Monday, September 9, 2013

Indian Art News Is Taking A Break

Indianartnews is taking a break and will be back. We will be back in 2014 with a new offering. We want to thank all readers and contributors who have made Indianartnews the great service and offering it once was.

See you soon.

The Indian Arts News Team

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Pak Truck Artisans to Adorn Durga Puja

Pakistani truck art, known for their bright and ostentatious colours splashed across the body of goods vehicles, is going to make its debut at a  puja pandal.
Vibrant floral patterns accentuated with the calligraphy of traditional Urdu poetry taken from artfully decorated trucks in Pakistan has stolen the limelight at a workshop here. The workshop, held to deepen the cultural connect between India and Pakistan, saw participation of three truck art artists who are showcasing the unique artform of Pakistan at an exhibition here. There are also paintings of skilled folk artists from Bihar and West Bengal on display.
Truck art, a popular genre of art in regions across Pakistan, is used to deck up trucks and other moving vehicles in a competitive display of ownership and status.
"The owners of the vehicles decide what to put up on their trucks. They choose the designs, the writings etc. It is a way to show off their wealth and might," said renowned truck-art artist Haider Ali, who hails from Karachi.
"Each truck costs around Rs.10 to 12 lakh to decorate. The most expensive truck art is from Karachi and Peshawar," Ali said.
Accompanied by his colleagues Muhammad Iqbal and Mumtaz Ahmed, Ali is on a month-long visit to the city to decorate a Durga puja pandal in the northern part of Kolkata in Nabin Pally.
Also termed "moving art", truck art varies from region to region in Pakistan and has evolved over the decades, with a new generation of artists inclined towards experimenting in colours, designs and ideas.
"More colours are used now. Owners also sometimes demand portraits of popular Bollywood actresses like Madhubala and Madhuri," Ali said.
The three-day workshop that began Saturday has been organised by welfare organisation Art Illuminates Mankind (AIM), Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) and Nabin Pally Puja Committee.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Buddha's Footprints

It was the spring of 2012, students flooded in and out of classrooms hunting teachers for assistance with exam preperations and coursework. The ‘curious’ lot, as one of our professor’s aptly put it, was busy taking on extra courses for the last semester of high school.
That was when I opted for the art history course and fell in love with it instantly. The romance was short lived – the course only lasted two months. But during those two months, we travelled from Egypt to Mesopotamia, from ancient Greece to the sub-continent, and basically everything in between.
It was the course, the animated talks about ancient civilizations and the long hours of research and sifting through reading materials that first prompted me to travel and discover them for myself. My travels took me to the sacred sites at Taxila – a lost land and age, forever reminiscent of a burgeoning cultural heritage.
The real journey
Sirkap is Taxila’s second major city. Stretching for miles, tall green grass grows between the rubble that once marked a five kilometre long fortification wall with a tall acropolis along the defence lines.
The Jain Temple is a sanctuary built around a stupa, perhaps for pilgrims of that time. It now lies buried under grass and dirt, with rubble walls outlining its silhouette.
Sirkap’s picturesque beauty and its lush green grass contrasts with piles of rubble that narrate the story of the once mighty city of Takshashila, With a history of constant invasion, Taxila was finally decimated by the Hun Empire. The only relics of that age are the artefacts excavated from the Bhir mound, Sirkap and other sites.
The influence of Greek architecture is most evident in the Shrine of the Double Headed Eagle. Four Corinthian columns stand tall and proud on the stupa, with fierce eagle heads staring at us.
My travel companions, two Australian and three Pakistani tourists (including myself) had to dodge artefact ‘dealers’ who possessed, whether fake or authentic coins, pottery, mini-sculptures and other small crafts at various stages. Those who enjoy collecting souvenirs, however, will be spoiled for choice.
The city’s symmetrical pattern was born of the Greek Hellenistic period. We were in awe at the prowess and intelligence of the world’s earliest known architects. Apollonius (44 AD) drew a parallel between Sirkap’s planning with that of Athens during his travels and added that it was the size of Nineveh, Assyria’s conspicuous capital.
And it is not only the architectural finesse of these places of worship that is bewitching. My companions and I were stunned by the Sun temple – one of the most ingenious creations of its time. Inhabitants of Sirkap could tell the time by shadows that the sun dial would cast at the temple.
“These are Buddha’s footprints,” explained the tour guide with a pronounced reverence and respect as we approached the end of the settlement. “It’s sacred – this place, everything about it,” he added with a nostalgic smile.
With the abolition of the Ministry of Tourism in 2011 under the 18th amendment, Sirkap ruins have been wholly abandoned by the provincial government responsible for the site. Sirkap, like Taxila’s other sites, has suffered from neglect by the government which is still facing administrative difficulties, following the shift of federal ministries to provincial control.
It is heart breaking to think that a part of the world cultural heritage – a heritage shared by all peoples of the world – is left abandoned and forgotten. Whether it is unkempt grass, delayed salaries for tour guides or lack of conservation/preservation efforts, Taxila ruins’ ruin, in every sense of the word, is a serious blow to tourism in Pakistan.

Indian Diversity

New Delhi: Paintings by the Bhil tribals of Madhya Pradesh and Rathwa telling creative myths of Pithora Dev sit alongside reprints of 15th century manuscripts at an exhibition inaugurated in the national capital Thursday.
Reflecting the cultural diversity of the country and offering a rare glimpse into tribal lives and lore in the audio-visual medium, ‘Abhivyakti’, the three-day exhibition, was unveiled as part of a series of events hosted under ‘Mapping Indian Art, Culture and Languages’ at the Lalit Kala Akademi in central Delhi.

"The mythical epics of Mahabharata and Ramayana are expressed through the performing masks in Assam, Orissa and West Bengal", a representative of the gallery said.

On display are leather puppets from Andhra Pradesh, paintings made on the walls of the tribal houses of the Rathwas of Gujarat and the Bhils of Madhya Pradesh. Objects used in the homes of the Saoras of Andhra Pradesh, the famous paintings in the Warli style of Maharashtra and Madhubani of Bihar are all on display at the exhibition.

"It was very difficult to pick and choose from such a vast trunk of cultural strength. The idea of this exhibition is to show how diverse we are as a nation and how each state has its own tradition and culture that pass from generation to generation," said a representative.

The Akademi has sourced the masks, puppets and paintings from the Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya, Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh. Reprints of manuscripts have been taken from the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, where the originals are kept. Sculptures are from the Akademi, and contemporary masks have been sourced from Nav Siddharth Art Group, Delhi.

The exhibition is open for public viewing till Sep 7.

Remembering Nasreen

Born on 5th September, Teacher’s Day, was incidental to the fact that Nasreen Mohamedi was an extraordinary teacher. Her unique and eccentric presence influenced generations of students at the MSU from 1970s till the late 1980s.How often does one meet a teacher who sensitizes us to the minutest of changes happening around- the presence of breeze, light or movement in Nature as well as built environments? What she taught us in the course on drawing for the two preparatory years was about learning to be alert and attentive to the experiential world around us. Sometimes, we were asked to pick up from our surroundings what we responded to- a stone, a stick, a fragment from an object and draw its qualities through sight, touch, feel and texture while seeking connections beyond isolated objects. While outdoors, we were not learning to compose views of nature as landscapes but were made aware of those poignant details and elements in Nature that one may otherwise not even notice, discover or register. Subsequently, Nasreen also taught us the importance of silent reflection. She was the one who made me aware that the world is too much with us all the time and that it is important to withdraw from it and deeply reflect upon it as well. 

Roobina Karode

Photo- Nasreen Mohamedi

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Nalini Malani Takes the World


Galerie Lelong, New York

Nalini Malani’s immersive video/shadow play, In Search of Vanished Blood, will premier in New York on September 6, 2013. This large-scale multi-media work was a highlight of dOCUMENTA 13 held in Kassel, Germany during the summer of 2012. Malani, widely considered the pioneer of video art in India, continues themes explored throughout her illustrious career: violence, the feminine, and the politics of national identity.

Curated by Raiji Kuroda

Fukuoka Asian Art Museum

A special exhibition titled Nalini Malani in commemoration of the artist winning the 2013 Fukuoka Prize for Art and Culture.

The exhibition will feature seminal works such asHamletmachine, a visual installation created during her residency as the first participating artist in the FAAM’s artists in residence programme in 1999 and exhibited around the world, a large-sized painting Despoiled Shore, a recent set of 9 prints Cassandra’s Gift, and others.


Le Centre de la Gravure et de l'Image imprimée, La Louvière, Belgium

The first exhibition of the artist in Belgium,Beyond Print - Memory, Transference, Montagecomprises a large installation as well as prints and multiples. This is the first time that a museum will dedicate an exhibition connecting her installations to her printed works.  Malani will concurrently curate an exhibition at the space, selecting works from the collection of the museum in regard with a ‘painting extension’, created directly on the walls. 

Curated by Malin Barth & Annine Birkeland

Bergen Kjøtt, Bergen, Norway

The exhibition Life is the Only Way is an amalgamation of independent strong voices by nine international artists including Judy Chicago, AK Dolven, Selja Kameric and others. Its aim is to make clear the sustaining connection between contemporary art and contemporary life. This is art which ought to generate public debate on issues of the day and whose participative works will be diverse in regards to combining aesthetic genres.



Author: Andreas Huyssen
Publisher: Edizione Charta, Milano

This exquisite comparative study of contemporary artists William Kentridge and Nalini Malani focuses on their use of the shadow play as medium of memory.

Independently of each other, both artists have deployed this centuries-old performative art form in works that some consider to be highpoints of their respective careers, including Kentridge installation The Refusal of Time and Malani’s video/shadow play In Search of Vanished Blood. Both artists belong to a generation whose experience is shaped by colonialism and de-colonization; their works reflect on the long-term traces of historical trauma, partition, and apartheid, always in aesthetically complex forms rather than in documentary or agit-prop style. In creative dialogue with modernism and the historical avant-garde, they provide persuasive examples of a new negotiation between aesthetics, ethics, and politics.

Monday, September 2, 2013


Experimenta India intends to counter the commonplace Bollywood themes

An entirely artist run platform, Experimenta India encourages 'uncompromising, fresh, compelling and critically urgent' experimentation with moving images in India. Founded by filmmaker Shai Heredia in 2003, this collective has made it their mission to counter the reign of banal masala movies churned out by Bollywood every year in the country.

A bubbling alternative community that gives open room to discuss and examine the traces and history of Indian artists’ film and video, both historical and contemporary, they also engage in a lot of projects that bring together Indian and international film artists with similar creative and socio-political concerns.

In its 8th edition, Experimenta 2013 will showcase approximately 50 films and live experimental sound performances over five days in Bangalore.

Over this duration, the festival will be attended by filmmakers, curators, artists, musicians, academics, scientists, art & film students and cinephiles from India and abroad.

The group is now looking to fund themselves through individuals from anywhere in the world, through crowd-funding.

10 per cent of the funds that are raised will go towards NalandaWay Foundation, a non-profit organisation that encourages self-expression and stimulates the imagination of children from some of the poorest districts in India through theatre, visual arts, music, dance and film.

The donations can be made via

Besides curating Experimenta, the critically acclaimed bi-annual festival, the collective also showcases Indian experimental film and video at international film festivals and art venues like the Tate Modern (London), the Berlinale Film festival (Berlin), Images festival (Toronto), EXiS festival (Seoul) among others.

While bringing Indian moving image art into international prominence, they have also hosted International artists residencies in Mumbai and Bangalore, curated regular screenings and conducted film art workshops across India.

Their last edition happened in 2011, where they hosted a retrospective of the cinema of Adolfas Mekas, a central figure in the western avant-garde independent film movement, presented by his wife and collaborator Pola Chapelle Mekas.

The artist in focus programmes showcased the 16mm films of avant-garde feminist filmmaker Joyce Wieland from Canada, and the fantastical works of Toronto-based German-Indian artist Oliver Husain.

To funk things up a little bit, Indian Sonic Research Organisation (ISRO) from Bangalore, along with artists ANYMA & Marc Duseiller from Switzerland, conducted an open workshop on DIY Musical Instruments & Hacking Electronics, and also performed live with electronic music toys, creating visuals with the Videobass, a bass guitar that plays images instead of sounds.

The festival will take place between November 27 to Decemeber 1, 2013.

-Shyama Krishna Kumar

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Saffron Art & Four Seasons Hotel

Untitled (Landscape in Goa) 1945 Gouache on paper 10 x 14 in | 25.4 x 35.6 cm. Signed and dated in English (lower right and verso). Estimate $5,175 - 8,625 Rs 3,00,000 - 5,00,000. 

MUMBAI.- Saffronart is holding its first ever ‘live’ auction on Wednesday, September 11, 2013 as part of the first annual Art Week at Four Seasons Hotel Mumbai. Preceding this, Saffronart will host a preview for the auction in Mumbai on September 5, 2013. 

Dedicated to the work of modern Indian art’s ‘enfant terrible’ the auction, ‘Francis Newton Souza: Works from the Collection of Keren Souza Kohn’, will be held at The Mansion, the new ballroom at Four Seasons Hotel Mumbai. In addition Art Week will include a comprehensive art appreciation course and evening talks by noted experts from around the country. 

On September 9 and 10, 2013, BMW India will conduct the ‘Sachin Tendulkar’s BMW Collection 24-Hour Auction’, an online auction of two BMW cars from cricket superstar Sachin Tendulkar’s collection on the Saffronart website. A BMW X5 along with the BMW M5 from the collection of Sachin Tendulkar will be available for sports and car enthusiasts to bid on. To make it memorable for the winners, the cars will be personally autographed by Sachin Tendulkar. 

Art Week includes India’s first auction dedicated to Souza’s works, and also the first time that the artist’s family’s collection is being made available to collectors in India. With over 100 competitively estimated lots, including oil paintings, watercolours, drawings and chemical alterations this auction caters to the palettes of established art collectors as well as those just setting out on their collecting journeys and looking to acquire a work by one of India’s most well known modern artists without breaking the bank. 

Souza was born in 1924 in Saligao, Goa. After being expelled from the Sir J.J. School of Art in Mumbai for participating in the Quit India Movement, he founded the Progressive Artist's Group (PAG) in 1947 along with M.F. Husain and K.H. Ara, among others. Of all his contemporaries from the PAG, of which he was the main ideologue, Souza was perhaps the single real international success. An articulate genius, he augmented his disturbing and powerful drawings and paintings with his sharp, stylish and provocative prose. Dating from the 1940s to the 1990s, the lots in this auction represent every phase of Souza’s artistic career, from his early years in Goa and Mumbai to the time he spent in London and then New York. 

The auction is accompanied by an illustrated catalogue with an introduction by Francesca Souza and Keren Souza Kohn, as well as several previously unseen photographs and letters from the Souza family collection. The auction will be conducted by Dinesh Vazirani, CEO and co-founder of Saffronart and Ray Perman, an auctioneer from the UK with over twenty years international auctioneering experience, and will include both room and online bidding. 

Art Week at Four Seasons Hotel Mumbai by Saffronart 
The Souza auction and its preview are being held as part of the first annual Art Week at Four Seasons Hotel Mumbai by Saffronart. In addition to these events, Art Week will include a comprehensive Art Appreciation Course and Evening Talks by noted experts from around the country. 

Opportunities to learn about the emergence, evolution, practice and business of art in India are limited. Through Art Week we present a structured, intensive three-day art course along with a series of public talks to address all these areas and deconstruct the complexities of Indian art, from classical to contemporary, with a pragmatic, hands-on approach. 

The course is structured such that by the end of it participants will be familiar with art terms, artists’ styles, and movements relevant to art practices in India. It will also equip the participant to gauge the relative value of work in context to period, style and overall quality. Complementing each course session is a public talk, focusing on a specific issue relating to Indian art. 

Instructors and speakers include Yashodhara Dalmia, Girish Shahane, Conor Macklin, Dr. Arshiya Lokhandwala, Dr. Kavita Singh, Nancy Adajania, Yamini Telkar, Meera Kumar, Abhay Sardesai, Dinesh Vazirani, Minal Vazirani, Sangeeta Jindal and Nathaniel Gaskell. 

The art on display in the public spaces of the Four Seasons Hotel Mumbai during Art Week will be specially curated by the hotel’s gallery partner, Apparao Galleries. 

Art Week at Four Seasons Hotel Mumbai by Saffronart begins with the auction preview on September 5, 2013 and concludes with the auction on September 11, 2013. Art appreciation course modules and expert talks will be held at the Four Seasons Hotel Mumbai, on September 7, 8 and 9, 2013. 

Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Indian Museum Makeover

The Homi Bhabha collection at Mumbai’s National Gallery of Modern Art. Photo: S. Kumar/Mint

The “Aims and Objectives” section of the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) website was so spot on, it took my breath away. It began with the usual stuff about acquiring, organizing and preserving art. It ended with the following lyrical lines. “Above all, the NGMA helps people to look at the works of modern art with greater joy, understanding and knowledge by extending their relationship with our daily life and experiencing them as vital expressions of the human spirit”.
Even for a sceptic of museums, the lines sing. Joy, understanding, link to life, and—this is key— “vital expressions of the human spirit”. What more can an art institution aspire to? Whoever wrote those lines had an intuitive understanding of art in the Indian context.
What does the NGMA do to further these aims? The Delhi website is a yawn. The Mumbai one is more vibrant. There is a workshop on mask making every Wednesday and Saturday, talks on Rabindranath Tagore, gallery walks and painting competitions. The Bangalore NGMA, without bias even though it is my home city, is the best of all. There are workshops, family days, school visits, and a whole slew of “Outreach” programmes that link films, theatre and dance to art.
I don’t go to the NGMA Bangalore nearly as often as I’d like to; and I am a confessed art lover. Many other people I know have never been to this institution. They don’t understand modern art, they say. Their children could have drawn something better. I feebly tell them that the museum is housed in a lovely old mansion with trees that will calm them down. Using trees to sell a museum is sad.
Wikipedia lists a total of 55,000 museums in 202 countries. India has, by my rough count, about 200. The list is somewhat confused by including planetariums and train museums along with art museums. There must be a dozen art museums of merit in India. What are the aims and objectives of these museums? In this Internet age, this isn’t a trivial question, given that more and more museums are putting up their collections online and anyone with a computer can see these. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, has just hired my friend, Sree Sreenivasan to be their chief digital officer. Museums in India cannot afford to be just repositories of art. They have to be community centres. They have to reimagine the museum experience in the Indian context. It can be simple things. For example:
• Indians don’t like large empty spaces. Most museums are large empty spaces, designed along the lines of museums in the West. Indian museums are better off if they are a collection of small interlinking rooms that plays to our tolerance of, and comfort in, crowds.
• If you took a survey of art lovers who don’t visit museums, the reason most would state would be traffic. Museums have to figure out a way to take their art to the people (since the people are not coming to the art anyway). Rather than housing the art in a mansion, philanthropically inclined collectors should consider putting the art in a temperature-controlled warehouse, insure the heck out of it and then take it to large companies, colleges and other places where people congregate. Public art needs to be viewed in a new way in India. More like art for the public.
• Just as cricket reinvented itself with the Indian Premier League, museums need to rethink their function. The Guggenheim in New York holds music concerts within its spaces. You sip a glass of wine, listen to the music and look at art. The Museum of Modern Art could be rented by high-paying corporations for private parties. Why not do the same in Indian museums with their beautiful spaces? The model already exists in the West: they have figured out how to protect the art work and how much to charge. Dom Pérignon recently unveiled one of its vintages in Jodhpur at the Umaid Bhawan Palace. Why not rent the Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum in Mumbai for events such as this? Companies such as Rémy Martin, which did an event recently in Udaipur, would certainly be potential clients. They have deep pockets and Mumbai is more accessible to international visitors.
In 1999, Stephen Weil, a scholar at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, wrote a seminal essay about museums. Titled “From being about something to being for somebody: The ongoing transformation of the American art museum”, the piece argues that museums have to be exactly what the NGMA’s aim and objective is. Museums have to be cultural centres of communities, drawing people in. This should be understood “not as a surrender but quite literally as a fulfillment”, said Weil.
One simple way to wrap your head around this concept is to think of museums not as being in the “salvage and warehouse” business as a museum administrator put it, but as serving an educational purpose. Museums as malls? It may be heresy to some but that’s the way art was displayed in the past in our own country. Doubters need only to visit some of our ancient temples where thoroughfares to the deity were dotted with the art of the day.
-Shoba Narayan

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Art & the Carpenter

It’s no mood, impulse or thing of beauty that inspires the artiste in Sunoj D. Instead it’s a deep and complex web of his experiences, interactions and relationships that imprints all of his works. As if documenting an internal reaction to life-in-progress and the world going by. Understandably Sunoj is uncomfortable boxing his works into series. For him, they are a continuum. “Series is an over-used word. What does calling something a series explain? One’s art practice continues from one (work) to another,” says the 34-year-old who won the 4th Biennial Bose Pacia Prize for Contemporary Art, New York and Kerala Lalithakala Akademi state award, both in 2003.
Eight of Sunoj’s works make for his solo show at Galleryske that will open on August 31. Titled A Forgotten Carpentry Lesson And A Love Song, the drawings, sculptures and installations reflect Sunoj’s constant contemplation about nature, its personal context and social narrative. “I grew up on the family farmlands in Kerala where my grandfather would tend to paddy fields. Those early experiences with agriculture make me feel closely about  land. I have always explored the human relation to nature in my art.”
In his note on the upcoming show, Sunoj writes, “In A Forgotten Carpentry Lesson and a Love Song, I look into the metamorphosis of what is familiar and common into something that is again familiar and common. The changes that are taking place are not necessarily unidirectional. The metamorphosis can be, and often is, two-way.”
He adds during the interview, “Carpentry gives structure. Construction or deconstruction is a perspective.” Of course, all within the purview of man and nature.
Sunoj has used natural mediums to give shape to his ideas and used sandalwood paste, tea decoction, terracotta, metal fabrication and coconut fibres. The drawings are in pencil.
“For me drawing is like meditation. I take upto a month and half to work on one piece,” he says. The detailing and intricacy in his drawing Earth stands testimony to that. Another depicts two tree trunks in a handshake. Is he commenting on the hope for nature despite its struggles for survival? “Every viewer has his/her own interpretation. I am not in favour of imposing what prompted me while drawing the piece onto what they see and perceive. It could be entirely different from my take and I am completely okay with that,” he says.
Aparna Chandra

India Could Have Done Without Modern Art

Artist A. Ramachandran at Durbar Hall Art Gallery, Kochi. Photo:Vipin Chandran

Unlike in the Western world, India has never had a historic necessity to experiment with a genre that has come to be known as modern art, according to renowned painter-sculptor A. Ramachandran.
“Ideally, our art should be advancing along a path that is well rooted in the country’s own visual culture,” says the Delhi-based septuagenarian. His first-ever exhibition of works in his homeland Kerala concluded here on Sunday evening.
The Padma Bhushan awardee says Europe had a reason to rebel against art schools that largely revelled in realism till the mid-19th century. “Then photography was invented. That invalidated portrait and landscape paintings. It was inevitable the art scene there changed.”
On the other hand, the Orient never had an art culture on parallel lines, he says. “We in India have for long seen a flourish of various schools of art, none of which resorted to realism. It would be beautiful if each or most of them continued to exist,” says the artist whose 15-day mini retrospective in Kochi was organised by Vadehra Art Gallery (VAG) of Delhi.
Ramachandran’s August 11-25 exhibition at the Durbar Hall Gallery had its ground floor featuring the artist’s post-Yayati works such as Lotus Ponds, inspired by time-tested aesthetics of Indian art. Yayati, Ramachandran’s masterpiece, was completed in 1986, around the time the artist began developing a completely different approach towards art.
At the refurbished one-time palace here, curator R. Siva Kumar chose to split the well-lit space to tastefully accommodate contrasting genres of the two defining periods, realising the artist’s decade-old dream of showing his creations to fellow Malayalis.
The upper floor of the recently-renovated building housed images that portray the darker side of human life, brimming with moods of violence and sarcasm — such as Anatomy Lesson and The Puppet Theatre.
Ramachandran says that Kerala’s modernist movements in literature and cinema in the last century was spearheaded by rooted writers such as Thakazhi and Basheer and filmmakers such as G. Aravindan and Adoor Gopalakrishnan. “Paradoxically, when it came to art, the Malayali did not have leaders who drew inspiration from their own moorings,” he says.
Arun Vadehra, who owns the VAG, says the gallery organise an exhibition of the comprehensive works of Ramachandran next year on the occasion of his 50th year in the Capital.
The just-concluded Kochi show was a big draw. Artist Somji aka K.A. Soman described the exhibition as “an entirely different experience, providing rich visual interpretations on aesthetic values”. Blogger and critic Ajay Sekher said the water-colours were “illuminating and refreshing”.
Ramachandran, who was born in Attingal in 1935, did his Masters in Malayalam literature before leaving for West Bengal in 1957 to pursue art at Santiniketan.
The artist, whose early paintings were an angry young man’s anxious and emotional response to human suffering, was appointed chairman of Kerala Lalithakala Akademi in the early 1990s. However, this was the first time the celebrity’s works were exhibited anywhere in Kerala.
The artist, who has been living in Delhi since 1964, taught art at Jamia Millia Islamia for 27 years before taking voluntary retirement. In 2002, he was elected a Fellow at the Lalit Kala Akademi. The next year he was awarded the Raja Ravi Varma Puraskaram and in 2005, the country’s third-highest civilian honour.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Kerala a Better Place for Art

The 21st-century Kerala is becoming a better place for art, according to renowned painter-sculptor A Ramachandran.
The state has moved forward by opening itself up to the larger world of art outside its geographical boundaries, but its visual arts sensibility has scope to become more active, the Padma Bhushan-winning septuagenarian said in the run-up to his first-ever show in native Kerala.
Ramachandran, who left Thiruvananthapuram in 1957 to do higher studies in art at Santiniketan, notes that the cultural environment in Kerala those days was not congenial for artists, prompting many talents to leave the state.
“Of late, a few in that generation are getting a chance to exhibit their work back home,” the Delhi-based master observes ahead of his exhibition starting in Kochi on August 11. The 15-day exhibition, being organised by the Vadehra Art Gallery (VAG) and curated by art historian R Siva Kumar of Visva-Bharati University, is a compact retrospective of the artist and will showcase 100 works.
Ramachandran, who has been living in the New Delhi since 1964, recalls that Malayali artists had found it tough to flourish in Kerala even in the first half of the 20th century. “That is how and why K C S Paniker, C Madhava Menon and K G Subramanyan left for greener pastures. The local system was non-supportive.”
He recalls that the situation was “no different” even when he boarded the train to West Bengal. “I knew Kerala wasn’t the place for a serious pursuit of art. While things have changed, there are still miles to go.”
Substantiating his point, the 78-year-old artist notes the magnitude of protest India’s first Biennale faced in its host state of Kerala last year. “The art circles there could not realise the momentousness of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale,” said the native of Attingal downstate, referring to the staunch opposition the three-month contemporary-art extravaganza faced even during its three months run.
Kerala, says the artist who post-graduated in Malayalam, could accommodate new trends in literature and cinema and celebrate the works of modernists such as Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai, Vaikkom Muhammed Basheer and P Kesavadev and appreciate G Aravindan and Adoor Gopalakrishnan. “In painting, though, the state got stuck for long in the realistic school of Raja Ravi Varma (1848-1906).”
Ramachandran was briefly chairman of the Kerala Lalithakala Akademi in the early 1990s.
Prof Siva Kumar, who has written extensively on modern Indian art, the Kochi show is being curated with a certain chronology in mind. “It will cover his works of the last five decades - from 1964 till that of 2013.”
Delhi-based art scholar Rupika Chawla notes Ramachandran possess a “unique” sense of colours that has kept changing over the years. “There is a moving luminosity in his works.”

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Art as Investment

Recently,  house Christie's announced it would hold its inaugural auction in India this December. It would be the first international auction house to conduct sales in India. In recent auctions, Sotheby's sold a painting for $30 million, while Christie's sold 66 paintings worth $495 million.

These reports make one wonder about the benefits of investing in .

As an industry, art has always been underrated and undervalued. Of late, its awareness has been increasing. In terms of being a commercially viable sector, art is still nascent and unconventional. Investments in art are extremely vulnerable, as these primarily depend on public taste. You can never guess the right price or the right time to buy or sell a piece. Bhavna Kakar, owner and founder of Latitude 28, an art gallery in New Delhi, says, "Art is not a commodity like property, stocks or gold, and it is best that way. Buy it only if you love it and can live it; else, stick to conventional  options."

The Indian art market is expected to see enormous growth through the next 10 years. "People have become used to hearing about multi-million dollar sales of works by Tyeb Mehta, S H Raza or M F Husain. Now, the art market is viewed by many as an active commercial sector, with auctions and exhibitions held all over the world," says Harry Hutchison, associate director of the Aicon Gallery, New York, a premier art gallery in the US selling Indian art works.

When asked about art as an investment, Anu Ghosh Mazumdar, vice-president (Indian and South East Asian art) at Sotheby's, said, "We do not encourage people to buy art as an investment. Rather, we encourage them to buy what they love, so that they can live with their art works despite the vagaries of the market. Art has a legacy; it is much more than mere investment."

To buy art as an investment, one should have good knowledge of the artist, the medium, the time period, previous buyers, the category, etc. Menaka Kumari Shah, country head, Christie's India, says, "The best investment is to buy what you like and then, regardless of its value, you still have a work of art you like. We always advise our clients to buy the best work available in their budget, and buy with passion for the art."

Kakar says though entry prices for works by some artists have plateaued, one should also consider those yet to make a mark and whose art comes at reasonable prices.

An important question is when is the right time to buy and how does one know about it? If you are interested in buying art, you should be in constant touch with art galleries and auction houses. "Some pieces come in the market only twice in 100 years, and these will always be desirable, no matter in which cycle the market is in," Shah says. However, some say anytime is a good time to buy a piece of art. "There is never a best time to buy. If you like it and want it on your wall, now is the time," Kakar says.

To own a piece of art, one must have very deep pockets. Prices could vary from $1,000 (Rs 64,032 at a rate of 64.03 against a dollar) to millions, depending on the medium and the size of a work. For modern art, one might have to spend at least $30,000 for a canvas and $2,000 for a drawing. Each auction has a minimum bidding price. At Sotheby's, the least price for an art work is $5,000. But some auction houses such as Saffronart and Astaguru have no reserve auctions; so, bidding starts at really low prices.

Hutchison says, "With regard to contemporary art, one can buy terrible street art for very little. But art that might, in the future, be worth investing in would cost more, as the odds are not in your favour of selecting a large canvas from a soon-to-be-super star at his/her first solo show for a cheap price. By the time they are on your radar, they would co st more to invest in. I would estimate at least $1,000 for a drawing and $3,000 for a canvas but depending on the size of the work, this figure could, of course, go up."

In case one doesn't have this much money, there are other ways in which he/she can be a part of this segment - one can lease art, accumulate credit and eventually buy the piece through companies such as Art Remba, which allows members to rent art pieces from top galleries and artists for their home or office.

 () for art work are never fixed. Those involved in this sector say if one wants fixed RoIs, they should stick to investments in real estate, stocks or gold. RoIs in art depend on the artist, the chain of ownership and the art time cycle, among other factors. "A person should own an art work for at least five years before selling it. Also, returns vary from 20 per cent to 200 per cent," says Ajay Seth, chief mentor at Copal Art, an art advisory board and bank that researches, procures and makes Indian art works available to clients. He adds the rate of price appreciation for an art work is 8-10 per cent a year. So, the longer one owns these, the more price he/she gets. Hutchison agrees. "In most cases, one shouldn't look for returns before the five-year mark. Also, one should not invest more than 18 per cent of their net worth in art."

It isn't necessary to buy art physically; one may also invest in units of art funds electronically. The rise in demand for Indian art has prompted a few art houses to launch mutual funds to enable investments in the art market. For instance, institutions such as Copal Art, Edelweiss Securities and Osian have launched such funds. International organisations such as Aicon Gallery also have various art funds, though the response to these is varied. While Seth from Copal Art says he is against the concept of art funds in India, as the art market here isn't big, Aicon's Hutchison says art funds are very successful. After its first art fund, two others by Aicon are up and running.

But art funds are risky, too. Osian art fund, started by Neville Tuli in June 2006, had to be wrapped up in 2009 after a poor performance. It had also faced a probe by the Securities and Exchange Board of India and is still in the process of returning money to investors. In recent times, Fine Art Fund ( has been one of the most successful. Its stock comprises impressionist, modern, contemporary, post-war and old-master paintings.

Art is an illiquid asset, which might not necessarily generate income. It needs maintenance, proper storage and security, all of which aren't cheap. "The key is to familiarise yourself with the works available and take plenty of advice. Any investment can go up or down, and a lot of the possible upside can only be realised after many years of owning and enjoying a piece," says Shah.

To reduce the risk involved in art investments, Seth says one should consider three important aspects - prominence and authenticity of the artwork, the entire chain of its ownership and the title of the art work.

So, if you like an art work and think you could own it for life, go ahead and buy it. Get to know the work and have passion for it. A good piece of art is a treasure to behold.

Apoorva Gupta in Business Standarad

A City As Canvas

In just 13 days in May, close to 350 artists from world over
made over 60 paintings across the town.(Mithun Vinod/ENS)

Pedestrians stop to gape at walls on the roadside and walk away smiling. Cheeriness is in the air of Kottayam. Passersby cannot help but admire the colourful murals painted on the city walls as part of the Mural City Project, an initiative of the Kerala Lalithakala Akademi.

In just 13 days in May, close to 350 artists from world over made over 60 paintings across the town and turned Kottayam into the first unique mural city in India. Be it the traditional murals of gods and goddesses on the four gopurams of Thirunakkara Temple or those made with contemporary techniques at the civil station, the landscape of the city has become two shades brighter.

The walls of the Kottayam railway station, painted by several artists, now tell the story of Indian railways. The painting at the entrance, done mostly in a yellow palette, is a combination of several snapshots showing the first railway line in India. At one section, a team of artists led by Ajithan Puthumana, has recreated metro rail stations by using a contemporary style.

“Since the younger generation does not know much about mural art, we tried to incorporate the traditional elements as well as techniques of contemporary art,” says renowned mural painter, Suresh K Nair, who is an assistant professor at the Banaras Hindu University in Varanasi.

Suresh worked on a water tank which is located at the district panchayat office. “When I saw the space allotted to me, I hit upon the idea of water as an element,” he says. “I have been trying to introduce the concept of music into paintings. In this work, I have  given a symbolic white colour to water. I have also tried to paint it with a sense of rhythm.”

Mural art at the Thirunakkara temple.(Mithun Vinod/ENS)

The murals across the city are a potpourri of several art styles. The other styles which can be seen are the Kurumba paintings of the Nilgiris, the Gond tribal paintings of Madhya Pradesh, the Warli of Maharashtra, the Madubani of Bihar, the Pata of Bengal, and the Kasauli of Kashmir. Artists from Portugal, Canada, Germany, Italy and South Korea opted for modern and contemporary themes.
South Korean artist Jung Chae-Hee surprised many with faces in the Ott style at the Darsana auditorium. This is done by using gum extracted from the ott tree.

The Rs 72 lakh project is aimed at boosting tourism in Kottayam. And the State Cultural Ministry and Kerala Lalithakala Academy seem to have succeeded in doing so. Some resorts in Kumarakom, a tourist hub, have started including a trip to Kottayam to see mural city paintings in their tour package. For a town like Kottayam that hardly has any places to hang out, the project offers some solace.

“Apart from some cultural programmes, there is little scope for recreation here. When I first saw the murals at Thirunakara Temple, I was fascinated. Now whenever I get time I go to see mural paintings done in other parts of the town,” said Biju K Baby, a student of English Literature.

The Rs 72 lakh project is aimed at boosting tourism in Kottayam.(Mithun Vinod/ENS)

“We sent a team of experts to Shekawati in Rajasthan, which was the first mural city in the country. The team found that all the mural paintings there follow a traditional style. So, we decided that the Mural City Project here should have several varieties of paintings—from tribal paintings to those done using post-modern and contemporary techniques. So we decided to name Kottayam as the first unique mural city in India,” said K C Joseph, Kerala’s cultural minister.

By Nidhin TR in The New Indian Express

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Pakistani Artists Condemn Vandalism

Karachi: Pakistani artists were quick to condemn the attack by Hindu extremists on an art gallery in Ahmedabad showcasing the work of Pakistani and Indian artists. But their Indian counterparts were not.

Members of Bajrang Dal, an extremist youth organisation, ransacked the Amdavad Ni Gufa Art Gallery and destroyed the collection of paintings by 11 Pakistanis and six Indians to ‘protest’ against the alleged Line of Control (LoC) ceasefire violations by Pakistani troops and the killing of Indian soldiers.

Soon after the incident was reported, an official condemnation email titled ‘Aman ki Ashes’ was sent out by Gallery 6, the Islamabad art house that put up the collaborated show with the Amdavad Ni Gufa. The incident condemned far and wide in Pakistan – but things were quiet on the Indian front.
“They [Indians] proclaim to uphold art in high esteem. But there has been no strong criticism of the vandalism. It should have been vociferously condemned,” veteran Pakistani artist Shakil Saigol tells The Express Tribune.

Shakil’s exhibition in India is scheduled for early next year but he may change his mind. “I am seriously considering not going,” he says. “I don’t want my work destroyed.”

But Saigol is still more disappointed about the “lack of condemnation” from India. Sameera Raja, curator of Karachi’s Canvas Gallery, agrees. “If this horrible incident had taken place in Pakistan, the world would have been up in arms, calling us extremists with no concept of culture or art,” she says, adding that the Pakistani art community fiercely condemns the act of intolerance. “I suppose people are more accustomed to the ‘shining’ side of India. International agencies should condemn it too.”

For Raja, the silence is upsetting. “Maybe their art fraternity is facing a situation we do not know about,” she is forced to conjecture.

Citing the expulsion of New York Times journalist Declan Walsh from Pakistan, she says that India is not as “generous” when it comes to accepting responsibility and issuing apologies, in comparison to Pakistan.
According to Lahore-based artist RM Naeem – whose paintings were destroyed in the attack – the silence shows the difference in approaches between the two neighbours. “Why will India show a bad face to the world? They are cashing in on ‘Incredible India’. It is our media that is unchecked.”

But regarding the collaborated art shows, he said their purpose was to initiate peace. “Serious action should be taken against those trying to uproot that process.”

When contacted by The Express Tribune, leading Indian contemporary artist Anjolie Ela Menon confesses that she was not aware of the incident. “I never even heard about it,” she admits, adding that she is currently in Bangalore and perhaps would have known if she had been in Delhi. “I am absolutely shocked! I don’t think it appeared in our newspapers.”

“I am very keen on keeping the people-to-people contact alive no matter what politicians do. Artists are not really concerned with this ongoing cold war,” she adds.

One of their own:
Hindu extremists Bajrang Dal are known to be the youth wing of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). However, it has emerged that Ravindra Maradia, the organiser of the art show that was attacked, happens to be a VHP member himself.

Maradia, a Mumbai-based industrialist, told the daily, “I know Bajrang Dal would not do such a thing. It looks like the work of some hooligans who wanted attention.”

Nine VHP activists have been reportedly arrested after the incident. But the group’s general secretary Pravin Togadia has condemned their arrest on Twitter. “Opposing Pak artists’ exhibition in Ahmadabad when Pak [is] killing our army: a crime? Bajrang Dal, VHP workers picked up by police for votes!” Togadia says in his tweet, calling the art initiative “Aman ki Aasha, Chaman ki Barbaadi”.

Third Strike:
The most recent attack is Amdavad Ni Gufa Gallery’s third such incident. In 1996, Bajrang Dal members destroyed dozens of tapestries and paintings by renowned Indian artist Maqbool Fida Husain because of his controversial depictions of Hindu deities.

A decade later, the gallery was vandalised a second time by a Hindu extremist group for another of Husain’s paintings. The gallery was previously known as Hussain Doshi Gufa.

By Atika Rehma in The Express Tribune