Sunday, June 30, 2013

‘Demolition’ Series at Chemould Prescott

As part of its interest in locating the fluidity between art and architecture, the Mumbai-based art venue, Chemould Prescott, presents a series of installations by Studio Mumbai and Bijoy Jain. The pieces collectively and independently evoke indeterminate experiences. They do not to guide us through a specific process, but let discoveries through visual layers. An accompanying note elaborates: "All of these conditions defy their actual purpose and presence. They exceed their everyday existence and are neither contained nor in-finite in their presence or absence.

"Instinctive response to any condition is honest and devoid of any burden of culture. Such intuition is immediate in time and space. This detachment allows awareness and freedom. The whole effort is aimed at presenting an environment - elemental and sensorial, a field of varying conditions carefully curated from everyday life and observations. These conditions are formed so as to instigate and negotiate both inside and outside."

Founded by Bijoy Jain, the endeavor (Studio Mumbai) is a human infrastructure of innovative architects and skilled craftsmen who look to design and build the work directly. Gathered through time, the group shares an environment created from an iterative process, wherein creative ideas are explored through the production of large-scale mock-ups, sketches, drawings, models and material studies. Projects are developed through careful consideration of place and practice that draws from traditional skills, local building techniques, materials and an ingenuity arising from limited resources.

The core of the work lies in fathoming the relationship between architecture and land. The idea is to pinpoint the genuine possibility in creating structures, which emerge through a process of face-to-face knowledge sharing and collective dialogue.

Born in Mumbai in 1965, Bijoy Jain did his M. Arch from Washington University in St Louis (1990). He then worked in Los Angeles and London before coming back to his home country in 1995 to discover his practice.

The work of Studio Mumbai has been featured at the XII Venice Biennale as well as the Victoria & Albert Museum, and received several prizes and awards like the Global Award in Sustainable Architecture (2009); the 7th Spirit of Nature Wood Architecture Award: Finland (2012), and the third BSI Swiss Architecture Award (2012), among others.

A spotlight on Studio Mumbai

Born in Mumbai in 1965, Bijoy Jain did his M. Arch from Washington University in St Louis (1990). He then worked in Los Angeles and London before coming back to his home country in 1995 to discover his practice.

Founded by Bijoy Jain, Studio Mumbai shares a concern for immediate environment - a space that we subconsciously create and inhabit. We can make this space very familiar, or we can expose ourselves to unfamiliar elements that provoke our response and re-evaluation. There are many sources of inspiration: one only has to observe closely. It is possible to have set ideas of what architecture should be, but first we need to understand why0 things are a certain way.

Gathered through time, this group shares an environment created from an iterative process, where ideas are explored through the production of large-scale mock-ups, models, material studies, sketches and drawings. Here projects are developed through careful consideration of place and a practice that draws from traditional skills, local building techniques, materials, and an ingenuity arising from limited resources.

A note on the website states: “The essence of our work lies in the relationship between land and architecture, it requires coming to terms with the presence of the environment through the succession of seasons.  Inspired by real life conditions, we observe the complexity of relationships within each project without any assumption or prejudice. Our attempt is to remain intuitive, and look for a space to initiate a dialogue. It is through this practice that the matter being observed naturally reveals itself.”

Their installation ‘in-between architecture’, on show at the V&A museum in London, was directly based on a dwelling crammed into narrow urban allotments located right behind the studio’s building. While quite tiny, the original structure housed a family of eight. though seen as parasitic, these homes offer intelligent design solutions in a city where space is scarce.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

A photographer and an architect juxtapose their works

Amirtharaj Stephen is a self-taught photographer based in Bangalore. He believes that photographs have the ability to make people look at commonplace incidents in an empathetic manner and empower the masses to care for each other. A strong believer in the philosophy of non-violence and peace, his interests primarily lie in documenting humans and their relationship with nature.

He had been selected for and participated in various prestigious photography programs and projects including the renowned Angkor Photo Workshop, Stream Photo Asia Masterclass. He has also been a mentee under Lucie Foundation’s E-pprentice program. During these programs he worked with photographic greats including Antoine D'Agata, Eli Reed and Nikos Economopoulos. His works have been showcased by World Press Photo’s group exhibitions in Thailand (2012), Netherlands (2012) as well as Chobi Mela’s Asian Gallery of Fine Arts, Dhaka earlier this year.

His images have been published widely in various leading newspapers and magazines such as NBC News, Courrier International, France, Reuters, AFP, The Economist, The Baltimore Sun, Green Peace, Peace News Info, Telegraph India, The Hindu, Hindustan Times, Indian Express, DTE, Tehelka, NDTV, India Today and PTI.

On the other hand, Karun Kumbera is an architect and urbanist, also based in Bangalore. After completing his training as an architect and working in several ecologies across India, Kumbera moved to Paris where he studied, lived and worked for many years. He returned to India with the intention of building a bridge between Paris and Bangalore - his firm Karun Kumbera

Architects and Urbanists works in collaboration with Aétrangère in Paris, a design practice that is focused on finding appropriate systems for a sustainable future, and INterland, an office of urbanism based in Lyon. The works by the two talented creators along with those of Navin Thomas are on view as part of a group show, Trilingual, at Bangalore’s GALLERYSKE until 5 July, 2013.

Cut & Paste: Popular mid 20th Century art

Shekhawati collages came to be assembled around the 1930s using a cut-and-paste technique. These small format works were patronized by members of the Marwari community originally from the Shekhawati region of North-East Rajasthan who, by the early 20th Century, had spread their business interests to the major urban centers of India.

The medium for the particular group displayed at Mumbai-based Chatterjee & Lal (in collaboration with Aditya Ruia) are Chromo lithographs, produced either in Europe and America, onto which various types of indigenous prints,  printed in Bengal, are overlayed.

The magic of these works lies in the transformations that are set in motion by bringing together visual material from such startlingly diverse sources. The finished collages uniformly delve into Hindu mythology, most often with an emphasis on the Vaishnavite tradition. Whilst the narratives remain faithful to the epics to which they relate, the environments into which they are placed reveal much about the aspirations of both those creating the works as also their patrons.

The process of assemblage was undertaken with an obsessive eye for detail, often leading to wonderful vignettes within the broader compositional structure of individual works. As exemplars of 20th Century popular art from India, Shekhawati collages represent an intriguing, if lesser known, high point.

Chatterjee & Lal was formed in 2003 by Mortimer Chatterjee and Tara Lal. In the early years the gallery, though housed in a 200 sq ft. space, was the site of exciting projects such as a two-part retrospective of Nasreen Mohamedi’s work. The present exhibition space, which is 1600 sq ft. and located in a Victorian era warehouse, was opened with the exhibition of Berlin and Lahore based artist Sophie Ernst in 2007.

In addition to the exhibiting of work within the confines of the gallery, Chatterjee & Lal has also organized a number of projects that have utilized non-traditional spaces within the city by artists that use mediums as diverse as performance, video and sculptural installations.

Friday, June 28, 2013

‘Trilingual’ at GALLERYSKE

Bangalore-based GALLERYSKE hosts a group show, entitled ‘Trilingual’. It presents the distinct practices of an artist, photographer and architect bringing together works that examine human intervention and the environment. The exhibition features works by Navin Thomas, Amirthraj Stephen and Karun Kumbera.

Sound boxes by Navin Thomas
Navin Thomas’s sound boxes are constructed by chronology, solely determined by the order in which the materials were found for their making. ‘Cause we felled down a forest’, a time based work, plays thirty-two movements of the composition “Swan Lake” in different timings out of three sound boxes creating a haunting effect.

As is evident, the artist is interested in electro-acoustic ecology and the idea of built architecture co-existing with natural ecologies. His meticulous processes and practices tend to reveal the intriguing aspects of a creative sojourn. Other than his preoccupation with voice culture, automation, and sleep cycles, the artist is known to keenly explore the mesmerizing sound worlds of different organisms.
A photographic series by Amirthraj Stephen
Amirthraj Stephen’s photographic series documents the aggressive suppression of the anti nuclear protests of farming and fishing communities for the safety of Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant. Stephen is from a village near Koodankulam and spent months with the community before beginning to document the movement and its rising conflict with the government.
Interventions, prototypes and conceptual projects by Karun Kumbera
Karun Kumbera reconstructs elements of his workspace presenting interventions, prototypes and conceptual projects that express the nature of his concerns as an architect and urbanist. Over the course of his career, reconciling the basic need for the built environment with sustainability at the urban scale, while considering the human factor, has resulted in a number of ideas. Kumbera’s work, often executed as collaborative projects, is a reflection of his interest in a real engagement with the realities of sustainability.

Art Alive involves artists in the process of art creation

Art evolves and so do artists! Gallery Art Alive in Gurgaon, in its endeavor to encourage the continuous process of evolution and endeavor so as to create a platform where artists can enrich their experiences to share with their audiences, presents ‘Living Walls’.

It’s an art project where a group of artists engage in painting the walls of the gallery. Art lovers come and not only see but experience the evolving of an installation where the gallery becomes the site of a unique installation.  The core idea of the collaborative exercise is to enlarge the artists’ canvas and in doing so, involve the audience who would be witnessing the process of work and thus broaden their own experience of art.

An accompanying note elaborates: “The artistic dialogue is sure to inspire one another.  It would create a collective platform to appreciate a new approach towards art. It would connect artists with different communities of the society to stimulate their senses and enhance a new experience towards their approaches. It would also inspire audiences to understand the potential of such collaborative energy to create work of different dimensions in public space. The entire process of work would be recorded and later produced in different formats to be displayed by the gallery.”

Sunaina Anand, director of the gallery states: “This would be a dynamic live display of art which would showcase diverse selection of works. And the participation of live audience would only add to the dimension of the show. We are keen on exploring the culmination of such creative energies.”

Each artist will draw upon their own artistic imagination and use their idioms, styles, languages and ideas to create that visual impact. We believe, it is in the coming together of different voices that ultimately mergers into a rhythmic one, that we could create something experimental and fresh for our audience.

The participating artists follow the dictates of his or her heart making it somewhat challenging yet exciting as they get accustomed to working under the glare of live audiences comprising of media, critics and art lovers who would watch, interact and dialogue with the masters at work.

‘BLACK/white’ at Art Musings

Mumbai-based Art Musings earlier this month threw open to art lovers its new exhibition ‘BLACK/white’  with a group show featuring leading artists from the country. As part of it, following wonderful works are sure to dazzle you:
  • Lalu Prasad Shaw’s still-lifes and portraits have a well-composed and smooth exterior. The artist draws inspiration from nature and the milieu surrounding the Bengali middle class. Ajay De works are easily identified by his trademark use of black, interspersed with bursts of red or blue.
  • Laxma Goud displays early etchings, prints and watercolor works. The masterful small paintings of rural village life in a palette of monochrome grays give an interesting glimpse of village nostalgia, the surreal, and the erotic.
  • Vaikuntam draws inspiration for his work from the rural areas of Andhra Pradesh. Women are frequent subjects for his works. On the other hand, Raghava KK’s work conceptually grapples with the construct of identity, gender and sexuality, and the absence of interpersonal context in today's world of online identity performance.
  • Images of Ganesha and Mother Teresa are recurring icons. Viveek Sharma’s paintings feature the daily grind of the middle-class Mumbaikar, where the artist figures as an integral part of the narrative - a silent observer of the event.
  • Nandan Purkayastha’s works in black and white achieve depth and dimension. The fine spiral pattern drawing inter-relates all the elements in the painting giving it a unique complexity.
  • The aura of science fiction surrounds Ajay Dhandre’s delightful, meticulously detailed paintings. The mechanisms and habitats that he conjures up are presented as jewel –like specimens in a museum of predictions.
  • The imagery in Jayasri Burman's line drawings have a dream-like lyrical quality. A large painting depicting a pantheon of Hindu gods forms the central piece for this body of works, along with a set of smaller paintings in the same theme.
  • Last but not the least, Paresh Maity’s landscapes of the ghats of Benaras, and the backwaters of Kerala to the canals of Venice form a suite of small works. A large canvas dominates this series depicting the gray monsoon.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Sculptures by G Reghu

Bangalore’s Gallery Sumukha is hosting a solo show of sculptures by highly talented artist G Reghu.

His language and aesthetic has been molded by two significant encounters: his early contract with Elizabeth and Laurie Baker with their Gandhian philosophy of working with indigenous materials and J. Swaminathan at the Bharat Bhavan who, in his persona of a 'tribal' artist, voiced the cause of the dispossessed. Reghu, like most image-makers, was initially a potter.

Born in 1959 in Kilimanoor, Kerala, G. Reghu studied art (sculpture) in the College of Fine Arts in Thiruvanananthapuram. He began with stone as a medium.  He later abandoned the practical functions of pottery and turned to the ceramic tradition of sculpture. This journey in form from "the pot to the head" is marked by certain fluidity.

The surface of Reghu's work in its muted organic earth colors has a matte finish. The work is shaped by an artist who is intimate with the tactile processes of using his hands: patting mud walls, throwing the clay on the potter's wheel: or even dexterously kneading dough and handling food.

The medium and method reflect familiarity with a rural lifestyle. Using the processes of hollow-modeling, slabbing, folding, coiling and pinching, Reghu creates a racial type that mingles Dravidian and African facial features - bulging eyes, thick lips, cabbage ears - evocative of an ancient civilization and its wisdom. His 'head' exude both warmth and an innocence which are typical of his work.

He has participated in many exhibitions such as National Exhibition in New Delhi; Contemporary Indian Art Biennial at Bharat Bhavan; ‘To Encounter Others’, “Stoffwechsel, Kassel, Germany; ‘For Contemporary Art’, Sans Tache Gallery, Mumbai; International Biennial Exhibition, Cairo, Egypt; and CAN, India Habitat Centre, Delhi.  The artist has received the Award of Fourth Contemporary Indian Art Biennial at Bharat Bhavan and also the Bombay Art Society Award in Mumbai.

The solo exhibition of his works continues till 13th July, 2013.

'Nothing is Absolute: A Journey through Abstraction'

Titled as 'Nothing is Absolute: A Journey through Abstraction', a new exhibition on view at Mumbai’s Jehangir Nicholson Gallery is a must-visit for art lovers.

Bringing together the collective narratives of abstract artist -Mehlli Gobhai and cultural theorist Ranjit Hoskote, the collaboration is based on long term conversations and discussions the two have shared over the last twenty years. Of all diverse forms of art creation, abstract is probably the toughest one to decipher and decode. Interpretations of it can be as unique and multifold as its viewers. In an effort to shed further light on the inspiration(s), which form the essence of abstract art, Hoskote and artist Mehlli Gobhai have come up with this showcase.

The walls of the gallery, present the different philosophies and sources of inspiration for abstract artists as well provides chronological depth as they link ancient practices, theologies and structures that have inspired abstract artists in different ways.

The practice of artist Mehlli Gobhai addresses a specific formal problem: the split between surface and structure that is a defining characteristic of much modern painting. At another level, it records the dialogue of spare line and burnished field: often, a gradual luminosity emerges from beneath the sombre colors that he layers, one above the other, in strata of roughened and smoothed textures, so that the painting aspires to the condition of leather or parchment sanctified by years of ritual.

The Jehangir Nicholson Art Foundation curator, Kamini Sawhney, has been quoted as saying:  “The exhibition is a rather unorthodox account of the various strands, which make up the rich history of abstractionism in art that has evolved out of a continual dialogue between Hoskote and Gobhai, leading to a collaboration through that the two bring together the fascinating experiences of the studio, the library the gallery, the museum, and the archive they both have had across three continents.”

The exhibit is truly unconventional and accounts for several strands that make up the story of abstraction in India.

‘Between Princely India and the British Raj' at ROM, Toronto

‘Between Princely India and the British Raj: The Photography of Raja Deen Dayal’ at Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto is a feature exhibition that highlights the photographic work of the practitioner, considered among the most renowned photographers in 19th-century India. 

The exhibition takes place in the ROM’s Level 3, Hilary and Galen Weston Wing, from April 20, 2013 through until January 12th 2014. It’s presented in association with The Alkazi Collection of Photography, New Delhi. The showcase is inspired by a major new publication, Raja Deen Dayal: Artist-Photographer in 19th-century India (Mapin and The Alkazi Collection of Photography, 2013), co-authored by the exhibition curators, ROM Senior Curator Dr. Deepali Dewan & art historian Dr. Deborah Hutton, of The College of New Jersey. This publication, and by extension the exhibition, are based on almost a decade of archival research.

The exhibition brings together more than 100 works of art, culled from three major international collections: the ROM’s collection of large, leather-bound photo albums produced by the firm Raja Deen Dayal & Sons and photographs from the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts and The Alkazi Collection of Photography, New Delhi. There will also be a vintage Dallmeyer camera, once belonging to Dayal’s studio, on view. 

In order to accurately capture Dayal’s professional trajectory, the show consists of four thematic sections. The Business of Photography lays out the inner workings of the firm of Raja Deen Dayal & Sons including the types of commissions they received and how much they charged. Civil Works and Princely States examines how Dayal’s earliest photographs were produced in the context of colonial public works. Royal Photographer: Hyderabad explores Dayal’s role as court photographer to Mahbub Ali Khan, the sixth Nizam, one of the wealthiest men of his time.  The Art of Portraiture shows how Dayal’s various studios thrived in and indeed helped produce a modern age with new ways of perceiving the self.

Dr. Deepali Dewan, ROM Senior Curator, says, “Through this exhibition, ROM visitors will experience the legacy of a photographer who captured an important moment in India’s history. The vintage prints are stunning and provide a viewing experience we don’t have access to in our digital age.”

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Majestic horses depicted in a new hue

Mumbai-based Gallery Art & Soul presents a new series of works, entitled Ashva Shri Guru’, by emerging artist Nayanjeet Nikam.

A press release elaborates: “Since times gone by, the horse has been an admired topic of focus in ancestral Asian Art. Time and again horses are held as a figure of vigour, supremacy and momentum. The horse was and is graciously deemed and believed to stand for the advancement and accomplishments of the populace. Nayanjeet does not simply epitomize the horse with this impression but the animal distinctly represents a novel class of imaginative modernism.”

Horses possess a strong bearing on him from the very beginning and have trained his artistic thoughts. He explains: “They commit to memory, people and the events of the past by heart, and have no anxiety of the future; they simply survive in constant awareness and have amazing instinct. I had to toil hard and face challenges to be in the present moment—Horses gave birth to my approach of unbreakable faith in my style of painting and has influenced my technique considerably.”

His impressive ride originated with pensiveness while studying at the Sir J. J. School of Fine Arts. He began a deliberate insertion of human figures in his work of art. 

The evenly done soft flat assent of colors is diversified by unequal feel of surface. The gurgle or spherical form of surface in his style of technique is colored in relief. Also evident at times are intensely brilliant, solid colors aligned with the monochromatic characteristics of human figures and flora and fauna.  He portrays the spirit of the populace, settings and expresses a story with an anthology of distinct illustrations rather than merely reconstructing on canvas, figures captured by the lenses. 

Nayanjeet recalls the chronicle with fond remembrance - In his early 20′s residing within Amravati, he would stop at the farms and sketch the horses as they gnawed in luxuriant blossoming grassy slopes of hilly pastures bounded by soaring flora. In all of his paintings one will unearth shades of yellow as it bears resemblance with the hue of the sun in Indian Culture. Relating to moods and attracting the energy through the environment.

China’s pre-eminence in global art market

“What’s changing is the subtle investment angle perhaps,” a recent essay by the FT, UK columnist, Mariana Lemann quotes Knight Frank’s Wealth Report editor, Andrew Shirley, as saying, “Previously, people would like to collect so as to possess beautiful things and have the best possible collection. Traditional investments, however, have lost much of their intrinsic value and that the earlier neglected investments of passion are becoming attractive.”

The global art market’s sheer size makes it appear large and liquid in nature. It totaled nearly $61 bn in 2011 - estimated Clare McAndrew of Arts Economics, but it can still get topsy-turvy. The touch of allure carries its own high risks. “Still there’ve been several new buyers who are coming into the art market,” New York-based art expert and advisor, Mary Hoeveler, points out: “What apparently comes with that, sadly, is some amount of speculation.

The Wall Street sure takes notice; people enter the market solely as investing.” Contemporary art tends to go in and out of public favor, cautions another expert. “When you're dealing with popular contemporary artists, keep in mind the fact that their career and popularity graph can change rapidly, and so also their work. Still, market appreciation is not the primary motivation of investors or it shouldn't be so, advisors state.

The Asian market, especially China, has emerged among the most upscale ones in the world, ahead of America and notches ahead of Europe. The performance of the Chinese market is bolstered by the ‘Chinese Dream’ that primarily relies on hugely successful businessmen, leaders of major groups and other investors who have flocked to the asset to diversify their investments.

Partly driven by speculation and specialized investment funds sans much control, there is an influx of capital to the art market. For now, the power of auction houses in China is derived from their privileged positions owing to government support and monopoly situations. While the local Hong Kong market is highly dynamic, its power is mainly being fueled by the vitality of the city’s growing non-auction Contemporary art sector.

‘Rain Room’ and other interesting exhibitions at MoMA

MoMA hosts a major exhibit on the astounding work of city planner, architect, artist, writer, photographer and interior designer Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, a.k.a.(1887–1965). On the other hand, with a field of falling water, pausing wherever a human body is detected, its another showcase (Rain Room) provides visitors with the experience of controlling the flow if rain. Another exhibit examines the early phase of Claes Oldenburg’s extraordinary career

Le Corbusier: An Atlas of Modern Landscapes
Conceived by guest curator Jean-Louis Cohen, the exhibition reveals the ways in which Le Corbusier observed and imagined landscapes throughout his career, using all the artistic techniques at his disposal, from his early watercolors of Italy, Greece, and Turkey, to his sketches of India, and from the photographs of his formative journeys to the models of his large-scale projects. His paintings and drawings also incorporate many views of sites and cities. All of these dimensions are present in the largest exhibition ever produced in New York of his prodigious oeuvre.
Rain Room
Known for their distinctive approach to contemporary digital practice, Random International’s experimental projects come alive through audience interaction—and ‘Rain Room’ is their largest and most ambitious to date. The work invites visitors to explore the roles that science, technology, and human ingenuity can play in stabilizing our environment. Using digital technology, Rain Room creates a carefully choreographed downpour, simultaneously encouraging people to become performers on an unexpected stage and creating an intimate atmosphere of contemplation.
Claes Oldenburg: The Street and The Store
Claes Oldenburg’s audacious, witty, and profound depictions of everyday objects have earned him a reputation as one of the most important artists of the 20th century. The exhibition takes an in-depth look at his first two major bodies of work: The Street (1960) and The Store (1961–64). During this intensely productive period Oldenburg redefined the relationship between painting and sculpture and between subject and form. The Street comprises objects made from cardboard, burlap, and newspaper that together create an immersive panorama of a gritty and bustling city.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Lowry and the Painting of Modern Life’

A new show, entitled ‘Lowry and the Painting of Modern Life’ opens on 26 June 2013 at Tate Britain. Rather than being an eccentric and anomalous artist, L.S. Lowry was following in the tradition of the French impressionists, the curators emphasize.

The exhibition aims to demonstrate important parallels with late 19th- and early 20th-century French painting, and also includes work by Camille Pissarro and Maurice Utrillo.

However, Lowry was not uncritical of his forebears. ‘Lowry’s work is – deliberately – tougher and cruder,’ says Clark. ‘He said of the impressionists that although their work was “meat and drink” to him, it lacked the battle of life.’

‘As we became interested in Lowry, it occurred to us that we were on familiar ground,’ say the distinguished art historians T.J. Clark and Anne M. Wagner, who were invited to reassess Lowry’s place in art history. ‘A lot of Lowry’s paint handling and sense of effect, his respect for a kind of quiet unity of the whole… this is the kind of thing we have become accustomed to think of as modern painting from Pissarro and Seurat.’

Like the 19th-century French artists, Lowry believed that for painting to stay alive it needed to represent urban life. The impressionists’ influence can be seen as late as the 1950s, in the compositions of his large-scale industrial landscapes – eight of which are brought together for the first time in the Tate show.

Despite his reputation as a ‘naïve’ artist, Lowry actually studied painting for many years. In 1905, he enrolled at the Municipal College of Art in Manchester, where he was taught by Adolphe Valette, a Frenchman who put him in touch with current developments in Paris.

Viewers can join the curator of this exhibition, Helen Little on a tour of the exhibition exploring Lowry’s paintings as part of the program.

Process of buying art: Don’t ‘paper’ over it

A proof of authenticity is one of the most important documents while buying a work of art. This can get both easy and difficult. In the case of those artists who sign/ date their work, an easy chronology is there to follow. Galleries can show similar works (at least pictures of them) to compare against.

You may face some problem in case of adding those artists, who are no more there, and whose works are not signed. In such cases, if you are keen to buy a work, you must demand authentication, if you are going to spend a considerable amount. The work may be coming informally from some other collector, or formally from some other gallerists who have previously dealt with the late artist, his/her estate, or even the family.

Paperwork must be an integral aspect of your collecting process for safeguarding better investments, advise art experts. Columnist and writer Kishore Singh had noted in one of his insightful essays, “That is largely because in the financial and corporate worlds, professionals realize the value of the tradable entity such as funds, shares, and real estate. On the contrary, there are not many specialists around to guide you through the whole maze of investing in art.”

The expert had mentioned: “It cannot be stressed enough that while an artist’s work is the actual property you invest in, it’s the relevant papers, which provide both proof of ownership and the real indication of value.” The expert guides us about the relevant papers and precautions to be taken while buying or selling an artwork:

In certain cases, the late artists’ families charge money for authenticating a signature, or work. There is that valid concern that they might end up authenticating even a fake work so you are better off resorting to every possible means to ensure the authenticity of an older work. Be vigilant even in the case of contemporary artists, he has advised, reminding us about the fakes’ controversy doyens like Manjit Bawa and Anjolie Ela Menon.

Global liquidity and art prices

Specialists and experts in the domain of international art rightfully observe what’s driving the market globally is that certain people have a lot of liquidity and are looking for places to put it.

Renowned art columnist Agustino Fontevecchia mentions of ‘New era' for global art markets, referring to the recent Contemporary Sale of Christie's that witnessed extremely aggressive bidding from potential buyers. The much-awaited event witnessed good demand for several masterpieces. ‘Number 19’ by Jackson Pollock fetched over $58 million (including fees) achieving a world auction record for the artist. Along with three auctions of contemporary art, comprising Leonardo Di Caprio’s ‘Eleventh Hour’ sale, the spring week sales figure of Sotheby’s climbed to an impressive $638.6 million.

Among ostensible investment avenues of ‘passion’, fine art is the one that has appreciated by almost 200 percent in the past decade or so, suggests the Luxury Investment Index of Knight Frank. The same is calculated on basis of the weighted performance of different indices for total nine classes of collectables, comprising fine art, classic cars, coins, Chinese ceramics, furniture, jewelry, watches, stamps, and fine wine. Investors are clearly taking a much closer look at all these real assets going beyond their emotional and aesthetic values.

Fontevecchia cautions to state: “Art, along with real estate and other alternative investments, present a risky opportunity. While prices have risen exponentially, several pieces by top artists including Franz Kline and Jeff Koons failed to find buyers. At the same time, thin liquidity means prominent collectors with deep pockets, including the Mugrabis, Nahmads and megadealers like Larry Gagosian auction, can steer the market.”

To sum it up, venturing into the segment of fine art & collectables will demand immense caution as well as specialized advice from experienced experts in the field. You might love a piece at the first sight but the broader marketplace might not! The better idea would be looking at it both as a choice of passion and as an investment. What should come first and what will come later, is anybody's conjecture…

Monday, June 24, 2013

Works done with a wealth of wit and virtuoso detail

Ellen Gallagher, considered one of the most widely acclaimed contemporary artists from North America in the last two decades, has been creating highly imaginative and gorgeously intricate works since mid-1990s.They are realized with a wealth of wit and virtuoso detail. A new solo of her works at Tate Modern is her first ever major exhibit in the UK, offering a great opportunity to get a detailed overview of her illustrious twenty-year career.

Born in Providence, Rhode Island in 1965, Ellen Gallagher now lives and works in Rotterdam and New York. Her impressive body of work is held in several significant public collections like Centre Pompidou, Paris, MoMA and Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Her mysterious and vivacious vision of marine life extends well beyond the canvas, stretching to other media like ‘Murmur 2003–4’, a 16mm film installation  (done in collaboration with Edgar Cleijne) apart from the ongoing series of watercolors and cut paper works (Watery Ecstatic). Both her new and recent work on view at Tate Modern incorporate a series of two-sided drawings (Morphia) that show how she combines the intimate with the epic, the ethereal with the physical, history with the present, and the urban with the oceanic.

Ellen Gallagher collates imagery from myth, nature, social history and art in her complex works done in a wide variety of media such as painting, drawing, sculpture, film, animation, relief, collage and print,. The exhibit explores the themes that have emerged in her practice, from her early canvases through to more recent film installations.”

A press release elaborates: “In Double Natural, POMP-BANG, and eXelento, she has appropriated and incorporated found advertisements for hair and beauty products from the 1930s to the late 1970s from publications like Ebony, Our World, Black Stars etc. These ads fostered ideals in black beauty through wigs and hair adornments that Gallagher has re-contextualised, collaging the Afro wig elements and embellishing them with plasticine. The exhibit includes some other such key works including ‘Bird in Hand’ in which marine life and human life converge right at the bottom of the ocean in a rather mythical black Atlantis.

Important milestones of Anjolie Ela Menon’s career

  • Born in 1940 in West Bengal, she pursued her studies at Sir JJ School of Art, Mumbai, and then went on to obtain a degree in English Literature from Delhi University. During this phase, she was influenced by the works of artists like Modigliani and Indian painters like Amrita Shergil and MF Husain.
  • At the age of 18 Anjolie Ela Menon showcased her works in much acclaimed solo exhibitions in Delhi and Mumbai. The French government offered her a scholarship to study at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, where she studied Fresco. Menon utilized this time to travel extensively in Europe and West Asia studying Romanesque and Byzantine art before returning home.
  • Her first solo exhibition was held at 71 Lodhi Estate in 1958 for which the invitation was designed by MF Husain. Her marriage into a Kerala family and the discovery of a stack of Daguerro-type early photographs in her husband’s ancestral home in Kerala seem to have inspired a series of paintings. South Indian ancestors and young ascetic poojaris and acolytes drawn from the cultural backdrop of the south appear in sepia tones in her paintings of that period, and in a few portraits in this show.
  • After her marriage, Menon lived and worked in India, the USSR, the US and Germany. The trajectory of Menon’s career soared steadily upwards in the years to come. She has a ‘Buddha’ mural in the Prime Minister’s reception lounge at the Indira Gandhi International Airport and several other murals in public spaces such as the Esplanade Metro Station, Kolkata, Mumbai International Airport and many five star hotels.
  • The artist has been honored with the Padma Shri, one of the highest civilian awards in India. Her works are regularly sold at all global auctions including Sotheby’s and Christies and have been acquired by several museums in India and abroad including the National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi; Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi, Benjamin Gray Museum, Peabody Essex Museum, Asian Art Museum, San Francisco; and Fukuoka Museum, Japan.
  • Almost every important corporate collection in India hangs her work including Tatas, Birlas, Larsen and Toubro, TIFR, Shah House, Shell, Reliance, ITC, Times House, Hindustan Times and many others. Anjolie has represented India at the Algiers Biennale, the Sao Paulo Biennale, and three Triennales in India. She has participated in several group shows in India and abroad.

    (Information courtesy: Grosvenor Gallery, London)

New compu-pictures of a top versatile female artist

London-based Grosvenor Vadehra hosts a solo exhibition of recent paintings by Anjolie Ela Menon, one among India’s topmost contemporary artists, who has made a name for herself in the country’s as well as international art scene. Her artworks are a part of several significant museum, private and corporate collections across the globe.

A press release elaborates: "Though she usually prefers to work with oil on masonite, the versatile artist has also experimented with other media such as glass, acrylic, computers, ceramics and painted junk. Desolation is a quality that is palpable in many of her paintings and again, one may infer that a sense of loss imbues some of her work a certain profundity.

"Anjolie Ela Menon evokes that which is hinted at but not quite visually stated even as the unsung ode wafts across disturbing landscapes. While the window, the crow or the chair recurred through the 1980s, slowly allegory gave way to more direct engagements with subjects close to the artist. The small miniatures in this show are the result of the period of experimentation that began in 1992."

Her conviction and courage in leaving the safety of her preferred medium - oil on masonite – was fraught with considerable uncertainty. In an ongoing engagement with Kitsch, Bollywood posters and street art, Menon imparts objects appropriated from so called “low art” with an aesthetic identity and autonomy. In her inimitably impish manner, she coalesces the traditional and post modern with rare panache creating a pastiche with collage and paint.

Underlying the slick surfaces of the totally new compu-pictures are echoes of the artist’s earlier work, reinforcing those elements that have been associated with the Menon idiom while achieving a new visual language of intriguing complexity. Anjoile Ela Menon is also a social activist, who supports the education of disadvantaged children. Based on her life and work, a book “Anjolie Ela Menon: Paintings in Private Collections” has been published and several films have been made on her.

The exhibition will run from 7 – 27 June and will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalog.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

How to build and manage your art collection?

Following your investment in art is often trickier than tracking stocks and booking profit or loss from them. The former is definitely not as simplistic as putting your money in a bank deposit, which is a more conventional avenue of parking your money. The debt instruments are comparatively easier to handle largely because of their tradable nature and greater flow of liquidity. Also, stocks, funds and commodities receive greater coverage and analyst attention. Of course, things are certainly changing...

Contemporary Indian art has emerged as a reliable and attractive investment option in the recent years. The problem is lack of awareness about this alternate asset class and its immense potential. There are still not as many specialists and analysts to guide people when it comes to investing in art. It demands expertise to manage your collection. For example, you must pay attention to the necessary paperwork. Here are the papers you must check while buying or selling art:

A solid and acceptable proof of authenticity approved by experts is one of the most important documents. It is both simple and tricky when it comes to confirming a valid proof of authenticity. Let me explain. For artists, who sign and date their respective works, an easy chronology is available to trace. You can get to see similar works for purpose of comparison (pictures of them, at least). The concern is largely with the artists who have passed away, leaving behind unsigned works now up for grabs.

In such a scenario, the decision of spending a substantial sum hinges on proper authentication process. The authentication can be done by established collectors informally, or by gallerists/auctioneers formally. Those who have dealt for long with the late artist, the artist’s family or the artist’s estate can provide valuable clues. Of course, even they might get it wrong.

There is always a possibility that they might end up authenticating a fake work. So you should crosscheck the different available references and resources to be assured of the authenticity of older paintings. It is advisable to ensure authenticity even while buying the works of contemporary artists.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Broader trends in global art market

The post-War & contemporary art markets sure are red hot. Contemporary art sales have grown to about $6 billion last year from $850 million a decade ago in total value. According to artnet, this noteworthy development needs to be juxtaposed with a gradual fall in modern, impressionist & old masters’ prices.

Another key trend is emergence of South-East Asian art and China’s uninterrupted rise as a global art powerhouse. Chinese buyers are more focused on their own artists. What this means is that they don’t create a huge effect on Western favorites like pop art and abstract impressionism.

In the last week of May, Evening Sale conducted by Christie's of Asian 20th Century & Contemporary Art in Hong Kong totaled $53,736,025, selling in excess of 90 percent by lot and 91 percent by value. It saw four new world auction records getting established: Singaporean artist Georgette Chen’s ‘Still Life with Tropical Fruits’ going for $656,565; ‘Nudes on Horseback’ Yun Gee (Zhu Yuanzhi) fetching $ 1,480,185, ‘PixCell-Coyote#3’ by Japan’s Kohei Nawa receiving $361,305 and ‘La marchande de riz’ (The Rice Seller) by Vietnam’s Nguyen Phan Chanh drawing $392,385.

Part of the several trillion US dollars released thanks to Federal Reserve chairman’s Ben S. Bernanke continuing stimulus packages apart from trillions more in other top currencies printed by central banks across the globe have trickled into the art market, to prop it up. Suzanne Gyorgy, the Citi Art Advisory (Citigroup’s private bank service) head, states, “For many people art is an interesting alternative investment. It’s seen as a hedge against inflation and a safe haven in the high end of the market.”

The trend is very much clear! Increasingly, the wealthy are pumping their capital into luxury investments seen more as alternatives. A recent Forbes new report reveals that Steve Cohen, a hedge fund hotshot, paid more than $150 million (a record price according to market observers) for a Pablo Picasso piece earlier owned by billionaire Steve Wynn.

An artist driven by history, culture and contemporary sensibilities

Celebrated artist Atul Dodiya has created a niche for himself not just in India but internationally. The history and culture of his home country plays a significant role in constructing the barrage of images that inform his oeuvre. Launching his career with a rather straightforward and cleverly deadpan realist approach, he switched to the fragmented and multi-layered approach from the literal one in the mid-90s.

Conscious of history, his rich oeuvre reflects his deep knowledge about immediate surroundings, current events and ancient religious traditions. He often quotes from the recesses of Indian as well as Western art traditions. Even his potent pictorial language can be attributed to his to adoption and usage of the vocabulary of Western contemporary art. Driven by intellect, intensity and ideas, he continues to experiment with many forms.

According to him, ‘I’ve always tried to retain that student phase in Sir J.J. School of Art when seeing a new form or new medium greatly excited us about its possibilities.’ Even as he strives to bring contemporary Indian art into a closer, deeper embrace with Western Post-Modernist art, Atul Dodiya also looks to the former closer to its fundamental roots, through re-adjustment, and reproaches to mythological and cultural figure. Some of his recent shutter paintings at Art Basel 2010 courtesy Chemould Prescott Road respond to iconic paintings from the 1970s by late Bhupen Khakhar, called ‘trade series’, depicting middle-class figures from a wide range of professions.

The talented and socially sensitive artist’s canvases allude to everything - from the eccentric everyday India to high art elements from all over. They embrace issues ranging from exuberant Indian economy to the garish kitsch and disturbing disquiet of daily life. Indian cataclysms have shaped his work and so the explicitly political concerns without, descending into social realism. The striking imagery has invariably been packed with a stirring swirl of motifs: Bollywood, film stars, political icons, Hindu mythology characters, and so on.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Hemali Bhuta evolves her core concerns in a new solo

Hemali Bhuta’s second solo at Mumbai-based Project88 finds its inspiration much closer to home. During her time away, her yearning for the simplicities of domestic life in India inspired a beguiling body of work, which exalts ordinary fringe details into something sublime and shines light upon ideas of non-duality.

While the artworks in her latest exhibition, as a write-up by Diana Campbell reveals, relate to minimalism and line drawing and aesthetically connect to high art practices, they also pay homage to forms that are often ignored or overlooked—the most mundane parts of daily life and ritual surrounding middle-class life in India.

“Through her sensitive renderings of the forms that separate structures, such as columns which separate floor from ceiling, skirting which separates wall from floor, cornices which separate ceiling from wall, and even faux-flooring which separates the floor surface from the ground, she transforms the gallery into a shrine, a meditative space to contemplate the meaning of these small interventions toward beauty in daily life,” the release further states. She points that a ‘shift of a line’ through folding or displacing it ‘doesn’t delete the line but on the contrary adds another.’

The artist essentially draws on her own experiences, memories and understanding of various elements to create her works; they articulate issues of belonging, security, individuality and change. She aims to investigate the transitory spaces of restlessness between these issues and also to find a way to overcome them.

Hemali Bhuta has participated in several group shows including ‘Tracing Reality’, Gallery Kashya Hildebrand, Zurich,2010; ‘Ballard Estate’, Religare arts initiative, Delhi, 2010; ‘Revisioning Materiality Part II’, Gallery Espace, Delhi, 2009; ‘Moment as Monument’, at Tranvancore Gallery; ‘Video Wednesdays’ at Gallery Espace, Delhi (2008-09).

She has been selected for an exchange program (2009- 2010) at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris. In 2009, she also received the FICA Emerging Artist Award, Delhi and a residency at the Montalvo arts centre, California. She is also a finalist for the Rolex Mentor Protégé Program under Anish Kapoor.

Life and art of a celebrated artist of her era

One of the most critically acclaimed and prolific artists of her generation, B.Prabha worked mainly in oil, her each canvas usually executed in a single dominant color. Her early works were modern, freely rendered paintings. Gradually, she started experimenting and soon developed what was to be recognized as her signature style. Her subject matter encompassed a wide array of concerns that she harbored, while observing the life and people around.

In the graceful forms of her female figures, the artist intensely examined their inner world, sufferings and courage. Her work was not merely a portrayal of the female forms; it brought their suppressed sentiments to the fore. It was not just coincidental that her inspiration as an artist was Amrita Shergil.

‘B. Prabha - From the Album’, a selection of works by the late artist, was on display at The Viewing Room, Mumbai, earlier this year. Charting out her career, an accompanying note mentioned: "On her canvases, she immortalized the fisherwomen of Mumbai.B. Prabha’s graceful elongated figures of pensive rural women, with each canvas in a single dominant color still continue to mesmerize art lovers.

Other selected posthumous exhibits in acknowledgement of her greatness as an artist are 'Celebrations 2011', Kumar Gallery, New Delhi (2011); ‘Winter Moderns’, Aicon Gallery, New York (2008); ‘Pot Pourri’, Gallery Beyond, Mumbai (2008). She won many noteworthy honors and awards, such as the All India Fine Arts and Crafts Society (AIFACS) Award, New Delhi and First Prize at the Bombay State Art Exhibition (1958), among others. Her work is with several major collections.

About her motivation and concerns as an artist, she once had stated: “The core theme of my paintings was always women and their sufferings. I have seen them and observed them closely. I did not just thought of the urban woman but also those in rural areas, who were as creative. They exude so many emotions to portray...”

Four reasons that make Indian art a value buy for long-term

Here are the five reasons that will support long-term growth of the Indian art market, still in an early growth phase, offering immense scope for investment:
  • Reason 1: Merrill Lynch and Capgemini’s world wealth survey in 2012 pointed out that alternative asset have become an integral part of high net worth individuals (HNIs) portfolios, up from six percent to nine percent. Their sustained buying has pushed up the bar and the upward journey of the price graph has just started.
  • Reason 2: Art remains a popular investment option for wealthy in the UK during tough economic times marked by a period of low interest rates and economic worries, a BBC News study last year mentioned, quoting from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) survey.

    According to its spokesperson, the art & antiques market remains a strong performer for buyers looking to invest in more tangible assets to guard against the uncertain economic picture. The trend of investing in ‘emotional assets’ is getting stronger with investors, having suffered from the global crisis, returning to objects ‘closer to their hearts’, with a decent ROI and liquidity.
  • Reason 3: The art market has certainly become more mature and transparent. Not so long ago, buyers and collectors could compare prices only by attending auctions and rummaging through heavy catalogs. The scenario has changed considerably. The process of acquiring art has become more ‘democratic’, so to say. Also, the base of buyers and sellers is fast expanding! The growth of services and expertise backed by market infrastructure and mechanism within the art world is now more pronounced.
  • Reason 4: Collectors are fervently participating in a series of Indian art auctions, making them hugely successful, to establish its global potential. They are treating the sales as an opportunity to acquire some of the very best contemporary and classic works on offer, set to appreciate in the future. The leading market players are focusing on quality works in order to target the discerning buyers’ category.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

A quick glance at Sanat Kar’s career graph and work

This is an artist whose works, to put it in his own words, play around the deep, darker recesses of complex human mind. We are referring to Sanat Kar. We take a quick look at his career graph and work courtesy Galerie88.
  • Sanat Kar was born in Kolkata in 1935. He received his diploma in painting from the Government College of Arts and Crafts, Calcutta in 1955 and played a major role in the formation of the Society of Contemporary Artists in 1960. He joined Graphics department, Kala Bhavan, Viswa Bharati in 1978 and later become the principal of that institute.
  • Sanat Kar began experimenting with intaglio printmaking method in the early '60s. It was a self-taught process. His experimentation and innovation in printmaking has been widely recognized. He is also credited with the innovation of cardboard intaglio. As Zinc was becoming too costly a material he began working first with wood blocks, then moved on to plywood and finally Sun‐mica and engraving on cardboard.
  • The artist successfully transposed the characteristics of works on metal plates to his wood blocks while retaining the specific characteristics of the wood surface. Besides intaglio, Kar has created a series of tempera paintings and bronze sculptures.
  • He received AIFACS award, New Delhi in 1973 and West Bengal State Academy Award in 1993, among others. His work has featured in the Festival of India in USA, Japan, Soviet Union, British International Print Biennale, Fourth International Print Show in Poland and Berlin Intergrafik. Sanat Kar lives and works in Santiniketan.
  • His thought-provoking works are primarily surrealistic having a curious dream‐like appearance. His figures exude innocence and the charm of poetry. Birth and death, the beginning and the end of the cycle of life hold endless fascination for Kar, as does the grotesque and the macabre. Grainy textural surfaces, doodled lines create their own visual magic in his work.

'Creating works that will stand the test of time...'

Riyas Komu’s oeuvre refers to the paradoxes of the urban situation that he paints with cynicism and compassion; with dejection albeit tinged with hope and sympathy.

Born in Kerala in 1971, the artist completed his BFA and MFA from Sir J. J. School of art, Mumbai. Though he has graduated with painting as his specialization, his wide range of art practice now extends itself to photography, video installations and sculpture. The artist paints images based on photographic references culled from the visual barrage of mass media, transporting them into his pictorial space of painting. When he does portraits, he actually sculpts certain ideas, as he states.

He adds, “Especially, in my sculptures, I tackle burning issues like religious fundamentalism, simmering unrest, manmade calamities like war that haunt the modern society. What though, unnerves him is the short-lived nature of public memory. The impact of any major event or act tends to evaporate. We as society tend to forget things too soon, too easily, he laments!

The common people’s concerns, worries and agonies are not drastically different. It’s just the context and they way they perceive and face them add a twist to them. It’s an art of survival, he mentions of the stoic, endless struggle to lead an unconditional life despite innumerable hurdles. His work is a tribute to the spirit of those ordinary folks with an extraordinary spirit to survive against all odds.

He is keen on creating work that will withstand the test of time; the work that will encapsulate universal, omnipresent concerns. He adds: “However, we claim to have advanced – individually and collectively, certain things will never change - the woes of the working class, famines, floods, suffering farmers and laborers – they would always be there. The poignant portraits that reflect grim realities of life seep into my consciousness and in my work.”

Need to diversify portfolio and basics of gathering art

Art has emerged as a valuable asset a large majority of people would love to possess, if they could afford it. Most of these people have started buying art because many wealth managers ask them to diversify their investment into it. For HNIs, looking to diversify their portfolio across different asset classes, it’s another lucrative avenue they can explore! Of course, there are eclectic buyers, who like and enjoy art, and hence buy it.

A news report (‘The buying game’ by Rachel Spence In The Financial Times, UK) had mentioned: “Although India's art market has come off the dizzy heights that it reached a few years ago, when a rash of art funds caused frenzied speculation, its still-booming national economy has made sure that a vast untapped source of new for modern and contemporary art still exists.

"Yet the lack of state-run infrastructure has left the art sector dependent on the initiative of private collectors like the Poddars of the Devi Art Foundation, who often put their works on public display.” Though younger artists like Subodh Gupta have grabbed headlines internationally, contemporary Indian art is still struggling to come out of the shadow of India’s more famed modernist painters like Husain and Souza.

Swapan Seth, whose own collection ranges from the late US photographer Herb Ritts to the poetic Indian artist Atul Dodiya thinks it’s better for those new to the domain o be guided by other experienced collectors rather than gallerists. This is necessary to prevent a tendency of short-sighted acquisitiveness, by no means an Indian prerogative.

This is important because financial advisors now ask their clients to consider investment in art for they believe it has good scope for capital appreciation. They generally advise not to put around not more than 10 to 15 percent of their total portfolio in art. Ideally, approach experts when it comes to investing in art, they suggest. This is because a crosscheck on authenticity of the work demands a high degree of knowledge and expertise. It is also advisable to check the artist’s track record and also the history of the work before buying it.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Become an informed buyer who knows how to appreciate art

In keeping with the rising political and economic stature of the country, a new breed of art collectors has emerged. Their passion and fortunes seem to have only risen along with India's booming economy. Mapping the contrasts and contradictions of the present-day scenario to better understand our art scene, renowned curator Alka Pande had stated in her introduction to ‘India Awakes’ show at Vienna’s Essl Museum:

“I live in a rapidly changing India and I am also confronted with a global culture. I ask myself whether I – as an urban Indian – can be within a single country as familiar with a rural India as with a spiritual India, with an India of the ethnic tribes with its ethnic community, a digital India, a religious India.” In backdrop of its vitality, the demand for contemporary Indian art remains high even as art market confidence has dropped as far as the European and U.S. contemporary markets are concerned.

With more than 3 million high net worth individuals (HNIs), possessing more than $1 million as estimated by the recent World Wealth report courtesy Capgemini and Merrill Lynch, Asian buyers (those from India and China, in particular) are very much in spotlight. In fact, art as an alluring asset has virtually entered into the mainstream, especially for tech-savvy younger people, who visit the portals to view not only paintings but also interactive, new media works.

The newly-rich buyers are turning to passion investment, seeking out eclectic and exclusive objects perceived to possess tangible long-term worth. A large majority of them are well-traveled business executives from software or banking industry who earn handsome remuneration. However, a vital area often ignored is due diligence regarding the ownership history. Provenance often affects its acceptability, and hence value of an artwork.

Evaluate its past history; check its origin and subsequent track record. Maintain proper documents of each work you buy. Seek assistance of specialists to determine the authenticity of a work, mostly on basis of the necessary appraisal and certification. Check whether the piece is in good condition. Know about the measures to be taken to prevent any damage to it in the future so that its value doesn’t diminish over time.

Going beyond the sheer investment angle, orientation and the process of building the knowledge base through constant interaction with curators, gallerists, dealers and artists themselves is equally vital.

Passion for art defines India’s premier collectors

A celebrity couple that cherishes a classy art collection is Parvez and Roshni Damania. It comprises superb paintings by MF Husain, Satish Gujral and Bose Krishnamachari, among others. The two have acquired other big names, such as FN Souza, Ram Kumar, Paritosh Sen, Sakti Burman, Jogen Choudhury etc over time.

The emphasis is invariably on acquiring unusual works like a rare painting by Ram Kumar and a FN Souza landscape. The underlying thought is to buy only those works that are pleasing to the eye and intellect. These are the pieces of art the two would want to grow with. In essence, they must be worth the price from their perspective!

While Parvez Damania makes most purchase decisions, the responsibility of their maintenance lies with Roshni. According to her, the focus now has shifted slightly to upcoming and talented artists. She has stated, suggesting they are keen to promote the younger artists: “Every art collector, I guess, happens to pass through different phases. Parvez is probably beyond the phase when he was keen to acquire top names.”

Rajshree Pathy is one of India’s distinguished collectors. Belonging to one of India’s leading industrial and philanthropist families, the PSG group, she has simultaneously cultivated her love for art. Her comprehensive collection has distinguished names, such as SH Raza, Rameshwar Broota, FN Souza, and Chintan Upadhyay in its fold. Summing up her journey, she has stated: “Art is not something that I've to keep under lock & key. It’s indeed rewarding intellectually, emotionally and financially.”

And what prompts her to buy? ”It’s something that talks to my heart. Of course, it’s good knowing that a choice I made has gone up in value.” Though Rajshree Pathy is averse to selling any of her pieces, she underlines its importance as an investment-worthy asset. According to her, the price of good art will never fall, and investing one-fourth of one’s income makes sense.

How to select the artist and piece of work you wish to acquire?

When investing in art, certain basic facts need to be kept in mind. While acquiring art as an asset, one has to have a long term investment perspective. Remember, established artists have sustainable value. On the other hand, younger artists have higher risk/higher return.

Here is a brief explanation on the process of selecting the artist and piece of work you want to buy:

•    Research regarding an artist, established or upcoming, gives definite clues to the intrinsic value of his or her work. It involves a thorough documentation of aspects such as the artist's age academic qualifications; awards, citations, scholarships received; participation in national international shows and workshops; subject matter of the work; ability to explain it and, of course, the thought processes, technique and style of work.

•    Factors like buyers’ list, critics’ perception of the artist and association with prominent art galleries also need to be considered.

•    There are several other critical aspects that need to be weighed before investing in art such as analyzing art market movements and trends and keeping a close eye on acquisitions made by distinguished art buyers and collectors.

•    It makes sense to approach experienced art advisors to understand the intricacies of the art market. They obviously are better placed to carry out a detailed research and review of recent auction results. Expert inputs are indeed crucial from the point of view of understanding artistic significance and market potential of a particular piece.

•    Of course, you may conduct your own study of the art market. This is not difficult since information about individual artists and broader art market trends is now easily available online.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Veer Munshi’s impressive career graph

Veer Munshi was born in Srinagar in 1955, and he now lives and works in Gurgaon. Between his geographical shifts lies a curious history of travel as a student, as a budding artist, and finally as the established member of a diasporic community that was expelled from its homeland by historical circumstances.

Known for a painting-based environment or vice versa, whichever way you look at it, Veer Munshi’s art practice is informed by his extensive and engaged travels; he has visited, among other countries, Jordan, Kenya, Morocco, Cambodia, China, Egypt, Mexico, Singapore, Thailand, Turkey, and Greece. His illustrious career spans almost three decades, during which he has lived and worked in Delhi, Srinagar, and Baroda. His practice spans a wide range of media like painting, sculpture, public-art projects, and installation backed by intellectual collaborations.

The artist did his graduation from Kashmir University (1976) and a BFA in Painting from the M S University, Baroda (1981). He has had more than 10 solos, apart from a series of grouop shows in India and abroad. These include ‘Ways of Resistance’ (SAHMAT, New Delhi/ 2002); ‘Art on the Move’, curated by Vivan Sundaram (SAHMAT, New Delhi/ 2002); the 11th Asian Art Biennale (Dhaka/ 2004); ‘Identity Alienation Amity’ (Mumbai/2005); Tehelka’s ‘Art for Freedom’ (London/ 2008); ‘Image, Music and Text’ , curated by Ram Rahman (SAHMAT, New Delhi/ 2009); and ‘ZIP Files’, edited by Ranjit Hoskote (foundation b&g, Mumbai/ 2009).

An exhibition of his works courtesy Latitude 28 and foundation b&g was curated by Ranjit Hoskote. Elaborating on the series, the publisher of foundation b&g, Harsha Bhatkal, had called it 'a powerful statement, in which the artist presents an environment, capturing the violence that surrounds us in the turbulent world today.' A touching photographic series which he publicly showed for the first time, offered a detailed documentation of Pandit houses in a unique way -both (‘The Chamber’and ‘Pandit Houses’) projected as a cry for peace and secularism.

A great artist and a wary individual

Edvard Munch, considered a pioneer in the Expressionist movement in Modern Painting, was recognized in Germany and central Europe at an early stage as one of the makers of a new epoch. Here's a quick look at his art and life:
  • Born on December 12th, 1863, in Løten, Norway, to Christian Munch, a military doctor, he spent most of his childhood living in Kristiania, now better known as Oslo. He was an anxious youth, fearful of many things after his mother, his brother, and one of his sisters died of tuberculosis. Edvard was himself a sickly child.  Those early events inspired Munch to create lifeless or frightened people in some of his works. 
  • Many of his paintings and drawings help viewers understand Edvard Munch's inner world. The Norwegian artist’s works are thought to have expressed his deepest and most painful feelings. However, many of his later works reveal brightly colored landscapes and other subjects that indicate he found greater inner peace as he grew older.
  • At the age of 17 was tutored in the arts by Christian Krohg, a naturalist painter, who was quite famous in Norway.  Edvard's talent was evident by his early realist paintings, but the traumatic events that plagued Edvard's youth had an even deeper impact on his artistic vision than any other artist or artistic movement could have. 
  • In the spring of 1896 Munch left Berlin and settled down in Paris, where his associates again included Strindberg. He was now devoting greater attention to the graphic medium, at the expense of painting. He was back in Norway in 1898. Around the turn of the century Munch tried to finish the Frieze. He painted a number of pictures, several of them in larger format and to some extent featuring the art nouveau aesthetics of the time.
  • Edvard Munch, who died in 1944 at 80, said that the idea for ‘The Scream’, literally the picture of torment and dread, came to him while walking at sunset with friends. He lagged behind them “shivering with fear,” he wrote, and “then I heard the enormous, infinite scream of nature.” 
  •  Some see the figure as a symbol of Modern Man, others as a kind of cartoon E. T. Either way there’s plenty of tasty narrative potential. Did something awful just happen? Is the shrieker nuts? Will he (or she) be leaping over the bridge rail next?  The picture nevertheless still holds a legitimate and complex place in the European painting tradition and in Munch’s estimable and interesting career.

Indian art market remains strong despite challenges

In spite of the prevailing negative economic trend, most experts had remained positive about the broader art scenario earlier this year and they have been proved right.

A number of artists from the country now show their works on a wider global level, including Bharti Kher, Rashid Rana, and Jitish Kallat. In another heartening development, the market has strongly reversed a prolonged negative trend, posting impressive results in the last 12 months, according to the latest Indian Auction Analysis. After six seasons of consecutive decline, it has showed the early signs of a possible revival.

India’s art market was hit after the 2008 economic collapse. Since then it has attempted to readjust and refocus itself. The earlier confidence survey for Indian art market in May 2012 by ArtTactic suggested that it would take at least two years to fully recover. The overall indicator was marginally down by 2 percent (a 9 percent decrease in confidence indicator for the Modern market, and a 24 percent fall for the Contemporary market. In fact, the round of auctions in March 2012 was quite disappointing. The market had a poor season, with sales volume of $10,438,532, 27 percent lower than March 2011.

An IANS news report last year had observed that  some ‘curious dichotomy’ had gripped the auction market, marked by a sudden boom in sales art at record prices even as global economies registered a slump. It had pointed to a new generation of buyers emerging on the scene, opening up their purse strings to acquire quality artworks. A quality consciousness seldom seen before is driving auction markets worldwide even as new segments of buyers - private archives and collectors - have emerged,” it mentioned.

The phenomenon was an outcome of the caution exercised by buyers after the price bubble burst, after the economic slowdown in 2008. The old masters, modernists as well as contemporary pioneers continued to command steady prices in the market still ruled by old masters like Tyeb Mehta, Raza, Souza, Manjit Bawa, Husain, Ram Kumar, Anjolie Ela Menon etc and legends like the Tagore brothers, Jamini Roy, and Nanadalal Bose, it rightfully stated.