Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Dealing with issues of space, territory, medium and politics

An ongoing group show at the Guild in Mumbai offers the chance to engage with political and personal narratives of the issues of borders, exchange, displacement and relationships with regard to the geopolitics at play between neighboring countries.

Five artists of Bangladeshi origin explore issues of space, borders, territory, medium, politics and disputed solutions. Each artist has a strong individual reflection of issues related to the notion of ‘Barbed Floss’ and express it through their use of medium and renewed association with their personal experiences, histories and country.

The borders in the sub-continent were drawn with the first partition of 1947. In 1971, after the second partition and Bangladesh’s independence, the non-permeable Indo-Bangladeshi barrier was created. This barbed fence wire is considered to be the fifth longest border in the world. Ethnicities, communities, houses were all partitioned and allotted different nationalities, depending on which side of the political borders they fell.

A curatorial essay states: ““To drag a line, to separate, the barbed wire went across the middle of the green field, road, yard and even the middle of the house in some areas. But the people who have the same blood flowing through their vein (and vain), have the same provisions, mounting up in the same area and lived simultaneously for thousands of can a border separate them being together? Is it possible to divide with a boundary marker?!”

Promotesh Das Pulak’s installation of ‘Twins’ in an incubator, created out of the beautiful white shoal flowers, depicts the betrayal of innocence and beauty through rules and laws that destroyed faith and togetherness unblinkingly. The position of the twins inside the incubator acts as a vulnerable metaphor of sharing food, oxygen and physical attributions. This work alludes to the notion of partition, division and separation in marked territories that once shared similar histories, cultures and identities.

Tayeba Begum Lipi (b. 1969), completed her MFA from the Institute of Fine Arts at the University of Dhaka. She has exhibited her works widely in Bangladesh as well as internationally in several renowned institutes.  Mahbubur Rahman (b. 1969), completed his MFA in Drawing and Painting from the Institute of Fine Arts at the University of Dhaka. His works and performances have been widely exhibited in solo exhibitions and group shows in Bangladesh as well as internationally in several renowned museums and institutes; as well as at the Bangladesh pavilion at the 54th Venice Biennale.

Anisuzzaman Sohel (b. 1973) completed his BFA from the Faculty of Fine Arts at the University of Dhaka. His works have been exhibited widely in Dhaka and he has been a part of several group shows internationally, including Britto, Kunstvlaai in Amsterdam (2012). He has participated in several workshops and is currently based and working in Dhaka.

A broader and ambitious sweep of human history

Starting with a deft drawing of soldiers done somewhere around the onset of World War I by Jean Louis-Forain, with the term 'le commencement de la peur'/ 'the beginning of fear', to captivating cubist drawings by Felicia Pacanowska (a rare female cubist artist who managed to survive  the holocaust of the World War II)of the town of Lodz, to her drawing of a ubiquitous man handling the levers of a massive magnificently spinning factory; and then to Prabhakar Pachpute's charcoal drawings focused on Indian open cast mines, to the scripts and photographs of Amol Patil's father's theatre penned for the uprooted mill workers in the city of Mumbai – a new exhibit at Gallery Art & Soul graphically reveals autobiographical elements  even while taking a broader and ambitious sweep of human history.

Born in the industrial city of Lodz in 1907, Pacanowska's parents were also artists, a part of the near 200,000- strong Jewish population there. The place was among the most industrial ones in central Europe at that point of time. It became a major centre of the Nazi occupation. As documented, the Lodz ghetto was made where its Jewish population was forcibly put to toil to produce goods. Only 900 could actually survive the holocaust in the city of Lodz. The artist lost all her family members; she survived only because having moved to Paris in time, subsequently joining the avant-garde art movement.

A collection of portraits, mostly comprising cubist drawings of faces by Felicia Pacanowska (these include a self-portrait) are in a way psychological studies done in clean, neat scalpel-succinct lines. Titled 'it-so-ur-sco-pop-hob-ia', a series of drawings by Shernavaz Colah, references a phobia or anxiety apparently caused from constantly being stared at, and the hidden, subtle sub-text of Justin Daraniyagala’s oil painting, a Sri Lankan artist, on whom she had been continuously researching and writing for over a year; ending in a book, and this set of drawings of disquiet.

In the series, the bearded 'Philosopher' of Justin Daraniyagala's painting, surrounded in his aloof studio, by crowding faces, looks to transform its phobia - as a claw approaching a seated nude woman amidst the chaos and clutter of faces, transcending and combining into a saint with a trident.

‘autobiografia :recluse of history’

What forms the crux of a new exhibition, entitled ‘autobiografia :recluse of history’ at at Gallery Art & Soul. An accompanying note elaborates:

“As South Asia's communal conflicts take political overtones, viewing Justin Daraniyagala's practice in the contemporary, for instance India and Sri Lanka's discrimination against sections of civilians, returns us to the deep fear of Jean Louis-Forain's, 'Le commencement de la peur' made in response to the start of World War I. In the exhibition, the minotaurs and Don Quixotes of Picasso, Daraniyagala, and Dali, equip us only with a vocabulary, tested and invaluable in that, with which to think out our present time.

Daraniyagala, part of the Sri Lankan avant-garde 43 Group, was encouraged from a young age to pursue the career of an artist. Able to travel to Europe, he exhibited his works alongside painters like Picasso in 1935; and preceded his Indian contemporaries, like MF Hussain and Francis Newtown Souza, in interpreting cubism through his own lens.

A heavily coded and stimulating series (the bearded 'Philosopher), conversing simultaneously, and perhaps unconsciously, with art history - the 'gaze' directed on the nude or the model that so troubled art critics like John Berger in his seminal book 'Ways of Seeing'; and with the subtexts and untold anxieties hidden and coded through the works of Justin Daraniyagala, enriching his keen male perspective, with a female one.

There are then two kinds of recluses from the standard tellings of a cubist art history - the books on display mention few female cubist artists; and recognise no non-European artists. Daraniyagala was in fact reviewed by John Berger, who saw his practice as a real demonstration of painting independent of other styles and outstanding alongside his European contemporaries. Yet, Daraniyagala left Europe to live at his parents' estate in Sri Lanka, and died young, in 1967 from tuberculosis, leaving behind a large body of works.

Shernavaz Colah's writing on Daraniyagala, interprets the red crosses painted over the mouths of his late paintings, as Daraniyagala's coded concession of his illness. His earlier works are romantic studies of women from a place once called Ceylon, gradually turning into grotesque anxious faces, (compared with those of Pacanowska's), as his health deteriorated, and as the island took on the identity of Sri Lanka.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Shilpa Gupta at MAAP Space, Brisbane

Shilpa Gupta, an unconventional conceptual artist from India, presents a significant series of works at MAAP Space in Brisbane, Australia.

Over the past decade Shilpa Gupta has exhibited in numerous internationally significant exhibitions such as in the Daimler Contemporary, Berlin; Mori Art Museum, Tokyo; New Museum, New York; Yvon Lambert, Paris; Solomon R Guggenheim Museum, New York; Centre Pompidou, Paris; and has produced commissioned work for Tate Online, London. 

There is no question that Gupta’s practice is international resonant, or that her work has a “singular ability to touch its viewers,” points out Renee Baert (‘Troubling Borders’ in Shilpa Gupta: Will We Ever Be Able to Mark Enough, 2011-12)

Her interactive sound installation ‘Speaking Wall’, activated by motion sensor, plays to the authoritative nature of the medium. The artist’s direct instructions to the viewer (move back/move forward) are spliced with a poetic monologue on borders: both in the geopolitical sense and with respect to the delineation of space defined by the installation. The sense of distance, surveillance and bureaucracy imposed by the electronic display is embraced and then displaced by the artist’s contrasting use of instructional and conversational tone.

The two video works in the exhibition, ‘Untitled’ (2012) and ‘One Hundred Hand Drawn Maps of India’ (2007-2012), are similarly sensitive in their use of space and medium.  Both are very intimate in scale, drawing the viewer in close (or in the case of ‘Untitled’, crouched to the ground to meet the plane of the video) for the best vantage point.

‘One Hundred Hand Drawn Maps of India’, a sparsely animated collection of drawings of the Indian map, draws us into the complexities of man-made borders. The final work in the exhibition, a cloth wall-hanging embroidered with machine-sewn stars titled ‘Stars on Flags of the World’ (2011- 2012), speaks to ideas of geographies, imagined communities and nationhood.  In her choice of form for this particular work the artist flouts any perceived allegiance to digital media and instead heeds the material conventions of her subject matter, the flag.

A versatile multi-media practitioner

In her new solo showcase comprising an installation work, video and sculpture on view at MAAP Space in Brisbane, Australia, artist Shilpa Gupta acquaints the viewers with some unique aspects of her work. Underlining the uniqueness of her presentation, a press release makes the following observations:  
  • Launching her career in 1997, with a strong focus on media and interactive art, Shilpa Gupta’s work has come to be internationally regarded for its commentary on the intertwining of the political and the personal across a vast range of contemporary issues.
  • Shilpa Gupta trained in sculpture, started her practice with Installation, moved to interactive installation, and then video and digital image, however, her work also typically integrates low-tech materials found in everyday life, for example soap, string, bricks.
  • She is interested in human perception and how information, visible or invisible, is transmitted and internalized in everyday life. Constantly drawn to how objects are defined and how places, people, experiences are identified, she explores zones where these definitions are played out, be it borderlines, labels or ideas of censorship and security.
  • Though overtly political, Gupta avoids sensationalism by parsing her subject matter through personal and private experience.  Indeed, her work engages the viewer with intimacy, dialogue and emotional intensity; direct but never didactic.
  • Shilpa Gupta employs digital media in the form of online art projects and video environments fused with sculptural and photographic elements. Her projects over the years have touched upon the theme of border crisis between India and Pakistan, and the resulting tension. For instance, her video installation ‘Hardly bear to Speak’ (at Yvon Lambert, Paris; 2009) comprised four monitors with vibrating portraits of the four judges appointed to decide the division of India and Pakistan.
  • The talented artist’s recent work encompasses a wide range of materials including photographs, video, interactive media, sculptural objects, websites and audio. Contemporary technologies play an important role in Gupta’s practice, and her work demonstrates a willful command over both media and message.

Breaking the mold to voice aesthetic and political concerns

He is a restless and socially aware practitioner who inevitably lets out his aesthetic and political voices, applying his imagination, innovation and interpretations, in the process.

Not bound by any particular technique, he looks to break personal ground, by mixing up an array of styles and media including the internet, digital photography, typography, photocopies, charcoal etc.

Spotting the talent in him, Bose Krishnamachari included Prasad Raghvan’s works in a group show courtesy the Guild Art, Mumbai in 2007. Mumbai based Gallery BMB conceptualized by the renowned artist-curator presented the first solo show of this upcoming and talented artist in 2010 that provided an insight into his personal aesthetic.

He had borrowed the title from cinematic terminology, even tilting the jargon (calling it a ‘Tilt Shot’, he calls it, ‘Shot-Tilt’), playing out both in the mundane and the transcended. The idea of desire and false promises was explored in the series, as he stated, “We live in a society that constantly generates desire. We’re made into consuming subjects. There are a lot of false promises around us, which make us voracious consumers. The result is garbage and guilt. My idea is to analyze and understand desire and false promises through the creation of ‘false icons’ and the images of garbage, sin and guilt.”

His unique body of work has been widely exhibited at venues and events like ‘Dialogue’, W+K EXP, Delhi (2011); ArtGwangju, South Korea (2010); ‘The Trojan Works’, 1x1 Contemporary, Dubai (2010); ‘Everywhere is war’, Bodhi Art, Mumbai. ‘Freedom to March’, Lalit Kala Akademi/Ojas Art, Delhi (2010); Under The Banyan Tree’, ESSL Museum, Vienna (2010), ‘Public Enemy Number 1’, Exhibit 320, Delhi (2010); ‘Generation in Transition’, Zacheta National Gallery of Art, Warsaw (2010); ‘Indian popular culture & beyond’, Alcala31, Madrid (2009); ‘Video Wednesdays@ Gallery Espace’, Delhi; and ‘Everything’, Willem Baars Projects, Amsterdam (2008).

Prasad Raghvan can be described as an artist who breaks the mold to voice his intense aesthetic and political concerns.

Monday, July 29, 2013

An artist known for her self-reflexive practice

Dynamic and equally diverse multidisciplinary oeuvre of talented Tejal Shah incorporates a gamut of media and forms such as video, photography, installation and performance. She looks to explore biopower, the perceived social construction of normalcy, and issues about the relationship existing between knowledge and power in the constitution of subjects, identities and social relations.

One of her recent noteworthy works is ‘Between the Waves’, a five-channel video installation. An accompanying artist statement explains: “The earliest known visual representations of a single horned animal – Unicorn – have been excavated from the archeological sites of Indus Valley Civilization. Appearing on seals and tablets, whether these designate a real or mythical animal remains unknown, just as the pictographic language of the civilization remains undeciphered.

“These seals surface as chapter markers in the circular fable Between the Waves. In popular imagination, Unicorns are associated with Western mythology but through this performative video installation, the artist brings them back to their supposed original home, a region to which Shah also traces her family lineage.”

She looks to pack in multiple layers of references. For example, while her Unicorns are eternally mutating humanimals, they build upon Rebecca Horn’s Einhorn (presented at Documenta V, 1972). Horn herself references Frida Khalo’s ‘The Broken Column’ (1944) as her point of departure. Informed by diverse sources from different histories - stories from various disenfranchised subcultures - she transcends otherness. Apart from the core concerns, which form a contextual reference point, the vicissitudes of gender and culture also function as a site her work wherein she underscores the contradictions inherent in the braiding of the personal and the political.

Her works have been shown widely in several museums, art galleries and film festivals . A recipient of the Sanskriti Award for visual arts (2009), her works are in several major collections in India and abroad such as Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris and Devi Art Foundation in New Delhi. In 2003-4, she co-founded and curated Larzish, a International Film Festival of Sexuality and Gender Plurality.

‘When Britain Went Pop!’

‘When Britain Went Pop! is the title of a proposed exhibit that will explore the early revolutionary era of the fledgling British Pop Art movement. Incidentally, the show will unveil Christie's new space in Mayfair.  This is the first comprehensive showcase of British Pop Art to be held in London. A press release states: “It aims to show how Pop Art began in Britain and how British artists such as Richard Hamilton, Peter Blake, David Hockney, Allen Jones and Patrick Caulfield irrevocably shifted the boundaries between popular culture and fine art, leaving a legacy both in Britain and abroad.”

A key feature of the exhibition by Christie’s, in association with Waddington Custot Galleries to be staged in October 2013 is a collaboration with the artists associated with the Pop Art movement and their families, and collectors lending works of British Pop Art from their collections. These include:

Gerald Laing's ‘Lincoln Convertible’

Richard Hamilton’s ‘Swingeing London, Peter Blake’s Everly Wall’

Colin Self’s ‘Leopardskin Nuclear Bomber No. 1’

Allen Jones’ ‘First Step’

Other artists exhibited in the show include Clive Barker, Pauline Boty, Derek Boshier, Antony Donaldson, Patrick Caulfield, Jann Haworth, R.B. Kitaj, Gerald Laing, David Hockney, Nicholas Monro, Peter Phillips, Eduardo Paolozzi, Joe Tilson, and Richard Smith.

British Pop Art was last explored in depth in the UK in 1991 as part of the Royal Academy’s survey exhibition of International Pop Art. This exhibition seeks to bring a fresh engagement with an influential movement long celebrated by collectors and museums alike, but many of whose artists have been overlooked in recent years.

‘When Britain Went Pop!’ looks at an era not only of ground-breaking artists but also of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and the Swinging 60s. A multimedia and diverse movement, British Pop Art was vividly documented in Bryan Robertson, John Russell and Lord Snowdon’s seminal book from 1965, Private View: The Lively World of British Art, and the catalogue will also illustrate a selection of Lord Snowdon’s original photographs from the book, as well as the film ‘Pop goes the Easel’ and other contextual material to bring this period to life.

Check the relevant papers before you buy an artwork

It is always a wise idea to ensure the worth of what you wish to own. In other words, before you buy an artwork, check the relevant papers.

1. The documents that prove ownership and the real indication of market value are as important as the work itself. In the previous blog, we have followed how it is advisable to make sure that you authenticate the work you wish to buy. While acquiring the artists who are no more and even the contemporary artists currently in spotlight, check the works for authenticity.

2. Apart from the proof of authenticity, another important aspect is provenance. Two key questions to be asked are: Who first acquired the work? Where was the work shown and stored? You may request for catalogues and any other relevant source where it may have been displayed or published. Ask for auction papers or purchase receipts, if the seller is willing to show them.

3. In any case, you will have to go by the prevailing price benchmark. You may seek the framer’s bill, restoration bill (and such paperwork) that goes to show the ownership trail, and provides a clue to the work’s history.

4. More and more galleries now provide a certificate to substantiate authenticity and transfer of ownership. The well-established auction houses mostly issue these certificates for the purchased work with some preconditions. The broader point is if you acquire a work sans the required paperwork, you may get a good bargain but you may end up getting a raw deal, ultimately.

5. You cannot sell it later close to its deserved value if the work is not backed by the requisite paperwork. It is better to go for higher priced, authenticated art, as it will guarantee good returns in the long term. It leaves out guesswork from the buying or selling quote and gives it a fair value.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

‘Maximum Bose’

A significant solo show at Gallery 7 in Mumbai marks renowned artist Bose Krishnamachari’s return to the city after a gap of almost three years. Obviously the entire art fraternity is elated.

Back in year 2010, Bose and Riyas Komu received a favorable response for their idea of Kochi-Muziris Biennale by the culture ministry of Kerala. This art project of ambitious international scale was designed to resemble the depth and extent of the world-famous Venice Biennale. The event started in December 2012, and carried on until March this year.

Both were obviously busy organizing it. Having successfully completed the event, Bose is back with a solo in the city, much to the delight of all art lovers. He quips in an interview, “I am based out of Mumbai, so I keep going back and forth, but yes, the Biennale has kept me busy. I’m quite a fast worker, so all these paintings were done very recently. If you have to, you find time for anything.”

A news report by Shweta Mehta of The Hindustan Times sums up the show in his own words as follows: “I believe that colors can play a magical role and transform a body. They can sculpt something that is formless or abstract. They share positive vibes and represent maximum freshness, happiness, depth, layers and texture.” Elaborating further on its core theme, he states the works are all about color and life.

The show is not large, with 12 paintings on view, but the artist himself is quite content with his output and the end result. Usually, his art shows are sprinkled with a peculiar piece of furniture or a work in mixed media. This time though, Bose has not been able to incorporate anything of that sort. He still has tried to experiment with a circular frame. It’s something that the versatile artist has not done before.

An exhibition of the world’s great Pop Art superstar

Christie’s Private Sales has announced a pop-up exhibition as part of a multi-year, multi-platform partnership with The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. It will make available to the public a curated group of more than 20 paintings, photographs, prints and works on paper by the Pop Art superstar, with price points ranging from $2,000 - $35,000, many of which have never been seen before.

Admission to the exhibition is free and open to the public. As with all sales in Andy Warhol at Christie’s—including live auctions, online-only auctions and private sales — all works are drawn from the collection of The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, with proceeds benefitting the Foundation’s grant-making programs. The Aspen Art Museum, a grant recipient of the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, will co-host a cocktail reception with Christie’s at the 212 Gallery.

Aspen Art Museum Nancy and Bob Magoon CEO and Director, Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson comments: “In 2009 the Aspen Art Museum received our first generous $100,000 gift from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. It was an extremely gratifying acknowledgment of our mission to provide access to important contemporary visual art from around the globe. The Warhol Foundation continues to provide key funding in the AAM's ever-expanding role, as a second time recipient, four years later.”

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

The selling event will be held August 7-9, 2013, at the 212 Gallery.

Challenging the norms as a creator and curator

As a creator, curator and practitioner of art in various forms and domains, Bose Krishnamachari likes to challenge and defy conventional concepts of art practices. For instance, ‘Panorama: India’ curated by him offered a fascinating overview of contemporary Indian art at ARCO Madrid 2009.

Vision as a curator
'Panorama: India’ proved to be the perfect platform for promoting the best of contemporary art from the country to international audiences. Another important exhibition curated by him ‘Everything 2008’ was hosted The Westerhuis, Amsterdam. As his curatorial note elaborated: “Photographer, sculptor, graphic designer, painter; in my concept ‘Every One is an Artist’. My concern is not with any style of practice but instead I see their concerns in how they run through art making.”

Though he put up a show, entitled ‘Double Enders’ (2005), comprising artists from his home state Kerala, he believes that art cannot be bound by regions. He mentions, “An artist should be aware of global trends and should be sensitive to undercurrents in society, which will make his or her art stand the test of time. The new generation of artists has imbibed the global influence in their work, which is heartening.”

Always keen to experiment in diverse forms
The multi-faceted artist has worked in a diverse range of media like painting (abstract as well as figurative) photography, cultural assemblages and installation. It’s important to try out new things, he emphasizes. In one such installation experiment, ‘LaVA’ ((Laboratory of Visual Arts) in 2006 he provided a reference point for various visual art practices with a focus on the five decades in design, photography, art and architecture. It was a statement on the inadequacies of existing institutions, and was an artistic intervention for him.

Philosophy as an artist
Memories that sift through the sieve of time and perspective become versions of potent reality in his own creations. He quips, “Everything, albeit impermanent, is connected to memory. The public memory may be short, especially in today’s fast-paced world. Yet, human memory as against computer memory is precious. Everything is ultimately an invention of one’s memory, and how much of it one recollects, retains and reprocesses.”

Elaborating on his philosophy as an artist, he has once stated: “Consistency in art works is a premeditated, prescriptive approach and I do not believe in it. Liberation from consistency or styles is the direction of my art.” The process of discovery (coupled with the intention) remains more crucial and critical to him than the end output.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Three artists, three themes and three processes

Entitled ‘Visions from Beyond: A Foray into Metaphysics & Materiality’, a new exhibition at the Mumbai-based Galerie ISA highlights the facets of three talented practitioners: Daniel Lergon, Dan Rees and Mindy Shapero.

Duality of light and matter
For German artist Daniel Lergon, this shift between ice and iron serves as a metaphor for the opposition of white retroreflective and water on iron paintings, or in other terms, for the duality of light and matter. Color can be generated by painting with various lacquers and varnishes on retro-reflective fabric that react on contact, and also by the effect of water on materials such as iron. Though Lergon used to work with pigments earlier in his practice, he now restricts himself to transparent media. This means that the nature of the various materials he works with and the process itself are implicated and instrumental to the result.
Blending reproduction and recognition
Berlin-based artist, Dan Rees does not reduce his practice to a single medium, rather he prefers to create what he describes as a kind of conversation or collaboration. This involves Rees incorporating sculpture and painting into a 'modus operandi' that treats the process of reproduction and recognition as a medium in itself. Rees' work is littered with references to conceptual art practice yet, he refuses to commit to a narrow, elitist approach, preferring instead to borrow from pop culture and to use materials and processes that are riven with connections to childhood craft and every- day life such as plasticine, plaster – even cake.
A convincing alternate universe
The Los Angeles-based artist, Mindy Shapero creates a convincing alternate universe within which her drawings and sculptures take on totemic properties. Though she works with objects that necessarily engage with formalist concerns, her practice is more concerned with narrative than with making 'things'. This notwithstanding, just as Lergon's works are paradoxical in their contradiction between a labor intensive process and 'easy' appearance so Shapero's objects are meticulously rendered and highly finished and thus there is a tension between their nature and purpose. Tension though is something that underpins Shapero's work and the artist and her practice seem to thrive on it.

‘Performing Histories’ and ‘Cut 'n' Paste’ at MOMA

A new installation at MOMA traces evolution of collage as both a cultural practice of layering, juxtaposition, and remix that configures the city and an aesthetic technique key to architectural representation. Exploring socio-political conditions and also reconsidering their own pasts, the artists in Performing Histories (1) look to deconstruct histories, focusing on their ambiguity and the impact of ideologies on individual as well as collective consciousness.

‘Cut 'n' Paste’
The ethos of collage shapes every aspect of contemporary culture, from the glut of signs and images to the many layers of digital information to the art of sampling. Organized by Pedro Gadanho (Curator & Phoebe Springstubb, Curatorial Assistant, Dept. of Architecture and Design) ‘Cut 'n' Paste: From Architectural Assemblage to Collage City  revisits early uses of collage.

Opening with the seamless digital collages that dominate contemporary architectural practice, this installation pairs the early photo-collages of Mies van der Rohe with avant-garde experiments in photomontage, graphic design, and film. Architectural thinkers Colin Rowe and Fred Koetter’s Collage City (1978), an urban manifesto for the medium, provides a backdrop through which to reframe contemporary uses. As an architectural tool, this wide-ranging medium mixes high and popular references and offers a dynamic, inventive connection to cultural context.
Performing Histories (1)
In recent decades, artists have increasingly chosen to employ performance in conjunction with cinematic mediums, such as film, slide projection, video, and photography, in orderto create multifaceted narratives and provide new readings of past events. The series presents works that use time-based art forms to reflect on interpretations of history. The works, which have all recently entered the Museum's collection, represent the diverse practices of the artists: Kader Attia (b. France, 1970), Andrea Fraser (b. USA, 1965), Ion Grigorescu (b. Romania, 1945), Sharon Hayes (b. USA, 1970), Dorit Margreiter (b. Austria, 1967), Deimantas Narkevičius (b. Lithuania, 1964), and Martha Rosler (b. USA, 1943).

The practices, exemplified in these works, of revisiting existing narratives and examining one’s own cultural, social, and personal history are not bound to any specific medium; they are part of critical artistic practice, in general. The installation guides the visitors through a space of diverse readings in which connections can be drawn across different perspectives on history.

Collection of Greek shipping magnate George Economou

What are the inspirations and aspirations of the world’s top art collectors? Is it true that they tend to rely more on instinct, but their ability to spot the best talent across the world cannot be denied. Importantly, majority of them are keen to institutionalize their rich collections.

George Economou, the Greek shipping magnate is known to eschew buying spree at Christie's, Sotheby's and top international galleries. He sticks to smaller exhibition spaces and auction houses in Germany and Austria. He has been in the maritime industry for over 30 years and has served as Chairman, President and CEO of Dryships, among the largest U.S.-listed dry bulk companies. Known to be an uncommon collector, he acquires paintings and drawings at a rather feverish pace (between 150 and 200 artworks every year or about two to three a week), sniffed out and gathered with the help of his faithful full-time advisor Dimitris Gravanis.

The maverick collector prefers to collect without a pattern, and indulges in the act of buying act on basis of first impression, though there is a predilection for early 20th-century lesser known Austrian and German artists. Select works by renowned artists like Picasso, Magritte, Kees Van Dongen, and Twombly also dot the Greek billionaire's vast collection. He owns possibly the world's largest ever collection of Otto Dix prints, apart from a sizable chunk of African masks, photographic works and even pinball machines.

Dealers close to him also fail to figure out his collecting acumen and methodology. He generally pays lower prices for upcoming and lesser known artists, buying their works ‘with his eye first before carrying out a second evaluation. Economou, who has never resold any of his works, is keen to build a museum of his own. According to him, at some point, there will be enough stuff to fill; for now, at his secluded private viewing space, there are small untitled Gerhard Richter works, screenprint by Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg's ‘City Pattern - Roci Berlin’, a selection of fascist-era paintings, and pieces by George Grosz, who criticized fascism.

Friday, July 26, 2013

‘Barbed Floss’ at The Guild

Curated by Veeranganakumari Solanki, ‘Barbed Floss’ at The Guild is a group exhibition of new works and explorations by artists Tayeba Begum Lipi, Mahbubur Rahman, Promotesh Das Pulak, Molla Sagar, and Anisuzzaman Sohel.

An accompanying essay mentions: “Borders in any land scratch the land itself. Mahbubur Rahman’s works depict this pressure created by man-made systems of divisions that plug the natural flow of human relationships, communication and understanding. Borders themselves inherently have the quality of unusual movement that politically fluctuate social understanding amongst harmonious communities and pre-existing neighbourhoods. Rahman grew up in an older part of Dhaka that had the most interactive neighborhoods where people of different religions happily resided in its architectural beauty.

“In my childhood I used to hang out with my friends from one para (certain area with one society) to another para visiting all the old buildings, amongst which, some were abandoned and some badly maintained. People used to call these abandoned houses ‘enemy properties’. I wondered why they were called ‘enemy properties’...they did not belong to the anti Bangladeshi’s but Bangali Hindu communities before the 1971 war.” Suffocated and pressurized by borders, claustrophobia similar to type in operation theatres, creation of borders through barbed fences, visas, immigration and passports the artist creates sculptures out of stainless-steel scissors that depict the dissection and pressure of the spirit of freedom, while constantly protecting oneself and being on guard.

To deal “loudly with the heights and frights of political civilisation”, Anisuzzaman Sohel has created a series of mixed media works that include reflections of his own appearance to depict the projection of being a first-hand victim of the spoken partition. Describing his works as an “interior monologue”, the artist juxtaposes the sharp and the fine, the flowers with the daggers and clichés the freedom of birds with barbed wires. Sohel ploys beauty with brute, existing yet struggling unresolved at any given instance. His relationship with his works and imagination is a permeable border between hypo and hyper, real and surreal.

Veeranganakumari Solanki (b. 1985) is an independent curator and art-writer; based in Mumbai, India. She studied English Literature; and holds post-graduate diplomas in Indian Aesthetics; Art Criticism and Theory; as well as a Masters in History. Her curatorial experience has involved research, curating and writing for several art publications and journals on emerging Indian, Asian and international artists and art practices; in India as well as internationally.

‘Bombay Landscape’

Tina Chandroji’s artworks are a good example of an unusual and unconventional focus on the apparently mundane things so as to get a much clearer idea of the very complex. Through her series, ‘Bombay Landscape’ on view at Mumbai’s Tao art gallery the artist preserves and presents the city seen from her own perspective, an accompanying note by Sanjana Shah elaborates as follows:
  • “A city that is made of its hustle bustle, of the ordinary people doing ordinary things, of the markets and products that serve the inhabitants, without which the very livelihood of this city would dwindle,” . “Despite their being no actual presence of people in her paintings, the attention to detail given in the décor and interiors of the store, provide a clear idea of the lives and beliefs of the majority classes of people in Mumbai.”
  • “The inevitable central position of a god in each of her paintings be it Hanuman, Shiva, Saraswati, Jesus, or the Muslim aayat, is a tribute to the city’s multi-cultural and secular nature, a city belonging to not one but all its different residents. In the workplace especially, the day begins and ends with god and there is a common feeling of trust and dependency amongst the people of all religions towards god. This devotion has been passed on through the generations and it is the legacy of our ancestors, who are also respected by Indian customs and families.
  • “Without an awareness of the importance of all these small components in the larger picture of India, they will soon be lost beyond recovery. It seems that only through art can a balance be found, and the identity of the people conserved. Tina brings this fine balance and reminds the viewer of an India that is of its people, from its people and for its people.”
She looks to highlight the intricacies of our through her technique, using beautiful colors and performing upon her canvas a process of layering. An effort to depict the finer various finer shades of reality as well as the environ can be seen against the backdrop of modernization, giving rise to a fear of losing out the culture and traditions.

Visions from Beyond: A Foray into Metaphysics and Materiality

A group show of new works by artists Daniel Lergon, Dan Rees and Mindy Shapero takes place at Galerie ISA in Mumbai. Entitled ‘Visions from Beyond: A Foray into Metaphysics & Materiality’, the exhibition highlights the three talented practitioners: Daniel Lergon, Dan Rees and Mindy Shapero.

Curator Jane Neal mentions: “The quest for finding a way of working that is situated at an intersection between the physical and the spiritual is a unifying factor between them. They share a desire to explore a vision that is beyond reality. This leads them in diverse directions and manifests itself in distinctly disparate working methods, yet the need to question and disrupt; to find the rub which challenges expectations is gratifyingly evident in all of their practices and forays into metaphysics and materiality.” Though they share a common interest in the field of abstraction, each artist has his or her own distinct focus.

Lergon has long been fascinated by the dialogue between light and materiality. Since his training at the Universität der Künste (UdK), Berlin, Lergon's work has consistently reflected his interest in color and the results of light's interaction with different surfaces. Unlike most artists who apply color onto a neutral surface, Lergon's surfaces are dynamic and volatile, as are his mediums.

On the other hand, a gentle humor runs through Rees' work, this is evident in his irreverent references to famous conceptual works, but though gently mocking and witty, Rees is cleverly addressing the situation common to all young artists living and working today: the question of what to do with their inheritance?

Mindy Shapero draws from both art historical tradition and from outsider practices and spiritual experiences. Shamanism and symbolism allow the artist to transcend the physical plane yet she retains a connection to modernist notions through formalism. Lest we should become too concerned with the literal, Shapero disrupts our reading of her work with her deliberately long and convoluted titles; jumbles of words that reach out beyond reality for the mystical and supernatural.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Borders, exchange, displacement and relationships

The works that form part of a new group show at the Mumbai-based Guild Gallery serve as homage to the resonating hollow cry traversing politics, going beyond countries, continents; across borders and over wires into freedom, peace and harmony to floss homes, families, oceans, fields, land and skies. Here’s what an accompanying essay mention of the art and artists on view:
  • Promotesh Das Pulak (b.1980) completed his BFA and MFA from the Faculty of Fine Arts at the University of Dhaka in Bangladesh. He is a member of the Britto Arts trust and has exhibited his work in several shows in Dhaka as well as internationally. Pulak was also represented at the Bangladesh Pavilion at the 54th Venice Biennale; and has participated in several art workshops. Pulak lives and works in Dhaka.
  • ‘Borders, the name of politics’; by Molla Sagar is the story of Bijoy Sircar, a well-known bard of Bengal, who was unable to let go of his affinity towards his land and people. In 1947 – post partitions – he decided to stay behind in East Bengal, which later came to be known as Bangladesh. “The relationship of the soul that exists between each of us, was deepened by his songs. Ten million people took shelter in our neighbouring India in 1971.
  • However, the expectation this man had from Bangladesh post 1971 independence, his notion of this nation, was estranged after 1974. Bijoy Sarkar had to leave this country. While leaving his motherland, he sung on. In the song, is captured the emptiness felt by all the people of this world, leaving their home lands for the unknown.” Sagar recreates this in his video through a performance of Bijoy Sircar’s ‘Bichchhedi Gaan’ (Songs of Estrangement), which was a plea to remove from our minds and souls the fencing wires of laws and borders.
  • Molla Sagar (b. 1975), an artist and documentary film maker and cinematographer, who works with the mediums of video, photography and new-media. He has exhibited his works in solo and group shows internationally and his films have been screened at several international festivals and exhibitions. Molla Sagar currently lives and works in Dhaka.

‘As Within…so Without’

Gallery Art Musings presents a joint show of paintings by senior artists Ram Kumar and Ganesh Haloi. The two are considered among the most accomplished abstractionists in India. The former from New Delhi and the latter from Kolkata have devoted themselves to the activation of the non-representational painted surface for several decades.

Both continue to renew their chosen idiom with an admirable energy of inventiveness that is matched by a magical richness of emotion. Ram Kumar’s paintings open out in sweeps of ochre, viridian and aquamarine, as he mounts his contemplations of the cosmic cycle of creation, dissolution and regeneration.

An elegy for the loss of landscape
An accompanying note explains: “A residual geography and a notational architecture creep into the grandeur of the entropic universe: stray signs of settlement and activity surface through the wreckage of a shattered world. Ganesh Haloi’s paintings encode an elegy for the loss of landscape; in their kaleidoscopic evocation of rivers and hills, marshes and lakes, they speak of the cartographies of a homeland that can be recovered only in longing. His works are lyrical hymns to the natural world, its splendor recalled through detail and notation, the fragment rather than the vista.”

Haloi’s art transits between the moods of festivity and pensiveness: in its festive aspect, it celebrates the self’s dissolution in the cosmic panorama; but in more pensive mood, it communicates the difficulty of crafting symbols with which to sign of the struggle against the treacheries of experience.

Quest for an indigenist tenor
Ram Kumar, like many of his confreres among the first generation of post-colonial Indian artists, including F N Souza, M F Husain, S H Raza and Akbar Padamsee, combined an internationalist desire with the need to belong emphatically to their homeland. This need prompted an interest in the construction of a viable ‘Indian’ aesthetic that bore a dynamic relationship to an Indian identity.

With Ram Kumar, this quest for an indigenist tenor has not meant a superficial inventory of ‘native’ motifs offered as evidence of a static and essentialist Indian identity. Instead he demonstrates that a painter can enact the innermost dramas of his culture while maintaining the individuality of his performance. Ram Kumar’s art, which has proceeded through an alternation of joyous expressivity and brooding reticence, plays out a crucial polarity of emphasis in the context of Indic culture: that between samsara, the sensual participation in the world of events, and nirvana, the ascetic blowing-out of desire.

An interface between the everyday objects and art

‘A Very Light Art’, an unconventional group exhibition at Ca’ Rezzonico of 18th century Venice, soaks it in an intriguing albeit contemporary interface between the everyday object and art. The works presented are a reflection about deft design, plus a study of the artists’ historic role in relation to the built environment. Top artists across the world, who see space and material in close relation to context, feature in the project.

The unique element of their works – lighting structures and mobiles – is their emphasis on both craftsmanship and technical finesse. For instance, Cerith Wyn Evans has opted to rewire the much famed Ca’ Rezzonico chandelier fabricated in the XVIII century’s second half by Giuseppe Briati, structured in the form of a ‘pagoda’ in white glass with polychromy ornament. Evans’s chandelier is meant to flicker to the tune of the music - a subtle and poetic “détournement” of history that captures the melancholy unique to Venice.

Flavio Favelli, known for his magical transformations of common household objects, and their ravishing recomposition into superlative sculptures, exudes poetry. Gilded frames carrying velvet curtains, regal mirrors with surfaces washed away, or recomposed chandeliers turned from elements that are kitsch, into objects of grandeur and beauty. Each astounding object created by Mario Airò reveals its usefulness, yet can stand alone as a sculpture. Stefano Arienti has proposed a small forest of trees composed of branches, with votive candles hanging from them.

Luigi Ontani offers his signature inversion of names and myths, in a series of works that seem contrived specifically for the Ca’ Rezzonico, but in fact, predate the exhibition. Gabriel Orozco is featured in the selection of two marvelous mobiles, enormous and ultra-light contraptions fabricated from hundreds of feathers. His easy play stems from a deep knowledge of sculpture and materials, as well as predecessors from Calder to Mirò. Heimo Zobernig’s specially produced light object, a lamp that does not shed light so much as attract attention for its rare beauty, is actually the largest glass size that can be blown in Murano.

The Centre Pompidou

The Paris-based Centre Pompidou serves as a platform for exchanges between society and contemporary creation. A popular venue designed for the entire French populace, the Centre Pompidou closely follows the world of contemporary design and establishes links with a number of artists, particularly those on the French scene.

In response to these challenges, the cultural programme of the Centre Pompidou has been designed around three dimensions (exposition of the history of art, multidisciplinary thematic exhibitions and monographs of contemporary designers) and a new multidisciplinary vision.

The institution not only has a presence in Paris and Ile-de-France, but seeks to develop its activity countrywide with a firm commitment to cultural decentralization. Furthermore, because it is tasked with maintaining and developing a national collection of modern and contemporary art, it is committed to honouring this heritage role as part of its essential mission, thus playing an active part in the study and popularisation of the history of art – one of the main tasks of MNAM.

The Centre Pompidou was inaugurated on 31 January 1977. Since its opening to the public on 2 February, 1977, it has proved a huge success, far exceeding expectations. It quickly became one of the world's most popular cultural venues and one of the most visited monuments in France. The late 70s and 80s saw the Centre offer exhibitions that became legends in their time, such as the "Paris." series ("Paris-New York", "Paris-Berlin", "Paris-Moscow", "Paris Paris"),"Vienna, birth of a century", "The Immaterials","Memories of the Future", "Maps and Figures of Earth", "Magicians of the Earth". Under the leadership of its directors, Pontus Hulten and Dominique Bozo, the MNAM collection grew considerably and became a world leader in the field of modern and contemporary art.

Following a comprehensive reform of the Centre Pompidou's organization with the creation in particular of the Department of Cultural Development (DDC), encompassing live performances, film and the spoken word, the merger of MNAM and CCI led to the creation of an architecture and design collection which in twenty years would become one of the most remarkable in the world.

After twenty years of activity and after having welcomed over 150 million visitors, the Centre Pompidou underwent extensive renovation work at the initiative of then President Jean-Jacques Aillagon. The state allocated resources to create the additional space required for the presentation of collections and development of the performing arts.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

How and why is digital art offering fast becoming popular?

Over the last decade or so, the realm of art has immensely expanded, with major events, festivals and exhibitions occurring around the world. Investors and collectors often find it not so viable and practicable to personally visit each venue and each program. For those not wanting to miss out yet, the Internet has emerged as a perfect alternative.

Tech-savvy art buyers seem more prepared than ever to spend big sums for acquiring art online. They are tempted by the thought of not having to rush through a sprawling art fair or personally visiting a gallery. Even those averse to buying without personally inspecting a work first, are joining a new wave of digital art ventures.

One clear advantage of digital offering is that it can draw new potential buyers. This is significant considering the fact that over half of Christie’s online bidders till just a couple of years ago had never registered for any of its auctions before. The trend is indeed significant, as Kelly Crow and Ellen Gamerman of The WSJ had noted in a news report last year: “The need to quickly and easily access art collectors around the globe has never been greater, as more and more powerful buyers emerge from countries in Asia, Russia and the Middle East.”

An innovative art project courtesy Google already lets viewers world over select leading museums (Alte Nationalgalerie, Germany; MoMA, USA; Museo Reina Sofia, Spain; Museum Kampa, Czech Republic; National Gallery, UK; Rijksmuseum, The Netherlands; Tate Britain, Uffizi Gallery, Italy, to name a few).

Art lovers can explore the works as well as create and share their customized collections. They can  select an art collection, an artist or a work; visit the above institutions virtually; filter works of artby medium or make a search by keyword. They can create/share their selection of works in the 'My Galleries' section and also explore other users’ personal galleries.

While the online sojourn cannot be a substitute for the real or offline experience of these historic venues, there’s something noteworthy about grasping the coded secrets of top artists, up close on the Art Project.

A spotlight on Musée d’Art Contemporain

Situated within Cité Internationale of Lyon, by the Rhone banks and just near the pa rk Tete d’Or, the Musée d’Art Contemporain is right at the heart of a pleasant and scenic area. The production of artworks in direct collaboration with the artist has become a part of its collection.

This has also given a chance to artists for experimenting with form, dimension and idea, and for creating work in sync with the space itself. The museum space could be modified, in order to meet the demands of the artists using it as well as the diverse curatorial ventures.

The Musée d’Art Contemporain de Lyon has maintained a unique relationship between its eclectic collection and rich exhibition. The relationship has further been strengthened because of meaningful productions, timely acquisitions, donations and deposits of works. Between 1984-92, the art collection gained from financing from the city of Lyon and also from the Government of France. Since 1996, the activities have been funded largely by the city of Lyon as well as the Fonds Régional d’Acquisition pour les Musées. The collection now boasts over 1100 art works.

In 2011, it hosted a comprehensive show of contemporary Indian art, entitled 'Indian Highway IV'. In the curious form of a road movie spread across three continents (South America, Asia and Europe), each stage along the massive and ambitious group show, entitled ‘Indian Highway’, was the platform for a totally new art episode. After London, Herning and Oslo, Lyon staged the 4th episode; it offered a panorama of contemporary Indian art through some exquisite works by several talented artists. Julia Peyton-Jones, Hans-Ulrich Obrist, Gunnar B. Kvaran and Thierry Raspail were the show curators.

Among the participating artists were Bharti Kher, Bose Krishnamachari, Nikhil Chopra, Desire Machine Collective, Sarnath Banerjee, Subodh Gupta, N.S. Harsha, Jitish Kallat, Nalini Malani, Jagannath Panda, Prajakta Potnis, Raqs Media Collective, Sheela Gowda, Sakshi Gupta, Shilpa Gupta, Tejal Shah, Valay Shende, Sudarshan Shetty, Dayanita Singh, Sumakshi Singh, Kiran Subbaiah, Thukral & Tagra, and Hema Upadhyay among others.

Carl-Henning Pedersen, 100 Years

The famous Danish COBRA painter, if alive, would have celebrated a century of fruitful and creative life, this year. To mark his birth centenary, ARKEN is hosting a grand showcase of more than 200 of the master artist’s paintings, drawings, watercolors, sculptures, ceramic works, mosaics, and even poems. Here are a few highlights of the event and the artist’s career:
  • Carl-Henning Pedersen had a very strong urge to create and throughout his life he sought to conjure up the direct, spontaneous image. At the end of the 1930’s a group of artists in Denmark broke away from the naturalistic school of painting, and with great talent and courage created a new, expressionistic imagery. These were the artists which later established contact with international art circles through the COBRA group. Pedersen was one of the most outstanding of these, and his art greatly influenced most of the members of the group.
  • His poetic talent and particularly his appreciation of the expressive powers of colour have inspired him to paint pictures of great dramatic beauty and originality. He sought the purity of the child and drew inspiration from so-called primitive folk art from all over the world. Birds, masks, suns, stars, horses, sea and sky are recurring symbolic features of his imagery, and his art is inspired by the free universe of dreams.
  • The artworks have been carefully selected from among the many thousand that Carl-Henning Pedersen created over seven decades. In connection with the exhibition, the museum has also published a catalogue including a series of works and poems as well as articles that explore new art-historical themes in Carl-Henning Pedersen's oeuvre.
The exhibition, done in collaboration with the Carl-Henning Pedersen & Else Alfelt Museum, shows works from his vast oeuvre from the end of the 1930s up to his death in 2007. Visitors can also see a documentary film (Carl-Henning Pedersen – the spontaneous painter) that ARKEN has produced in collaboration with the Danish broadcasting corporation DR.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Is art a defensive purchase?

Artvest co-founder, Michael Plummer, stated at the recent Art Investment Council discussion mentioned that the scenario can play out very fast. Explaining his point, the expert pointed out, “In the fall of 1990, I was at a contemporary art auction at Sotheby’s. In that one night, the market crashed. Suddenly, half the lots didn’t sell and very important paintings were bought in. The same happened again in the fall of 2008.”

However, the current indicators seem pretty solid as underlined by the ambitious Impressionist, Modern & Contemporary sales that took place last in June in London. They produced decent results (if not amazing). What about the broader art market in context of quantitative easing program or its withdrawal, though?

Trying to draw a picture of her own, Tully mentions: “If art is supposed to be defensive purchase as well a safe haven and the Fed is signaling that the economy is finally doing better, shouldn’t people be selling their Warhols and opting for growth stocks?  After all, the gold and silver prices have also plummeted recently and everyone loves to lump Silver, Wine, Art & Gold (SWAG assets) in the same bucket.”

So how will be the longer-term trend like? Will the stock market crash and continue to do well, while the art market strengthens as an anti-dote or vice versa? The market watcher feels that even while some buyers consider art more as ‘a safe haven’, there are many others who purchase it since they are of confident of racking up massive returns.

And the more the latter motivation comes to surface in the contemporary art market, the more it will get correlated to equities. On the contrary, even more will continue buying art simply because they genuinely love it. And until they do not any longer have the means at their disposal to take it home, come what may, they will continue buying.

Passionate about expressing human concerns

Arpana Kaur’s paintings largely exhibit social, political and the environment concerns, the gender issues, the growing intolerance, rising violence and the condition of women. Her work, mostly figurative, draws its strength from an array of sources like her immediate realm, Kabir’s spiritual writings and the people around.

A recipient of the AIFACS award, this self-taught painter sought is one of India’s most celebrated and respected names in the domain of art. Born in 1954 in Delhi, her early art was influenced by her mother, an award-winning novelist-artist herself.

She sought inspiration from her mother’s novels and Punjabi folk literature, magnificent Indian folk-art motifs like the Pahari miniature tradition. Punjabi literature by writers like Amrita Pritam, Krishna Sobti and Shiv Batalvi has shaped her artistic perspective. When she ventured into the field of art, names like Anupam Sud and Mrinalini Mukherjee were also on the verge of earning respect and credibility for themselves.

Of course, she has come a long way. Since 1975, Arpana Caur has had 18 solos. Her paintings are in several prestigious collections including the NGMA, Delhi; Kust Museum, Dusseldorf; Victoria & Albert Museum, London; Ethnographic Museum, Stockholm; Glenberra Museum, Japan; Singapore Museum of Modern Art, among others.

Profiling an interesting side to her personality, Soumya M Nair of The Deccan Herald had mentioned in an essay, “She is not keen to talk about the social causes that she supports. Her spirit as a quiet, strait-laced person and artist comes out when she remarks that she thrives on the sheer ecstasy of the process of painting. I’m most happy sculpting, painting or etching.”

In spite of such diverse influences, her subjects are firmly rooted in the tender realm of women, associating them with commonplace acts, daydreaming, combing hair etc. She reveals that her identity as an artist and as an individual is bound by her roots. She quips, “Our country is a mixture of the old and new. Both urban and rural India coexist in the strangest of ways...”

Laxman Shreshtha's engaging art and life journey

Elaborating on his art practice, philosophy and processes, has ocne stated: "Painting for me is immediate, instantaneous, with neither beginning nor an end. It does not exist in time, but is continuous," adding his work in essence conveys something deeper and more fundamental after standing transfixed before it, coming across as a reflection of his sensitive mind. It’s this ability to connect and reach out to the viewer that makes one his paintings with his paintings.

His astute abstract works of art are both meditative and sensuous in their subtle shifts and deft balances of color. In them, one can notice a movement to spiritual peace and inner harmony from conflict and outer chaos. His canvases exude an energizing intermingling of vivid hues such as browns, oranges, blues, yellows and reds that capture and resonate with a wide array of human passions and expressions – brooding or cheerful.

Though abstract, they inhibit an apparent sense of intrigue, which encourages the viewer, and at times the artist himself, as he has revealed, to understand the various shades of meaning hidden in them. The celebrated artist’s oeuvre is intricately bound with the happenings in his life. It takes a cue from intense intellectual and emotional churning he has underwent over time, coming across as a reflection of his sensitive mind.

Renowned collectors such as Ratan Tata, the Godrejs, Harsh Goenka, Jehangir Nicholson, Stephen McCormick and Kumar Mangalam Birla have his works in their portfolios. Ratan Tata had even painted a work with Laxman Shreshta at a charity event in 2006. Believing what one recognizes inevitably manifests what lies within one, he invariably seeks to create a visual idiom ‘of and for himself’.

The idea has been to understand his life, which he equates with a tapasya (enormous suffering in quest of truth) that deeply surfaces in his paintings, ultimately a reconciliation to something more meaningful, creatively beautiful and brilliant.

Monday, July 22, 2013

An artist inspired by his own tumultuous life

Born in 1939 in Siraha in the neighboring Nepal, Laxman Shreshtha grew up in Darbhanga district in the state of Bihar. After securing a degree at the University of Patna, the aspiring artist moved to Mumbai to join the Sir J.J School of Art where he did a diploma in painting (1957 -62).

Later he went to Europe to further hone his skills at the Ecole Nationale des Beaux Arts in Paris followed by a stint at London’s Central School of Art (1970). During this crucial phase, he spent some fruitful time at the Academie Grande Chaumiere as well as S.W. Hayter’s Atelier 17, Paris (1964-67) apart from undertaking a study tour to Baltimore and San Francisco in 1971.

The observant practitioner’s oeuvre is intricately bound with the happenings in his life and takes a cue from intense intellectual and emotional churning he has underwent and struggle that he has made earlier. His engaging journey as an aristocratic family’s member to a faceless student almost facing starvation set him on a spiritual sojourn that has found an echo in his art.

He turned to Western philosophy, Upanishads and also Buddhism for solace and answers to his prolonged existentialist dilemma. His evolution as an artist has reflected these experiences. Many of his paintings depicted beautiful places he has visited like a series inspired by the Himalayan ranges. They carry the captivating colors of light, those of brilliance he has observed in the picturesque landscapes. In his recent landscapes, he has made use of geometrics and lots of white.

Among the contemporary painters from India, he has been associated with VS Gaitonde, MF Husain, Tyeb Mehta, and Akbar Padamsee, who inadvertently influenced him as an individual and as an artist. He was also influenced by Cezanne (his masterly treatment of space, Gaugain's simplified usage of color and the skill of composition); Van Gogh’s life, his letters sent to his brother and his paintings.

An artist who encapsulates the spirit of India

We need to peep in the past to understand Haku Shah's processes and philosophy. A new breed of sensitive and innovative Indian artists in the 1950s and early 1960s sought to integrate the traditional rich craft traditions of India with the then prevalent colonized art historical discourses and practices.

To put it in the words of Lewis Hyde, they were tricksters or ‘boundary crossers’! And some of them even created a boundary, or brought to the fore a totally new distinction or dimension. More than anything else, they were all skilled practitioners of deception. In this context, K.G. Subramanyan described the trickster in Haku Shah as one possessing disarming simplicity which was deceptive, lauding multiple talented and roles of the artist, historian and art scholar.

His artistic response to Nirgun poets, themselves considered ‘tricksters’ suggests this stimulating streak in his creative sojourn like their passionate poetry that was an outcome of the prevailing socio-political turmoil when rural culture gradually made way for urban culture. The period of transition was similar to the present one as reflected in the verses of Ramananda, Kabir, Krishna Chaitanya, Meera Bai, Sripadaraja, Vyasaraya, Namdeo, Amardas, Tulsidas, Surdas, and King Akbar himself. Haku Shah has responded to their verses and the everyday wisdom contained in them to paint captivating canvases.

Apart from publishing research-based books on Indian pottery, he has served as curator at the Museum for Tribal Cultures, Gujarat University, and as a consultant of NID. He has been associated with many prestigious institutions like the Tropical Museum, Amsterdam; the Mingi International Museum of World Folk Art, California; and the Museum of Mankind, London. He himself has collected exquisite and priceless art objects and has also documented their functional background, encouraging innovative forms of tribal art practice.

Summing up the essence of his practice and personality, a note mentions: “The most obvious personality trait of Haku Shah is his disarming simplicity. He is in this, quite the antithesis of the usual artist or art scholars who tend to carry their egos around them like enormous rigs, and, in their concern to keep them intact, lose touch with what is around. So, naturally his awareness of things and receptivity is larger.”

Jayashree Chakravarty’s artistic realm

For the senior artist, painting is a process of making sense of the chaos around. It’s a form of meditation to her – a journey back to the self. She mulls over the images that give an expression to her thoughts before she weaves actually paints them on canvas.

Jayashree Chakravarty is fascinated by this intriguing journey that leads to a creation, filled with many unforeseen challenges, making her to launch an inquiry, an investigation. This mode of communication, introspection keeps her going.

She elaborates, “The way I relate to and identify with string of thoughts before I put them on canvas, and then the laborious execution, are all part of a complex chain. All my understanding and state of mind needs to reflect in my work; that’s the real challenge. A piece of art is an individual’s creation and once others relate to it, it becomes universal in nature.”

Recounting her development as an artist, the artist mentions that she used to scribble on notebooks during her school days. One of her schoolteachers in Tripura, who was a prolific painter, encouraged her to draw. She narrates: “Act of painting always interested me. Even my parents, especially my father was very supportive. Instead of thrusting on me his likes or dislikes, he let me tread my own path, and follow my own instincts.”

Her compositions have several layered images, uneven sheets of colors, and also black & white pats. As a painter, she reacts to lines, which for her is akin to a word or a stroke. According to her, they (the lines) are very meaningful; very vital, and lead her to a different thought process. Summing up her artistic philosophy, she adds: “The aesthetic elements matter to me more than mere reflection of moral or social issues."

Sunday, July 21, 2013

‘I feel like a perpetual beginner.’

Laxman Shreshtha's debut exhibition took place at Mumbai’s Taj Art Gallery (1963), which led to several shows at some of the art venues in India and internationally. Among his selected solo exhibit are the ones at Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai (2008, 2003, 1994); ‘Elaborations’, Recent works in Black and White, Pundole Art Gallery, Mumbai (2007); ‘Inaugural Show’, Prithvi Art Gallery, Mumbai (1994); Gallery Chemould, Mumbai (1968); and a show at Tribhuwan College, Kathmandu, Nepal almost five decades ago.

His selected group shows are 'Aqua', Gallery Beyond, Mumbai’ 'One Eye Sees, the Other Feels', The Viewing Room, Mumbai (both in 2012); 'Point and Line to Plane VI', Gallery Beyond (2008); ‘Tribute to Picasso’, Guild Art Gallery, Mumbai (2002);; ‘Aspects of Modern Indian painting’, courtesy Saffronart and Pundole, Metropolitan Pavilion, New York (2002, 2001); ‘Ideas and Images – Part IV’, NGMA, Mumbai  (2002); and ‘The Search’, Apparao-Wallace Galleries, New York (1997).

Mention must also be made of shows ‘Image Beyond Image’, Glenbarra art Museum Collection, Japan, NGMA (1997); ’50 Years of Freedom of Expression’, Jehangir Gallery (1997); 25 Years of Indian Art, Rabindra Bhavan, Delhi (1972); Baltimore and San Francisco (1971); Maisons des Beaux Arts, Paris (1966); Salle de la Presse, French Foreign Ministry, Paris (1966); and ‘Inaugural Exhibition’, Gallery Chemould (1963)

His noteworthy participations include 'Master’s Corner' at Jehangir Gallery (2010); 'The Miniature Format Show', Sans Tache, Mumbai (2009); ‘Sixth Anniversary Show’, Pundole Art Gallery (1969); and 1st Triennale of World Art in Delhi way back in 1968. He has won several honors and awards such as Deutscher Akoclemischer Austcuschbienst West Germany (1978-79); I.V.P. Grant by the US Government (1971); British Council Grant (1970); Prix d' Honneur, International Art Exchange Exhibition, New York (1966); and French Government Scholarship (1964). 

Summing up his mindset as an individual and as an artist, Laxman Shreshtha has been quoted as saying in an interview: “I never ever think that I’m a master of all that I’m doing. Every time in front of a canvas, I feel like I’m a beginner - a perpetual beginner and I realize I cannot paint. This struggle leads to creation, which is truly fresh. I never create what I’ve known. I create to discard what I’ve already learnt and to move on so as to learn anew.”

‘Blue Room’ and ‘Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads'

Yang Shaobin is a significant name associated with the Chinese art scene post-1990s. A new exhibition, entitled ‘Blue Room’ by him at Denmark-based ARKEN Museum deals with the issue of responsibility - of taking responsibility and being held responsible. The venue also hosts a pivotal work by the controversial Chinese artist, Ai Weiwei.

Dealing with the issue of responsibility
One comes across large, blue paintings, with half-dissolved figures staring back from the canvases. Faces of well-known world leaders emerge, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and US President Barack Obama.

These well-known faces hang side by side with portraits of completely unknown adults and children, all victims of pollution and natural disasters. Yang Shaobin creates an encounter between the powerless, the powerful and the rest of us who look on. Shaobin got the idea for BLUE ROOM during a trip from Australia to China, just as the 2009 UN Climate Change Conference was kicking off in Copenhagen. Based on the conference, he started collecting material on pollution and natural disasters along with stories and photographs of some of the ordinary people impacted by the global climate changes.

 ‘Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads'

It’s among a few pivotal works by the controversial Chinese artist, Ai Weiwei, is on display at Denmark-based ARKEN Museum. The curious work represents the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac. As calendar signs, they have wide-ranging influence on everyday life in China. The significant group of sculptures was deposited at the instittuion by the Frahm Collection a month ago.

In 2010, Ai Weiwei recreated the circle of animals to trigger a discussion about national pride and self-image. Working from the seven existing heads, he added his own reinterpretations of the five missing heads. Ai Weiwei’s art revolves around human rights and criticism of Chinese society.

A press release elaborates: “The work is closely tied to Chinese history. In the 18th century, 12 animal heads were cast in bronze for Yuanming Yuan, an imperial palace in Beijing. The magnificent gardens also included pavilions and fountains in the European style designed by an Italian Jesuit monk serving the emperor. The heads were ornaments on a large fountain. When French and British troops ransacked the palace in 1860, the heads were scattered to the winds."

Nilima Sheikh’s artistic trajectory

A mélange of influences including art history, her immediate realm, complex socio-political realities and the variables of fragile feminine experiences have shaped artist Nilima Sheikh’s enriching art journey.

Born in Delhi in 1945, she first studied at the Delhi University (1962-65) and then did her Master of Fine Arts (Painting) from Faculty of Fine Arts, Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda (1969-71). The paintings that she personally likes seeing, in some way, may well have influenced her, she reveals. And it has been an intense struggle and a long journey at personal to find the right idiom and form to transform her influences into a unique artistic vision. For example, when she started experimenting with the small paintings, it wasn’t easy for her to get the form right.

Also, foremost to her was the reading of the image while working on the ‘When Champa grew up’ series. The protagonist’s fragile life tale or the deeper issues therein, was what she wanted to put in context, retaining its autonomy in some ways. She then thought of the book form that could incorporate a personal interaction with the core theme and bring to the fore what would even be perceived as sentimental views.

Apart from 'Each Night Put Kashmir in Your Dreams', Chemould Prescott, Mumbai; LKA, Delhi (2010); her major solos include 'Drawing Trails', Gallery Espace, Delhi (2009); 'The Country Without A Post Office', Gallery Chemould (2003); 'Painted Drawings', Gallery Espace (1999); 'Images from Umrao', Nature Morte, Delhi (1999) and Galerie FIA, Amsterdam (1998), among others.

Among her recent noteworthy group participations are 'Pause: A Collection', Sakshi Gallery, Mumbai (2011); 'Tradition, Trauma, Transformation', David Winton Bell Gallery, Providence RI (2011); 'Narrations, Quotations & Commentaries', Grosvenor Gallery, London (2011); 'A Collection', Sakshi Gallery (2010-11).

Her work has also been featured in 'STPI Review Show', Singapore (2010); 'Modern Folk', Aicon Gallery, New York (2010); 'Tracing Time', Bodhi Art, Mumbai (2009); 'Horn Please', Kunstmuseum Bern, Switzerland (2008). The artist has recently participated in 'Roots in the Air, Branches Below', San Jose Museum of Art (2011); 'Time Unfolded', KNMA, Delhi (2011); 'Place.Time.Play’ at Shanghai Art Museum (2010); 'Panoroma: India' at 'ARCOmadrid', Spain (2009); ''Modern India' courtesy Institut Valencià d'Art Modern (IVAM) and Casa Asia (2008-09).

Saturday, July 20, 2013

An era of big art sales

Art Basel, the most significant brand in the realm of art fairs, got an early start with Art Basel Hong Kong this year. It was, in fact, the first time the fair has exhibited in this part of the world, and its third location following Basel and Miami. Some felt that another edition might lead to ‘fair fatigue’.

Art Basel HK just might have had an opposite, albeit positive effect, priming curious collectors for the bigger Basel extravaganza. Of close to 250 galleries that were present, more than half came from Asia, indicating Art Basel actually broadened its footprint by encompassing new galleries to it that cater especially to Asian collectors, who often prefer works of domestic artists.

While currency meltdowns or stock market dips affect art sales rarely in the shorter term, schism in the wealth gap have been found to track them. As ultra-HNIs (high net worth individuals) become wealthier, prices of art soar higher, as more money tends to chase a finite supply of works by top artists. The rising global divide between ultra-high net worth individuals and the rest is probably the best indicator that contemporary art prices will continue to inch up in 2013.

There’s a general tendency toward herd behavior noticed among the ultra-wealthy not averse spending six, seven, or even eight figures on art. Right now this herd is lurching toward contemporary art, explains Boyle. Brett Gorvy, international chairman (post-war & contemporary art) at Christie’s, called their record-breaking sales in May ‘a new era in the art market.” There’s no doubt contemporary art is fast becoming the most important alternative asset class. The trend of big sales continued with Art Basel.

Contemporary sales, it appears, are not the only ones setting new records. The auctioneer at Sotheby’s, Mary Jo Otsea estimated to sell the famed ‘Clark Sickle-Leaf Carpet’ for somewhere around $10 million to $15 million. At a time of extreme volatility in global stock markets and weak returns on bonds, there is ample evidence of the healthy demand for art among the ‘ultra-wealthy alternative asset classes’. That can only mean more good news for the contemporary art scene.

Artistic twist to a traditional fishing boat

Following its successful and critically-acclaimed presentation at India’s Kochi-Muziris Biennale, a monumental sculpture by Subodh Gupta is now on view at Savile Row gallery of Hauser & Wirth, for the first time ever outside India.

‘What does the vessel contain, that the river does not’ by the internationally celebrated artist is inspired by Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī, the 13th century Persian poet. An accompanying essay explains: “The ancient Sufi philosophy embedded in Rūmī‘s poetry speaks eloquently about the idea of the microcosm – the containing of an entire universe within the human soul. With this large-scale work, Subodh Gupta too creates a microcosm containing one person’s entire existence, bundled together and crammed into a vessel which appears as if it’is about to set sail.”

A traditional fishing boat so typical of the southern state of Kerala, measuring over 20 meters, it straddles the whole stretch of the exhibition space. Filled from bow to stern, the boat incorporates chairs, beds, a bicycle, fishing nets, window frames, plastic jars, cans, cooking pots/pans, suitcases, and an old radio. For the artist, it ceases to be merely a humble mode of travel, but has transformed into an extension of the larger paradigm associated with human survival, struggle, sustenance and livelihood.

Renowned for his usage of found, commonplace materials, he explores complex cultural dislocation evident in an era of shifting powers and also personal histories. Themes of economic growth, materialism and emigration are conveyed through ordinary objects. Steel lunch boxes, thali pans or bicycles reflect the artist's personal life and memories, apart from dealing with the Indian way of life and everyday culture.

The mass-produced utensils have played a significant role in the artist’s creative processes. His ‘What does the vessel contain, that the river does not’ looks to evoke those conflicting feelings of movement and stability, belonging and displacement, exploring the liminal space existing between these states of being! Subodh Gupta’s ‘What does the vessel contain, that the river does not’ courtesy Hauser & Wirth is on view until 27 July, 2013.

Not just interested in the artworks...

The ARTnews has just released a list of the world’s 200 top art collectors. Sitting pretty at the top are Shelley Fox Aarons & Philip E. Aarons whose commitment to young, emerging artists and support of a myriad art projects, exhibitions and publications has earned them an undisputed reputation as wholehearted art philanthropists, an appellation that they tend to favor over the term ‘collector’.

The world’s top-notch collectors and counted among devoted supporters of contemporary art, they have loaned works from their rich collection to several exhibits in Museums and numerous alternative arts spaces around the world. The Aarons have actively supported the publication of a number of major artists’ publications and exhibition catalogs.

They are also involved in many nonprofit art organizations, including MoMA PS1, the High Line Art Program, and the New Museum, among others. An elaborate article, providing a peep into their passion for art, has mentioned: “At their residence in Connecticut, they’re building a whole new pavilion so as to display monumental works by the likes of Tom Burr and Aleksandra Mir. In Florida, their bedroom is furnished with Tom Sachs’s barricades.

According to Philip Aarons, their involvement with such programs and institutions is closely intertwined with their collecting; they, for instance, offered to MoMA a Christian Marclay video in support and promotion of work by Klaus Biesenbach there. They have helped the Whitney’s projects owing to their personal relationship with top people over there.

Shelley adds that they have often been drawn to projects even at institutions sans any previous affiliation, either because of urge to encourage a particular artist, or compelled by the project. However, the institutional context is not their primary focus, but just a way of implement their keenness to bring art to the public domain. Summing up the crux of collecting by the world’s most famous ‘art philanthropist’ duo, Shelley Fox Aarons & Philip E. Aarons, one can say that they are not just interested in the artworks but equally in how a particular artist comes to realize them.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Art is all-encompassing in this collector couple’s life

Shelley Fox Aarons & Philip E. Aarons are counted among the world’s top-notch collectors. Narrating how he took to collecting, Philip takes us back to the days when he was an Art History major, and came to know about Louis Lozowick whose work was to be featured at Sotheby’s auction.

It was his first ever experience to buy a piece of art back in 1974. When the lot came up, he frantically bid like ‘a crazy person’, to put it in his words. “It was a print of Coney Island’s Luna Park. It was my first time at an auction. The estimate was $300-600. It was going up in $25 increments. When it reached $325, I raised my hand again and the auctioneer said ‘Sorry sir, you are bidding against yourself.’ It was rather eventful.” But he did not look back after that… 

Explaining their philosophy as avid collectors of art, Shelley reveals that they are not just interested in the artworks but equally in how a particular artist comes to realize them, and hence relationships hold the key to understanding the respective creative processes. Terence Koh, for instance, is more interested in the performative aspects of his work than in the products, many of which are evanescent and designed to decay over time. She has stated: “One of the benefits of being supporters of young art is to meet the artists and support their work in the long run, to see their careers develop. We’re dedicated to go see exhibitions of artists we like and admire.”

The Aarons also boast a vast book collection of more than 10,000 publications with a focus on independent books by artists themselves from 1965 onward. While some collectors buy art to put on their walls, Phil and Shelley Aarons build walls to hang more art. “Books can be a point of entry into an artist’s larger body of work, “Shelley explains. “We became attracted to Carol Bove’s work because she made shelf pieces with books on them. Now we have a large hanging sculpture made of beads in the middle of our living room. Everyone wants to run into it.”

An artist known for the metaphysical and metaphorical

Artist Sunil gawde’s creations are invariably contemplative in nature. Often metaphysical and metaphorical, they take shape, as the artist expertly mutates complex philosophy with ubiquitous objects from day-to-day life to which he gives a new interpretation. He radically increases their scale so their function or utility turns immaterial and the viewer is presented with an entirely different perspective.

Born 1960 in Mumbai, he did his graduation from the Sir J. J. School of Art. Though Sunil Gawde always wished to be an artist, it was not a smooth sailing for him. Utterly dejected at one point of time, as a tale goes, he undertook a sojourn to the famed shrine of Vithoba at Pandharpur in Maharashtra, spending a couple of months with the lord’s ardent devotees; a journey that proved to be ‘a revelation’; he retreated into his own self to reemerge stronger both as an individual and as an artist.

To start with, he took up a job at the Bombay Port Trust (BPT) to earn a living. For well over a decade he carried on with his shift job, even while continuing to paint. His keen observation of the surroundings and the people he worked with imparted a new dimension to his work.

Traces of the peculiar surroundings appeared in his creations as the peeling layers of paint along with images of a ship's helm, which appear to reveal its histories. He emphasizes, “The job was just bread and butter for me. Art was always my life.” His perseverance finally paid off. An opportunity to study at Glasgow School of Art, Scotland proved to be a defining moment of his career.

The Charles Wallace scholarship gave a renewed impetus to his creativity, and infused a spirit of contemplation into his work. He was a visiting artist (1995-96) at Glasgow School of Art. This also proved to be the turning point of his successful and fruitful art career…

Meetali Singh’s promising art journey

Young and emerging artist Meetali Singh’s work takes the viewer along the uncharted narrative that borders on imaginary and the real.

She does not owe allegiance to any school of art, and does not want to make a statement, but amplifies the social-scape through an intense personal search, trying to fathom 'what or who I am as an individual'. Her work may not exude a specific socio-political context or her immediate milieu. Instead she looks to answer self-posed queries, leading to a larger discovery.

Born in 1978 in Kanpur in the state of Uttar Pradesh, the practice of this Vadodara-based artist is unique not only in terms of subject matter but also in terms of form. With a formal background in painting, she has honed her technical skills over time to enhance the creative pursuit. Architectural forms and elements of landscape along with the challenge posed by the rendering of figures and their mysterious reflection on glass prompted her to combine visual reality and its counterpart in form of the conjured/ created reflections. First studying visual arts at Banaras Hindu University in Varanasi, she did her Bachelor of Fine Arts (Painting) and later Masters (Graphic Arts) from Faculty of Fine Arts, M.S. University, Baroda in 2002 and 2004 respectively.

Her work has featured in several shows like 'Alternate Vision', Art Pilgrim, Delhi (2008); 'The Young Indian Contemporaries', Suchitrra Arts, Mumbai (2008); ‘Landscapes and Cityscapes’, Art Pilgrim; ‘Young Guns’, Institute of Contemporary Indian Art (ICIA), Mumbai; ‘Cynosure’, Red Earth Galleries Private Limited, Baroda (all in 2007); ‘Footprints’ a traveling show in 2006; ‘Sense N’ Blend, Kaleidoscope Gallery, Baroda (2005); and Visual Art Gallery, India Habitat Center, Delhi (2005).

Among her noteworthy participations are Bharat Bhavan International Biennial of Print-Art (2006); the National Exhibition Of Art, Bhopal (2006, 2004, 2003); Gujarat State LKA Exhibition (2003-05); AIFACS exhibition, Ahmedabad (2002-03); and annual show of Faculty of Visual Arts, Banaras Hindu University (2002, 1999). A recipient of INLAKS Fine Arts Awards from New Delhi’s INLAKS Foundation, she also received the National Cultural Scholarship (2004-06) Gujarat State LKA Award (2005), and a gold medal at M. S. University in 2004, among other honors and awards.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

How does a museum develop? Know here…

A new installation project, involving visitors, raises specific questions about exactly how a museum develops. It seeks public participation in a very unique way wherein everyone is encouraged to think about certain objects, memories and also how they’re preserved.

A contemporary installation in the atrium of the Peranakan Museum in Singapore explores the nature of collecting, and asks how a museum develops. Issues of archaeology, memory, connoisseurship, and rebirth are taken up by the artist Lee Mingwei, whose project invites visitors to participate in creating new work. Audience participation will also contribute permanently to the museum’s collection.

The work is inspired by Mingwei’s first visit to the Peranakan Museum. Upon entering, he recalled his grandparents’ home, where light cascading from the skylight, with sounds and aromas coming from different floors “became a sort of multisensory symphony in my mind”.

The design of the ‘Luminous Depths’ installation is done in collaboration with Desai Chia Architecture. The new project has been conceived for the space and existing collection of the museum, inspired by the internationally reputed artist’s first visit to the venue in 2011. ‘Luminous Depths’, as stated above, looks to explore the idea of collecting.

The installation is a three story cylindrical structure within the atrium of the Peranakan Museum. On entering visitors are able to hear a Schubert Lied (art song) being played from the top of the atrium. Visitors can choose and purchase a ceramic object and walk with it through the museum. Once they reach the third floor there is a large hoop that is suspended over the void of the atrium. The participants are invited to toss their chosen ceramic object into the void.

Meanwhile, on 19 July, the museum will pay homage to Peranakan Chinese traditions in a contemporary world. You can get to know another side of the museum by joining for themed evenings that include performances, art-making activities, celebrity talks apart from taking an active part in the 'Luminous Depths' installation.

Grasp the link between art, markets and money

An exponential growth of emerging market millionaires is tilting the scale of global art market in favor of the sub-continent. Another angle to the rising interest in contemporary art can also be treated as an outcome of search by anxious investors for a wide array of alternative assets in order to diversify their investment portfolio and also satiate their urge for the classier and aesthetic things in life.

More than money what also matters to them is their willingness to be more open and flexible when it comes to imbibe new trends in the realm of contemporary art than their previous-generation counterparts, a touch conservative in their approach. For them, there is no better time to buy art than NOW. Whether they are keen to hold on to their portfolio for longer periods of time is a matter of conjecture.

Critics and curators have already emphasized the need to ‘educate the influential & wealthy’ entering the domain of art. It will just take a little bit of prodding in the right direction and a proper guidance so that buyers give as much importance to enjoying the process of buying art instead of simply thinking of the artists’ market potential in view of the ideas, traditions and philosophies that drive today’s artists to decipher India’s complex social and cultural landscape.

The key to build a quality portfolio is to invest in artists you can identify with in terms of style and form, theme and content. There are always good deals that can be struck in the range of Rs 2-10 lakh. The process of orientation and knowledge gathering is vital to building an aware investor-collector class who understands how to view and appreciate works so as to grasp their intrinsic aesthetic and thematic values.

Try and get a clear overview of the art scene and its social implications before you go ahead and buy art. Grasp the subtle relationship between art, markets and money. This will allow you to experience the true value and inner joy art can bring.