A solemn canvas

Spectrum of art

A solemn canvas

Even though the Indian art scene was not particularly high on spirits, it was not without some exciting moments. Giridhar Khasnis gives us the low-down...

The most exciting art event of the year actually took off in the very fag end when the second edition of Kochi-Muziris Biennale (KMB) opened on December 12. Curated by Jitish Kallat, the 108-day event features about 100 works of 94 artists from 30 countries. Titled ‘Whorled Explorations’, KMB has lined up an impressive list of internationally celebrated contemporary artists including Anish Kapur (UK), Francesco Clemente (Italy), William Kentridge (South Africa), Mona Hatoum (Germany/UK), and Xu Bing (China), among others.

KMB has raised high expectations and is likely to attract thousands of visitors during the coming months. “What interested me is that this is an international level event with top names from around the world exhibiting here, but it still reaches out to the common man on the street,” said Mumbai-based artist Sudhir Patwardhan. “This is not a corporate programme, but a project that is built by a team of people who are dedicated and passionate about it. That is why I want to be part of it.”

Major events

Among other major art events which marked 2014 was the 6th edition of India Art Fair (New Delhi / January 30-Febuary 2) which attracted about 90 exhibitors from India and abroad. Concurrent with the fair, the capital saw several interesting shows including a retrospective of Subodh Gupta and a curated exhibit of Amrita Sher-Gill, both at the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA). Leading galleries in Delhi also hosted solo shows of important contemporary artists including L N Tallur (Nature Morte), Ranjini Shettar (Talwar) and Sudarshan Shetty (Galleryske).

The much-anticipated retrospective of V S Gaitonde (1924-2001) opened at the Guggenheim Museum, New York on October 26. Curated by Sandhini Poddar, and comprising 45 major paintings and works on paper drawn from leading public institutions and private collections, the show goes on till February 11, 2015.

Contemporary Indian art was in limelight at the 7th edition of St Moritz Arts Masters arts and cultural festival (August 22-31/ Engadin, Switzerland) which hosted ‘India: Maximum City’ with the works of nine emerging artists of the country. Senior artist Nalini Malani (born 1946) was honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of her outstanding accomplishments in the field of contemporary art.

The Art Institute of Chicago, US hosted solo shows of two veteran artists from India. Nilima Sheikh’s exhibition ‘Each Night Put Kashmir in Your Dreams’ (March 8-May 18) featured eight large banners painted by her for a series focusing on both the magical history and contentious present of Kashmir. Dayanita Singh’s installation (March 1-June 1) brought together two of her well-known photographic series, ‘Myself Mona Ahmed’ (1989-2001), and ‘Museum of Chance’ (2013).

Delhi-based Vidya Shivadas co-curated an international exhibition titled ‘Where do I end and you begin’, organised by Edinburgh Art Festival in tandem with the Commonwealth Games in Scotland in 2014. The show which opened on July 31 continued till October 19.

On the eve of veteran artist S H Raza’s 92nd birthday, Vadehra Art Gallery presented ‘Parikrama: Around Gandhi’, which included new works executed after his return to India in 2010. Other solo exhibitions of important artists included K G Subramanyan’s ‘New Works’ (Art Heritage and the Seagull Foundation for the Arts); Krishen Khanna’s ‘A Celebration of Lines’ (Sakshi Gallery, Mumbai); Jogen Chowdhury’s ‘Formative to Recent’ (Cima Art Gallery, Kolkata); V Ramesh’s ‘Remembrances of Voices Past’ (NGMA, Bengaluru); and Pushpamala’s ‘Avega: The Passion’ (Sumukha, Bengaluru).

At the 31st São Paulo Biennial: 2014, Bengaluru-based Sheela Gowda presented her work titled ‘Those Of Whom’ described by a reviewer as “a game with the elasticity of natural rubber against the rigidity of recycled iron furniture and window frames.” 

Awards & adulations

Ahead of the 65th Republic Day, the Central government announced the winners of the Padma Awards for 2014. The list included Baroda-based artist and academic Gulam Mohammed Sheikh (Padma Bhushan), and Bengali artists Sunil Das and Paresh Maity (both Padma Shri).

Veteran artist K T Shivaprasad became the recipient of the Varnashilpi Venkatappa Award given by the Government of Karnataka.

Noida-based artist Chetnaa Verma and New Delhi-based Sachin George Sebastian were declared winners of the third edition of Glenfiddich ‘Emerging Artist of the Year’, 2014 award; and the ‘FICA Emerging Artist Award 2014’ respectively.

Forbes India Art Awards 2014 were announced in January 2014. The winners included: Nasreen Mohamedi and Dr Krishna Reddy (Contemporary Artist of the Year — Senior); Subodh Gupta (Contemporary Artist of the Year — Young); Zasha Colah and Sumesh Sharma (Emerging Curator/s of the Year); and Kochi Muziris Biennale (Special Commendation). 

Bengaluru-based artist Mohan Kumar Thangaraj won ‘2013 Jean-Claude Reynal Scholarship for young artists working on paper’ for his drawing titled ‘Bon Voyage’; the scholarship came with a travel grant enabling the young artist to visit Europe. 

N Srinivasa Reddy (Bengaluru/ painting), Mohd Ayazuddin Patel (Gulbarga/ photography); and Sanjeeva Rao Guthi (Bengaluru/ painting) figured in the list of 10 artists selected for the Lalit Kala Akademi National Awards for 2014.

Art mart

While the art market, in general, remained quite sedate, the Saffronart auction in Delhi in September 2014 posted impressive results with sales exceeding Rs 38 crore. Interestingly, 86 out of 90 works got sold during the auction with the spotlight on S H Raza’s ‘La Terre’ (Rs 8.17 crore) and Jehangir Sabavala’s ‘The Flight into Egypt — I’ (Rs 3 crore). This, incidentally, was the 100th auction conducted by Saffronart since its founding in 2000.

The Sotheby’s auction of contemporary and modern India art in London on October 7 also attracted attention for its sales totalling £4.69 million (Rs 46.39 crore). Tyeb Mehta’s ‘Blue Painting’ was bought by an anonymous bidder for £1.12 million (including buyers’ premium); while Akbar Padamsee’s ‘Prophet I’ fetched £530,500, nearly three-times its low estimate.

In September 2014, at Bonham’s New York auction, an untitled oil on canvas by Gaitonde got sold for $1.08 million, while another 1963 untitled painting by him was lapped up for $1.68 million.

Spectacular results were also achieved at the second auction of Christie’s held in Mumbai on December 11, 2014 when 70 out of the 78 lots offered were sold for a staggering amount of over Rs 75 crore ($12 million). The sale was dominated by Tyeb Mehta’s untitled (Falling Bull / 1999), which went for Rs 17.54 crore (hammer price plus buyer’s premium) against the high estimate of Rs 12 crore. Two other paintings, F N Souza’s untitled (Indian Family/ 1947) and Gaitonde’s untitled (1998), breached the Rs 5 crore barrier by selling for Rs 9.02 crore  and Rs 6.62 crore respectively.  

Notwithstanding the seemingly impressive auction results, observers generally felt that the Indian art market continued to be highly selective and uncertain, with collectors maintaining a clear bias for established modern masters and paying no special attention for young contemporaries. 

Obituaries


Several senior artists passed away during the year. Those who ended their innings included Prokash Karmakar (Kolkata/ February 25, 2014); Prafulla Dahanukar (Mumbai/ March 1); M V Devan (Aluva, near Kochi/ April 21); Pran Kumar Sharma (Gurgaon/ August 6) and K V Haridasan (Bengaluru/ October 26).

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