Thursday, May 31, 2012

Gurgaon rivaling New Delhi in terms of market for art

A group show, entitled ‘Chapters’, was organized by TAD Arts in collaboration with the Galaxy Hotel and Spa earlier this month. It had works by several artists including Farhad Hussain, Abir Karmakar, George Martin, Rohit Sharma, Rupa Paul, Rajan Krishnan, and Sharmi Chaudhry. It focuses on each individual artist, presenting their style of work, their life as a Chapter and their inspirations. Each of the painting talked about current times; something that the younger generation of buyers could well relate to, prompting them to buy these artworks.

The director of TAD Arts, Niten Mehta stated that it was difficult to put an exact figure to the market in Gurgaon as far as art is concerned but that the millennium city was definitely becoming an attractive place to large portion of art buying community as there was a fast-increasing number of young professionals traveling across the world, and thus getting aware of art trends. This segment of buyers is quite comfortable and conversant with the idea of art entering their homes. They are at the same time willing to spend some part of their wealth into purchasing something which is sensible in terms of theme, style and composition.

Talking about how a work of art is usually priced, Mr Mehta points out that, it’s usually the artist who will put a price tag which will remain standard or constant at all locations. The gallerist works with different artists. Some of them have had exhibited a pattern of increasing their tag. If someone wins an award or has featured in an international show, it is obvious that the artist is going to rise the price accordingly but if an artist is going to change prices for no specific reasons – those that cannot be explained in tangible terms, they can lag behind, since gallerists are wary of working with them.

According to him, hotels are a good place to promote art since they are perhaps not as 'intimidating' as a formal gallery. And in Gurgaon, he points out, there's a vast number of young corporate executives who visit  a restaurant quite often. Not everyone, of course, will purchase the paintings but a few out of them will be curious about them, get a fair idea of what really art is all about, and know what's happening in the contemporary Indian art scenario.

Sotheby's sale of Indian miniature paintings

Sotheby's  Indian & Southeast Asian Art department has on offer a wide variety of work that ranges right from the earliest sculpture of both India and South Asia as a whole, dating from the first century to the leading modern artists’ paintings and cutting-edge artworks by internationally celebrated artists of the new century.

A diverse domain - the art it sells at auction extends from India to Indonesia, and includes the countries of Singapore, the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Burma, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos, as well as Nepal and Tibet in the Himalaya regions. The seasoned team of experts from Sotheby’s is based across different Hong Kong, Singapore, London, and New York. It works with the regional offices to source and offer the finest artworks through notable public sales that have set record price benchmarks for traditional sculptures and modern works, modern and contemporary Indian, Indian miniature paintings and superb South Asian Art.

The auction house is offering exquisite Indian miniature paintings at its upcoming sale in London next month. Among the works that will lead the section of miniature paintings is a wonderful work of opaque watercolor heightened with gorgeous gold on paper. Maharana Sajjan Singh Riding in an Elephant Procession from Mewar in Rajasthan (circa 1880) is estimated at £15,000-20,000.

Another section is dedicated to Anglo-Indian Art. It comprises Western depictions of the South Asian cultures and rituals. It is being led by a large painting done by Horace Van Ruith. The monumental Worshippers at the Trimbakeshwar Temple in Nasik district of Maharashtra is dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is estimated in the range of £60,000-80,000. The Duke of Connaught had praised van Ruith in a letter posted to his mother (the Queen Victoria), saying: ""No man understands the peculiar characteristics of Indian life better than he does."

A range of contemporary art features in the Contemporary section, including Jitish Kallat's Untitled work (Stations of a Pause). It is estimated at £80,000-120,000. Alwar Balasubramaniam’s ‘Gravity’ is estimated at £20,000-30,000. Sharmila Samant’s ‘Made to Order’ is estimated at £16,000-18,000. ‘Lone Women Don't Cry’ by Sonia Khurana is estimated at £9,000-11,000.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A major auction of Modern & Contemporary South Asian Art

Sotheby’s London auction of Modern & Contemporary South Asian Art on 8th June  includes Miniature Paintings and will also offer a 1971 work, entitled ‘La Forge’ by Sayed Haider Raza, at auction for the first ever time.

The major sale will comprise total 91 lots including Anglo-Indian art, significant modern & contemporary South Asian artworks apart from Indian miniatures expected to realise an estimated £2 million. The Sotheby’s Director, Holly Brackenbury, also Indian Art Specialist, has been quoted as saying: “We are offering a group of important artworks by some of the most influential South Asian masters like Raza, Souza and Husain. Many of these artworks have been drawn from private collections. They were acquired from the artists directly.”

Contemporary section of the auction house includes works by several artists who have shown extensively in top international institutions. Raza’s ‘La Forge’ represents the pinnacle of his art career when, after some experimentation, his work harbored an innovative form of expression purely focused on the orchestration of color. Right through his career, he has been influenced by the nature’s mystical power; the potency and the elements of symbols and colors to represent the elements are core to his works.

All these defining features are realised beautifully in the painting, which is estimated at £300,000-400,000. M.F. Husain’s ‘Islam’ is estimated at £300,000-400,000. It’s a monumental painting that masterfully depicts the late artist’s Muslim faith. Part of an impressive 10-panel series ‘Theorama’, Husain drew inspiration for the work from his days as a billboard painter and also his intense preoccupation with theosophy. In the present work his careful usage of line and color, and also the religious motifs, made it a significant homage to the Islam religion. Souza’s ‘Woman with Mirror and Flowers’ (estimated at £180,000-220,000), is another important large-scale portrait.

Leading the sale’s section of Indian miniature paintings is an exquisite work of opaque watercolor heightened with gold on paper. Estimated at £15,000-20,000, it’s a grand depiction of the Maharana Sajjan Singh.

Square Foot Project and Reconstructing (White)3 at The LOFT, Mumbai

Originally a printing shed in an old mill, and utilized as an experimental art project space since 2008, THE LOFT at Lower Parel will, as part of 'The Square Foot Project', be restaged as a studio apartment for one year.

Commenting on this metamorphosis, Ahmedabad-based architect Anand Patel, who visualized the space at its inception says, “We are all voluntary prisoners of architecture in that we are perpetually inhabiting architecture in all and any of its manifested forms. Our minds are tuned to the map of architectural topography through which we navigate and guide our destinies."

"The volume of space will be used in its entirety to create a place which will function as a studio, residence and gallery space. Beyond the functional aspect I would strive to bring the audience closer to experiencing nuances of architecture like proximity, scale, haptics and kinesthesis (as opposed to clutter, claustrophobia, disarray). The "domestic space" will be pristine white, to let shadows dominate the depth of field. Lighting will play a crucial component as will the eclectic mix of furniture items."

In keeping with the re-invention of the physical space, the inaugural exhibition, having opened on May 23, 2012 is titled Reconstructing (White)3 and is curated by Himali Singh Soin. The show will include nine 1 x 1 x 1 white cubes, interpreted by some of the edgiest names from the Indian art world, including Hema Upadhyay, Mithu Sen, Abir Karmarkar, Prajakta Potnis, Gautam Bhatia, Zuleikha Chaudhari, Niyeti Chadha, Pranee Soi and Chittrovanu Mazumdar.

Utilizing the shell of the new ‘gallery’, Soi will address this paradox of space and its foldability. About the notion of The White Cube, she says: "You close your ears to the sirens outside and enter these little dream worlds of image and ideas. Time frees itself from clocks and their shadows. This is the White Cube: a delusion of neutrality, a systematic context, a modernist shroud for Absolute Art--a blank slate, a grid for the laying out of impulse."

"The show deconstructs this perfect cube--and reconstructs it--giving artists an important constraint: to create a work of art that exists inside--or leaks outside--a 1 x 1 x 1 white box fabricated from a material of their choice. Big things can be contained in little space, by improvising known formulas with 'home-made' idiosyncracies. We welcome you into The White Cube, a space to navigate the formulas we have learned, and perhaps, do away with them, resigning to the shapeless white of naiveté." As the gallery morphs from one interior space to another, this show turns the cube over.

(Image courtesy:  THE LOFT)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Is India all set for an art revolution?

China has tightened its stronghold on the global art market. Chinese auction houses in less than five years have emerged to be among the most influential ones in the world, flaunting their might in the domain of fine art, jewelry and antiques. In this context, an insightful article by writer Ajay Seth (Is India ready for an art revolution?; The Hindu Businessline) makes the following observations:
  • According to The European Fine Art Foundation (TEFAF), China recently toppled the US, which ruled the global art scene for centuries. China's share in the world art market rose from 23 per cent in 2010 to 30 per cent last year, with Hong Kong emerging as the new global hub of art transactions.
  • The US has been pushed to second position with a 29 per cent market share, while the UK and France, with 22 per cent and a distant 6 per cent are third and fourth place contenders, respectively. At the global auction market in 2011, China emerged on the top by garnering over 40 per cent of fine art auction sales revenue, followed by the US (over 23 per cent), the UK (19.4 per cent), France (4.5 per cent), Germany (1.8 per cent) and others.
  • What should India learn? The fact that a collector will have greater affinity towards artifacts from his own land and culture is largely contributing to more and more Chinese supporting their native artists. The Indian art industry should follow the lead by rediscovering and supporting homespun talent.
  • India's share of the global art market — at approximately Rs 700 crore — is still less than 1 per cent of a global art market which is currently worth 43 billion euros. However, the Indian artscape is evolving; a recently organised India Art Summit 2012 was a huge crowd-puller, with participation from 90 per cent of the roughly 90 Indian and international galleries, and with each selling between one and four works of art.
  • The legends — F.N. Souza, S.H. Raza, the late M.F. Husain and Jehangir Sabavala — are gradually finding a place in every art connoisseur's hearth. Economic prosperity has spawned a new breed of art collectors who are willing to pay a premium for prized pieces.

The Project Cinema City show

An innovative project presented by National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) in Mumbai is an interface between arts, cinema, architecture, urban study and cultural studies.The present show marks 100 years of Indian Cinema. Here are its highlights:
  • Among the artists who form part of the venture are Atul Dodiya, Anant Joshi, Apurva Parikh, Archana Hande, Design Cell- KRVIA, Kausik Mukhopadhay, Paroma Sadhana, Paromita Vohra, Pushpamala N, Rohan Shivkumar, Shikha Pandey, Shreyas Karle and many others. They have all designed the calendars. Filmmakers who feature in the creative collaboration are Avijit Mukul Kishore, Hansa Thapliyal, Madhavi Tangella, Mamta Murthy, Rafeeq Ellias, Renu Savant, Richa Hushing, Rrivu Laha, Shrikant Agawane. The opening of the show was followed by a seminar on ‘Archiving the Contemporary’.
  • An accompanying note elaborates: “Cities and cinema are the twins of 20th century. Though in the first half of the century the west primarily developed and produced cinema, since the ‘50s the Asian cinema has slowly developed a distinct identity. The post colonial cities, the vast metropolises and the moving people of the region have evolved a certain discipline which is as much about city narratives as about a distinct cinematic representation.
  • Both (city and cinema) are sites of aspiration that shape, reflect and even alter each other. This relationship throws up important and diverse questions. How deeply is the economic, political, social and cultural logic of the city related to its cinema? How the imagination of the city in its cinema influence the imagination of the nation and its aspirations? Can it be measured / determined / analysed by studying urban (re) configurations i.e. spaces within the city?
  • The interdisciplinary project engages with issues of labor, imagination, desire, access, spacing and locations, iconization, materiality, language hybridity, moving people, viewing conventions, hidden processes and so on. The show will be on till 29th June (Monday and national holidays closed) and ten Cinema City short films will be screened at NGMA auditorium every Saturday-Sunday 1-5 pm starting from 26th May. The project is initiated by Majlis, in collaboration with KRVIA (Kamla Raheja Vidyanidhi Institute of Architecture).

Monday, May 28, 2012

Can art viewing and buying extend beyond galleries?

The millennium city, popularly known as Gurgaon, is slowly but surely scoring over New Delhi when it comes to gauging the art market in the region – in and around the national capital, curators, gallerists and art connoisseurs who are involved with expositions in the NCR township.

A recent show at the Galaxy Hotel and Spa is a clear example of this trend. The works were ranged from Rs1.5- to Rs 5 lakh, and the show went off very well. A news report in The Economic Times quotes one of the participating artists Suchit Saini as saying, "Gurgaon is slightly more inclined towards art than New Delhi, if ten of my works get sold in a year now, not less than five of them will go to Gurgaon. This is a bit unexpected since the market here is relatively new as compared to the former.

According to her, while New Delhi even today seems to have a better purchasing power, Gurgaon tends to score over India’s capital city as a throbbing art market because there’s greater awareness there with a growing number or young corporate executives, exhibiting interest in buying art.

The show was organized courtesy TAD Arts that tries to build and expand a strong community of art lovers through public platforms for exhibitions. There are art lovers already visiting a few select galleries; and TAD is keen to create another venue like arty hotels where they can appreciate art so that it grows. Discussing their business and profit margins, Mr Mehta revealed that the margins were slightly lower than galleries as they were required to pay the rent of the exhibition spaces.

Galaxy Hotel’s general manager Pradipta Biswas mentioned that they had undertaken the show for collaborating with the world of art so as to encourage creative endeavors and provide a platform to artists and the focused buyer who can mingle with each other well as well as understand the art world mechanics. The ambience of the place is such that it draws keen buyers. The hotel is invigorated by a fresh lot of works every month displayed at the Lobby as well as other guest areas.

Gigantic pieces from a world-renowned sculpture

Assistants frantically raced to build a 26- foot-high stainless steel orb in nick of time for the opening ceremony. The creator of the gigantic piece, Anish Kapoor is securedly balanced on a Le Corbusier chair in waiting room of gallery, looking rather detached and calm. Dressed in a black crew neck, Yohji Yamamoto sneakers and black pants, he sips a glass of water bit by bit and convincingly smiled.

Anish Kapoor has filled the internationally famous Barbara Gladstone Galleries with close to two dozen giant mounds made from countless pieces of concrete, carefully dribbled out of a machine in a process he describes as scatological.

The artist found all different kinds of ways to think of proto objects - first pure objects - over the years. One of them was a machine, which made objects not requiring him at all - a high tech machine. You have to put in cement and run a program, for it to do its own thing. It will just keep going, making certain types of objects – archaic and very primitive. The pieces were childlike, albeit they happened to be high technology.

Anish Kapoor had about 25 people in his studio. They were all working at the same time on different things. According to him, sculpture is quite a long process, as it takes several months to make anything. Certain pieces took almost two years to shape up and finish. The artist doesn’t feel there is anything like perfect scale for sculpture.

In fact, so much depends on the space you are in, and he believes every idea has its own scale, and one cannot have the same idea both small and big. It doesn’t work if you choose to enlarge a small idea. Conversely, a big idea doesn’t mean a great idea in itself. Scale is just a matter of content.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

A grand art showcase in Paris searches for success formula

The newly overhauled – spacious and luxurious - Palais de Tokyo is among the biggest exhibition spaces for contemporary art not only in France but in the entire Europe, claim the sprawling opening show ‘La Triennale’ organizers in Paris.

It covers close to 22,000 sq m (236,800 sq ft). French officials appear to believe that the third time is going to get lucky. The government mounted a show supposed to give the country’s contemporary a showplace at the Grand Palais that they couldn’t get on the international art market. However, the success it got was modest: The exhibit in 2009 did even worse.

Now for the latest edition, both the venue and name have been changed. The show is called the Triennale. And it’s not purely for lack of money, the organizers state, that the Palais de Tokyo, housing collection of modern art of France, now resembles an unpainted, unplastered shell. The circle of participants has been enlarged as well.

By entrusting the prestigious show to Nigerian-born U.S. curator Okwui Enwezor, also the Haus der Kunst director, the government has did away with its propaganda effort. The Triennale has a rather poetic subtitle, ‘Intense Proximity’, and it doesn’t focus on French art alone. Of the total 120 artists in the show, only just a quarter work in France or are French.

The exhibition is launched with a 1928 documentary by the French writer Andre Gide with his lover Marc Allegret about a voyage to the Congo. The show harps on the ethnological aspect of objects coming from the Third World, the opposite of what the Paris-based Musee du Quai Branly tries to do - wresting them from the anthropologists and presenting them as works of art. One also finds the usual mix of those deliberately artless videos, installations and photographs even as drawings and paintings take a back seat.

Many works on view carry a more or less palpable political subtext. The Triennale continues through August 26 at the Palais de Tokyo, 13 Avenue du President Wilson in Paris.

‘Orbit tower’, ‘Parsifal’ and more

The Mumbai-born, world-renowned artist, Anish Kapoor, has a lot going on for now. His ‘Orbit tower’ is set to be a centerpiece of the London Olympics. A bright red mass of captivating crisscrossing metal beams; it is like looking at the eerie Eiffel Tower on acid.

Next month his sets for ‘Parsifal’ will premier in Amsterdam - Wagner’s solemn opera dedicated to the Holy Grail. And  Barbara Gladstone’s Galleries are currently displaying his two new pieces. In an elaborate interview with James Tarmy of The Bloomberg News, he throws light on different aspects of his art and personality:
Explaining the idea behind his Orbit tower, he mentioned: “An Olympic project is kind of like a national project. Think of what the Chinese did. They had Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei build a stadium for them: politically, they were able to use good design for their own end, to justify the modernity of the Chinese state. We may all roll our eyes, but they did it and got away with it: politically, aesthetically. They hijacked the whole thing."

He pointed out: "Cecil Balmond and I have built something that doesn’t scream nationalism. It’s a completely strange, awkward object with all its elbows sticking out, and it won’t allow itself to be drawn into a kind of phallic emblem of nationhood. I’m amazed they let me build it, to be honest. I think it says a huge amount about Britain today, that it will take forward such an utterly odd project.

The world-renowned artist revealed: "I do collect early Indian art very avidly. Let’s say between 2,000 BC to about 500 AD. And amazingly, it’s still collectible. The areas I collect in are so obtuse I don’t know if anyone is really interested in them. I’m a great fan of Sarah Lucas. Whenever I can afford one, I buy a Dan Graham, because he has worked with both architecture and mirrors for such a long time and in such a sophisticated way. I think he’s hugely underrated as an artist in terms of the market."

Anish Kapoor on his art and choices

The Mumbai-born, world-renowned artist, Anish Kapoor, has a lot going on for now. His ‘Orbit tower’ is set to be a centerpiece of the London Olympics. A bright red mass of captivating crisscrossing metal beams; it is like looking at the eerie Eiffel Tower on acid.

Next month his sets for ‘Parsifal’ will premier in Amsterdam - Wagner’s solemn opera dedicated to the Holy Grail. And  Barbara Gladstone’s Galleries are currently displaying his two new pieces. In an elaborate interview with James Tarmy of The Bloomberg News, he throws light on different aspects of his art and personality. 

Explaining the idea behind his Orbit tower, he mentioned: “An Olympic project is kind of like a national project. Think of what the Chinese did. They had Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei build a stadium for them: politically, they were able to use good design for their own end, to justify the modernity of the Chinese state. We may all roll our eyes, but they did it and got away with it: politically, aesthetically. They hijacked the whole thing.

Cecil Balmond and I have built something that doesn’t scream nationalism. It’s a completely strange, awkward object with all its elbows sticking out, and it won’t allow itself to be drawn into a kind of phallic emblem of nationhood. I’m amazed they let me build it, to be honest. I think it says a huge amount about Britain today, that it will take forward such an utterly odd project.

I do collect early Indian art very avidly. Let’s say between 2,000 BC to about 500 AD. And amazingly, it’s still collectible. The areas I collect in are so obtuse I don’t know if anyone is really interested in them. I’m a great fan of Sarah Lucas. Whenever I can afford one, I buy a Dan Graham, because he has worked with both architecture and mirrors for such a long time and in such a sophisticated way. I think he’s hugely underrated as an artist in terms of the market.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

A recap of shows in the city of Bangalore

We take a quick look of exhibitions happening in Bangalore:

'Labyrinth of Abstraction'
This exhibition at Third Eye - Indian Art Gallery featured paintings that focus on vibrancy, sensitivity, richness and the depth of Indian art. They highlight the creative nuances of artists with their varied styles, mediums and imagination. In our fast paced world where life is full of stress and high on commercialism, a good piece of art can provide solace, peace and joy to the viewer. It rejuvenates the mind and body.

Face Two Face
An exhibition of photographs and installations by Shivaraju B S at Gallery Sumukha featured two series of works documented by the artist, where he highlights the lives of people whose life is intertwined with what we otherwise separately identify as ‘Performance’. He follows the two people namely Bagadehalli Basavaraju (as Gandhi) and Vidya Sagar (as M.G.R) who masquerade as the two popular icons. The photographer follows and unveils the public and private side of each of these real-life performers who have chosen to appear as a ‘personality’ undermining their true identities which in turn has become their alternate identity over the years.

‘My City’ and a show at Crimson
On the other hand, Crimson presents an exhibition of original paintings by 30 young artists such as Anand Panchal, Bhumika Dange, Dilip Chaudhury, Dilipkumar Kale, H R Das, Nishant Dange, Pramod Apet, Ramesh Hari Pachpande, Shantkuamr Hattarki, Somnath Sen, Vijay Achrekar, Yasala Balaiah & others. Sublime Galleria hosted ‘My City’, an exhibition of paintings that interpret urban life, landscapes and culture. The exhibition featured artists B. Devaraj, Manjunath Hassan, Praveen Kumar, Shivanand Basavanthappa, Urmila V.G. and V.G. Venugopal. The show was curated by Giridhar Khasnis.

Bengal artists’ works
Simultaneously, an exhibition of paintings courtesy Karnataka Chitrakala Parishat featured the modern paintings and sculptures by five artists from Bengal. Rajib Sur Roy's paintings revolve around Radha and Krishna, Utpal Gosh's work delineate nature in cubistic style, Sailen Ghosh's featured works marry two opposing attitudes of life - classicism and romanticism, self-taught artist Anjan Bhattacharya, who has exhibited his work in India and the US, and Subrata Ghosh, who is inspired by Indian classical art.

La Triennale at the Palais de Tokyo

The first major event that marks the reopening of the Palais de Tokyo, La Triennale offers a panorama of contemporary art right at the intersection of global sites of production and the French art scene. Here are some of its highlights:
  • The 3rd edition of the contemporary art triennial exhibition has moved from the nave of the Grand Palais into the open galleries of the Palais de Tokyo and other neighboring institutions along la Colline de Musées. Beginning within the interiors of the expanded and refurbished Palais de Tokyo, La Triennale is set in a series of overlapping cartographies that shift from small-scale collaborations with emerging research, production, exhibition, and performance spaces in Paris and the surrounding suburb, to explorations of the critical valences between the near and far, between the edges of France and countries adjacent to and bordering them.
  • Through the concept of “Intense Proximity”, La Triennale investigates what it means to be active as an artist working today, in the context of a globalized and diverse French art scene. Inspired by the great work of early to mid 20th century French ethnography figures such as Claude Levi-Strauss, Marcel Mauss, Michel Leiris, and Marcel Griaule, it sets off on a journey to explore the nodes where art and ethnography converge in a renewal of fascination and estrangement.
  • Fundamentally, the goal of the project is to shift from the idea of national space, as a constituted physical location, to a frontier space that constantly assumes new morphologies and new models of categorization (local, national, trans-national, geo-political, denational, pure, contaminated, etc.).
  • Contemporary art has become a global phenomenon fostered by an ever growing network of relations overcoming distances. La Triennale therefore approaches the art of today through this wealth of connections. Its title, ‘Intense Proximity’, points to those frictions, those heterogeneous tensions which set every human activity into motion.
  • It also questions how an individual’s origins, intellectual education or life path have an impact on his/her situation in the larger context of a society in which the fault lines are increasingly uncharted. It also asks how La Triennale can be constituted within the debates that currently animate French society.
  • Set against the background of a globalization brimming with both hopes and fears as well as the looming shadow of cultural isolationism, artists from different origins and different fields, but all somehow sharing the cultural references which contemporary art provides, will address these tricky issues in their individual practice and alongside an expansive and robust guest program.

A Center devoted to India’s bard and the Bengali Shakespeare

India’s great Nobel laureate and globally celebrated poet-painter Rabindranath Tagore and his legacy have found yet another proud permanent roosting perch, now in Europe. A site devoted to his life and works has just been launched in Edinburgh, Scotland.

The Scottish Centre for Tagore Studies centre will look to promote Indian culture, art, literature, education and philosophy by highlighting his legacy. ScoTs is probably the first-of-its kind university or centre in the UK celebrating the writer’s achievements on the eve of his 150th birth anniversary. The centre is located at the Edinburgh Napier University`s Institute of Creative Industries. An official news releases spells out the following facts: 
  • Rabindranath Tagore, who was the first non-white Nobel Prize winner for Literature in 1913, penned thousands of poems and songs before his death in 1941, with his work translated into hundreds of languages. Now, 150 years after his birth, the first UK hub of its kind dedicated to the writer has been established  at Edinburgh Napier University’s Institute of Creative Industries.
  • Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs in the Scottish Government said: “Rabrindranath Tagore was India’s greatest artist, musician and poet and had many close ties to Scotland. ScoTs will celebrate these connections and Tagore’s legacy, deepening the relationship between our two countries. I am delighted that the centre is being launched in this, our Year of Creative Scotland.”
  • ScoTs will highlight Tagore’s legacy following an agreement with the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), which will bring Professor Indra Nath Choudhuri, Academic Director of the Indira Gandhi Institute, to the University as Scotland’s first ICCR Chair in Tagore Studies. The ICCR is also funding two PhD fellowships dedicated to researching the works of the influential author.

  • Rabindranath Tagore had strong links to Scotland, mainly through his firm friendship with the pioneering town planner Sir Patrick Geddes, but his grandfather, entrepreneur Prince Dwarkanath, was also honoured with the Freedom of the City award by Edinburgh in 1845. Dr. Bashabi Fraser, Lecturer in Literature and Creative Writing at the University, said: “ScoTs will celebrate the life, teaching and vision of Rabrindranath Tagore, whose spirit continues to inspire.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Trajectory of the great poet-painter Rabindranath Tagore

Rabindranath Tagore is best known as a poet and in 1913 was the first non-European writer to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Highly prolific, Tagore was also a composer and wrote the national anthems for both India and Bangladesh, as well as an educator, social reformer, philosopher and painter. In India, he is regarded as a national figure whose achievements are as important as those of Gandhi.

He began painting relatively late in his career when he was in his sixties. Nevertheless he produced thousands of works and was the first Indian artist to exhibit his works across Europe, Russia and the United States in 1930. His painting style was very individual, characterised by simple bold forms and a rhythmic quality, and later served to inspire many modern Indian artists.

His artistic adventure began with doodles that turned crossed-out words and lines into images that assumed expressive and sometimes grotesque forms. They were unplanned and shaped by accidents and intuitive decisions but often seem to carry memories of ‘primitive’ art objects he should have seen in books and museums.

Something of this spilled into his early paintings. Many of them represent animals, but they are seldom of the real ones we know of; more often they represent what he has described a 'probable animal that had unaccountably missed its chance of existence’ or 'a bird that only can soar in our dreams. This led him to the creation of an antediluvian menagerie.

Spurred by the same spirit of inventiveness he also took to cross projecting the movement of a living animal on to an imagined body, or a human gesture onto an animal body and vice versa. This exchange between the familiar and the unknown, the inhabitation of one in the other has led him to forms that are as expressive as they are inventive.

The human face is an obvious constant in Rabindranath Tagore’s work. It demonstrates his undiminished interest in human persona. As a writer, especially as a writer of short stories, he was used to linking human appearance with an inner human essence. When he took to painting he found a similar opportunity in the representation of the human face.

The display at London based V&A Museum is curated by Professor Raman Siva Kumar and organised in collaboration with the National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi, with the support of the Ministry of Culture, Government of India. The paintings are on loan to the V&A from the Visva-Bharati University and the National Gallery of Modern Art.

(Information courtesy:V&A Museum)

Maithili Parekh’s journey in the field of visual arts

Maithili Parekh, Director (Business Development India) at Sotheby’s, is a diehard lover and researcher of the contemporary visual arts. Her passion for art received a boost when she moved to America for a Bachelors degree in Art History. She studied at the Brown University, Rhode Island.

After completing her graduation, she headed to New York to join Morgan Stanley, where she kept visiting art galleries. She then pursued a Masters in Art in the UK, and finally moved back to her home country. She worked with several top galleries and again moved to New York to run a gallery there.In 2007, she joined Sotheby’s and currently she is the head of Sotheby’s India.

Maithili Parekh spends her time either evaluating a collection, meeting a collector looking to build a collection, or visiting a museum. The art expert points out that there’s a niche group of buyers looking at cutting edge installations art. According to her, installation art is experimental and abstract kind of art; it’s very different!In Bangladesh, for instance, there are certain artists who even work with their blood! She adds it is a difficult concept to carry on with but there is definitely a market for it.

With the passing away of doyens such as Jehangir Sabavala and Husain, people are eagerly collecting the masters – a marked trend, if she is to be believed. Artist Sheela Gowda, she points out, is another big name currently in the art market to watch out for - noteworthy for her usage of interesting medium such as cow dung. People are keen to collect her works, she reveals.

A self-confessed lover of every aspect related to the visual arts, she talks fondly about collecting art, 'one of her biggest weaknesses', to put it in her words. She and her husband together enjoy the process of acquiring works. While he collects modern works, she looks for contemporary art. Her advice to aspiring collectors is to constantly keep looking for art by visiting galleries till one’s own taste evolves. Also, she advises, not to buy a work just because it appears to be a good deal. Better buy with conviction and your intuition, she concludes.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Artists who form part of a monumental group show - I

The New York-based Aicon Gallery presents a new group exhibition, entitled ‘Mapmakers: The Evolution of Contemporary Indian Art’, which features works by Jitish Kallat, Bose Krishnamachari, Baiju Parthan, Justin Ponmany, Ravinder Reddy, T. V. Santhosh, and Chintan Upadhyay among others.They together represent the vanguard of contemporary Indian art that burst onto the international scene in the mid-2000s, turning the heads of museums, critics and collectors.

This exhibition showcases the important large-scale canvases through which these artists, among others, redefined Indian Contemporary and set the compass points for a new generation to follow.

An artist who explores present-day crises
Drawing inspiration from a variety of sources – ranging from cinema, news, media, art history and popular culture – T.V. Santhosh explores present-day crises through his art. Adapting images from digital and printed media, the artist creates eerily realistic canvases, charged by opinions on the general socio-political climate of India. His distinctive style makes his paintings recognizable without being predictable, via three key elements:

Drawing from photorealism, chromatic scale, and gradual variation - an undertone of profound disillusionment is rendered in his paintings, his realistic figures cast in iridescently blurred light, framed in hallucinatory shadows. The enigmatic aesthetic denotes a social commentary of protest, while the artist remains disengaged from the social events depicted. He veils, floods and distorts the subjects with this strange yet familiar light – opting for a cold, machine-made glow rather than the warmth of sunlight.  This stark filter conveys a macabre intensity, where reality and fantasy mix in his fluid surface bathed in an ominous luminosity.

Using sculpture as a primarily heraldic medium
Known for his brightly colored larger-than-life heads, Ravinder Reddy uses sculpture as a primarily heraldic medium. Assuming the characteristic stance of an announcer, the often monumentally scaled heads invariably stare frontally through wide eyes – never daring to glance sideways, or over the shoulder – eager to address all in attendance.

The message is further amplified by characteristically bold colors, gold inlay and intricate hairstyles. Reddy returns to the statuary of earlier pre-modern cultures and civilizations – such as ancient Egypt and Greece, where conventions of stark simplicity and rigid formality prevailed in artistic forms – emphasizing again his penchant for depicting the iconic theme of the herald.

Artists who form part of a monumental group show– II

A grand group exhibit at the renowned Aicon Gallery in New York looks to trace impressive evolution of the contemporary Indian art scene through though provoking works produced by some of the leading artist of the current generation. Among them, Jitish Kallat belongs to a new generation of artists and thought makers with no trepidations on the impossibility of today’s originality, with an equal lack of hesitation in accepting the derivation of cultural influences.

The question asked by his work is how we should negotiate this reticulated terrain while deriving insight from his frenetic visual landscapes to evoke a unique and personalized response. Another promising and talented artist Justin Ponmany draws his influences from the transient city landscape, under constant construction, in what he terms the ‘Plastic Memory’ of culture.Very much entwined as an artist to his worldly surroundings, he values interpersonal relationships as greatly as intrapersonal responses to one’s environment, looking at the subject and his world in the same frame.

His perceptive adjustment to changing situations and relationships is conveyed on his canvas, capturing an intangible event through a tactile medium. By experimenting with various mediums and materials – like plastic paint, silver holograms, foils and rich pigments – his mixed-media works seem to resemble photo negatives, filled with black and silver undertones. This adventurous mix gives his work a shiny almost hallucinogenic quality.

Chintan Upadhyay holds a unique position in the context of Contemporary Indian Art. Asserting that artworks are commodities in themselves, he believes his works to be mass-produced, consumerist objects with aesthetic and ideological values infused to their economic value. In a world driven by the rules of consumerism, he, as the artist, refuses to attribute subliminal values to artworks. This eventually imparts a uniqueness based in originality.

According to him, an artist exists among a chain of already ‘produced’ and ‘consumed’ images, thus rendering himself submissive to the dominance of images. Artistic products are simply gestures to nullify the predetermined and mediated meanings of symbolic objects produced within the context of Art.

Works by Baiju Parthan and Bose Krishnamachari at ‘Mapmakers’ show

A major show at The Aicon Gallery based in New York traces the evolution of contemporary Indian art by bringing together works by some top artists of this generation like T.V. Santhosh who explores present-day crises through his art.

Historical significance- personally and socio-politically- drives Bose Krishnamachari's art
Recognized as an artist at the forefront of Contemporary Indian art, Bose Krishnamachari focuses on form with conceptual and contextual concerns in mind. Impressive planes of flat color are contrasted with recognizable and realistic persona, which infuse the work with an identifiable sensibility. His simultaneous qualities of being a prodigious producer of work, while being knowledgeable of contemporary art movements and histories, denote two distinguishing aspects carried through his work.

Bose Krishnamachari remains conscious of historical significance, both personally and socio-politically, apt to retain and highlight this aptitude via his artistic praxis. Using traditional techniques in image-making mixed with an underlying vernacular message, he strives to elicit an idiom that is refreshingly contemporary and brisk.

Baiju Parthan works on the fringes of the mainstream
Elaborating upon the recesses of a personal process, Baiju Parthan’s fascination with transcending mediums is explored in his richly textured works. His work combines both celebration and lament, archaic and modern, utilizing a mirrored reality suggesting a world or mind undergoing the motions of change – disintegration, permutation, evolution – as the result of a restless gaze, unable to settle on one space or thing for long.

To put it in his own words that explain his artistic philosophy, “The art I produce currently addresses the dematerialization or erosion of tactility of the real, and its effect on our being and existence.” Parthan works on the fringes of the mainstream and the unreal, wary of the constraints of established visual lexicons, he weaves a common thread of the cosmic narrative, addressing the present, past and future in one moment.“

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Searching for complicity between pursuit of art and society

This is an artist whose paintings are sort of a crucible - a throbbing site of transformation, a mystical place wherein objects, colors, lines, and forms undergo a subtle creative catharsis before being transmuted, leading to a tempest of both personal and social impulses.

Initially Suryakant Lokhande worked mostly in acrylic on canvas before turning to works in mixed media interspersed with photographic references and the computer-generated images. Entrusting himself to technology, he follows an open practice, often capable of mimicking the surrounding world, a constant search for complicity between pursuit of art and society. A ceaseless search for self, coupled with acute concern regarding the ultimate truth act as catalyst to his artistic sojourn. It is arduous at times to relate the mechanics of mind through images.

His vivacious and vibrant visual vistas emerge from the unbounded energy of myriad movements and gestures, the incessant vitality of typically Indian – rather dramatic everyday domestic décor. Born in 1969 in Mumbai, the young and talented practitioner did his B. F. A. from Sir J.J. Institute of Applied Art, Mumbai.

Among his selected solos are ‘War Is Over’, Institute of Contemporary Indian Art, Mumbai (2007); ‘To Whomsoever It May Concern’, Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai (2005); 'Allegory', Lakeeren Art Gallery, Mumbai (2002); 'Obstacles' Aditya Ruia Art Gallery, Mumbai (2002); 'We Cover You', Alliance France de, Mumbai (2001); 'Metal Meets Mettle', Jamaat Art Gallery, Mumbai (2001). Among the honors and awards won by him are the Maharashtra State Art Award (2001, 1998); Tilak Smarak Trust Award, Pune (2000, 1998); Art Society of India Award (1998); Camlin Western Region Art Competition Award (1998); Bombay Art Society Award (1998,1997); and  Oak Smriti Award, Pune (1998).

His work has been featured in several group exhibitions, including 'The Evolution of the Species', ICIA, Mumbai (2010); 'Life is A Stage', ICIA (2009);  'The Young Indian Contemporaries', Suchitrra Arts, Mumbai (2008); 'Portrait of a Place', Rob Dean Art Gallery, London (2008); ‘Young Guns’, ICIA (2007); ‘Satyagraha’ courtesy Afrikhadi, South Africa (2006); ‘Bird on Wire’, an online art show courtesy Arts Trust (2005); and 'Ideas and Images' annual show at NGMA, Mumbai (2004).

Works that capture the conflict between the Materialistic and Metaphysical

A strong philosophical bent is at the core of this talented artist’s thought-provoking work that acts as a sharp commentary on the product driven and consumption oriented modern urban life in which the quest for luxury knows no bounds. In order to resolve the mystery of ‘who I am’, a sensitive mind must first dissect one's own self to discover the true essence that stays constant and won’t change with passage of time, he believes.

One of the highly promising and talented artists from the young generation of Indian contemporaries, Suryakant Lokhande often focuses on the conflict between the Materialistic and Metaphysical. Delving deeper into the inner recesses of self and society, his work often comprises the complex process of conscious liberation of the subjects from ubiquitous properties they are invariably associated with; it essentially means simultaneously imparting them with new characteristics, imparting a new meaning to them.

Among the objects that he frequently uses for the purpose can be anything from faded family portraits, self-portraits, metal objects and panels to old books, text, automobile paints, toys, and even cartoon characters. An elaborate review of his work by P.Martin points out how his artistic vision, efforts and inputs tend to alter the image from its fantastic lifeblood and its libidinal power, its exciting colors and scenes of collective drama, devolving and dissolving the same to a deeper, more disturbing image of uncertainty.

The critic-writer has mentioned: “His paintings are feverish; they flout economic laws and are the ‘gratuitous’ energy that defy boundaries. In them, the continuity is tied to the incessant motion of the line, which runs without caesuras, following its flow of awareness and fancy, developing bends and folds, lending weight and concreteness to labyrinthal conflicts with its penetration and coupling, filling all gaps, joining and uniting all bodies.”

In essence, the sensitive artist strives to maintain an acute awareness of the broad context in which art should be created and presented.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

‘Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads’ and other works by Ai Weiwei

One of China’s most prolific and provocative contemporary artists, Ai Weiwei is known for such major projects as the installation ‘Fairytale’ at Documenta 12 in 2007, as well as for his embrace of the Internet and social media as active platforms for commentary and art forms in their own right.

The Hirshhorn presents ‘Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads’, a monumental 12-part sculptural suite by Ai Weiwei. Installed around the perimeter of the fountain on the museum’s plaza, it is on view until February 2013. The historically resonant piece paves the way for ‘Ai Weiwei: According to What?’ the first U.S. retrospective of the artist’s work, which opens at the venue in October.

His ‘Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads’ comprises a dozen bronze sculptures, each roughly 10 feet tall, that represent the signs of the Chinese zodiac: 11 real-world animals (snake, horse, ram, monkey, rooster, dog, pig, rat, ox, tiger and rabbit) and one mythical creature (dragon). The sculptures are re-envisioned and enlarged versions of the original 18th-century heads designed during the Qing dynasty for the fountain clock of the Yuanming Yuan (Garden of Perfect Brightness), an imperial retreat outside Beijing.

By sending the entire suite of sculptures on a world tour that has already reached São Paulo, New York, London, Los Angeles, Taipei and Houston, Ai reexamines the fraught history of the originals. “My work is always dealing with real or fake authenticity, and what’s the value and how the value relates to current political and social understandings and misunderstandings,” said Ai. “I think [there’s] a strong humorous aspect there. So I wanted to make a complete set [of zodiac heads], including the seven original and the missing five.”

Ai sees his usage of the zodiac heads as a link in a longer historical chain, observing that the Qing dynasty heads were themselves based on Tang dynasty renderings. At the same time, he notes the ability of the subject to transcend any historical context. To viewers coming unawares upon the zodiac heads, “They’re just animals.”

In conjunction with the Hirshhorn’s presentations of Ai’s work, the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery presents ‘Perspectives: Ai Weiwei’ from May 12 to April 7, 2013, and the Corcoran Gallery of Art will exhibit ‘Untitled’, from September 22 to January 13, 2013.

(Information courtesy: Smithsonian)

India as abode of new age, lusty 'land art'

Demolished old buildings, an odd tree, piles of bricks, and colonial style abodes skillfully arranged in beautiful artistic shapes are the recognizable motifs for a few contemporary practitioners of new age ‘land art’ from the West who have opted to make India their muse.

The movement began in 1968 in New York with a group show, entitled ‘Earth Works’. The genre was coined by Robert Smithson. It was practised by many leading post-modern artists, including Andy Goldsworthy, Alan Sonfist, Constantin Brancusi and Hans Haacke.

Land art or Earth art is a movement in which luscious landscape and peculiar artwork forms are inextricably and skillfully linked. It’s also a form of art created in nature, utilizing natural materials like soil, rock, organic media, and water with an array of introduced materials like concrete, metal, mineral pigments etc. Instead of placing sculptures in the landscape, the latter is the chosen means of their creation. Many of the works of art, created in the deserts of Nevada, Utah or Arizona were mostly ephemeral in nature and only exist as photographic documents or video recordings now. They pioneered a form known as site-specific sculpture, designed for a specific outdoor location.

Sebastian Cortes, a Fashion photographer, has documented Puducherry in his extensive project ‘Pondicherry. It’s a series of images plus a book on this quaint Indo-French cross-cultural landscape of. The artist, who works between New York and Milan, settled 10 years ago in Auroville in Puducherry with his yoga-instructor wife.

The city with a distinct historical layering with its intriguing French, Indian, especially Tamil traditions alongside Catholic influence gripped him, prompting Cortes to put the dazzling diversity in astute architectural panels and deft designs bordering between the present, past and the future. He was influenced by Aurobindo ashram’s obscure rituals, its ordinariness of life jelled with the colonial past that found a resonance in the well-planned frames of ‘French-style villas, Aurobindo's shrine, an old pier, Hindu icons, the people there and serene sea.

Monday, May 21, 2012

‘Archaeology of time’ mapped in an unconventional art form

Land art either subverts the landscape for newer forms in both nature and cities or documents the lusty landscape and its symbols to convey a specific idea as perceived by a creative mind. Supported by the French Embassy and its arms, three of them have meticulously captured the country’s everyday heritage, bringing to India the captivating concept of ‘land art’.

India’s urban landscape is fast changing. In just a matter of decade, New Delhi might ‘touch’ the pink city of Jaipur crafting new land art symbols such as urban ruins and high-rise archaeology, according to Alex Boucher, a French land artist-archaeologist settled in the capital city of India.

He has chosen to enhance one of his land art projects canvas, ‘Little Temples to the Road’  that he started in France way back in 1995 for documenting the vanishing little old landmarks such as small kiosks, the craftspeople and streetside garages. His work revolves around demolition, construction as well as the accumulation of neo-ruins of structures, he terms the ‘archaeology of time’.

Delphine Gibley Ghai, an artist of French origin, unveiled a built art project (‘Open’) in Delhi, has mapped the land art of India and also its South Asian neighbors in stimulating photographs. At another exhibit on view at the American Centre, four women artists namely, Danielle Smith-Llera, Anja Palombo, Adele Caemmerer and Eva Gustafson have brought into play the various elements of land art – peculiar urban symbols - from the capital city for a graphical mapping of the metropolis so as to raise pertinent questions about aspects like traffic, sound and immediate environment.

One can state that land art in a more familiar and more indigenous context has been pioneered in India by the Khoj International Artists Association largely through its series of interactive art projects. These are mostly focused on issues related to urban India. Only a small band of urban artists and photographers even now stick to the concept in their practice as far as India is concerned. But things may change over time, with an increasing awareness of the art form.

Exploring the diverse, cross-cultural perspectives of Asian cosmology and spirituality

Organized by the Asian Art Museum located in San Francisco in collaboration with the Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, a new exhibition explores the complex, diverse, cross-cultural perspectives of Asian cosmology and spirituality through a compelling interplay of some truly amazing artworks alluding to both the past and present. Curated by Mami Kataoka in collaboration with Allison Harding, the event is woven around four broad themes:

  • Asian Cosmologies: Envisioning the Invisible
  • World, Afterworld: Living Beyond Living
  • Myth, Ritual, Meditation: Communing with Deities
  • Sacred Mountains: Encountering the Gods

Expressing the museum’s aspiration to ‘awaken both the past and inspire the future’, the historic building is undergoing a transformation so as to meet the challenges of the major exhibit, starting with a 24-ft installation just outside, moving into its public courtyards, and finally throughout the special exhibit and collection galleries.

Among the artists from India who form part of the show is Varunika Saraf, inspired by the Mughal miniature painting tradition. She recasts subjects from mythology and nature as players in an imagined, otherworldly cosmos that also draws from her own subconscious. Born in Hyderabad, India, she has a BFA in painting from the J.N.T.U. College of Fine Arts and an MFA in painting from the Sarojini Naidu School of Fine Arts, University of Hyderabad.

In 2011, she was a visiting fellow at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. Saraf is currently a PhD candidate at the School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. She divides her time between Hyderabad and New Delhi. Uniting imagery from throughout the world, her paintings reference such masters as Frida Kahlo, Hieronymus Bosch, Marc Chagall, and Katsushika Hokusai.

In the details of her mysterious, dreamy spaces lurk skeletons and monsters that navigate disparate eras and cultures. On the other hand, what started as the artist's conversation with the hard-edged simple works of the 60s and 70s for Prabhavathi Meppayil, it has gradually evolved into a much more personalized expression that emphasizes on the 'crafting' of the art object, stimulating the definition of minimalism itself.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Peeping into a master artist's mind

G. R. Santosh’s subtle semi-abstract treatment of superb snow-clad houses and the bewildering backwaters on the beautiful banks of river Jhelum revealed his precise visual perception. Although starting out with landscapes, he gradually switched to cubism and sort of cubist landscapes.

Though influenced by the style, one could still sense the inherent emotional attachment he had for his state and its haunting, albeit inspiring past, resulting in a refreshing human touch to his work. The scenic and socially fragile, picturesque yet strife-torn Kashmir valley harbored a latent streak of mysticism wherein Buddhist and Hindu tantric cults coexisted along with serene Sufi mysticism.

Such diverse influences shaped his creative faculties over time. The intertwined philosophies proved to be a significant influence on his development as an artist. He was deeply moved in particular, by a visit to the holy Amarnath caves in the mid 1960’s. The artist even took a break from painting to research the traits of Kashmir Shaivism (a sect of Shiva followers) and Tantra (mysticism). Inspired by the twin philosophies, he combined the masculine male and fabulous female features to create fascinating near-abstract forms, subtly infused with both sexual and spiritual energies.

Driven by a deep rooted and enigmatic esoteric worldview, which hinged on the primordial Purusha-Prakriti concept of cosmic creation, his oeuvre – soaked in the simultaneously soothing and teeming thought of tantra – came to be known as the Neo-Tantric school or form of painting.

In his wonderful work, the peculiar pictorial elements - mostly ubiquitous geometrical shapes like a circle, a straight line, a triangle, a plain pentagon or simply a six pointed star and polygon – suggested a deeper synergy and confluence of energy. A superb colorist, G. R. Santosh infused his compositions with intricate patterns done in watercolor, oil and later acrylic – mostly in translucent shades like red, black & white.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Turner Prize: History and tradition

The Turner prize is awarded each year to 'a British artist under fifty for an outstanding exhibition or other presentation of their work in the twelve months preceding'. After inviting nominations, the entries are judged each year by an independent jury of eminent experts.

Later the four shortlisted art practitioners are given an opportunity to showcase their works in an exhibition usually hosted at Tate Britain gallery just before the winner’s name is declared around mid-December. However, artists are not necessarily judged on their exhibition at Tate. The jury’s decision is solely based on the works that they have been originally nominated for. Last year the artists shortlisted for the Turner Prize were Karla Black, Martin Boyce, Hilary Lloyd and George Shaw.

The prize for record was founded by a group known as the Patrons of New Art in 1982. It idea was to enhance the Tate Gallery’s collection by purchasing new art. In process, the group wanted to promote wider interest in art. The Patrons looked for a name closely associated with great British art, and chose J.M.W. Turner (1775–1851).

Over the span of three decades the prize has played a major role in initiating a serious debate about visual art and triggering the interest in contemporary art in Britain, in particular, and outside. It has been now recognized as an important and very prestigious award for the visual arts.

The Turner Prize is a world-renowned contemporary award set up nearly three decades ago in 1984 for celebrating new developments and trends in contemporary art. The prize is given to a talented British artist under fifty each year for an outstanding show or other impressive display of their works. The Prize of £40,000 is shared by the artists shortlisted for it.

An amount of £25,000 goes to the winner whereas £5,000 each is awarded to other three artists. Previous illustrious winners of the prize include Damien Hirst, Tomma Abts, Steve McQueen, Gilbert & George, Antony Gormley, Rachel Whiteread, Richard Wright and Gillian Wearing.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Opportunities for free expression abound in the Gulf region

Women in the Gulf are getting scope for free expression, lending voice to mute and oppressed sections of society, while scooping even a bigger career opportunity. It’s a touch ironic that the art produced in countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia is most interesting and socially relevant; also where the female artists are finding their voice through visuals.

They may not still be able to wear what they want, vote or drive a car, but they are turning to art in order to release their pent-up feelings. Significantly, there are many women collectors and patrons of Middle Eastern art, apart from those occupying top positions at prestigious museums and festivals in Abu Dhabi and Qatar. But while the recent violent uprisings might have whetted the appetite of aspiring art buyers, one of its underlying reasons - arbitrary, at times unpredictable state clampdown on public speech and expression – continues to loom over the art scene here!

Fairs like Art Dubai are no exception! As was reported in the media, Dubai authorities ordered its organizers to remove a few pieces from display prior to a visit by of the emirate’s ruling family members so as not to antagonize them. Its director Antonia Carver though, played down the alleged censorship, emphasizing it was not uncommon for works to be removed in this fashion across the globe due to cultural or legal concerns. She was quoted as saying: “Dubai’s approach to artistic expression has developed in the recent years. As the city has grown as a cultural capital, it has become more open to the subjects that can be tackled.”

This interest is also a lucrative one for those running the art galleries in Dubai. The opening up of new venues points to a growing demand for art. In fact, not many can promise space for artists keen to put up an exhibition for the next several months. They have to endure a prolonged waiting period, at times more than a year before they can find a space.

The region is witnessing just the beginning of a boom, with immense potential for major art investment, thanks to a growing number of people in the Emirates now opting not only to buy, but also to appreciate art. Meanwhile, new and modern art from India is witnessing a significant resurgence in terms of collector interest in the region. Going by the trend, the Middle East and Dubai in particular, can well emerge as a hub for contemporary Indian art, a segment still relatively under-explored in the region.

Martin Boyce: The 2011 Turner winner

Favorite Martin Boyce won the prestigious Turner Prize last year, claiming a cash prize of 25,000 pound. A Scottish artist has won it for the second year running after Susan Philipsz did so for her sound installation in 2010.

The artist’s creation topped a shortlist of artworks, termed one of the best ever in the Turner's 27-year award history, some critics said. "Some really good, talented artists have won the Prize and some really good have not," Boyce stated at a press conference. "The impact of this award hasn't even hit yet. I don't know when or if it's going to (hit)."

Boyce added that the prize was an apt confirmation of his youthful dream and ambition to become an artist, a career choice fraught with uncertain future. "I never thought that I would be able to support my family through it, but I am now able to live a creative life; it's a privilege," he quipped.

Strewn across the floor of his exhibit at the BALTIC gallery, based in Gateshead of northern England were Brown paper ‘leaves’. A trashcan-like curious structure, fitted with fabric liner rectangular grills attached to the wall at ankle-height, created the atmosphere of a city park. "I guess it has something to do with hope as well as finding the poetic in the abject," he mentioned of his work.

"Boyce has shown himself to be strong through his works showed internationally in a number of big shows," The director of the Tate that runs the annual award, Nicholas Serota, was quoted as saying in a Reuters report. The winning choice was more restrained the last year than in the past, with the prize rather famous for sparking debate about what really constitutes art. Damien Hirst was given the prize for a pickled cow in 1995, whereas an empty room with a light that switched on & off clinched it in 2001 for Martin Creed.

But the lack of controversy did not dampen public interest in the exhibit. Works by the four shortlisted nominees drew strong crowds. More than 100,000 visitors watched the show since it opened at the BALTIC in October; double the number visiting the exhibit at the Tate, London, in 2010.

The Emirate emerges as new art trading hub

Savvy art aficionados, who have already witnessed the rise of India and China as new-century’s art superpowers, obviously do not want to miss out probably the next one in making – Dubai. The Arab art market, analysts point out, has been gradually maturing and consolidating; it’s steadily but surely warming up to quality works of art by young and talented practitioners.

Dubai’s art scene has indeed come out stronger since the global economic meltdown in 2008-09, carving a solid regional identity for itself. The price points there are not obviously at a Murakami or Hirst level. However, an influx of bolder dealers and more informed collectors is creating space for more pricey works, marked with a distinct improvement in quality quotient.

Giving a flavor of things cooking up is an ambitious project of a new artist plus art gallery hub in the vast warehouse area of Al Quoz. Estimated to cost roughly £8.5m, it incorporates the creation of around 46,000 sq m of creative space for galleries and artists’ studios in Al Serkal Avenue that already houses many top contemporary dealers the region. The site will include restaurants and a café, to transform it into a complete entertainment arena.

Underlining the dynamism of Dubai’s art scene, Katy Watson of The BBC News states, “It has grown rapidly, and galleries have multiplied in recent years. The emirate is being seen increasingly as the region's art trading hub.  Spurring the art scene development are the collectors, mostly younger patrons from Saudi, Qatar and the UAE, keen to invest in contemporary artworks within their own region.”

With a whopping 500% increase in total sales figures of Middle Eastern art segment over the last five years or so, global auction houses like Christie’s with prominent salerooms in Dubai, are keen to capitalize on the new market. Just about a decade ago, not many people seemed to take any kind of interest in art, with most investors opting for real estate or banking.

Phantoms of Asia: Contemporary Awakens the Past

Indian artists whose works form part of a thematic group show, entitled 'Phantoms of Asia: Contemporary Awakens the Past' at the San Francisco-based Asian Art Museum are NS Harsha, Prabhavathi Meppayil, Jagannath Panda, Varunika Saraf and Raqib Shaw.

NS Harsha, an artist who lives and works in Mysore, is a recipient of the prestigious Artes Mundi 3 Prize, he has taken part in a range of collaborative projects and exhibitions internationally. The talented practitioner traverses a variety of media and materials including painting, drawing, and installations incorporating wood, mud, powder, photography and rice.

“This interaction with materials is not just about experimentation, but rather I treat these materials how I treat space and place,” he says. “They have their own story to tell… we need to listen to them and start a journey.” ‘Distress call from Jupiter’s neighborhood’ and ‘Distress call from Saturn’s neighborhood’ tap into the logic of the absurd to express the human connection with the cosmos. Drums accompany each of his paintings, inviting visitors to summon cosmic forces.

Born in Bhubaneswar, in the state of Orissa, New Delhi-based artist Jagannath Panda received his M.F.A. in sculpture from the MS University, Baroda. He went to Japan and England for further studies. The artist currently lives in the burgeoning city of Gurgaon, one of India’s major outsourcing hubs and bases of operation for global corporations.

His works illustrate the city life’s tensions, as over-development threatens natural habitats and infrastructures collapse before they are completed. Panda’s mix of mythology and realism points to the evolving nature of Indian identity and experience today. His snake sculpture ‘The Cult of Survival’ is an expression of the danger in becoming addicted to the cycle of production and consumption in a rapidly changing world. “The inter-entangled form of sewage pipes awakens the human condition,” he says, “the instinct of survival and the ecology of death and renewal of life.”

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Evolution of Artur Walther and Budi Tek as top collectors

One common thread that binds the world’s top collectors, as is evident, is their keenness to institutionalize their rich and vast collections.

A renowned German-American collector focused on publicly exhibiting and promoting contemporary photography and video art since the late 1990s, Artur Walther studied at Harvard Business School. He served as a general partner at Goldman Sachs till his retirement. Simultaneously, he started collecting photography and established The Walther Collection.

The collection is open to the public at its Neu-Ulm, Germany based museum campus as well as its Project Space in the New York City. Instead of acquiring works of the well-established artists, he looks for those names typically respected in their home countries, albeit yet to attain global recognition. Of course, once he turns his attention to them, fame and name is far away such is the charisma of the savvy collector.

Budi Tek hardly bothers about the frenzy people get into over the money part of it all, like the wave he created after buying a work by Zhang Xiaogang for a whopping $ 6.7 million at a 2010 Sotheby's auction. For him, all that matters is the work's critical discourse. This maverick collector’s portfolio runs into over a thousand pieces, spanning across the genres of installations, video works, paintings, public sculpture, and photographs.

Chinese contemporary art is a favorite with this an Indonesian Chinese agribusiness owner. His journey as a collector began with a Balinese sculpture almost a decade ago. Beyond sheer love for art what drives Budi Tek is his determination to guard the ‘national treasures’ and to create an educative enriching and lasting  experience. His collection in a way depicts the Chinese contemporary art’s evolution.

He is also keen on Malaysian, Japanese and Arabic art. Tek also has an Anish Kapoor and a Subodh Gupta in his kitty, though the collector concedes he has some catching up to do before focusing on contemporary Indian art. Cultural philanthropy forms the core of his life mission, and wants the ‘rich and mighty’ to take interest in art. His Yuz Foundation aims to form a network of museums and art spaces in Shanghai, Beijing, Jakarta, and Bali.

India fast becoming a market for high end art pieces from Europe

Growing disposable incomes, regular exposure to diverse art forms, increased Internet penetration and social interaction are fast opening up urban India to high-end British interior accessory-art such as Amanda Brisbane sculptures, Wedgewood cutlery, Moorcroft objects`d art etc.

As the European nations sink into recession, lifestyle art brands in the continent are eyeing India as a market to sell their high-end products even at cheaper prices in an apparent ‘reverse trend’ of pre-independence economy of India, when goods from the country were disposed in Europe for a pittance, revealed a leading home arts promoter from the UK, incidentally of Indian origin.

Buyers from Europe are in no position to acquire high end art and the countries need to look for emerging markets like India with a strong economy. Indians have rapidly become adventurous as the economy is growing. People now have more choices. Sunil Sethi, a designer objects` d arts/ sculptures collector points out that they have been bringing in haute objects` d art from the UK, and that they consider India as a major high-end art market.

According to him, exporting niche art objects is easier now since no conditions are imposed on sale in developing countries by the manufacturers and artists owing to the economic slowdown.

The founder of Interarts vigorously promotes many of the high end accessory art brands such as Wedgewood, Royal Doulton, Poole Pottery from UK, Svaja from Eastern Europe, Costaboda from Scandinavia, Rosenthal from Germany, Versace sculptures, Armani from Italy, Cyan Glass and Franz porcelain from Spain and Lladro from Spain.

The objects`d art showcased in the capital city of India included over 100 limited edition pieces from Europe and the US. The contemporary crystal, bronze, glass and porcelain sculptures were priced in the range between Rs.2,500- Rs.14 lakh. A section devoted to colored glass sculptures done by Amanda Brisbane, Richard Golding and Will Shakespeare from Britain was the centre of attraction at the display last month.

Mugrabi goes for Warhol, Sheikha Al Mayassa's loves Islamic Art

Many of the world’s top collectors today come from different backgrounds, but what they have in common is their passion for art! 

Jose Mugrabi, a powerful Israeli collector, owns probably the world's biggest collection of Andy Warhol’s paintings almost 800 of them - apart from works by Rodin, Ernst, Daumier, Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, Renoir and Picasso.

No other art buyer has capitalized on the iconic artist’s appeal than Mr. Mugrabi. Dealers and auction houses can rarely sell or buy a Warhol work sans his knowledge and intervention in form of active bidding.

Along with his two sons, this former cloth merchant from Colombia has fostered his love for art. The patriarch has the final say on all business and art related matters. His younger son David is known to be a quiet and practical person, whereas Alberto or ‘Tico’ is a gregarious jetsetter. Born in 1939 into a humble Jewish family, the son of a grocer and also the eldest of seven, Jose Mugrabi spent his early days as an errand boy for a fabric firm. He never went to college, and learnt the tricks of textile business on his own. He started a company that imported wholesale fabric during the 1970s.

For the record, Jose Mugrabi never met the late artist personally. He spotted him once - at a restaurant in New York in 1985, even before he had begun collecting his work. Curiously, at that time he hardly knew anything about the painter. Were Warhol still alive, he avers, he would sure come over to meet me…

On the other hand, the young and progressive propelling force behind Qatar's quest to become a foremost destination for the arts & culture in the Middle East, the daughter of the Emir of Qatar, Sheikha Al Mayassa chairs the Qatar Museum’s Authority board. Her vision is to create a solid base for the Islamic Art tradition, even while promoting contemporary artists in an effort to link past and present, East and West. Harboring a passion to foster intercultural relations and give voice to people from every strata of life, she focuses on community interaction and participation, involvement and engagement.

Art+Auction has already named her among the most powerful persons in the world of art. In fact, she has been purchasing art in institutional and individual capacity, and is considered a major force behind the Qatar Museum’s acquisitions including Rothkos, Warhols etc, and also many in Doha's three national museums. She believes that art and culture play a significant role in creating a country's identity, and let every country share its identity with the outside world. The avid art collector quips: ‘We (obviously) don't want to be all the same, but (we) do wish to understand each other."

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

An exhibit that deciphers the concept of phantoms or ‘spirits’ across cultures

The Asian Art Museum hosts ‘Phantoms of Asia: Contemporary Awakens the Past’, a significant exhibition that explores the complex and vastly cross-cultural perspectives of Asian cosmology and spirituality through a compelling interplay of about 140 artworks drawn from the past and present.

Curated by Mami Kataoka, chief curator of Tokyo’s Mori Art Museum, in conjunction with the Asian Art Museum’s assistant curator of contemporary art, Allison Harding, it’s the first major exhibit of contemporary art organized by the world-renowned institution. Providing art lovers with highly immersive experiences, it offers insights into a wide range of curious belief systems and mythologies, which have shaped Asian cultures over time.

“The concept of phantoms or ‘spirits’ is rather elusive. It’s still often felt and shared across the various different cultures and time periods. Through its apparent emphasis on interconnectivity, this exhibit gives an opportunity to experience those ‘invisible forces’ in a tangible and slightly provocative way - with Asian art at the center,” states its director Jay Xu

It includes works of art by several renowned and upcoming artists from Canada, China, Singapore, Tibet, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Pakistan, the Philippines, Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, the US, Hong Kong, and India. Many of the contemporary installations are new or site-specific commissions. When combined with the museum’s collections, they seem to represent a contrasting array of themes, materials, forms as well as media - stone, metal, fabric, wood etc; and masks, textiles, film, video, photographs, sculptures, ceramics, and paintings.

Communication between plants, animals and humans plays a major part in the mythologies of several cultures. Artists deal with this theme in a showcase at Osher Gallery. In Jagannath Panda’s work, ‘The Cult of Survival II’, endless cycles of consumption and production are symbolized in the form of a snake crafted from pipes. On the other hand, Adeela Suleman from Pakistan utilizes stainless steel reliefs of natural objects like birds, flowers, trees to serve as storytellers.

Retrospective survey of a world renowned photo artist

Cindy Sherman is widely recognized as one of the most important and influential artists in contemporary art.

Throughout her career, she has presented a sustained, eloquent, and provocative exploration of the construction of contemporary identity and the nature of representation, drawn from the unlimited supply of images from movies, TV, magazines, the Internet, and art history. Bringing together more than 170 photographs, a retrospective survey at the New York-based MOMA traces the artist’s career from the mid 1970s to the present.

The exhibition explores dominant themes throughout Sherman’s career, including artifice and fiction; cinema and performance; horror and the grotesque; myth, carnival, and fairy tale; and gender and class identity. Also included are Sherman’s recent photographic murals (2010), which will have their American premiere at the museum.

Working as her own model for more than 30 years, Sherman has captured herself in a range of guises and personas which are at turns amusing and disturbing, distasteful and affecting. To create her photographs, she assumes multiple roles of photographer, model, makeup artist, hairdresser, stylist, and wardrobe mistress. With an arsenal of wigs, costumes, makeup, prosthetics, and props, Sherman has deftly altered her physique and surroundings to create a myriad of intriguing tableaus and characters, from screen siren to clown to aging socialite.

Highlighted in the exhibition are in-depth presentations of her key series, including the groundbreaking series ‘Untitled Film Stills’ (1977–80), the black-and-white pictures that feature the artist in stereotypical female roles inspired by 1950s and 1960s Hollywood, film noir, and European art-house films; her ornate history portraits (1989–90), in which the artist poses as aristocrats, clergymen, and milkmaids in the manner of old master paintings; and her larger-than-life society portraits (2008) that address the experience and representation of aging in the context of contemporary obsessions with youth and status.

In conjunction with the exhibition, Sherman has selected films from MoMA’s collection, which are being screened in MoMA’s theaters during the course of the exhibition.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A mélange of memories, experiences and our life journey

Artist Ranjith Raman is known to sew together many of his elusive thoughts and images coupled with fleeting feelings as if they would disintegrate if not molded in a solid form. A mélange of memories, experiences and our life journey are a bit like that! If we do not hold on to them, they tend to slip away into oblivion…

And yet, what’s it we are really holding on to but just a few sensations, which can barely be imparted with any tangible form? Ranjith Raman’s art, to paraphrase Paul Klee, does not create the visible, rather it makes visible! We see an abstract at times and representational depiction of space other times. The very essence of various locations gets embedded in the geometry or in those organic forces, which have shaped them.

Expansive textured topographical views of both housing amid coconut trees in monochrome are there. Then there is a quiet little temple that evokes the calm of being present in an austere place in another composition. Contrast the same with the large untitled diptych apparently teeming with vibrantly colored and differently shaped fabric patches, often reminding one of a seemingly  unorganized urban skyline dotted with concrete blocks of modest dwellings and tall buildings. These shifts in language reflect the artist’s temperament.

Color is central to his artistic expression. The medium of smooth silk and cotton fiber embroidered on fabric employing different stitches embodies his vocabulary and underlines his intent. Fibers and fabric do the job of paint, brush and canvas. Much as it may seem a touch improbable for this offbeat medium, spontaneity is apparent in the current body of work.  He prepares the cotton fabric surface covering it with the running stitch in one color from edge to edge much like someone would prime a canvas. The time-consuming process marks the work with an instinctual idea of what the artist wants to create.

Ranjith Raman’s fascinating fiber art

Lately there has been an upsurge in the use and interest in textile and embroidery in contemporary art practice across continents. While multi-disciplinary artists have used the medium on and off in their practices, there are an increasing number of artists like Ranjith Raman for whom embroidery is the principal form of expression.

His new series of works, entitled ‘Intangibles’, takes place at Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke in Mumbai.  In his works done with silk and cotton fiber, one can see stitches, like brushstrokes, veering off in different directions, creating texture. One becomes aware of the power of line. Loose strands, exposed knots, superimposed appliqué and layers of differently colored cloth are some of the complex techniques used in these panels. As light falls on fibers their dynamic tonal qualities add another dimension to the imagery.

Writer and curator Jasmine Shah Varma notes that Ranjith Raman’s work falls within the vast genre of fiber art, which includes wall work, installation, and sculpture relating to a vast scope of contemporary concerns. Bold, controversial and cutting edge work with this age-old medium has relocated the boundaries of art and craft. He doesn’t subscribe to the medium’s prevalent associated metaphorical meanings suggestive of gender politics, violence, pain or fragility. For him it’s not about conceptualizing or contextualizing historic traditions of textiles and embroidering either.

Fibers and fabric are the stuff of his voice and visual language. The gradual repetitive process where every little stitch adds up to make the tactile image is japa, a meditative act for him. The tactile and textured quality of the material is almost a necessity in order to grasp or reach out. The artist quips, “Stitching is like a prayer for me. I am trying to create an inner space.” So it is important to him that he does all his work with minimal assistance. The process of art making is part of his quest and not an agenda.

His academic background compels him to create and review, stitch, unstitch and, on creative impulse make decisions when to stop embroidering a work. He doesn’t have a detailed sketch before he embarks upon the process. He uses the principles of drawing and painting that he’d use with more conventional material. These are paintings where colored thread and fabric are used to create imagery pixel by pixel. The relationship between process and concept is prominent.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

A glance at The Museum of Modern Art shows

Artistic dismembering or reassembling of the body
Artists from André Masson and Joan Miró to Louise Bourgeois and Robert Gober to Mark Manders and Nicola Tyson have distorted and disoriented many of the familiar of referents, playing out personal, cultural, or social anxieties and desires on unwitting anatomies.  If art history reveals an unending impulse to render the human figure as a symbol of potential perfection and a system of primary organization, these works show that artists have just as persistently been driven to disfigure the body.

In a collaborative, chance-based drawing game known as the exquisite corpse, several Surrealist artists subjected the human body to distortions and juxtapositions that resulted in fantastic composite figures. A group exhibition, entitled ‘Exquisite Corpses: Drawing and Disfiguration’, considers how this and related practices - in which the body is dismembered or reassembled, swollen or multiplied, propped with prosthetics or fused with nature and the machine - have recurred in art throughout the 20th century and to the present day.

Shaping Modernity (1880–1980)
Recent acquisitions are featured in a reinstallation of highlights from the design collection covering a century of dramatic aesthetic and technological innovation—from the late 19th to late 20th centuries. Diverse types of modern design representing various geographic origins and styles are organized around period-specific themes: The International New Art 1880–1918; Metal and Glass 1920s–1950s; and Out of the Box: Italy 1960s–1980s.

Diego Rivera’s mystical murals
This exhibition brings together key works made for Diego Rivera’s 1931 exhibition, presenting them at MoMA for the first time in nearly 80 years. Along with mural panels, the show includes full-scale drawings, smaller working drawings, archival materials related to the commission and production of these works, and designs for Rivera’s famous Rockefeller Center mural, which he also produced while he was working at the Museum.

Focused specifically on works created during the artist’s stay in New York, it draws a succinct portrait of Rivera as a highly cosmopolitan figure who moved between Russia, Mexico, and the United States, and will offer a fresh look at the intersection of art making and radical politics in the 1930s.

A blockbuster auction sale proves the art market strength

Soaring to $87 million, a Mark Rothko oil painting done in 1961 set a new auction sales record for post-war art, whereas works by Yves Klein, Alexander Calder, Gerhard Richter and Jackson Pollock, smashed artists' records at the recent Christie's event that scaled the highest-ever amounts for post-war art category.

The global auction house drew a total of $388.5 million (inclusive of commission calculated against $236 million- $330 million pre-sale estimate), led by Rothko's stunning ‘Orange, Red, Yellow’. This large-scale painting from the Pincus collection went for a whopping $86,882,500. The figure broke the artist's own record of $72.84 million, eclipsing the $86.3 million for a 1976 ‘Triptych’ by Francis Bacon sold in 2008.

‘Orange, Red, Yellow’ thus became the most expensive post-war work of art ever at auction. Out of the total 59 lots on offer, three failed to find buyers, a near-unprecedented sell-through rate as bidders carried prices beyond their high estimates for many top-priced works. Five works sold for over $20 million, whereas 11 of the 40 artists set new records. Works from the collection of David Pincus, a renowned art patron and humanitarian from Philadelphia who died in December, were ably led by the Rothko. It achieved an impressive total of $175 million, easily above the estimate of $100 million.

The staggering numbers apparently bore out officials' contention that the market, at the top echelons at least, continues to successful tackle global economic and geo-political concerns. "It was phenomenal. It proves there is insatiable demand. The interest is just so deep," remarked the Christie's specialist Koji Inoue (in charge of the sale). He termed it ‘something unprecedented’.

The Christie's international head (post-war & contemporary art), Brett Gorvy, said, "The market really responded, It is a very sophisticated market, a very knowledgeable market, The total global market bidding and a strong American bidding was well evident. We saw seasoned collectors, apart from new collectors who were coming forward.”

A spotlight on Mark Rothko and his philosophy

One of the preeminent painters of his generation, Mark Rothko is identified with the New York School, a group of painters, which emerged during the late 1940s. It was recognized as a new voice in American art. During a career spanning well over five decades, the artist created a new impassioned form of abstract art. Here's a spotlight on Mark Rothko and his philosophy:
  • Rothko's work, an extensive note on the website of Washington, DC-based National Gallery of Art mentions, is characterized by rigorous attention to formal elements such as color, shape, balance, depth, composition, and scale; yet, he refused to consider his paintings solely in these terms. He explained: It is a widely accepted notion among painters that it does not matter what one paints as long as it is well painted. This is the essence of academicism. There is no such thing as good painting about nothing.
  • In their manifesto in the New York Times Rothko and Gottlieb had written: "We favor the simple expression of the complex thought. We are for the large shape because it has the impact of the unequivocal. We wish to reassert the picture plane. We’re for flat forms because they destroy illusion and reveal truth."
  • By 1947 Rothko had virtually eliminated all elements of surrealism or mythic imagery from his works, and nonobjective compositions of indeterminate shapes emerged. His work began to darken dramatically during the late 1950s. This development is related to his work on a mural commission for the Four Seasons restaurant, located in the Seagram Building in New York City. Here Rothko turned to a palette of red, maroon, brown, and black.
  • He largely abandoned conventional titles in 1947, sometimes resorting to numbers or colors in order to distinguish one work from another. "Silence is so accurate," he said, fearing that words would only paralyze the viewer's mind and imagination. He eventually withdrew from this project, due to misgivings about the restaurant as a proper setting for his work.
  • The artist had, however, already produced a number of studies and finished canvases, two of which are included in the present installation. In the Seagram panels, Rothko changed his motif from a closed to an open form, suggesting a threshold or portal. This element may have been related to the architectural setting for which these works were intended.