beuys, Nan Goldin, Jeff Koons, Lucian Freud, and Henri Matisse. These paintings are proudly displayed on the main office walls across branches in close to 50 countries.

However, when companies fall, it can result in an art market bonanza. For example, Germany's HypoVereinsbank disposed a blue sponge painting by artist Yves Klein last year from its collection for 6.2 million pounds through Sotheby's. When Commerzbank took hold of Dresdner Bank, it also acquired an Alberto Giacometti sculpture ‘Walking Man’ that became the most expensive work ever when it went for 65 million pounds at Sotheby's auction in London earlier this year.

Lehman Brothers auctions at Sotheby's (New York) and Christie's (London) reportedly raised over $10 million for the creditors, only a fraction of the debt worth $613 billion held by Lehman after it collapsed in late 2008. Their multimillion-dollar art collection boasted works by Gerhard Richter, Damien Hirst and others.

Bankruptcy administrators of Italian airline Alitalia disposed a collection of Futurist works for more than 1 million euros. Sotheby's sold nearly 1,000 photos by lens masters like Ansel Adams, Dorothea Lange during a bankruptcy court-approved sale of defunct camera-maker Polaroid’s collection.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

An artist whose works are relevant even after eight decades

His dazzling depictions of mythological subjects, rendering images from Ramayana and Mahabharata to go with those of contemporary workers/ peasants remain relevant even after a passage of over eight decades. In a way, he can be credited with making art accessible to a wider section of society, through his realistic representations of the rural everyday chores of the jovial Bengali community.

Highlighting Jamini Roy’s contributions, veteran art critic Suneet Chopra had elaborated in an essay: “An important development in the evolution of contemporary Indian art was the discovery of Indian folk traditions by artists with an academic training. Attempts to evolve a genuinely Indian artistic expression prior to this were restricted to reviving the miniature styles. Nandalal Bose employed the mural and the use of tempera in our modern artistic expression. He also introduced the simplicity of the scroll-painters of Bengal into contemporary painting. But the artist who took it to the level of a style was Jamini Roy.”

The most recent major posthumous displays of his paintings are 'The Body Unbound', Rubin Museum of Art, New York (2011-12); 'Ethos V: Indian Art Through the Lens of History (1900 to 1980), Indigo Blue Art, Singapore; 'States of Departure: Progressives to Present Day', Aicon Gallery, London; 'Roots in the Air, Branches Below', San Jose Museum of Art; 'The Emergence of Indian Modern Art', Aicon Gallery (all in 2011); 'Modern Folk', Aicon, New York (2010); 'Indian Art After Independence', Emily Lowe Gallery, Hempstead; 'Kalpana: Figurative Art in India', courtesy ICCR at Aicon, London; 'Moderns and More', Aicon, Palo Alto (2009).

Among the awards he won for his artistic excellence are Viceroys Gold Medal (1935); and honorary D. Litt., Rabindra Bharati University, Kolkata (1967). Apart from being chosen as fellow, Lalit Kala Akademi, Delhi in 1956, he was honored with Padma Bhushan by the Government of India (1955).

Jamini Roy took a gamble in breaking away from the tradition, to set his own stylistic and thematic agenda, even while staying true to the core values that shaped him as a person and as an artist, making him one of the highly influential painters of the 20th century era.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

What binds the art and business worlds?

Top companies and industry doyens around the world including are in the possession of immense artistic riches. They collect and invest in art for various reasons. An interesting news report ‘ by AP writer Jill Lawless some time ago had established the perceived and palpable link between the art and corporate world – both in good and bad times…

As it has been observed, corporate entities like to see backing talented artists as a way of fulfilling corporate social responsibility, or philanthropy purpose. They may use art for the purpose of flaunting their wealth. Of course, the trend of corporations purchasing artworks in good times and disposing them off in bad is quite an old one. IBM president Thomas Watson, Sr. gathered works by artists like Frida Kahlo for decorating the IBM pavilion at New York’s World Art Fair in 1939.

Decades later, the cash-strapped company sold its rich collection for $31 million through Sotheby's. Art experts feel it’s unlikely to see big firms selling off works in bulk owing to the negative publicity such events would generate, as it clearly raises a red flag that they obviously must be going broke.

A news report in the New York Times by writer Vikas Bajaj mentioned how the valuable works of art at the prestigious Taj hotel were restored, partly soothing the scars of the three-day siege in Mumbai in 2008, when the city’s landmark was ravaged by fires, gunshots and grenade explosions.

Until the early 1990s its Taj Gallery was one of just a handful of places where admirers and collectors could go to see and buy contemporary art in Mumbai. Other divisions of the Tata Group, which started and still owns the Taj, also contributed significantly to India’s modern-art scene by buying works, especially in the 1950s and 1960s.

A major Indian art show in Israel

Art lovers in Israel will get a rare opportunity to closely look at the dynamic and diverse, thriving and throbbing art scene of India in an ambitious and diverse presentation of painting, photography, installation, video and sculpture works. One of their characteristics is multiplicity and recurrence of motifs or images densely bound together. This amply echoes the vivacious visual texture and chaotic expanses of the typical megalopolis.

Several talented artists like Jitish Kallat, Subodh Gupta, Bharti Kher, Riyas Komu, Sudarshan Shetty, L.N. Tallur, Ravi Agarwal, Raqs Media Collective, Atul Bhalla, Ranbir Kaleka, Sakshi Gupta, Shilpa Gupta, Rashmi Kaleka, T.V. Santhosh, and Gigi Scaria, among others are going to be featured in a new exhibition, entitled ‘Critical Mass’, at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art.

The works are firmly anchored in the present socio-political realities and how their multiple layers of meaning tend to reflect in varied responses to the rapid transformation: bursting megalopolis and wild countryside, the developing society and the millenary civilization, a rush toward the future and a strong traditional identity.

As India’s rapid economic growth and social transition continues, a strand of subtle contrast and curious complexity - little to do with its politics or its economy - is sprouting. The emergence of multitude of inter-linked issues regarding social inequality, environmental concerns, faulty development, urban-rural schism, gender and class divides makes the scenario a conundrum of extreme opposites. All these complexities are becoming the drivers for several contemporary Indian artists – prompting them to move away from the self to society. A major group exhibition in Israel testifies this transition.

An introductory note explains: “The notion of matter and material serves as a principle metaphor for the physical and visual experiences of the contemporary dynamic life in India. This overwhelming experience of density, noise, flow, and rich materiality is clearly reflected in the themes, materials, and visual aesthetics of the works featured."

They entail a sharp critique of consumerism and globalization, religious and political extremism and an ensuing tussle between tradition and modernity. An elaborate exhibition catalogue will carry elaborate essays on Indian culture and also on the socio-political shifts that are taking place in the sub-continent.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Divulging beauty of Mughal artistic culture and traditions

The capital city of India, New Delhi, has served for centuries as a major cultural center of North India for more than a millennium in different incarnations. This exhibition focuses on the 18th century to the mid-19th century.

The new show at New York, NY-based Asia Society looks to examine Mughal artistic culture and traditions in the 18th-19th century period. It highlights the interwoven nature of European, Mughal and regional patronage networks within which the then Delhi artists operated. Around 100 objects and artworks include works by court artists Nidha Mal and Chitarman, and some less familiar works by those like Ghulam Murtaza Khan, Mazhar Ali Khan and Ghulam Ali Khan.

‘Princes and Painters in Mughal Delhi, 1707-1857’ covers the late albeit flourishing reign of the Mughal kings. At the height of their rule, they ruled over much of the land, which today comprises Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, and India, They found the city of Shahjahanabad (now known as Old Dehli), way back in 1648. The exhibit traces their rise and decline, coinciding with the spread of British rule.

Beyond distracting from the exquisite images, though, the material in this display often makes for some fascinating juxtapositions. Wall texts depict tales of imperial intrigue and blodd-filled violence, while paintings alongside depict elegant interiors, exquisite courtly figures, and serene landscapes. You can get to see this opulence in the earliest pictures.

A number of emperors frequently used the paintings for assert a sort of false feeling of Mughal stability that met with traffic ends. Farrukhsiyar from around 1715, for instance, was imprisoned and strangled.

In addition to Mughal miniatures done under later emperors — Muhammad Shah (who reigned 1719–1748) right up to Bahadur Shah ‘Zafar’ (ruled 1837–1858) — this exhibit highlights a vast selection of Company School paintings that were produced for Delhi-based personalities like William Fraser, Thomas Metcalfe and James Skinner. Select photography, decorative arts and drawings are also included.

Guest curators of the exhibition are William Dalrymple and Yuthika Sharma.

The fault lines of our society drive a sensitive young artist’s practice

His art education at the two key sites of the ‘narrative – figurative’ revival in context of contemporary Indian art, - Trivandrum, where he did his graduation, and Baroda, where he did his Masters, - had had a significant impact on his work, each imparting its own specificities to his conceptions of art.

On the eve of Sathyanand Mohanh’s upcoming art show at The Guild India in Mumbai, here’s a quick look at this practice, processes and his evolution as an artist thus far:
  • Born in Kerala, 1975, he did his BFA in Painting from The Government College of Fine Arts, Trivandrum; MFA in Printmaking from the Faculty of Fine Arts, Ms University Baroda. As he puts it: “The influence of the ‘Radical” movement (a far-left artists collective), although on the decline, was still keenly felt during my time at Trivandrum. They foregrounded an interventionist praxis which drew in equal measure from the European avant-garde as well as the various revolutionary political movements happening in Kerala at the time.

  • His relocation to Baroda for the post-graduation tossed him into the midst of a waning cultural ferment that had been engaged in the task of articulating, through a narrative language that drew upon a variety of sources, a type of Indian Modernism; that had the conceptual and visual apparatus to address both local and global concerns sans becoming yet another exotic commodity in the world-market of ideas.

  • From these encounters with different trajectories and approaches to art making, he has tried to evolve a visual language marked by the critical dialogue with tradition that constitutes a historically grounded practice. He is interested in the way that history operates through the minutiae of everyday life and of the ways in which it permeates its spaces.

  • He has also been intrigued by Jurgen Habermas’ well-known formulation about the “incomplete project of Modernity” that seems to him to be particularly apt with regard to nations such as ours, - poised to become an economic superpower, yet more often than not unable to provide for the vast majority of its citizenry the social, economic and political stabilities that the passage through Modernity is supposed to guarantee. These contradictions that exist and constitute the fault lines of our society are a further consideration that insinuates itself into his works.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Realm of the wonderful watercolor medium

A large cross-section of senior artists from India, including modern masters like MF Husain and other leading names including Akbar Padamsee, KH Ara, Bhupen Khakhar, Laxman Shreshtha, Prabhkar Kolte,Subhash Awchat, Lalitha Lajmi are renowned for their mastery over painting in watercolor. Several others including Papri Bose, Shruti Nelson, Anandmohan Naik and Jehangir Jani are proficient in handling the challenging medium.

It is a difficult medium to work in, yet it’s equally lyrical. Revealing his fascination for it, Akbar Padamsee has once stated about his watercolors on arches paper: "I begin in the presence of a ‘void’; a white sheet of paper and a mind devoid of thoughts. If water is ‘Shakti’ (the feminine form of divine power), and ink is the male counterpoint; the stroke of the brush is the union of the two. With each (stroke) the spaces expand exponentially.

The reverse process starts, at a certain point of infrastructural complexity, silencing the manifested structures in order to release the single unique form that can finally be named; the thought process then starts again, and the ‘void’ gets filled with voices."

This challenging albeit fulfilling medium carries a yielding and sensitive quality that lends to great transparency. Late artist P. A. Dhond was among the most prominent artists who chose the medium of watercolor for his transparent yet fascinating depiction of various moods of nature. What turned the course of his artistic life was seeing Russel Flint’s scintillating seascapes. Subhash Awchat describes watercolors as a very lyrical medium whereas Jehangir Jani is enchanted by is disciplinary demand.

For Prabhkar Kolte, the medium is akin to ‘an extension of my inner being’. He has employed several mediums over a long, illustrious career, but it’s the fluidity in watercolors that lures him the most. He reveals, “It’s more than a medium for me, and helps me best say what’s going on inside me." Of course, even European masters have produced equally exquisite watercolor works.

Deciphering issues of identity and nationhood by analyzing an iconic artist’s works

A series of thought-provoking articles that form part of ‘Barefoot Across The Nation - Maqbool Fida Husain & The Idea of India’ decipher Husain’s oeuvre. Among them are ‘Modernist Myths and the Exile of Husain’ by Geeta Kapur; ‘Art on Trial: Civilization and Religion in the Persona & Painting of Husain’ by David Gilmartin/ Barbara D. Metcalf; ‘Mapping India after Husain’ by Sumathi Ramaswamy.

Adding further to our understanding of the maverick artist’s social and cultural relevance are essays ‘Secret Histories of Indian Modernism: Husain as Indian Muslim Artist’ by Ananya Jahanara Kabir; ‘Of Husain and an Impossible Love’ by Veena Das; ‘I am an Indian and a painter, that is all’’ by Karin Zitzewit; ‘Defending Husain in the Public Sphere: The SAHMAT Experience’ by Ram Rahman; ‘Fault-lines in a National Edifice’ by Tapati Guha-Thakurta; ‘Husain and the Politics of Desecration’ by Kajri Jain; and ‘The Bliss of Madhuri’ by Patricia Uberoi; among others.

It’s probably the first inter-disciplinary elaborate engagement with the late Maqbool Fida Husain’s work, looks to critically examine the artistic statement that it presented on the self, community and nation. The legendary artist’s pursuit to trace his cultural roots coupled with his willingness to grasp diverse cultural influences made him one of the most recognizable names internationally.

The engaging volume undertakes the more rigorous and critical evaluation of his oeuvre, to offer a rich and diverse perspective about the artist’s personal proclivities and his professional prolificacy - across a wide range of disciplines. In the process, they engage with the myriad controversies that have continuously erupted about the master’s work. The idea is to resurrect the debate in an empathetic yet more meaningful manner – going beyond the rhetoric.

The underlying idea is to juxtapose them in debates around the creative freedom of the artist with the broader sentiments of the social community, between elitism of intellectuals and the perceptions of ‘common man’, between ‘virtue’ and ‘obscenity’, and between an artwork and a religious icon.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

An exercise to put Husain’s works in proper perspective

Late MF Husain’s mythological paintings had been at the centre of a ceaseless controversy for several years. In 2006, he left India and moved to Qatar. He finally forfeited his Indian citizenship in 2010 in what sure must have been a painful decision. Forced into exile, the master died in London, aged 95, five years after he fled Mumbai - his home for almost 72 years.

“Husain was India's most iconic and prolific artist - and painted right up until two weeks before his death in London at the age of 95.” The BBC obituary revealed. “He was a protean maverick who embraced the free market, took to making cinema, angered Hindu radicals at home with his provocative work, gamely took leaving India in his stride, and accepted Qatari nationality.”

Against this backdrop, the book entitled ‘Barefoot Across The Nation - Maqbool Fida Husain & The Idea of India’ (edited by Sumathi Ramaswamy; Publishers: Routledge, New Delhi; Pages: 312 - Hardcover; Price: Rs 1950), considers how India as a nation has responded to Husain: with admiration, adulation and affection, on the one hand, whereas with rejection and hostility, on the other.

An introductory note rightly mentions the document is more relevant than ever before especially in backdrop of the debates that have arisen over his self-imposed exile following a spate of attacks on his exhibitions in India, and his subsequent decision to leave the country – never to return.

Derived from a conference at Duke University, the insightful chapters provide a multi-disciplinary perspective by distinguished anthropologists and art historians, artists and curators, critics, and scholars of post-colonial literature and culture, to not only locate and identify but also to traverse the controversy surrounding the late artist.

In her preface, Monica Juneja offers a fitting context, suggesting that even while genuflecting in the direction of art as sacred image (his rendition of the goddess Saraswati) the image is cast ‘in the modernist language of autonomy and irony’.

Implications of economic crisis for the artistic process

As they scramble to stay afloat or survive, many affected institutions in Europe are also desperately cultivating private donors anywhere and everywhere they can be found. However, with little prior experience with, or little understanding of, that kind of heavy fund-raising, they find it difficult.

They often turn to the American institutions for advice. With many of them they’ve cultivated longstanding affiliations that they are trying to cash on in these difficult times.

The Brooklyn Academy of Music executive producer Joseph V. Melillo, reveals: “I can definitely tell you that across the board, they’re talking about their governments saying that they’re going to have to move toward an American model. But there is hardly any tradition of such individual philanthropy in most of these cultures, and so they lack both tax incentives and the motivation to give.”

As a result, a few European arts institutions have started to look for financial backing in the US, courting companies or wealthy Americans sharing emotional bonds with an ancestral homeland. However, that means, as Mr. Stadler well acknowledged, that ‘we’re competing with top American institutions, equally hit hard.”

Artists’ worry is that money will largely flow to more established entities, which are more conservative, instead of more experimental companies, which have been incubators of new, exciting talents. That, they state, has major implications for the artistic process.

The established entities are needed to refresh their portfolio by collaborating with younger, upcoming artists, and it’s the small as well as a few middle-sized companies, which tend to bring innovation and diversity. You have made a different dynamic work now. But a lot of it will fade out because it cannot sustain itself.”

Even once the crisis subsides, if and when, many fear that the lingering impact of the cutbacks could affect each stage of the artistic process permanently, from the level of creation to consumption.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Art cut to size for lacks of funds, and not following!

In the boom years just before the economic crisis hit in 2008, it was not uncommon for many of high-profile touring European orchestras, opera companies, theater troupes and art exhibitors from Europeto travel to cities like San Diego and Minneapolis. That has now got more difficult!

In Europe, where art is a way of life, axe is fast falling on public financing. A news report in The New York Times by Larry Rohter underlines the bitter truth, stating some obvious facts:
  • The cutbacks in governmental spending in Europe are hitting so hard that some of the cultural institutes in New York that have been intermediaries for arts companies in their home countries have experienced reductions of staff or salary, or both.

  • The economic crisis is also affecting what kind of art is performed and how it is made. After returning from Europe last month, Nigel Redden, director of the Lincoln Center and Spoleto arts festivals, said that a trend toward new work with fewer characters or players, especially with commissioned pieces, seemed to be growing.

  • In New York, European arts institutions are also looking for smaller, less expensive places to present their offerings. “Why spend so much money on Carnegie Hall when there are cheaper places available?” one organizer of cultural exchanges said, insisting on anonymity so as not to jeopardize business ties.

  • Others are trying to forge closer ties to American institutions. The Romanian Film Festival, which has done much to promote awareness of the Romanian new wave of prizewinning directors and actors, was presented last year at Lincoln Center with the Film Society of Lincoln Center as a co-sponsor.

  • “Compared to five years ago, we no longer think of doing things alone, on our own” said Corina Suteu, of the Romanian Cultural Institute. “All of a sudden, you have to become creative, you need to look for partners, whether American, European or even from other continents. I’m doing this, and all of my colleagues are doing the same.”

Thursday, April 5, 2012

A painter who depicts the ironies of the life around

Ram Kumar’s paintings express the desolation or sense of loss he witnessed in the life around him. A leading name from India’s modern art movement, he is renowned for his ephemeral landscapes.He was greatly inspired by its mystical imagery of day-to-day life in Varanasi. When he first went there almost five decades ago, he felt a haunting sense of hopelessness and desolation in the dimly lit, deserted lanes of a dark night.

The starkness of this haunting experience only grew with every subsequent trip to the holy city. These impressions marked a major transition in his thought process and practice. The young painter spent hours at the riveting riverbanks engulfed by a vast sea of humanity. The wary faces with a prayer on their lips seemed like masks that bore marks of sufferings similar to the creaky windows and doors jutting out of old structures.

Seeing the lifeless bodies brought from distant villages, awaiting their turn for liberation, he felt the fading boundary between life and death. The somber sight left a lasting imprint on his artistic sensibility. Gradually, a new visual idiom arose from the depths of an introspective experience.

Analyzing Ram Kumar’s growth trajectory, art critic Ranjit Hoskote has noted in an essay: "He spent the first decade of India's independence, perfecting an elegiac figuration imbued with the spirit of tragic modernism. To this period belong those lost souls: the monumental Picassoesque figures packed into a darkened picture-womb, terrorized workers, emaciated doll-women and the bewildered clerks trapped in the industrial city. Rendered through a semi-cubist discipline and memorialized, these fugitives are trapped in a hostile environment and in their own divided selves."

The extreme irony in the life around reflects in his paintings. If his Benares series is a haunting meditation on death, the landscape paintings focus on brighter side of life. The vibrant colors and shimmering surfaces exude a sense of restless vitality.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

A serene show of wonderful works by Ram Kumar and Paresh Maity

A joint show of works, entitled ‘Eternal Landscapes‘ by Ram Kumar and Paresh Maity, brings together two diverse landscape painters. Ram Kumar from the pre-independence generation, one of the pioneers of the modern art movement in India, and Paresh Maity from the post-independence generation, a young turk of the contemporary art movement in India.
The exhibition presents the viewer with the opportunity to be led into a new invigorating experience of landscapes. The timeless elemental power of nature is expressed by these works the dialogue created between these works of varying scale eliminates the nature of our relationship with the environment and our human scale within it. Both painters express a faith in the spiritual benefits to be gained from the contemplation of nature’s bounty.

A write up by renowned art expert and collector Vickram Sethi
elaborates: "To describe Landscape as land as it is seen would be over simplifying the concept of landscape paintings; however, the fact is that it is a term that covers the depiction of mountains, valleys, trees, rivers, forests, sky and nature in all its elements arranged into a coherent composition. Landscape paintings have been in existence ever since the dawn of civilization.

Every natural setting has its own precise mix of man animal terrain and abode. Cave painters focused their art on the animals that constituted their daily hunts. Chinese artists were probably the first painters who added another important aspect in their work and this is a search for personal enlightenment. My longing for the notes of a flute is answered in the murmurings of the Gorge wrote the Chinese poet painter Shenzou in 1500 AD.

The word Landscape which has become so critical to theories concerning place, space and cultural representations of nature. For many cultural theorists the very idea of landscape implies a process of alienation from nature and is an integral element in the development of the modern aesthetic. The depiction of landscape in a painting is essentially a representation of space that radically extends the possibilities of an aesthetic experience," he points out.

Capturing an invigorating experience of landscapes

Art collector, expert and adviser Vickram Sethi takes us on an invigorating experience of landscapes on the eve of Ram Kumar & Paresh Maity show. Here are the insightful observations made by him:

The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament sheweth his handiwork.
(Psalm 19.1):
  • Landscapes have a generative power and presence which inspires the mind and soul of a painter. It is not faithfulness to the obvious that confers the sense of reality, it is the artist’s inner cognizance which gives life to empty forms.

  • An image of a landscape will have eternal validity only if the artist’s observation can search out the infinite and thus transform the particular into the universal.

  • A landscape is a cultural mediation between space and the human subject; it’s the use and representation of space that an artist uses for communication with the viewer. Nature is the inspiration for all landscapes. An artist gives his viewers a new understanding of nature which enables them to see it as they have never done before.

  • Contemporary landscapes are in most aspects quite different from what the eye sees; they are modified by the individual creative process applied by the artist, the visual image produced may be simplified, exaggerated, reorganized or abstracted to some degree in comparison to the actual landscape.

  • Every landscape has a dominant characteristic, a certain mood and an ambiance and the challenge for the painter is to capture this essence. Landscape painting is the exploration of the outer world by the creativity of the inner soul of the painter. It is in that a point of union of art and living.

  • To give us nature as we see it is well deserving of praise; to give us nature such as we have never seen but has often wished to see it is better and deserving of higher praise and is the triumph and perfection of art.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

‘Password’ by L.N. Tallur at Nature Morte

Nature Morte presents six new sculptures by L.N. Tallur first exhibited in his solo ‘Quintessential’ at Mumbai’s Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum, curated by Dr. Tasneem Mehta) as part of its on-going program to invite talented contemporary artists to create new works in dialogue with the late 19th Century applied and decorative art collection.

This invitation was apt for L.N. Tallur, as he holds a degree in Museology . Born in 1971 in Karnataka, he received a BFA degree in painting from the Chamarajendra Academy of Visual Arts in Mysore in 1996, an MFA degree in Museology from the MS University in Baroda in 1998, and an MA in Fine Art from the Metropolitan University in Leeds, UK, in 2002. His solos have been held at Arario Gallery, Beijing (2010); Chemould Prescott Road, Mumbai (2009); Arario Gallery, New York (2008); Arario Gallery, Seoul (2007); Bose Pacia, New York (2000); and Chemould Gallery, Mumbai (1999).

An accompanying note to his new series mentions: "Most of his work tends to appropriates classical Indian sculptures or references various methods of the presentation and display of objects. He re-fabricated some objects from the museum’s collection to use in his own works, while also creating works that spoke about cross-cultural exchange and the construction of value."

Three works on view at the Gurgaon venue of Nature Morte employ reproductions of 19th Century vitrines, sourced from the museum’s collection. In all of the works, his sardonic sense of humor is evident, exploring his trademark manipulations of cultural artifacts to create sculptures that are both figurative and abstract, robust in their handling of materials but also cerebral in the issues they address, the release adds.

In addition to receiving an award from the Sanskriti Foundation of New Delhi in 2003 and being one of the nominees for the 2012 Skoda Prize, L.N. Tallur has featured at many group exhibitions across the globe. His large-scale installation entitled “Souvenir Maker” was recently exhibited at the Devi Foundation in Gurgaon and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Singapore.

An adviser for corporate art collections shares her experiences

Corporate houses and organizations gradually learn that picking works of art is a nuanced and complex process. Many groups compiling a collection buy them over time, as and when they afford it. There are art experts who create a master plan according to the tastes and budget. Sometimes the emphasis is on encouraging local artists, to induce goodwill.

Despite economic slowdown, more and more corporate buyers are keen to decorate their office space in interesting and innovative ways. They select not only paintings, but also sculptures and photography for their employees to appreciate. The idea is to create a lighter, enjoyable office environment and to project a favorable image. Some treat their art collection as a stress-relieving extension of their highly competitive corporate scenario and work life.

Art expert Jean Efron who works with several businesses keen to build their eclectic art portfolio mentions that she enjoys the challenge of devising a plan that will reflect what a particular client wants to convey through it. She has been fulfilling the responsibility as an art adviser to various corporations, developers, law firms, top trade associations and many other organizations for almost three and a half decades.

Much of her work originates from referrals. She is at times contacted by a C.E.O. or firm administrator, or a law firm managing partner with little or knowledge of art. A formal interview takes place. And if a group decides to go ahead with the plan, an art committee is formed to work with Ms Efron. According to her, each project is different and offers a new set of challenges as well as parameters, based on that particular client’s goals. But it’s a fascinating and self-learning process, all the same, she mentions.

The experienced art adviser points out that much exciting work nowadays involves merging technology and art. This is because more and more artists are employing computer-generated pop images, video, LED lighting and other technology. It’s definitely drawing attention of tech-savvy companies.