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Posts Tagged ‘gallerists’

India’s Experimenter focusses on the “now” with RAQS and Kolkata location – an interview with Prateek Raja

Posted by artradar on September 16, 2010


KOLKATA CONTEMPORARY ART PRACTICE ART GALLERIES INTERVIEWS

For a gallery that is just over a year old, Experimenter, co-owned, run and mostly curated by husband-and-wife duo Prateek Raja and Priyanka Raja, is quickly becoming a critical current in the very new trend of gallery spaces interested strictly in the contemporary. It is a welcome break from the traditional gallery system that regularly falls back on the moderns of Indian art.

A month before the duo heads off to the Frieze Art Fair in London this October, the gallery is wrapping up a show called “This is Unreal“. Featuring artists Susanta Mandal, Yamini Nayar and RAQS Media Collective, the show was conceived by the Rajas as an idea to cohere the multiple realities of modern life.  At the crux of the show is the idea of the manipulation of what is real – artists consistently create and break realities leaving the viewer in a constant state of doubt and speculation. This event marks the eighth show in the gallery’s young but accomplished life.

Art Radar Asia spoke with Prateek Raja from Experimenter about the gallery, the show, the art scene in India generally and in Kolkata; Kolkata is a city that has produced a number of great artists, but lags behind Delhi and Mumbai in the art market scene.

Raja on the Gallery, artists RAQS, Susanta Mandal and Yamini Nayar

The title is provoking. Why “This is Unreal”? Tell us how this project came about.

“This project came about from an initial idea of confronting modern day conspiracies and then filtered down to how everything today is projected as something and is in reality something else. The topic was left open for the artists to interpret in a way they saw fit. However, at this point I would like to say that we work with a different kind of approach. Our shows originate in conceptual ideas first and then we invite artists whose work has been in the kind of direction we are thinking to respond to that idea [or] concept. So all these artists within the realm of their practice have the ability to project multiple realities from the same experience.”

Tell us about yourselves. You are a husband-wife duo – both educated in Asian art at Sotheby’s. How did Experimenter happen for you and how does this partnership work?

“We both had this common urge to work together in the contemporary scene while Priyanka was at Proctor & Gamble and I was consulting on contemporary Indian art. Then she decided to take the plunge in mid 2008 and we opened the gallery in April 2009. In between, we did a short course on contemporary Asian art at Sotheby’s. Priyanka is the planner. She works out all the details. She is the arms and legs of the gallery. I do some of the thinking, but we both do the curatorial thinking together. We do only six shows a year, but believe me, its not easy to plan, ideate and keep a natural flow to the exhibitions for the six that we do. In fact, we balance each other out very well. That’s how this partnership works really.”

Experimenter is invested in capturing the “plurality of expression.” It is also deeply interested in the “now.” Tell us a little about this. How does this show fit into this paradigm?

“‘The plurality of expression’ comes from the inclination to introduce multiple mediums of expression and at the same time challenge the viewers to question established aspects of viewing contemporary art and break pre-conceived notions. It is also very linked into “now” because whatever we show or plan to show is about our generation, is about what is happening now and is reflective of what our society, our values, our systems project “now.” And if you look at people, organisations, governments, and the society around us, you will slowly peel off layer after layer to eventually derive your own understanding of the world, which might be completely unlike what you had originally perceived it to be. So the title does provoke in that sense by calling things unreal. Sometimes, one does not even have to go deep, just viewing an idea from a different point of view gives a completely new meaning to it. That’s the essence of this show.”

Tell us about the works in this show.

“RAQS has contributed three pieces, Skirmish, The Librarian’s Lucid Dream and I Did Not Hear.

Installation view detail of RAQS Media Collective's 'Skirmish', as shown at Gallery Experimenter exhibition from the show "This is Unreal". Image courtesy of Gallery Experimenter.

Installation view detail of RAQS Media Collective's 'Skirmish', as shown at Gallery Experimenter exhibition from the show "This is Unreal". Image courtesy of Gallery Experimenter.

Skirmish is a narrative about an estranged couple continuing their ‘skirmish’ on the walls of an unsuspecting city. The woman paints keys that are similar to the keys to her apartment that she had given to her partner, whom she has since distanced herself from, and the man cannot go anywhere without seeing the keys and recognises what a mockery she is making of his yearning for her. Yet in response he paints padlocks on the walls to continue that skirmish (and in a sense continue the only way of communicating with her) while the city assumes it’s just locksmiths and key-makers that have stepped up their business.

Installation view of RAQS Media Collective's 'Librarians Lucid Dream', as shown at Gallery Experimenter exhibition "This is Unreal". Image courtesy of Gallery Experimenter.

Installation view of RAQS Media Collective's 'The Librarian's Lucid Dream', as shown at Gallery Experimenter exhibition "This is Unreal". Image courtesy of Gallery Experimenter.

The second work is a wallpaper called The Librarian’s Lucid Dream that forms the backdrop against which Skirmish is installed. It’s an interpretation of a librarian’s dream through just assemblages of texts. These are titles of books but all the titles are mixed up to created new meanings and realities.

The video I Did Not Hear is of a shooter at a shooting range. While the headphones on the viewer lead him or her through an abstract narrative, a rather sinister scaffolding of events is generated by the voice which in turn leads to multiple possible identities and roles for the shooter.

Installation view of RAQS Media Collective's 'I did not hear', as shown at Gallery Experimenter exhibition "This is Unreal". Image courtesy of Gallery Experimenter.

Installation view of RAQS Media Collective's 'I did not hear', as shown at Gallery Experimenter exhibition "This is Unreal". Image courtesy of Gallery Experimenter.

Mandal creates a kinetic sculptural installation which has a screen and a light source behind that projects an image of a boiling bowl of liquid on an open flame. Using a common scene of ‘cooking something,’ Mandal makes a pun of the phrase ‘cook up’ to express how most things today are indeed cooked up to project a reality quite different from the factual truth.

An untitled installation by Susanta Mandal, as shown at Gallery Experimenter exhibition "This is Unreal". Image courtesy of Gallery Experimenter.

An untitled installation by Susanta Mandal, as shown at Gallery Experimenter exhibition "This is Unreal". Image courtesy of Gallery Experimenter.

Nayar’s process is essential to the show. She creates sculptural assemblages from found objects, creates them for the camera, and after photographing them destroys the objects, thereby destroying the physical existence of the source of the photograph. The works form a point of entry into the object but do not quite reveal their actual meaning.”

Pursuit_Archival C Print on Paper. Yamini Nayar. Image courtesy Gallery Experimenter from the show "This is Unreal"

Yamini Nayar, 'Pursuit', archival C print on paper. Image courtesy of Gallery Experimenter.

RAQS Media Collective has come a long way since 1992 when they started out as a group of three media practitioners in the art world. What do you make of RAQS’ growing popularity in the international arts scene?

“They are a super super important artist collective. Any international curator or museum with any interest in contemporary Indian art will know the importance RAQS has on the Indian scene. And how the international market sees India is also defined by the shows that get seen at important venues like the ones that RAQS show in. Their practice is very critical to the Indian scene internally as well. They have some very interesting things lined up this year in Europe. We will also show them solo in February 2011 … and at the India Art Summit in January 2011 in New Delhi within a group show.”

This is your first time working with RAQS, Mandal and Nayar. How was the experience?

“Absolutely fantastic. They are very professional artists. Works and concepts were discussed (that were true to Experimenter’s way of working) over a year ago and we fleshed out ideas to finally put this show on. The most interesting bit is that their work really fits well together.”

Trends in Indian art

Do you think gallery spaces in India are generally not very encouraging for installation art?

“No. I don’t think so. It’s just that this is a growing population and, like all things new and different, installations have some amount of resistance to viewing and experiencing them, even now. From a point of view of being open to exhibiting installation art, there are a bunch of new galleries like us who are doing interesting things.”

Installation art and conceptual art are increasingly popular with Indian artists today. Do you see this as a trend?

“It’s a natural progression of what the Indian art scene is. The newer, younger galleries are looking to show this form of work. You have to know at the same time that the Western art viewing audience also saw this development in other countries several years ago and that’s possibly the trajectory we might see here in India too, but over the medium term.”

Kolkata on the Indian art map

Describe for us the arts scene in Kolkata? Why not set up Experimenter in Delhi or Mumbai?

“Because its the only city in the country where one can have viewers coming back three times over, spending two hours at the gallery. This is a city where art, literature, philosophy and politics all feature in regular conversations with regular people. It’s also a city which is extremely responsive to new forms of cultural influences and it’s fun to stir things up in a somewhat sidelined city!

Opening an Experimenter in Mumbai and/or Delhi would be easy and just another … contemporary space would have been added to the growing number we see today. In Kolkata, you are really making an impact on the visual arts scene with a program like ours.”

What has your experience been working in the Kolkata arts scene? How do you compare it with Delhi and Mumbai?

“Fantastic. For Experimenter at least, we have some very exciting collections in Kolkata that we are adding work to and we are evolving a new generation of collectors. Of course, we make sure that everything is available online – one can show works, do short videos of installations, gallery walk-through videos and share the program with the world. To give a small example, we will be the only Indian gallery at Frieze Art Fair, London this year. We did not apply; they hunted us down and asked for us to apply and we got through in the curated section where there will be only about twenty young galleries from all over the world. We are probably the youngest, too. Experimenter turned a year old in April this year.”

Do you feel it’s difficult to straddle the roles of gallery owner and curator?

“For us, a gallery is an extension of who the owners are. It’s our program. It’s not like a large faceless organisation, so curating shows for the gallery comes with what we want to show and how we respond to things in today’s world as people. So it’s not tough. It’s critical that we put our minds to developing the program in such a way that there is reflection of the ‘now’ in whatever we do. Also, most of our shows are quite political in nature and we like that. We like to make people a little uncomfortable.”

AM/KN/HH

Related Topics: Indian contemporary art, interviews, trends: fact and fiction blur

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What did the galleries say about ART HK 10? Art Radar Asia speaks to 19 dealers

Posted by artradar on June 1, 2010


HONG KONG ART FAIR

Art Radar Asia attended ART HK 10 on Sunday with the aim of getting a perspective on the who is selling what to whom. Below we lay out the comments from and opinions of 19 of the Asian and international galleries in attendance this year.

Nadi Gallery – Jakart

Meli Angkapradipta: ”We got more sales this year. We brought around 18 pieces and only four are unsold. Most of our buyers are from Asia, mostly Indonesia. All Gede Mahendra Yasa’s works are sold. His works are very decorative and very natural. People can accept them very easily.”

Gede Mahendra Yasa, Cannabis-Canniballis, 2010

Gede Mahendra Yasa, Cannabis-Canniballis, 2010

Ota Fine Arts – Tokyo

“I think this fair is getting stronger and stronger. About half of our nine pieces are sold at the price range of $2,000 to $380,000. The buyers are from Indonesia, Taiwan, Korea and Hong Kong. Yayoi Kusama’s work is very popular. We sold some new artist’s work too.”

Tang Contemporary Art – Bangkok/Beijing/Hong Kong

“We sold about forty percent of our works to Mainland, European, and US buyers. The most expensive piece was Liu Xiaodong’s painting.”

LEVY – Berlin/Hamburg

Thomas Levy: “Last year we brought some young artists and we sold nothing. I think [people] are buying well-know names or Chinese art. We sold 2 of 15 pieces. It’s not a disappointment but it could be better. The buyers are from Hong Kong but they are foreign people, no Chinese. It’s a problem of education and no modern art museum in Hong Kong and things like that. We are here to find new clients.”

Greenberg Van Doren Gallery – New York

“We’ve never done any fairs in Asia before. We really just want to get to know some of the collectors in Hong Kong and other cities around here. And I think we have met a ton of people. The sales haven’t been disappointing. Most of the collectors are from Asia and Australia. It’s just a very different set of people.”

Yayoi Kusama, Pumpkin, 2010

Yayoi Kusama, Pumpkin, 2010

Galerie Forsblom – Helsinki

Karl-Heinz Horbert: “This year’s fair has much more people than last year. Our works have sold in the range of US$8,000 to US$400,000. Hong Kong is an international place and the buyers come from all over the place. The European fairs and the American have a long tradition, that means in the States and in Europe there are serious collectors talking about collection. People buy to keep. Where’s the public museum in Hong Kong? This is the big difference between the European and Hong Kong markets.”

The Modern Institute – Glasgow

“The fair is very well organized, very well attended and the sales have been good. I think overall it’s been very strong. We didn’t have any expectations really because we’ve never done this fair before. We have collectors in Japan and Australia. We don’t have any collectors in China, so coming to the fair we didn’t have any expectations. About eighty percent of the collectors are new. The new collectors are from Beijing, Shanghai, Taiwan and some new collectors from Japan. The price ranges from 10, 000 pounds to 100,000 pounds.”

Eslite Gallery – Taipei

Hai-Ping Chang: “The quality of the fair is getting better and better. And there is [a bigger] audience. We brought the works of seven artists from China and Taiwan. The sales are pretty good. Buyers are from Hong Kong and overseas.”

Sakshi Gallery – Mumbai

Geetha Mehra, director: “It’s a very good fair. Well organized, good quality of work. In terms of the sales there’s a bit of conflict from the auction. The buyers are mainly from Asia. The fair has more Asian buyers and more works from the region but overall the quality is as good as anywhere else.”

Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery – Sydney

Tony Oxley: “It’s a very good fair. It has a nice Asian flavor. The buyers are from Hong Kong and Europe. We’ve done pretty well with Tracey Moffatt. I think people prefer figurative arts rather than abstract. I think we’ll be coming more often now. The future is here.”

Bernier/Eliades Gallery – Athens

Hidy Lam Hoi Tik: “There are more Asian collectors at this fair. A buyer was from Shanghai, a friend of the artist Wang Xingwei. There’s a trend that collectors start to collect their friends’ works.”

Damien Hirst, Domine, Ne In Furore (Diamond Dust), 2010

Damien Hirst, Domine, Ne In Furore (Diamond Dust), 2010

Hakgojae – Seoul

“Last year was really bad for us. This year is really good. We sold 5 of 21 pieces. Two videos were sold to Hong Kong buyers for $30,000 each on the preview. Song Hyun-Sook’s paintings are really popular with Asian people.”

Thomas Erben Gallery – New York

“This fair is very well organized, very well attended. We don’t have any link [to] Hong Kong and very few of our collectors are from Hong Kong. We’re kind of jumping into cold water [to] see what happens, basically getting new contacts. The sales don’t quite cover the cost yet, but it’s a good start. Many of the buyers are Americans.”

Hanart TZ Gallery – Hong Kong

Marcello Kwan: “We’ve only brought Qiu Anxiong’s video The New Book of Moutains and Seas Part Ⅱ to the fair as we have our galleries in Hong Kong. Videos are a little harder to sell but there is a big audience, so it’s good publicity. Our works are more experimental than commercial. I think we bring something different to the audience.”

Marianne Boesky Gallery – New York

Adrian M. Turner: “We’ve met new people and we made some sales. It’s good. We sold about 10 of 20 pieces. The buyers are mostly from Asia. The prices range from $12,000 to $300, 000.”

Song Hyun-sook, 9brushstrokes, 2003

Song Hyun-sook, 9brushstrokes, 2003

Galerie Zink – Berlin/Munich

“We’ve made some interesting contacts, sold mostly our Asian artists. It’s a little bit tough for young European or international artists from outside Asia to introduce them to people. Our artists are between 27 and 36 [years old]. It’s not that easy to get Asian collectors interested in their work for the first time. Collectors are mainly from Mainland China, Hong Kong and Australia. Yoshitomo Nara’s work sells the best.”

gdm – Paris

Claire Lauverier: “The opening is very social here. People are not here to buy the art works the first day. They are just here to enjoy the party. During the week it’s very low, very quiet, because I think people are working very hard. And during the weekend it’s like an explosion, everybody is coming. In other fairs it’s different. During the opening it’s like everybody is buying everything and afterwards it’s very quiet and very slow. People are much more direct here. If they are interested in buying something they’ll just say I want this, how much? Our buyers are mostly from Hong Kong and [the] mainland as well.”

Ayyam Gallery – Beirut/Damascus/Dubai

Myriam Jakiche, director: “More crowded, less interest selling wise compared to last year. Maybe because there are more galleries so there’s much more choice or something. Those bought are mainly colorful portraits. Buyers are mainly Europeans and Hong Kong people. I’m happy I know more people than last year.”

Gandhara-Art – Hong Kong/Karachi

Amna Naqvi, director: “It was more fabulous this year. We brought 13 pieces and 8 were sold. Buyers are from Asia and Europe. New buyers are from Asia. The price range of the works sold is $1,500 to $50,000.”

Overall, most participant galleries agreed that the quality of art available at ART HK is getting better and there was a much larger audience than last year. Many commented that while the fair is international, there are more Asian collectors and works than at European and US fairs. Notably, these Asian collectors tended to buy Asian works or the big names of international art. When compared with ART HK 09, the Asian galleries were more satisfied with their sales this year.

YNC/KN

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