In the slow lane

In the slow lane

Although by all accounts the Indian art scene remained subdued during 2013, it did have some moments of interest and excitement.

The year saw the successful conclusion of Kochi-Muziris Biennale (KMB), curated by well-known artists — Bose Krishnamachari and Riyaz Komu. Inaugurated on 12/12/12, the three-month-long event had an immense display of artworks, including site-specific installations and new media art created by national and international artists, which were displayed innovatively in public spaces, heritage buildings and disused structures of Fort Kochi. KMB is said to have attracted more than 3.5 lakh visitors. It was recently announced that Mumbai-based Kerala artist Jitish Kallat would be the curator of the next edition of Kochi-Muziris Biennale in 2014.

There were several art fairs organised in the country during the year. They included the fifth edition of India Art Fair that was set up at the NSIC Exhibition Grounds in New Delhi; the three-day event (February 1-3, 2013) had the participation of more than 100 galleries from 26 countries. The year also witnessed the second edition of Delhi Photo Festival (Delhi/ 27 September - 11 October); and the third edition of India Art Festival (Mumbai/ December 19 to 22).

Pan Indian exhibitions

Many important art exhibitions were organised in different cities. Among them were the much-talked-about and admired solo shows of K G Subramanyan (War of the Relics/ Sakshi Gallery, Mumbai) and of Atul Dodiya (Experiments with Truth: Works 1981-2013/ NGMA, New Delhi). Group exhibitions that created an impact included Homelands — a four-city travelling show displaying works from the British Council Collection; Barbed Floss, curated by Veeranganakumari Solanki (The Guild/ Mumbai); Aesthetic Bind, curated by Geeta Kapur (Chemould Presscot Road, Mumbai) and Sculpted Images, displaying contemporary sculptures of nine eminent sculptors (Sakshi, Mumbai).

Tasveer continued its efforts to showcase contemporary photography from India and abroad by organising exhibitions throughout the year across the country. Among them were Hikari (Five Japanese photographers); Magnum Ke Tasveer (Magnum’s vision of India); 37 Still Lifes; and solo shows of British photographer Derry Moore, Italian photographer Maïmouna Guerresi, and Indian photographers Raghu Rai and Jyoti Bhatt.

In Bangalore too, galleries hosted several interesting solo and group shows. Galleryske’s exhibitions included A Forgotten Carpentry Lesson and a Love Song (Sunoj D); Plot (Shreshta Rit Premnath); Become the Wind (Sakshi Gupta) and Recent Works (Subodh Gupta). National Gallery of Modern Art, Bangalore, put up The Last Harvest (an exhibition of paintings by Rabindranath Tagore, curated by Prof R Siva Kumar); Between the Lines: Identity, Place and Power (from the collection of prints of Waswo X Waswo, curated by Lina Vincent Sunish); The World of Rock Art.

Unconventional art spaces like 1, Shanti Road; Rangoli (Bangalore Metro) and Jaaga contributed to the art scene of the city by holding regular events and interactive sessions.

Honours, accolades

Senior artists were feted during the year for their contribution to Indian art. Syed Haider Raza alias S H Raza (born 1922) was conferred the Padma Vibhushan, while Delhi-based photographer Pablo Bartholomew (born 1955) received the Padma Shri award.
Veteran artist, teacher and scholar K G Subramanyan (born 1924) was one of the five distinguished persons to receive an honorary doctorate degree during the convocation at the University of Hyderabad held in October.

Karachi-born and Mumbai-based artist Nalini Malani was awarded the prestigious Fukuoka Arts and Culture Prize 2013. She, along with Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul, received the award that was worth 3,000,000 yen ($30,530) each. By winning this Prize, Malani became the first female visual artist from Asia to have this honour. Widely considered the pioneer of video art in India, Malani was also in the news when her immersive video/ shadow play, In Search of Vanished Blood, was shown at Galerie Lelong, New York, during September-October 2013.

Naveen Kishore, founder of Seagull Books (known for its publications on art and culture), was awarded Goethe Medal 2013 by the Goethe-Institut.

Bangalore-based photographer Anup Mathew was one of the five artistes to be selected for the Abraaj Group Art Prize, 2014.

Internationally exhibited artist Sheela Gowda and Gulbarga-based traditional artist Vijay Hagaragundi were among those who received this year’s Rajyotsava Awards given by the Government of Karnataka. The former is also among the six finalists named for the 2014 Hugo Boss Award. The winner of the prize, which comes with $100,000 purse and a solo show at the Guggenheim in New York, will be announced in the fall of 2014.

Other developments

There were some other interesting developments that made headlines during the year. Bangalore-based Tasveer became the only gallery from South Asia to exhibit alongside global art giants at the 17th edition of Paris Photo (November 14-17, 2013). Works of Jyoti Bhatt, Vivek Vilasini, Anna Fox, Derry Moore, Raghu Rai and Maimouna Guerresi were displayed by Tasveer at the event that attracted 136 galleries from across the globe and more than 55,000 visitors.

Bangalore-based Galleryske, which has hosted some cutting-edge artworks in its exhibitions, opened a gallery in Connaught Place, New Delhi, with a show of 13 artists.
 International auction house, Christie’s, announced that its first auction in India held on December 19, 2013 in Mumbai totaled Rs. 96.59 crore (USD$15,455,000), doubling pre-sale expectations and selling 98% by lot.  An Untitled canvas by Vasudeo S Gaitonde was reportedly sold for Rs. 23.70 crore, the highest price for a modern work of art sold in India.

Art market

Art market was seemingly downcast during the year. “It’s a difficult time overall,” art promoter Neha Kirpal was quoted in an interview. “The way I look at it is this, yes, it’s a difficult time, the economic recession has certainly impacted the art world, but in a sense, India has been slightly more insulated from it... In the last couple of years, buying of art in India has become more cautious, that’s something sustainable then, because people are not just coming in and throwing in millions. I think it’s a blessing in disguise, having a market with price points that are sustainable. The market will now grow incrementally, and it isn’t hype-driven anymore.”

Several gallerists too confirmed that selling artworks had become increasingly difficult. “Our overheads are going up but income from sales is stagnant, if not negative,” says a Bangalore-based gallery owner. “It is becoming difficult even to get people come and see the shows. We have doubled our marketing efforts and client contacts, but the response is far from satisfactory.”

Art critic and curator Johny M L in one of his articles wrote: “Most of the artists today, especially the young ones, are bound to perish. They will not survive the onslaught of recession as they are looking for tricky ways to establish.”

Obituaries

The year witnessed the demise of three  senior and highly respected artists.  Ganesh Pyne (June 11, 1937 - March 12, 2013), often described as ‘an artist’s artist, a philosopher’s philosopher and master fantasist of them all’, passed away in Kolkata following a heart attack.

Born in Hyderabad, made Bombay his karmabhoomi and became a Well-known illustrator, painter and writer Badri Narayan, who was conferred the Padma Shri in 1987, breathed his last on September 23, 2013, in Bangalore, aged 84. He created fascinating images that had themes drawn from both mythology and modern life.

Renowned painter and former chairman of Kerala Lalitakala Academy C N Karunakaran passed away on December 14, 2013, in Kochi following a brief illness, he was 73.

Comments (+)