Resurgence of hope

Last Updated : 25 December 2010, 11:34 IST
Last Updated : 25 December 2010, 11:34 IST

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Two ‘happenings’ during the fag-end of the year brought some sunshine to the Indian art scene which, according to many, remained somewhat ‘cool’ during 2010.
One. The much-awaited Indian debut of internationally acclaimed artist Anish Kapoor materialised in November with a twin exhibition package at Mehboob Film Studios, Mumbai and National Gallery of Modern Art, Delhi. Incorporating thirty large-scale installations, the event is touted to be the largest and most ambitious exhibition project ever to be developed on the work of the London-based sculptor of Indian origin, who has won, among others, the prestigious Turner Prize (1990).

According to the official press release, the exhibitions feature a selection of sculptures and installations which span the breadth of the artist’s career, from his early pigment-based sculptures of the 1980s right through to his most recent wax installations. “Each exhibition will focus on a different strand of Kapoor’s practice, with each show complementing the other to form an overall picture of the diversity and energy within his oeuvre. Both exhibitions will feature works which were included in the recent, record-breaking exhibition of Kapoor’s work at the Royal Academy, London, which attracted over 2,75,000 visitors in less than three months.”

Two. In a significant development, the Winter Auction 2010 by Saffronart (December 8-9) witnessed a sale of 80% of the lots on offer. The total winning value (inclusive of buyer’s premium) exceeded Rs 30.43 crore. The top 15 lots sold included four paintings each of Francis Newton Souza and M F Husain; three of S H Raza; and one each of Subodh Gupta, Shibu Natesan and N S Harsha.

The real eye-popper was, however, Arpita Singh whose ‘Wish Dream’ (2000-01) was lapped up for a whopping Rs 9.56 crore. This created an auction record for the 73-year-old Delhi-based artist and as importantly, the 287x159 inch mural (comprising sixteen individual canvases of varying dimensions) became the most valued art work by a woman artist in the country.

Despite a scenario of ‘cautious optimism’ in the art market, there was no let up in art activities throughout the year, particularly in Delhi and Mumbai which saw several impressive exhibitions including the retrospective of senior artist Krishen Khanna.

The ever-active Vadehra Art Gallery presented a series of shows of both modern masters and contemporary artists including S H Raza (Recent Works), Sumedh Rajendran (Dual Liquid), Anjolie Ela Menon (Through the Patina), Prajakta Palav Aher (Sprouting Beads), Paramjit Singh (Beauty & Loss - A Landscape Diary), Anju Dodia (Necklace of Echoes), Atul Dodiya (Malevich Matters and Other Shutters/ Vadehra, ND), and Raghu Rai (A photographic journey into the heart of classical music).

Operating in Delhi and Berlin, Nature Morte hosted solo and group shows including Tract (solo by H G Arun Kumar), If it Rains Fire (Atul Dodiya), Nothing Lost in Translation (Mithu Sen), Spiral Jetty (featuring, among others, Anita Dube, Abhishek Hazra, Pushpamala N),and photographic solos of Gauri Gill (Notes from the Desert), and Dayanita Singh (Dream Villa).

In Mumbai, Chemould Prescot Road showcased Nalini Malani (Splitting the Other), Paula Sengupta (Rivers of Blood), Gieve Patel (Select Works 1971-2006), Nilima Sheikh (Each Night Put Kashmir in Your Dreams), Mithu Sen (Black Candy) and Madhvi Subrahmanian (Organic/ Abstract), among others.

The relatively new but high profile gallery BMB in Mumbai organised several impressive shows curated by well-known artist Bose Krishnamachari. In Delhi, Shrine Empire Gallery came up with some exciting shows which included Libya–born Fawad Khan’s “The Road Taken”; New York – based Gautam Kansara’s “Don’t Hurry, Don’t Worry” and a multi-media group show “Notes on the Disappearance of Real” by Bangalore-based curators Meena Vari and Arvind Lodaya.

Gallery Espace, Delhi hosted an unusual project titled “Conscious-sub-conscious” in which artist Manjunath Kamath painted the gallery walls over a period of seven days; thereafter, the walls were completely whitewashed and brought to original shape and colour!

Sakshi Gallery, Mumbai, apart from its shows in India, presented the works of Surendran Nair (Neti Neti) at Frey Norris Gallery, USA in November; and Mysore-based N S Harsha at the Liverpool Biennale 2010.

In the garden city

Bangalore too had its share of interesting exhibitions, art camps, lectures and collaborative events during 2010. Among the most important shows in the city was Cinema Verite Redux curated by London-based Shaheen Meerali. The innovatively displayed event at Gallery Sumukha featured the works of seven national and international artists viz., Subba Ghosh, Parvathi Nayar, Attila Richard Lukacs, Charly Nijensohn, Prasad Raghavan, Marina Roy and Ravi Kumar Kashi.

Galleryske continued to bring some cutting-edge art of young and enterprising artists. It included Krishnaraj Chonat’s installations (My hands smell of you); Anup Mathew Thomas’s photographic expeditions (View from Conolly's Plot), Sreshta Premnath multi-media investigations (LEO: Procedures in search of an original index); and Zakkir Hussain’s vexing imagery (103° C Yellow Fever and other works).The current show by Bharati Kher titled “Disturbia, utopia, house beautiful” imaginatively mingles objects of domesticity with memory, nostalgia and unsettling feelings.  

Crimson’s offerings included a solo show by Mumbai-based artist Ratnadeep Gopal Adivrekar, and a group show titled Irreverent Gene, curated by Nalini Malaviya.
The only gallery space entirely dedicated to photography, Tasveer/ Sua House, hosted some fine exhibitions. Its current show, “At the Movies – Magnum ke Tasveer”, presents a wonderful collection of black and white pictures which capture some striking moments in the history of American cinema.

The city’s alternate art venues like No.1 Shanti Road Gallery/ Studio and Samuha too remained active. As pre-declared, Samuha, the artists’ collective, wound up in the middle of the year.

India Foundation for the Arts hosted a two-day Arts Education Conference as an extension of its Kali-Kalisu initiative and brought teachers, artists, educators and researchers on a single platform.

A welcome addition to art activities in the city was a series of artist talks that took place at different venues. Prominent speakers included curator Shaheen Meerali (at NGMA), German filmmaker Hito Steyeri (Goethe-Institut), and artists N S Harsha (Goethe-Institut), Nilima Sheikh (Venkatappa Art Gallery), Balan Nambiar (NGMA), and Subodh Gupta (NGMA). Somberikatte@1 Shanti Road too facilitated a series of lectures in the areas of art history, recent art practice and visual anthropology in India.

As the year drew to a close, the organisers of Skoda Art Prize for contemporary art in India announced the final shortlist of three artists for the coveted prize for 2010-11. Two of them are Bangalore-based artists, Kiran Subbaiah and Alwar Balasubramaniam, the third one being Delhi-based Mithu Sen. The final winner to be announced in the New Year will receive the title and prize of Rs 10 lakh.

Published 25 December 2010, 11:24 IST

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