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Posts Tagged ‘Anupam Poddar’

Bani Abidi on Indian video art, a medium on the rise – interview Tehelka Magazine

Posted by artradar on August 18, 2009


CONTEMPORARY INDIAN VIDEO ART

Who are the emerging Indian video artists and the collectors of this up-and-coming genre? How can collectors display the work and should they be concerned with authenticity? Where can video art be seen and bought? Read on to find out more:

Video art: it is new

Video has the capacity to move a viewer, express emotion, and provoke thought. It is no surprise, then, that contemporary artists who have grown up exposed to moving images and storytelling films are utilizing video to express their artworks, and the medium has been elevated to a fine art that is being embraced by museums and collectors alike.

However, video art has only existed for about the past 50 years, or since the equipment became easily available to creatives for use. It surprisingly took awhile to gain momentum in India, a country with a rich film-making history, and has only gained popularity in the past few years.

But it is here to stay

Now, however, video is a mainstay in the contemporary Indian art scene with galleries exclusively devoted to the medium such as the Apeejay Gallery which has solely shown video and film art for the past 5 years. Video art is a necessary part of the best well-rounded contemporary art collections too and can be found in important collections such as the Lekha and Anupam Poddar Collection with the Devi Art Foundation.

But, the question remains, what exactly is video art, and how is it different from ordinary film?

So what is it exactly?

Bani Abidi, an active Pakistani video artist with pieces on display at museums including the MoMA in New York and the Devi Art Foundation Delhi, sheds some light on the distinction of video art in an interview with Tehelka Magazine.

Mangoes, 1999, by Bani Abidi. Video, Single Channel, 3:24 sec. Two expatriate Pakistani and Indian women sit and eat mangoes together and reminisce about their childhood. An otherwise touching encounter turns sour when they start comparing the range of mangoes grown in either country, a comment on the heightened sense of nostalgia and nationalism that exists in the Indian and Pakistani Diaspora. Both the women are played by the artist, stressing the idea of a shared history.

Mangoes, 1999, by Bani Abidi. Video, Single Channel, 3:24 sec. "Two expatriate Pakistani and Indian women sit and eat mangoes together and reminisce about their childhood. An otherwise touching encounter turns sour when they start comparing the range of mangoes grown in either country, a comment on the heightened sense of nostalgia and nationalism that exists in the Indian and Pakistani Diaspora. Both the women are played by the artist, stressing the idea of a shared history."

“…A lot of artists work with abstract images. But then many don’t. The conventional idea of a plot, with a beginning, middle and end is only one way of storytelling. So if one wants to engage fully with the history and potential of the moving image, whether it is a feature film, a documentary, experimental cinema or an art work, the attachment to plot needs to loosen.

Defining video art is as difficult as trying to define painting as this or that type of image. Video art as a term makes more sense in historic terms. In the late 1960s, artists in Europe, Japan and North America had a grand time with the arrival of the first camcorder, the Sony Portapak…

Over the years, video art’s practitioners, influences and mediums have changed. The video medium is no longer of essence. Some artists use 16mm film and elaborate production methods to make short films, others fix their cameras on tripods and shoot performances in their studio. Some use broadcast quality video equipment to shoot an experimental documentary on the streets and yet another lot might just use archival television footage as material”

Shan Pipe Band Learns the Star Spangled Banner, 2004, by Bani Adibi. Video, Double Channel, 7:30 sec. " Video, Double Channel, 7:30 sec  Shan Pipe Band Learns the Star Spangled Banner, 2004  In November of 2003, the artist commissioned a brass pipe band in Lahore to learn how to play the American National Anthem, a piece that was not a part of their existing repertoire. Over an afternoon's sitting of listening to a recording of the music that had been provided them, and after much fumbling and practicing they were able to perform a version of it. The video is a recording of this process as well as a glimpse of their interaction and physical surroundings.  This piece is a metaphor for all forms of clumsy and forced cultural and political acquiescence that various individuals and governments have had to display towards the US in the past 3 years."

Shan Pipe Band Learns the Star Spangled Banner, 2004, by Bani Adibi. Video, Double Channel, 7:30 sec. "In November of 2003, the artist commissioned a brass pipe band in Lahore to learn how to play the American National Anthem, a piece that was not a part of their existing repertoire. Over an afternoon's sitting of listening to a recording of the music that had been provided them, and after much fumbling and practicing they were able to perform a version of it. The video is a recording of this process as well as a glimpse of their interaction and physical surroundings. This piece is a metaphor for all forms of clumsy and forced cultural and political acquiescence that various individuals and governments have had to display towards the US in the past 3 years."

When asked where to go to experience video art in India, Abidi replied:

Big galleries in Indian metros frequently feature video art. Gallery Espace in New Delhi hosted a year-long program called Video Wednesdays, where guest curators were invited to present their selection of videos once a week. It culminated in a discussion and a final show which took place last week. At the India Art Summit in Delhi (August 19 to 21 2009) you can watch over 90 videos.

Regarding notable Indian video artists, Abidi commented:

Nalini Malini and Ranbir Kaleka are two of the most senior practitioners of this medium and both incorporate their experience of painting and art history in their projects. A filmmaker like Amar Kanwar comes from a documentary film tradition. Younger artists like Shilpa Gupta, Sonia Khurana and Kiran Subbaiah move between the roles of activist, performer and cinematographer.

'Bird', by Sonia Khurana. Performance video, 1999. Duration, 2 minutes. Videotape, black and white, silent. Performed, shot, edited and conceptualized by Sonia Khurana.

'Bird', by Sonia Khurana. Performance video, 1999. Duration, 2 minutes. Videotape, black and white, silent. Performed, shot, edited and conceptualized by Sonia Khurana.

DISPLAY

An important distinction of video art lies within its display, which is a deliberate and important element of the artwork, and distinguishes it as more of an installation art piece than a conventional film.  Some artists provide buyers with highly specific drawn instruction of their display design, while others only require works to be played in a loop on a wall-mounted flat screen. Custom plans for the display of video art in a buyer’s home can get extremely creative, and include projection on suspended screens or other unexpected surfaces.

BUYERS

The all important question among the commercially minded arts scene: Does it sell?!? Like all commercially available art, contemporary video artists are keen to find collectors. Bhavna Kakar is a curatur-turned-gallerist who is embarking on a project promoting Indian video artists, and during an interview with the Times of India he remarks, “Five years ago, there were no takers but now works are selling.”

Auction houses are also promoting Indian video art, with Sotheby’s selling Sonia Khurana’s video work Bird: Retake in the 2007 Southeast Asian art auction. Indian video artists have found support in both private collectors and museums, and an emerging group of contemporary art collectors, including the notable private collectors Anurag Khanna and Swapan Seth,  have collections that are mostly comprised of video artworks.

AUTHENTICITY

Video art may have a viable base of enthusiastic collectors, but a common problem now with the buying and selling of video is the issue of unauthorized replication that devalues the legitimate limited edition works produced by an artist. This problem has been addressed with authenticity certificates, which are official documents required for the buying and reselling of pieces. Artists are also including watermarks in their videos, which can indicate authenticity to curators.

Curators and gallerists believe that video art is a natural progression for the generation that grew up in front of the TV and surfing the internet [Times of India.] In addition, convenient platforms like Youtube  are making the display of video artworks to vast audiences very easy and cheap. The nature of video is also very tactile, as it can be easily edited and changed to create something new. Considering all these traits, more talented, tech-savvy youthful artists are sure to emerge. Arts-watchers should know, video art is officially a trend.

Read full interview with Tehelka Magazine here.

-contributed by Erin Wooters

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Posted in Anupam Poddar, Collectors, India, Indian, Interviews, Museum collectors, Nalini Malini, New Delhi, Shilpa Gupta, Video | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Pockets of change in Asian art infrastructure – interview Leeza Ahmady director ACAW

Posted by artradar on May 12, 2009


ASIAN CONTEMPORARY ART WEEK NEW YORK 2009

Asian Contemporary Art Week director Leeza Ahmady talks about the ‘ incredible’ initiatives in India and Hong Kong which are helping to build an Asian art infrastructure, Indian collector Anupam Poddar’s first time purchase of art from Afghanistan and where to see exciting art from Central Asia, the Middle East and Iran at New York’s Asian Contemporary Art Week May 2009.

This is the second part of a 3 part interview

 

Gulnara Muratabek

Gulnara Muratbek

 

AR: If visitors to Asian Contemporary Art Week 2009 in New York want to learn more about Central Asia at Asia Contemporary Art Week, what can they see and where they can go?

LA: People can see some of the best artists from Central Asia and the Middle East at an exhibition titled: Tarjama/Translation I have co-curated with Iftikar Dadi and Reem Fada at Queen’s Museum produced by ArteEast. Many of them are internationally-renowned artists but for some reason they are not being exhibited in New York yet.

Akram Zaatari and Lara Baladi from Lebanon, Esra Ersen from Turkey and Sharif Wakid from Palestine are represented and Almagul Menlibayevaof Kazakhstan who is getting a lot of attention here in New York and now has a gallery representing her. We have specially commissioned a video work by her entitled “Queens”. It is an extraordinary work. Almagul has juxtaposed her signature style-using performance as a base revolving around ritual and the fantastic to captivate the Central Asian diasporas like the Bukharan Jews, the Samarkand Uzbeks and the Afghans living in Queens, New York.

Among the Iranian artists included in Tarjama/Translation, Farhad MoshiriI have heard is totally galvanising the art market which is very encouraging. Often these artists do well in the biennale or academic arenas but we do not see them in the market arena so there is a shift there as well.

There is a whole lot of fascination going on with Iran this year I have to tell you. Thomas Erben, one of the best galleries in my opinion for working with cutting edge artists from Pakistan and India, has just come back from Iran. So in honour of ACAW, he will be curating an exhibition of artists living and making art in Iran and he has been going through all kinds of hoops to get the work to New York. The Chelsea Museum is also organizing a large exhibition in June showcasing Iranian artists from the 60’s up to the present.

AR: What do you see in the future for Asian art? Will Asia continue to rely on Western art centres as a platform for international recognition or will it start to happen within Asia itself?

LA: The Western world is way ahead, years if not centuries, in having the institutions which help with not just showcasing but also maintaining, archiving and saving works of contemporary art. We can’t really have a conversation which compares the two because of that disparity. What I can say is that changes will not just happen in the future …. they are already happening.

Arts i  is the new 12,000 square foot art space of one of the largest investment companies in India. It is based in New Delhi and has launched the Religare Arts Initiative which acts as a corporate champion of art. Most galleries, auction houses and art funds operate art businesses but the Religare Arts Initiative tries to leverage business for art through a host of activities – exhibitions, residency programs, library, documentaries, art fund, seminars, documentation etc. The intention of the initiative is to have a 360 degree platform for art in India and really have it create change in society. It is not just a group of people but it wants to actually create an impact on society. I think that is incredibly novel.

Often it is easy for us to say that there is not enough expertise and not enough critical dialogue but the fact is if you really want to look there are some incredible things happening. In India another example is Devi Art Foundation started by a mother and son team who turned their private collection into a public venue. They opened a huge space last summer and already have had two or three critically-acclaimed exhibitions.

They are looking not only at promoting Indian art but also at what else is going on in the region. They reached out to me and we purchased two works by Afghan artists for their collection. This is very encouraging.

 To have come this far is wonderful. I want to acknowledge that there is a handful of us out there and it is changing. Another great example is Green Cardamom Gallery in London. They are contributing to the discourse by providing critical context through artist-generated collaborative exhibitions and writing projects.I cannot speak for China as I have never been there except for Hong Kong. But I have to say organisations like Asia Art Archive or your publication now, these are huge leaps forward in creating forums where critics can have space to say what they need to say.

AR: Do you have anything to say about the market for Asian art?

LA:  What has astonished a lot of people is that art from India and China has been successful because of locally-based collectors not just outside collectors. The whole market frenzy and speculation was accelerated by this local interest. In the long term this interest will continue to grow. What is happening in the Middle East is also incredible. For the first time in the last 2 years we are seeing auctions of contemporary art from the Middle East. Who would have thought it? And they did not do too badly at all.

AR: Perhaps it speaks about the quality and freshness of the work coming out of the Middle East, what do you think?

LA: That is true. It is fresh  because there is a cultural specifity which is very intriguing yet at the same time the art is universally relevant. For me when art tells me something specific but is still relevant whether or not I know where it is from or what it is about – if I can connect with it from that universal place – then it is good art. That is not to say that everything that is coming out of Asia is good of course! (Laughter) 

This is the second part of a 3 part interview

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Top 10 most influential contemporary art collectors – Apollo Magazine

Posted by artradar on April 13, 2009


CONTEMPORARY ART COLLECTORS

The collectors who really matter to the history of art are not necessarily the very richest or even the most acquisitive says Martin Bailey in Apollo Magazine:

They are those who by their example set standards for others, encourage interest in the art they collect and share their treasures with the public. In short, the collectors of greatest importance are those who wield the greatest influence.

Of APOLLO’S list of the 20 most influential collectors today, 10 collect contemporary work. Here is a list with some brief ntoes. For more information see the full article go to Apollo Top 20 most influential art collectors.

ELI BROAD

Post-war and contemporary Nationality: American Age: 75 Source of wealth: Property and insurance

Eli Broad and his wife, Edythe, began to collect modern and contemporary art in the 1970s, and have amassed one of America’s greatest private collections. They have nearly 2,000 pieces.

Broad was also the founding chairman of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. He has given $26m to help build a Zaha Hadid-designed art museum at Michigan State University; building work is due for completion in 2010.

EUGENIO LOPEZ ALONSO

Latin American and international contemporary Nationality: Mexican Age: 40 Source of wealth: Food processing

Eugenio Lopez inherited the Jumex fruit juice business. Although relatively young, he has amassed one of the largest private collections of modern Latin American art. Lopez’s collection comprises 1,500 works, half Latin American and half international.

FRANCOIS PINAULT

Contemporary Art Nationality: French Age: 71 Source of wealth: Luxury goods

Starting by collecting early modernism, Francois Pinault quickly moved into post-war American painting and finally into contemporary art. In 1998 he purchased a controlling share in Christie’s, which puts him in the centre of the art world. Pinault has long wanted to display his collection, now comprising 2,500 works. After scrapping plans for a museum in a former Renault factory on Ile Seguin, in the Seine in western Paris, he took over Palazzo Grassi in Venice, which reopened in 2006. Even more ambitiously, the Francois Pinault Foundation is transforming Venice’s Punta della Dogana (customs building) into a contemporary art centre, which is due to open in June 2009 for the Biennale.

VIKTOR PINCHUK

Contemporary Art Nationality: Ukrainian Age: 47 Source of wealth: Steel

Viktor Pinchuk’s collecting began in the early 1990s with Russian impressionism. He subsequently developed the idea of opening a public display, and turned towards contemporary art, feeling that this would be more popular. In September 2006 the Victor Pinchuk Foundation opened the Pinchuk Art Centre in Kiev, which is one of the largest public galleries for contemporary art in eastern Europe. Owning 300 works, it comprises both Ukrainian and international art. In January Peter Doroshenko became its artistic director (he is an American of Ukrainian background and formerly director of the Baltic in Gateshead, northern England). Among Pinchuk’s recent purchases is Koons’s Hanging Heart, for which he paid $24m.

LEKHA & ANUPAM PODDAR

Indian Art Nationality: Indian Age: unknown; 34 Source of wealth: Paper industry and hotels

Lekha Poddar, from Delhi, began collecting in the late 1970s and her son Anupam in 2000. Together they recently set up the Devi Art Foundation. They now have 7,000 works of Indian art, ranging from tribal to contemporary (with some from neighbouring countries).

DON & MERA RUBELL

Contemporary Art Nationality: American Age: 66; unknown Source of wealth: Inheritance and hotels

Based in Miami Beach, the Rubells began to collect in the 1960s, and after receiving an inheritance in 1989 were able to expand their ambitions, both to build the collection and open it to the public. Their daughter and son, Jennifer and Jason (and Jason’s wife, Michelle), are closely involved, which explains why it is known as the Rubell Family Collection. In 1996 their Contemporary Arts Foundation opened a public space in a former Drug Enforcement Agency warehouse in Wynwood, north Miami, to show a changing selection of works in 27 rooms. The collection now comprises over 5,000 pieces. The Rubells particularly enjoy discovering up-and-coming artists.

CHARLES SAATCHI

Contemporary Art Nationality: British Age: 65 Source of wealth: Advertising

Charles Saatchi is probably Europe’s most powerful collector of contemporary art. With his first wife, Doris Lockhart, he began with American abstraction in the 1970s. In 1985 he opened his first public gallery, in Boundary Road, north London. By the end of the decade he had turned to British artists, later commissioning Hirst’s ‘Shark’ and buying Emin’s ‘Bed’ and the Chapman Brothers’ Hell Having become the leading patron of the Young British Artists (YBAS), he shot to fame with his controversial ‘Sensation’ exhibition at the Royal Academy in 1997, which then toured to the Brooklyn Museum of Art. In 2003 his gallery moved from Boundary Road to County Hall, where it remained for two years. His current space is  in the King’s Road, Chelsea, in a converted army barracks.

Saatchi not only buys, but also sells, so his collection is constantly evolving. He owns around 3,000 works. Although wanting the public to enjoy his art, he remains a rather private figure.

SAUD AL-THANI–Eclectic, but particularly Islamic and natural history Nationality: Qatari Age 41 Source of wealth: Family wealth

Sheikh Saud al-Thani is a cousin of the Emir of Qatar, Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani. As chairman of the country’s National Council for Culture, Arts and Heritage, he was responsible for buying for a group of new museums that are being set up in the capital, Doha. However, it has often been unclear whether his purchases were for the national museums or his personal collection. The scope of his purchases is enormous, ranging from antiquities to 20th-century furniture. Money is no problem. Saud al-Thani’s current personal role in collecting is unclear, but other members of the family are voracious buyers.

DAVID THOMSON

19th-century English to contemporary art Nationality: Canadian Age: 51 Source of wealth: Media

David Thomson, the 3rd Lord Thomson, is the son of the media owner Kenneth Thomson, who died in 2006. Kenneth Thomson was a very major donor to the Art Gallery of Ontario, to which he gave 2,000 works in 2002.

GUY ULLENS

Chinese contemporary art Nationality: Belgian Age: 73 Source of wealth: Food processing

Baron Guy Ullens is of Belgian origin, but resident in Switzerland. He began to collect classical Chinese painting while on business trips to China, but in the 1980s, together with his wife, Myriam, he branched out into Chinese contemporary art-famously selling his paintings by Turner to finance his purchases. Today he owns one of the world’s finest collections, with 2,000 works.

In November 2007 Ullens opened a permanent space in a restored military factory in Beijing, the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art. It has changing displays, with works from the Ullens collection and outside loans (including international art).

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Posted in Anupam Poddar, Francois Pinault, Saatchi, Ullens, Viktor Pinchuk | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

New nonprofit museum of Indian art groundbreaking first for India – Christies, New York Times

Posted by artradar on September 20, 2008


Anupam Poddar and his mother Lekha

Anupam Poddar and his mother Lekha

MUSEUM INDIAN ART NEW MEDIA EXHIBITION to 30 September 2008

Spread over two floors and 7,500 square feet in an office tower in the Gurgaon suburb of New Delhi , the Devi Art Foundation, as it is called opened in August 2008 with an inaugural show of photography and video called “Still Moving Image.” It features the work of 25 artists, a fraction of the roughly 2,000 contemporary pieces that make up the collection of 34 year old hotel magnate and leading art collector Anupam Poddar, along with an estimated 5,000 folk and tribal pieces, which are his mother’s passion.Devi is India’s first noncommercial, nonprofit exhibition space for contemporary art from India and the subcontinent. Yamini Mehta, director of modern and contemporary Indian art at Christie’s auction house in London, described it as “a truly groundbreaking first for India.”

The New York Times says “the birth of the Devi Art Foundation signals a sort of turning point in the Indian art scene, in that it opens up a private family trove to the public and is devoted entirely to contemporary art.””The Poddars are known in the art world here for their daring eye, for seeking out artists before they start fetching high prices or become recognizable names at fashionable Delhi dinner parties. Mr. Poddar scouts art college graduations for new talent, though it must be said that many of the artists he sought out years ago, like Subodh Gupta and Sudarshan Shetty, are now among the most recognizable names at those fashionable parties.”

The post-Indian-independence generation of artists known as the Progressives collected by his mother did not resonate with the son. He gravitated toward artists of his own generation. “Their vision of India was similar to mine,” he said. “It was being part of this – I hate this word – global world. It wasn’t just India. It wasn’t so isolated. They were working with sculpture, installation, with new media.”His first acquisition, in 1999, was a life-size pink fiberglass cow by Mr. Gupta. “It was quintessentially Indian but modern in its essence,” he said. “That’s what spoke to me.”

The inaugural exhibition of contemporary photography and video brings together the works of Aastha Chauhan, Baptist Coelho, Atul Bhalla, Avinash Veeraghavan, Bharti Kher, Kiran Subbaiah, Mithu Sen, Nalini Malani, Navin Thomas, Pushpamala N., Ram Rahman, Rameshwar Broota, Ranbir Kaleka, Ravi Agarwal, Sheba Chhachhi, Shilpa Gupta, Sonia Khurana, Sudarshan Shetty, Surekha, Susanta Mandal, Tejal Shah, Tushar Joag, Valay Shende, Varsha Nair and Vivan Sundaram.

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Posted in Anupam Poddar, Art spaces, Collectors, India, Indian, New Media, Nonprofit, Photography, Video | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Emerging Pakistani artists getting noticed in India and abroad

Posted by artradar on July 11, 2008


CONTEMPORARY ART PAKISTAN  Rashid Rana occupies a unique position among Pakistan’s contemporary artists and has been a hit internationally. Rashid Rana is a star, whether it’s in Lahore, Mumbai or Hong Kong. The Pakistani artist wowed the crowds who flocked to his Mumbai show in November 2007. And he received an equally rapturous response last month at HK 08, the inaugural Hong Kong Art Fair.

The overwhelming response to Rana’s eye-catching work didn’t come as the slightest surprise to two Mumbai art galleries. Chatterjee & Lal and Chemould Prescott Road jointly organised the show of Rana’s digital photo-montages at HK 08 and they were absolutely certain that it would receive critical acclaim. “It was all sold out,” says Mortimer Chatterjee, partner, Chatterjee & Lal.

 

Artist names attracting attention

Rana occupies a unique position among contemporary Pakistani artists and he has made a huge name for himself internationally. But he isn’t the only artist from across the border who’s attracting the attention of connoisseurs in India. In the last two months, three shows by Pakistani artists like Bani Abidi, Ali Kazim and Muhmmad Zeeshan have been held across Bangalore, Delhi and Mumbai. And many more are planned in the coming 12 months.

 

Collector Anupam Poddar buying Pakistani art with plans for show

Or take a look at art collector Anupam Poddar, who has built a sizeable collection of contemporary Pakistani art. His Devi Art Foundation is doing the groundwork for a show in March 2009, which will be curated by Rana.

 

Indian interest in Pakistani art

“Interest in Pakistani art is increasing in India,” says Peter Nagy of Delhi’s Nature Morte, who held the first solo show of Rana’s work in India and then helped take his work overseas.So, is Pakistani art the next Big Thing in India? Many art experts believe the interest in Pakistani art is only natural. Says Chatterjee: “There are so many lines of inter-connection between the concerns of Pakistani artists and the lives of normal Indians that often the subject matter is entirely relevant to an Indian audience.”There’s also, as Rana says, “a kind of mutual obsession on both sides of the border, fostered by shared histories, the trauma of Partition and the years of hostility and inaccessibility.”

 

Pakistani art more visible in auctions and fairs

Certainly Pakistani art, like Indian art, is suddenly becoming more visible at international art fairs and auctions. For instance, works by Talha Rathore and Nusra Ali Qureishi sold at auctions held by Christie’s and Saffronart recently.

 

Bani Abidi – female video artist

For Bangalore-based GALLERYSKE‘s founder, Sunitha Kumar Emmart who had been following Pakistani video artist Bani Abidi’s work, then, art fairs provided an opportunity to view the work of the Pakistani artist at first-hand. That led to a show by Abidi recently. “Regardless of nationality or gender, we have been interested in Bani’s work primarily for the strength of her practice and the clarity of her artistic vocabulary,” says Emmart. Abidi’s themes went down well with Bangalore art lovers. In the video piece, Reserved, she shows a city coming to a halt for a political bigwig. It has images of schoolchildren waiting to wave crumpled paper flags at a motorcade that never arrives – it was a theme, obviously, that Indian viewers could relate to.

“I’m interested in talking about a more complex identity formation along linguistic and cultural lines, rather than religious ones,” says Abidi, who was surprised by the response to her show. “This is the first time I’ve had a solo show in India. So, it was a first for me that this kind of attention was given to my work here and I value that,” she adds.

 

Ali Kazim – watercolours

Meanwhile, Ali Kazim’s mastery over watercolours drew a huge response at Delhi’s Gallery Espace. The show was held in collaboration with Green Cardamom, a UK-based institution that promotes South Asian artists.

 

Mohammad Zeeshan – contemporary miniatures

And in Mumbai, art lovers got to see Muhammad Zeeshan’s contemporary miniatures in his show, What Lies Beneath, organised by Delhi’s Anant Art Gallery.

“There’s a certain understanding regarding art that I find in Indians. And it feels good to be a foreigner only 40 minutes across the border and be identified with my imagery as an international artist,” says Zeeshan, who has shown in Delhi, Agra and Calcutta since 2005. Miniature artist Muhammad Zeeshan wants his images to tease the imagination as in Let’s Make A Great Pattern I and Untitled II.

 

2005 show in Mumbai was turning point

Pakistani artists are addressing issues like gender, politics and ethnicity in a language that’s contemporary and international, says art critic Quddus Mirza.

India’s interest in Pakistani art has been building gradually. The canvas was prepared by curators like Pooja Sood in India and Salima Hashmi in Pakistan, and institutions like Khoj International Artists’ Association and VASL Artists Residency in Delhi and Karachi, respectively. Khoj and VASL have held artists’ residencies since the late 1980s. Early shows like “Mappings: Shared Histories” curated by Sood too helped.

But till 2004, when Nature Morte held Rana’s first show here, public interest was low. Recalls Nagy: “There was good response from the art community but not from collectors.” That has changed now. One catalyst was the large show, Beyond Borders: Art from Pakistan, at Mumbai’s National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) in 2005. It was co-curated by Pakistani artist and art critic Quddus Mirza and NGMA’s then director Saryu Doshi.

“I didn’t realise it would create such a stir. It was the first time that we were recognised as contemporary to India in art,” says Mirza.

 

Pakistan’s art described as contemporary, international, cutting-edge

Since then, the momentum has picked up, spurred by galleries and artists. Says Muhammad Umer Butt, artist and creative director, Grey Noise, a new virtual art gallery based in Pakistan: “Rashid [Rana] has played an instrumental role in introducing us Pakistanis to India.”

Mirza believes that apart from the “newness” factor, the similarities and differences between the two nations have attracted Indians. Shows like Beyond Borders also revealed that Pakistani artists aren’t “making Islamic calligraphy or veiled women”. “We’re painting nudes, addressing issues of gender, politics and ethnicity in a language that is contemporary and international. So perhaps that shattering of pre-conceived ideas was one source for the Indian attraction,” he says.

But it isn’t just cultural affinity that’s attracting Indian art lovers to the work from across the border. The fact is that cutting-edge work is coming out of Pakistan. Says Saffronart co-director Dinesh Vazirani: “Wherever collectors are looking at art from outside, they’re looking for innovation.” Hammad Nasar, co-founder, Green Cardamom, believes this is partly because, “for most of its 60-year existence, Pakistan has remained a cauldron of political and social upheaval.” He adds: “This has proved to be a fertile ground for artists to mine.”

Two broad categories: new media and contemporary miniatures

Certainly, it has thrown up a diverse palette. The Pakistani art scene can be broadly divided into two: there are artists working in new media, and there are those that have given a contemporary twist to the miniature tradition.

Indians, says gallerists, are interested in both types of works. The big draw, of course, is Rana with his multi-layered images and messages. Take his Red Carpetphoto-montage series – Red Carpet-1 incidentally sold for a record $623,400 at Sotheby’s recent Spring Sale of Contemporary Art. At first glance, the work appears to be a large Persian carpet. But when you look closer, there’s a series of tiny photographs of scenes from a slaughterhouse. The work reflects, in a sense, Rana’s formal and conceptual concerns. He says in his artist’s statement, “In today’s environment of uncertainty, we cannot have the privilege of a single world-view. Every image or idea already contains its opposite within itself.”

 

Other artists names

Other contemporary Pakistani artists are also being noticed around the world. There are prominent names like Naiza Khan, sculptor-photographer Huma Mulji, Hamra Abbas, Faiza Butt, Mohammad Ali Talpur, and sculptor Khalil Chishtee, whose recent work includes sculptures with garbage bags. Mulji’s Arabian Delight, for instance, was reportedly picked up by British collector Charles Saatchi for $8,000 at the recent Dubai Art Fair.

At a different level, there are the neo-miniaturists – Indian collectors who are familiar with miniatures are quite enthusiastic about this type of work. Miniature art is a strong discipline at Lahore’s National College of Art (NCA), and it has turned out stars like Zahoor-ul-Akhlaq and Shahzia Sikander, who made a name for herself internationally in the ’90s.Now there are newer miniaturists like Imran Qureshi, Aisha Khalid, Nusra Latif Qureshi, Hasnat Mehmood, Talha Rathore and Zeeshan. “These artists have taken the South Asian tradition of miniature to new heights, and then moved beyond the page to invent a new visual language, rooted in tradition but of the here and now,” says Nasar.

Take Zeeshan, who began painting porn cinema posters before studying miniature work at NCA, and who combines the beauty of miniature with edgier themes of gender, dominance and violence. Zeeshan says he enjoys “teasing” the viewer. “And I think my images tease a lot. The oddity of the composition leads the viewer to dialogue and maybe, just for a second, ask, ‘What is this?” he says.

 

Pakistan’s art educational system strong…

Pakistan’s rich artistic output owes largely to its strong art educational system, especially since, unlike India, most practicing artists there also teach. “This has honed the critical edge of art here,” adds Rana.

 

But market infrastructure underdeveloped

For Pakistani artists too, India is an attractive destination, especially since the gallery infrastructure in Pakistan is still very underdeveloped. Grey Noise’s Butt says, apart from a few spaces like Rohtas 2 in Lahore: “We have showrooms but not galleries unfortunately.” Abidi too says, “The art market (in Pakistan) is almost non-existent and the small one that does exist is very conservative.” That’s why Butt felt compelled to found Grey Noise. “We’re the first virtual gallery to represent cutting-edge artists based in Pakistan,” he says.

 

International buyers showing interest

Already, Butt is “overwhelmed” by the response from India on his site. “I get a decent amount of taps from around the world and India takes the lead,” he says. Artists like Ayaz Jokhio, Mehreen Murtaza, Fahd Burki and Amna Hashmi are getting the most queries.

Even Indians living abroad are showing an interest in Pakistani art, according to Prajit Dutta, partner, Aicon Gallery, which is present in New York, Palo Alto and London. Last year, Aicon held two shows with Pakistani artists in London and New York. This year, it has done solos with Zeeshan and Talha Rathore in New York. Coming up in July is a show with installation and video artists Adeela Suleman, Jokhio and Fareeda Batool. And there’s a possible Naiza Khan show in New York next year. Dutta is also planning to show these artists in India. “We’ve got a great response from Western and Indian collectors,” he says.

 

Pakistani art attractive proposition

The boom in the international art market and growing interest in South Asia have made Pakistani art an attractive proposition, feels Rana, especially since art from South Asia is expected to emulate the global success of Chinese art. “Pakistani art benefits from a kind of trickle-down effect from this tremendous energy in the Indian art market,” he says.

 

Shows planned

The Pakistanis are obviously eager to make their mark in the booming Indian art mart. Green Cardamom, for instance, is planning two exhibitions in India next year, one by the acclaimed Hamra Abbas, who works in everything from video to animation, miniature painting and sculpture. In her Lessons on Love series, she transposed the romantic figures of Indian miniatures into sculpture. Says Green Cardamom’s Nasar: “India is a place where almost all our artists are keen to show. So we’ll figure out ways to do this to their best advantage.”

Nature Morte too will host a solo with Abbas in 2009 in Delhi and Calcutta. Besides, Abbas and Rana are part of a large canvas project Nagy’s working on with auction house Phillips de Pury in London in November, which will then travel to New York in January.

Meanwhile, GALLERYSKE‘s Emmart too plans to mount curated shows by Indian and Pakistani artists. Even Vazirani intends to increase the Pakistan section of Saffronart’s auctions. And he will hold a two-city show with Pakistani artists in Mumbai and New York in 2009.

 

Prices still low

To be sure, prices are one reason why Pakistani art is suddenly becoming popular here. As Indian art prices soar, there are better bargains to be had across the border. One art critic says that emerging artists from Pakistan offer “much better value than most Indian art now”. Vazirani too says: “There are opportunities to discover new artists.”

According to one gallerist, high-quality miniatures from Pakistan are typically priced between $10,000 and $20,000 though the masters are more expensive.Autumn II, a miniature by Zahoor-Ul-Akhlaq, for instance, sold at Christie’s’ auction of South Asian Modern and Contemporary Art this month for over $39,000.

The artists, though, are sceptical of the commercialisation in the Indian art market. “What we have now is everyone trying to cash in, exploit the artist, and in some cases, the artist exploiting the buyer,” says Abidi.

Yet the artistic exchange seems set to continue – barring the arbitrariness of officialdom. And as Chatterjee says: “This is just the beginning.”

Image details: Rashid Rana

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