Signs & traces

Signs & traces

arts beat 2015

Signs & traces

This Biennale is not about marketing a place; it is not about what is for sale; it is not about the power of the galleries, but about the power of the people,” said Chris Dercon, director of Tate Modern, London, one of the most-frequented art galleries in the world. “This is almost like a blueprint for the museum of tomorrow. It is not only making a difference, but also showing us how to make things differently.”

Dercon was referring to the second edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale (KMB), which concluded in mid-March this year. Curated by artist Jitish Kallat, the three-month-long event featuring artworks by 94 artists attracted global attention.

The KMB Foundation recently announced that Karnataka-born artist Sudarshan Shetty would be the artistic director of the next edition of the Biennale.

Coincidentally, in its recent issue, the London-based contemporary art magazine ArtReview placed KMB’s founders, artists Bose Krishnamachari and Riyas Komu, on its annual power list of 100 influential people in the world of art today.

The year 2015 also witnessed several other art events including India Art Fair (New Delhi/Jan 29 - Feb 1); Vadfest 2015 (Vadodara/Jan 23 - 26); Sensorium (Panjim/Dec 6, 2014 to Feb 5, 2015); Pune Biennale (Feb 6 - 15); Dharavi Biennale (Mumbai/Feb 15 - March 7); India Art Festival (Mumbai/Nov 26 - 29) and Delhi Photo Festival (Oct 30 - Nov 8).

Several art galleries and museums remained active throughout the year, putting up solo and group shows of upcoming as well as established artists.

Outside the country, the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art presented Nasreen Mohamedi: Waiting Is a Part of Intense Living, in collaboration with The Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, Spain. The show would later travel to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA (March 1 - June 5, 2016).

The prestigious Venice Biennale (May 9 - Nov 22, 2015) featured 130-odd artists, including some from India: Madhusudhanan, Raqs Media Collective, Prasad Shetty; Rupali Gupte and Mariam Suhail. In the same event, My East is Your West featured installations by Indian artist Shilpa Gupta and Pakistan’s Rashid Rana, while the National Pavilion of Iran presented the works of Bani Abidi, Riyas Komu and T V Santhosh.

Awards & accolades

Bharti Kher was awarded the prestigious Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres (Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters), the highest cultural award of France. The UK-born, Delhi-based artist, whose array of spectacular works in different media have been shown at important events across the world, won the award for her contribution in contemporary art landscape. Kher’s husband, Subodh Gupta, whose mammoth sculptures incorporate everyday objects, had received the same award in 2013.

Mumbai-based art critic and curator Ranjit Hoskote was on the jury of Venice Biennale. His wife, Nancy Adajania, also an eminent critic and writer, was featured on Brian Boucher /Artnet’s global list of 25 women curators.

Bengaluru-based photographer Anup Mathew Thomas was declared the winner of the 2015 Han Nefkens Foundation - BACC Award for Contemporary Art. The biannual award which seeks to encourage artists in Asia under the age of 40 consists of US $15,000 as well as a residency and an exhibition at Bangkok Art and Culture Centre.

Karnataka-born sculptor Bhuvanesh Gowda, who employs wood as his primary medium, became a recipient of the Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant. Krupa Makhija, whose works are “symbolic representations of my own experiences about my culture, language and identity,” won the prestigious Glenfiddich award. Mumbai-based artist Vanita Gupta was awarded the prestigious fellowship grant for 2014-15 by the Asian Cultural Foundation, supported by John D Rockefeller III.

Madhu D, alumnus of Karnataka Chitrakala Parishath and S N School of Fine Arts and Communication, was one of the recipients of the Inlaks Fine Arts Award 2015. Other winners of the award included Dheerk Kaku, Mumbai; Nikhil Raunak, Mumbai; Shailesh B R, Mysuru and Shrimanti Saha, Baroda.
The Indian artist/curator group Raqs Media Collective has been appointed the chief curator for the 11th Shanghai Biennale, scheduled to open on Nov 11, 2016. The Collective envisages the biennale to be a destination for different kinds of exploration, as well as a launching pad for new visions and ideas.

The World Press Photo Foundation has announced the members of the 2016 Photo Contest juries. Indian photographer Prashant Panjiar is one of the five jurists under the category of documentaries.

Art market

According to experts, the art market continued to be sedate throughout the year. Some auctions, however, did manage to show impressive results.

On September 17, a new record price for an Indian painting was set at a Christie’s auction in New York when F N Souza’s Birth got sold for $4.085 m. Just a week before, at the Saffronart auction held on September 10, another Souza painting titled Man and Woman Laughing had topped the chart with a price tag of $2.59 m (Rs 16.84 cr).

On October 6, at the Sotheby’s Modern and Contemporary South Asian Art auction in London, a self-portrait of Amrita Sher-Gil realised a total of $2.65 m, well above expectations. Earlier, in March, another of her self-portraits had been sold for $2.92 m at Sotheby’s New York.

In terms of overall sales, these auctions produced notable results: Saffronart (Sep 10/Delhi/$12.71 m); Christie’s (Sep 17/New York/$8.77 m); Sotheby’s (Oct 6/London/$7,349,999); Sotheby’s (Oct 6/ London/$ 6.77 m); Pundole (Apr 9/ Mumbai/Rs 34.88 cr) and Pundole (Nov 3/ Mumbai/Rs 32.90 cr).

Legendary political cartoonist, humourist and one of post-Independence India’s greatest caricaturists, R K Laxman, died on January 26, 2015 after a prolonged illness. Winner of Padma Bhushan, Padma Vibhushan and Ramon Magsaysay Award, Laxman was 94.

Prominent among other senior artists who passed away were sculptor Mrinalini Mukherjee; cartoonist, columnist and political activist Rajinder Puri; creator of the rock garden in Chandigarh, Nek Chand; Padma Shri Sunil Das; painter K N Ramachandran, and Shamshad Hussain.

The year ended on a deeply depressing note. On Dec 11, well-known contemporary artist Hema Upadhyay’s mutilated body was found in a drain in Mumbai. She was 44.

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