Bose Krishnamachari en Wed Nov 02 11:27:42 IST 2022 here-is-to-healthy-conversation <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>A couple of weeks back, I was in Thiruvananthapuram to attend a few meetings. Afterwards, I visited an old artist friend, Shibu Natesan. He lives and works between three cities: Attingal, near Thiruvananthapuram—his home town; Baroda, where he studied, and London, where his wife and child lives. Shibu is a highly skilled painter, who switches effortlessly between different media like oil and watercolour.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The last time I visited his studio in Kerala was a decade ago. He leads a hermit’s life. He paints or sketches every day. Other daily practitioners include artists like A. Ramachandran and Laxma Goud. Whether it is outdoors or in studios, they enjoy daily practice. Shibu loves to travel to beaches and mountains in his jeep. His studio was full of small paintings, piled-up oil colour tubes, canvas tubes, watercolour palettes, brushes, easels, mirrors, hard-boards to paint on and objects from religious destinations.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is always a joy to visit artists’ studios. During my student days at Sir J.J. School of Art, I used to visit studios of artists like Akbar Padamsee, Laxman Shreshta, Anju Dodiya and Atul Dodiya, Bhupen Khakhar, Prabhakar Barwe, Ramachandran, Sudarshan Shetty and many others. The learning was priceless and largely unavailable in college.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The other day, I was at the Santiniketan Society of Visual Art and Design (SSVAD) in West Bengal as part of an artists’ workshop and camp convened by Jogen Chowdhury. I have always had great memories of Santiniketan—its atmosphere, classrooms, K.G. Subramanyan’s murals, paintings, sculptures, studios and the greenery around the campus. SSVAD, a non-profit organisation, was set up by Janak Jhankar Narzary, Jogen Chowdhury and a few other like-minded people nine years ago. The funds were raised by selling artworks donated by eminent artists. The name is, of course, a play on the word svad meaning taste.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I think the idea originated from looking at the students at the Kala Bhavan in Santiniketan. After their formal education, where do they go and where do they practice and exhibit their works? SSVAD is trying to create opportunities for a new generation to boost their confidence and awareness of the art world through workshops, camps, residencies and symposia, and by providing exhibition and performance spaces. In recent years, SSVAD has acquired some more land and created a new studio for print-making and residences.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Shibu was also among the artists who were invited to give presentations at Kala Bhavan. On a very humid morning, the students sat on the tiled floors. I wondered how they were going to sit like that for three hours. But they did! Shibu made a presentation on his paintings in oil and watercolours, and spoke about his travels, his workspace and styles of paintings. Thereafter, it was my turn and I made a presentation on the art world, how to build a career in art, and the creation of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, institutions and other art festivals.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sanjayan Ghosh and Prashanta Sahu, both of whom teach at Kala Bhavan, had organised the conversation sessions with artists N.S. Harsha, T.V. Santhosh, Jagannath Panda, Shibu and myself. It went on for a long time and the students had a lot of questions.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I would like to mention here that this is my last ‘Everyone is a Camera’ column for THE WEEK for now. I wish to thank the good people at the publication. Perhaps, I can end with an anecdote from Kala Bhavan. After the conversation sessions, a young postgraduate student came up to me, showed me an issue of THE WEEK, and said: “Your column has given me so much information about the art world and it really has helped me to grow.” Here is to more healthy and creative conversations!</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b></b></p> Sat Aug 10 15:37:51 IST 2019 an-award-of-opportunities <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Recently, I was part of the jury for the Punjab Lalit Kala Akademi’s annual awards along with the brilliant artists Sudarshan Shetty and G.R. Iranna. Our task was to identify 10 artists from the 28 shortlisted youngsters from Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh. The task was unenviable. They were all of a high calibre, and it was difficult, even saddening, to choose only 10.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Every artist had personal stories of struggle. Many came from far away, travelling hours by train and bus, carrying large and delicate sculptures, paintings, etchings, drawings and sketch books. Along with celebrating the 10 who won, I also wish to applaud the ones who did not. The recipients get 01.2 lakh each. This may not seem like a large amount for art production, but, for artists from humble backgrounds, it would be a huge relief. For young artists, such an award goes a long way in encouraging their practice.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In 1999, I was a student at Goldsmiths college in London, doing my master’s in visual art theory and practice. Sudarshan and Iranna, used to visit me and stay at my little room on New Cross Road. Iranna was attending a six-month painting workshop at Wimbledon College. Sudarshan was in Bristol at Spike Island artists’ residency, a beautiful place. I remember his kinetic sound installation of a boat created like a violin. All of us had received the Charles Wallace India Trust Award. We used to spend a good amount of our time at exhibitions and artists’ studios. It was a very important time in our life and career. Those days Inlaks scholarships, Fulbright scholarships, the Charles Wallace India Trust Award and Mid-America Arts Alliance Awards were very prestigious.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Diwan Manna, chairman of the Punjab Lalit Kala Akademi, is working hard to activate the academy and its programmes. He is almost a one-man army. He was happy to hear about our residency and educational days in UK. He keeps organising talks of eminent artists and curators at the academy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There should be more of such awards and residency opportunities for our young artists. There are a few in India, like the Khoj Artists Residency in Delhi, TIFA Studios in Pune, the recently opened Space Studio &amp; Distillery in Baroda, 1 Shanti Road in Bengaluru and Space 118 in Mumbai, among others. The Pepper House residency programme developed by the Kochi Biennale Foundation (KBF) is another important opportunity.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We have to create opportunities for youngsters to travel. They have to be able to see exhibitions, participate in residencies, and have curatorial and educational mentorship. I am happy that as part of the Students’ Biennale, the KBF instituted the Tata Trusts Awards for the best works at each edition. It has been given at the last two editions. This edition, the jury comprised of the eminent artists K. Madhusudanan, Deepika Sorabjee from Tata Trusts, and myself. Students’ Biennale sees the work of very good young artists from art colleges across India, and to choose three or four recipients from around 100 projects, curated by six experts, was again difficult.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The awards allow the winners to travel to major exhibitions like the Venice Biennale and documenta, and also also receive residency opportunities at the Pepper House programme in Kochi. These are occasions where they can be exposed to contemporary artistic practice, meet artists and curators, and also see masterpieces at museums and important collections. The residency awardees also get time to explore their practice in different ways. Like it was for Sudarshan, Iranna and me, I hope this will turn out to be great learning experiences for these young artists. An award is a recognition, a patronage and an encouragement.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b></b></p> Sat Jul 27 17:12:00 IST 2019 art-unlimited <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>In 2012, I was fortunate enough to spend time with Alfons Hug at documenta 13. I was there as part of a BRICS curatorial travel programme. Later, we presented a video art project that he had curated at the first Kochi-Muziris Biennale. Hug is an important curator who has done many significant projects in the last 20 years. He curated the São Paulo Biennial 2002, the 2002 and 2005 Brazil Pavilion and the 2011 Latin American Pavilion at the Venice Biennale. He was also chief curator of the 2nd Montevideo Biennial. Earlier he was a curator at the House of World Cultures in Berlin. He has also been the director of the Goethe-Institut in many countries.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I think of Hug as an energetic vagabond. I want to mention him because of his enthusiasm for art and his selflessness. When I was rushing to catch my flight from Zurich to Mumbai after the Basel Art Fair, he stopped me at the gates and, without any introductions or formalities, started talking! “Unlimited at the Basel Art Fair is like a biennale,” he said. The mind of a critic-curator, I thought. He had said the same thing I had felt.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Unlimited reinvention is difficult in the habitual and ostentatious heavy-art market. But, eight years ago, Art Basel introduced this incredible parallel project called Unlimited. The man behind it, the young Swiss curator Gianni Jetzer—now in his final year of curating Unlimited—is also curator-at-large at Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC. Every time I get the opportunity to go to Art Basel, I look forward to Unlimited. Of course, at the adjacent Messe building you have galleries from around the world and exhibitor Indian galleries like Chemould Prescott Road, Gallery SKE, Vadehra and Experimenter. The six-day fair is attended by around 80,000 people. Next door, you see the Miami Design Basel with all kinds of products, furniture, jewellery, vintage cars and many more designs.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Kunstmuseum exhibitions of William Kentridge with the largest installations and eight-channel projection was remarkable. The same project was exhibited at the recent edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale. The effects of charcoal, animated skilled drawings and the narrations through the performances; its layers and dark surfaces and the shadows, the drama... pure Kentridge! Fondation Beyeler put up two great shows. The first titled The Young Picasso-Blue and Rose Period, and the second an immensely skilled presence of images, mediums and materiality presented by artist Rudolf Stingel. I was seeing it all for the first time. I cannot forget Picasso’s mastery and Stingel’s mesmerising material aesthetics.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Another good exhibition was Body Fantasies by Rebecca Horn at Museum Tinguely in Basel. Her works combine early performative works and later kinetic sculptures to highlight lines of development within her oeuvre, the transformation processes of the body and very sensitive and calculated sciences and mathematics in human structure.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Another great experience was a piece of home at the border of Germany. Vitra Design Museum presented on the Indian architect, Pritzker Prize-winner B.V. Doshi. I think this was the master’s first international retrospective. I took a 30-minute ride from Basel to Vitra to see it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I was also fortunate to meet the legendary Argentinian artist Rirkrit Tiravanija. We were introduced by the curator and writer Hans Ulrich Obrist. Tiravanija resides between New York, Berlin, Chiang Mai and Hong Kong—another vagabond! His installations often take the form of stages or rooms for sharing meals, cooking, reading or playing music. The architecture or structures for living and socialising is the core element in his works. His work, I think, is important because this creation of spaces for coexistence is one of the essential elements of art itself.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b></b></p> Sat Jul 13 15:56:53 IST 2019 learnings-from-ljubljana <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The breakup of Yugoslavia led to the formation of (currently) six independent states: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro. Slovenia was the first to declare independence, in June 1991. I recently visited its capital, Ljubljana, for the board meeting of the International Biennial Association. International Centre of Graphic Arts director Nevenka Sivavec hosted us there for the 33rd Ljubljana Biennial of Graphic Arts.</p> <p>The biennial was curated by the collective Slavs and Tatars (S&amp;T). It is a pleasure to see more and more artists and artist collectives curating major exhibitions. Kochi-Muziris Biennale has always been curated by an artist. The next Sydney Biennial has artist Brook Andrew as artistic director. Artist Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi will be curating the next Lahore Biennale. Indonesian artists collective Ruangrupa will be at the helm of the next documenta in 2022. Raqs Media Collective will be curating Yokohama Triennale 2020.</p> <p>S&amp;T produces exhibitions and publications around the region east of Berlin, usually called Eurasia. It works with texts, and words are their main tool and medium. Occasionally, the group performs its own writings. The Ljubljana biennial, titled Crack Up-Crack Down, was a visual art biennale, which included sociopolitical satire, caricatures and archival material, much like its art practice. It was conceptual, complex, incomplete and comforting.</p> <p>I was pleasantly surprised when Mayor Zoran Jankovic hosted us at the City Hall. It is important that civic authorities take part in cultural activities. After the introduction, the mayor got up and held a flag from the line of flags and said proudly: “You know this flag—Ljubljana’s. We were the European Green Capital for 2016.” In the short time we spent at his office, he came across as a people’s mayor. He was on ground, without any ostentatious security or <i>tamasha</i>.</p> <p>I also want to write here about a gift from the mayor: a one litre glass bottle. And, Mateja Demsic, head of the city's cultural department, told us its story. The bottle has the words 'Museum Water-Water for the Future' embossed on it along with indentations formed by a left hand. The bottle tells us that Ljubljana is a city in which fresh drinking water is available in abundance. Apparently 80 per cent of the river water is drinkable.</p> <p>The bottle was created as part of an exhibition on water at the city museum. It brought together some 250 objects from museums, galleries and archives around the city. In the show, water is an element for our survival, forms pathways for transport, flows through our mythologies, and is part of our languages and arts. In India, every day we read about problems related to potable water. We have many things to learn from the care given to water bodies in places like Ljubljana and the recognition of it in cultural activities.</p> <p>City Museum director Blaz Persin took us on a special walk through incredible collections from the Russian museums. Ljubljana is building a space for culture, and Persin showed us its digital 3D presentation. The municipality invested ᙿ€10 million for the Sugar Factory (Cukrarna) Gallery project, while the state has given more than €2.5 million; €11 million will come from the European Fund for Regional Development. I was told that they see this as an investment with financial returns (in addition to the cultural impact) as 60 per cent of their foreign visitors are cultural tourists. For years, people have averted their gazes from the embarrassing ruins of what was once the largest sugar processing plant in the Habsburg lands. Now, Cukrarna will house the largest exhibition space in this part of Europe. The citizens will finally get appropriate premises for events such as BIO Ljubljana. Cukrarna will also be a future venue for the Biennial of Graphic Arts.&nbsp;</p> <p>Ljubljana has a vision, and I await to see its realisation.</p> Sat Jun 29 15:49:19 IST 2019 finding-places-for-sociocultural-initiatives-in-kerala <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Kerala is known for its diverse and heartwarming natural landscapes. However, we must consider a couple of points of caution in the face of such beauty. One is that we often take it for granted. The other is that it induces in us a sense of complacency, and we do not enter into a creative dialogue with such places. There are very few sociocultural initiatives and artists in Kerala that initialise such conversations.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to return to a small island called Kakkathuruthu. Situated in the Vembanad backwaters, Kakkathuruthu was named by National Geographic’s travel magazine as the best of destinations. My friends Anoop Scaria and Dorrie Younger used to run an art residency there as part of Kashi Art Gallery initiatives. We used to hang around with artists like Rajan M. Krishnan, K. Reghunadhan, Upendranath, Jyothi Basu, Ratheesh T. and many others.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The island has fishing fields and coconut groves. You have to walk along narrow pathways, with water on both sides. You would walk practically through village homes, since most of them do not have boundary walls. Reghunadhan moved from Kollam, and started living and working in Kakkathuruthu. He is not just an artist but has also created beautiful pokkali paddy fields, combining culture and agriculture. He can also cook the best fish meals ever!</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Another space in Kakkathuruthu is Kayal. US-returned engineer Maneesha Panicker took over the residency land and converted it into this small retreat space. Maneesha has been asking me and my family to experience Kayal since its beginning. This summer, I took up her offer and eight of my family members had an incredible experience. It is an ideal place for creative writers and artists. There is a similar place in the hills of Wayanad, in northern Kerala. I first came to know about Uravu at their exhibition in Bengaluru around the work of K.S. Lenin. He is a self-taught artist and the chief creative designer at Uravu. My kids are interested in art and design and we had also heard about Uravu from their friends. We were lucky to get a resort on top of a mountain with the help of Sivaraj and Saira from Uravu.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I was interested to see how Uravu developed their social interest and commitments with a community of bamboo craftsmen. Uravu was established in 1996 as a non-profit NGO for sustainable rural empowerment. Started by a collective of individuals who were determined to make a difference to the lives of the rural poor, they later delved into the wonder that is bamboo. Today, Uravu is a knowledge centre of bamboo—a one stop point for anything bamboo, so to speak—and are spearheading development of the bamboo sector in Kerala and beyond. We saw a great variety of species at the bamboo nursery, weaving and production centre.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Uravu has created a fantastic bamboo-architecture community space, where they have painting classes, talks and workshops. I wish this crafts village initiative had more economic support from the state and philanthropists. Uravu resort—the hospitality segment—has been designed by Swiss architects with the local craftsmen. They are developing a cafe and conversation spaces. It is an ideal place for an art and culture residency.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>During my journey to Wayanad, I received a call from the writer Manoj Nair. I did not know it would be our last conversation. He was writing on several things—art, contemporary music, literature—and many things in the life of a genius are fated to be incomplete.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b></b></p> Sat Jun 15 20:32:59 IST 2019 india-needs-a-permanent-seat-in-venice <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The 58th edition of the Venice Biennale, the oldest biennale in the world, started on May 11. The six month main biennale is curated by US-born Ralph Rugoff, director of the prestigious Hayward Gallery, London. The performance art programme is co-curated by the young Aaron Cezar, director of the Delfina Foundation. Immediately after the first week of the performance programme, he was in Stockholm with us to announce the winner of the Absolut Global Creative Competition. Aaron was one of the global jury members along with me and the eminent American artist, Mickalene Thomas. The award went to the young Lebanese artist Sarah Saroufim. She was selected from 7,500 entrants from 19 countries and received €20,000.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Aaron mentioned to us that he could organise 30 performances in the opening week, and that the closing week, in November, would have more or less the same. The presence of country pavilions are a popular element of the Venice Biennale. The current edition has 87 country pavilions, each displaying the country’s pride in its art and artists. The countries involved bring in PR professionals and celebrities, and, in some cases, heads of state.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Rugoff curated an eclectic visual plethora with lots of contemporary materiality and sciences. Eighty-three artists were invited for the international exhibitions titled ‘May You Live In Interesting Times’ at Venice. This also includes Indian artists Shilpa Gupta, Soham Gupta and Gauri Gill, at the Arsenale and Giardini venues. Shilpa has engineered a new kinetic installation, a simple yet brilliant work.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Golden Lion for the Best National Participation was won by Lithuania for its pavilion titled ‘Sun &amp; Sea (Marina)’, created by artists Lina Lapelyte, Vaiva Grainyte and Rugile Barzdziukaite and curated by Lucia Pietroiusti. It was a conceptually simple project, a live time-bound performative participatory work. The Belgium pavilion was done by Jos de Gruyter and Harald Thys. They created a world of contemporary sculptures/installations. The Golden Lion for the Best Participant in ‘May You Live In Interesting Times’ went to the US-born Arthur Jafa; the Silver Lion was given to Cyprus-born Haris Epaminonda. The jury’s special mentions went to the Mexican artist Teresa Margolles and Nigerian Otobong Nkanga. The Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement went to Jimmie Durham from the US.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Indian pavilion returned after eight years. The works displayed were of artists Nandalal Bose, M.F. Husain, Rummana Hussain, Atul Dodiya, Shakuntala Kulkarni, Ashim Purkayastha, Jitish Kallat and G.R. Iranna. It was curated by Roobina Karode. The Indian pavilion was hosted by the government of India, ministry of culture, CII India, NGMA and art collector Kiran Nadar. I wish to see a permanent Indian pavilion designed for all the art and architecture biennales of Venice. I hope the government takes cognisance of this soon and gives autonomy to the commissioner and curator.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The incomparable Kiran Nadar made an exciting announcement in Venice: a new museum building to be built in Delhi, designed by the young and brilliant British architect Sir David Adjaye. He was selected by eminent jurors of the art world, such as Glenn D. Lowry and Chris Dercon. It was a year of Indian presence in Venice. The Kochi-Biennale Foundation announced the first edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale in 2011 in Venice. After eight years, the KBF announced artist and writer Shubigi Rao as the curator of KMB 2020. It was declared in Venice in the presence of patrons and friends of the biennale.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b></b></p> Sat Jun 01 17:53:04 IST 2019 art-in-the-porcelain-capital-jingdezhen <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Every visit to China springs a surprise. On my way to Jingdezhen, I touched down at Shenzhen, a fast developing city. A friend of mine had mentioned that there were fewer people and buildings in Shenzhen a decade ago. Now, this city has more than 10 million inhabitants and is totally urbanised. It also has one of the most aesthetically designed airports in the world.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Jingdezhen hosted the inaugural ceremony of the Taoxichuan China Arts &amp; Sciences project in April. The city is known for its traditional wealth of ceramic craftsmanship and contemporary Chinese artists make use of the skilled craftsmen of ceramics and porcelain from the region. For instance, Ai Weiwei produced 100 million hand-made ceramic sun flower seeds for his Tate Modern’s Turbain Hall project from the region. Priya Sundaravalli from Auroville had a contemporary ceramic residency in Ceramic Art Avenue, and Vinod Daroz from Vadodara was a regular artist there.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Thomas Eller, a German artist known for setting up some important initiatives and publications, now lives and works from Jingdezhen and Beijing. He was the editor-in-chief of Art Net, and is the Boblingen CEO of Gallery&nbsp;Weekend Beijing. He understands the art world, its ecosystem, economy, politics, practice and theory. He had called me a few months ago to discuss about his vision for a future city, creative economy building through its traditional wealth of crafts, art and sciences. He envisioned three verticals for achieving it for Jingdezhen. First, residency: Residency programmes are the beating heart of the Taoxichuan China Arts &amp; Sciences project. Artists of all disciplines and scientists come together to live and work in Taoxichuan. Second, festival: The art festival makes the project visible to the world by staging a biennale in Taoxichuan and by cooperating with global artists and curators to bring to the world its idea. Third, museums: The municipality is to have museums with curated shows, permanent and temporary.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Jingdezhen municipality’s second phase of investment has been conceptualised by Thomas Eller and he nominated Jon Kessler (professor of professional practice in visual arts at the Faculty of the Arts, School of Art, Columbia University), Zhang Gan, (director of the Institute of Contemporary Art, Academy of Arts &amp; Design, Tsinghua University), Shang Hui (chief editor of Fine Art magazine), Shao Yiyang (deputy dean of the School of Humanities at China’s Central Academy of Fine Arts), Ma Sai from Tsinghua University, academic Rick Dolphijn, curators Bonaventure Ndikung and Silvia Fehrmann, Xie Xiaoquan (deputy director of the National Museum of China), Bénédicte Alliot (director-general at Cite Internationale des Arts), Wu Hongliang (deputy dean of Beijing Fine Art Academy) and myself as academic board members at the Taoxichuan China Arts &amp; Sciences project.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The first phase of Jinghezhen has already been built. The old factory areas have now been developed into high-end hotels and medium shops, restaurants, cafes and fashion, designer leather, ceramic and porcelain spaces and a ceramic museum. They become active from afternoon till late night with food and music. The municipal authorities have signed agreements with different institutions and organisations to make their vision possible. The first board meeting decided to set up three important projects and other possibilities for TCA&amp;S.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Restoration or conservation of architecture at its best could be experienced at Jingdezhen Heritage and Ceramic Industry Museum. It won the UNESCO Asia-Pacific World Heritage Award in 2017, thanks to optimistic policy making by the municipality.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b></b></p> Sun May 19 12:48:45 IST 2019 sojourn-with-artistic-souls <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>A decade or more ago, the rulers of Abu Dhabi envisioned Saadiyat Island as a dedicated zone for creative and cultural buildings. Last month, the department of culture and tourism of Abu Dhabi conducted Culture Summit-2019 that brought together artists, curators, institutional heads, museum directors, academics, social theorists and policy makers from 90 countries.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Reem Fadda, a regular visitor to the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, Art By Children (ABC) and an admirer of the Students’ Biennale and outreach programme, was present at the summit. Reem is an influential curator and it was on her suggestion that I was invited as a guest to the summit. The talks were well-conceptualised; the theme was ‘cultural responsibility and new technology’. Over 350 delegates and speakers participated in the five-day conference which stood out for its diversity of voices. I met and conversed with many figures from the international art world, including Richard Armstrong of the Gugghenheim Foundation, New York; Antonia Carver, director of Art Jameel, Dubai; Aaron Seeto, director of MACAN, Indonesia, and many others.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I also visited New York University Abu Dhabi, which runs a fantastic visual art educational programme and a gallery of curated projects. They also produce publications, programme talks and children’s educational activities.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Unfortunately, I could stay only for two days in Abu Dhabi since I had to be in New York for the global jury meeting of the Absolut Creative Competition—a contest to identify young artists from 19 countries.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Aaron Cezar, founding director of Delfina Foundation, London, and American artist Mickalene Thomas were the other members of the jury. Frida Hyseus of Absolut organised the jurors’ meeting in a concept space called NeueHouse—few levels with dedicated performance spaces, cafes, bars, books, paintings and conference rooms.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The competition is an initiative to find the next generation of bold artistic voices from across the world. The jury looked at local winners and their 19 artworks. We thought it would be easy to select the best among them. But, we eventually had many rounds of discussions before picking the winner. The global winner will be announced in Stockholm, Sweden, on May 15 in the presence of the 19 national winners and other dignitaries. The winner will receive a purse of €20,000 and will have his/her work displayed on a globally iconic out-of-home site like Times Square.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I was invited to experience a concept space similar to NeueHouse by one of my old friends, Priyanka Mathew (former director of Aicon Gallery, New York, and head of South Asian Art at Sotheby’s). Fifteen years ago, I had curated a show called KAAM, while Priyanka was with Aicon. She mentioned that Indian art collectors still ask her about the artists who were featured in that show. I had visited her temporary office space with huge, high- ceilinged spaces for exhibitions and performances in Tribeca, Lower Manhattan.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I received a few messages on social media. One was from a self-taught Malayali artist and consultant from Philadelphia, Mahinth. The other was from a KMB-2016 volunteer, Erin Montanez. I met them at Whitney’s High Line museum and later visited Chelsie galleries and museums. I was really excited to meet Erin. I used to see her at the KMB sites working diligently day and night. Erin, an American, would love to work with the KMB again. There are many brilliant volunteers in India and abroad like her, who give their heart and soul for the KMB, even though we do not have much money to offer. The commitment of such people cannot be explained in words. Their relationship with KMB endures because they experience passion, commitment and a zest for life in the centuries old trading port of Kochi... now known as the Biennale city.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b></b></p> Sun May 05 11:02:45 IST 2019 a-different-arab-spring <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>What is great about March in the UAE? For me, it is the coming together of the some of the best cultural events in the region. This March saw the opening of the 14th edition of the Sharjah Biennale (curators: Zoe Butt, Omar Kholeif and Claire Tancons), the Sharjah Art Foundations’s annual March Meeting, Art Dubai and the opening of Alserkal Art District. Additionally this year, one of the most prominent Indian art collectors in the UAE, Smita Prabhakar founded Ishara Art Foundation and the maiden show was curated by Nada Raza, artistic director of Ishara and former curator at Tate Modern, London.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Sharjah Biennial opened on March 7. I have heard from many of my writer friends that its book festival draws a huge crowd. I told Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi, president of the Sharjah Art Foundation and president of the International Biennale Association, “Every time I visit Sharjah, I experience surprises. Surprises of new art spaces for conversations, art and residencies, or something entirely unexpected.” This year it was a special lunch organised in the Rain Room during the Sharjah March Meeting (a platform for curated talks and programmes, held every year). This year, it was hosted during the professional preview week of the Sharjah Biennale.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Rain Room, now a permanent installation in Al Majarrah, Sharjah, is a fantastic concept of experiential, sensitively-created, immersive art that uses technology, design and architecture. It was created by London-based Hannes Koch and Florian Ortkrass for Random International, a collaborative studio they founded in 2005. I had first seen it at the Barbican Centre, London, and thereafter at the MoMA, New York. The darkened, rectangular space allows visitors to walk through a downpour without getting wet. The incessant rains always move away from you. Quite a remarkable experience, to say the least.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I first met Antonia Carver over a decade ago, when she was the director of Art Dubai. She was an excellent administrator and director, and friends with many in the art industry. Antonia left Art Dubai, after making it hugely successful, to take up the directorship at Jameel Art Foundation. Last November, Art Jameel Dubai, opened to the public. The Jameels, Saudi Arabian business tycoons, have invested heavily in contemporary art and their architects created a minimalist space for this fantastic art centre. To my mind it is one of the finest contemporary arts institutions in the city. Art Jameel is dedicated to exhibitions and research, and has an extensive education programme for all ages. I am sure that under the directorship of Antonia, this centre will make huge creative waves in the region and beyond.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>To top off this spring’s engagement with the region, I have been invited to the Abu Dhabi Culture Summit 2019 (April 7-11). It is a forum that has been conceived to convene leaders from the fields of arts, heritage, media, museums, public policy and technology. The 2018 edition was attended by 350 delegates from 85 countries. The summit is organised by Abu Dhabi’s progressive and visionary department of culture and tourism, in collaboration with five global partners who will curate and lead in their areas of expertise. This year’s partners include the Royal Academy of Arts (UK), UNESCO, Guggenheim (USA), Economist Events and Google. The theme is ‘Cultural Responsibility and New Technology’. The event aims to identify ways in which culture can build bridges and promote positive change. These goals chime with our own at the Kochi Biennale Foundation and I am looking forward to visiting the capital of the UAE.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b></b></p> Sun Apr 07 21:27:24 IST 2019 okwui-enwezor-curator-visionary-associate <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The past few weeks have been very distressful, punctuated with deaths of admired figures from the world of arts. Keith Flint of Prodigy; Dick Dale, the king of surf guitar; and Karl Lagerfeld, to name a few. Yet, the biggest shocker was the departure of a fellow traveller, Okwui Enwezor, who died of cancer on March 15.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Okwuchukwu Emmanuel Enwezor was born on October 23, 1963, in Calabar, a port city in southern Nigeria, close to the border with Cameroon. He moved to the US in 1982 and earned a bachelor’s degree in political science. However, his sights were set on claiming for Africa its rightful place on the global art map. He was the first non-European, non-white, artistic director of the prestigious Documenta [eleventh edition]. In addition to Documenta, he also curated the acclaimed 1997 Johannesburg Biennale, the Gwangju Biennale in South Korea (2008), the Paris Triennale (2012) and the Venice Biennale (2015). He was also the director of Munich’s Haus der Kunst.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Documenta was built on his vision of a set of programmes called ‘Platforms’ that were international debates, conferences and closed seminars that took place over a two-year period in Berlin, Vienna, New Delhi, St Lucia and Lagos. With his curatorial intelligence, Documenta 11 succeeded in bringing issues such as genocide, poverty, political incarceration and industrial pollution to the fore through 415 works by 180 artists from five continents. It also explored border disputes, contested territories (such as Pakistan and India, or Palestine and Israel), and collapsing urban space. At Venice, his curatorial power of sight manifested again. He anchored his show in one work of literature: Marx’s Das Kapital. He had a team of performers staging daily readings from the book till the close of the biennale. “I wanted to do something that has contemporary relevance,” he told an interviewer. “And, so, I thought of Das Kapital, a book that nobody has read and yet everyone hates or quotes from.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>My association with him goes back to 2010 when my research for the Kochi-Muziris Biennale took me to Gwangju (to look for artists and to experience a biennale).The biennale’s artistic director was the young curator Massimiliano Gioni. It was a memorable experience because one thing led to another and we (Riyas Komu, Shwetal Patel and me) ended up meeting young curatorial students, curator Dan Cameron, legendary and controversial artist Ai Weiwei and, finally, Enwezor. We spent some time with Enwezor at his hotel to discuss our inaugural biennale. He was sceptical and laughed off our idea: “Aha, yet another biennale!” Then he launched into the trials and tribulations he faced while putting together the Johannesburg Biennale.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He visited the KMB in 2015. It was one of his last research trips for the Venice Biennale 2015. He found Kochi to be a platform that “offers a vital link between Asia and Africa”. He also had conversations with Riyas and Jitish Kallat at the Biennale Pavilion at Aspinwall. It was followed by a wonderful dinner at Casino Hotel, where he talked at length about the Johannesburg Biennale. I also heard a lot about him from my mentor and teacher Sarat Maharaj, who was a co-curator at Documenta 11. I still remember his unusually thick and long fingers. Dressed like a dandy (he was known for his double-breasted suits), he always had a twinkle in his eye and mirth around his lips.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b></b></p> Sat Mar 23 16:58:42 IST 2019 art-education-needs-disruption <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>I had the opportunity to attend the Art Education in India conference organised by the Foundation for Indian Art and Education (FIAE) and Goa University, this week. The conference had some of the most important artists and art educators in India speaking, including Gulammohammed Sheikh, Sadanand Menon, R. Siva Kumar, Indrapramit Roy and many others.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>FIAE was formed out of the realisation that there did not exist a database that we could use to identify the problems of art education in India and the possible solutions for the future. So a number of researchers surveyed art colleges in India about the syllabi, infrastructure, students and funding. In 2015, the Kochi Biennale Foundation, at its Students’ Biennale conference, hosted the first report of the FIAE that covered the southern states. The Goa conference presented a more comprehensive data covering the whole of India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>My role at the conference was to present the lessons we have gathered through the Students’ Biennale, as well as my thoughts as an artist who has come through the Indian education system.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>One of our learnings with the Students’ Biennale is about the disparity in conditions of art schools in India. The FIAE studies also bear this out. In Students’ Biennale workshops, we have attempted to bring together the students and resources of geographically close institutions, so that the students of one college can benefit from what is available at the other. Such an exchange and reciprocity between colleges could be activated at a larger scale.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Another lesson from the Students’ Biennale and our Young Residency programmes is that colleges are unable to connect students to the wider art-world ecosystem. I think an elementary layer of familiarisation with both the art-world landscape and its practices will be very useful for young artists. Simple exercises like how to prepare a portfolio, how to write a proposal will enable students to access opportunities that will otherwise remain distant from them. Art colleges should also create spaces where students can learn, read and talk about other subjects.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In spite of what we think is a surfeit of information available today, I find that many art students still do not have sufficient exposure to knowledge repositories on the internet or journals and magazines. One of the tasks of the teacher is to make sense of this bigness of data, to give students the tools to sort and filter information.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In addition, the presence of the teacher is important to ensure that she is not simply a compiler or a syllabus-giver. The teacher should enable the students to converse among themselves and with the world outside.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The most concerned discussions of the conference were on UGC policies, especially on qualifications of a teacher at colleges. It says that you have to have a PhD to get a job! Indian art has had many inspirational figures as teachers—Nandalal Bose, K.G. Subramanyan, A. Ramachandran and Gulammohammed Sheikh, to name a few. Sometimes, inspirational individuals outside institutions can also come to function like universities. At the conference, Sadanand Menon was talking about Akbar Padamsee, whose house in Mumbai was a gathering ground for filmmakers, artists and writers. I benefited tremendously from being able to meet and speak with such persons.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Finally, another element art schools have been unable to provide to students enough is the opportunity to travel. Young artists should be able to travel to different places, especially to visit museums, biennales and galleries. These should be included in the syllabi, and museums and other such institutions should take a proactive role in facilitating visits from art schools.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b></b></p> Sat Mar 09 16:23:37 IST 2019 caligari-in-contemporary-times <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>First, the known fact: The Cabinet of Dr Caligari is a 1920 German silent horror film, directed by Robert Wiene. Considered the quintessential work of German Expressionist cinema, it tells the story of an insane hypnotist (Werner Krauss), who uses a somnambulist (Conrad Veidt) to commit murders.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Now, the unknown fact: Deepan Sivaraman has given it a contemporary feel with his student production, done as part of a course titled ‘Space and Spectatorship’, at the Ambedkar University Delhi, where he teaches. It was presented by Performance Studies Collective, Delhi, in collaboration with NECAB and Blue Ocean Theatre, Bengaluru.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I am neither a theatre critic nor a writer, but my career began with an association with the proscenium play. I was an amateur theatre enthusiast and my passion for theatre ended because of my stage fright and lack of confidence. I could not, to save my life, face the public. And, I was all of 14 years old. Yet, between the ages of 17 and 25, I was active in theatre and worked with a lot of productions and won several awards. But that was not my calling.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>My bonding with theatre began at my ancestral house when I saw my brothers, cousins and friends rehearsing at home. Some of the plays that are etched in my mind are G. Sankarapillai’s Thavalam, Mario Fratti’s Pep, Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, John Abraham’s Chennaikkal Adhava Pattinimaranam and T.M. Abraham’s Albhuthanganam, which was directed by the eminent Jose Chirammel. Narippatta Raju, Purushothaman and other theatre experts used to spend a lot of time at home. The tradition continues with my sister-in-law Thankam and younger brother Mohan. My village, Mangattukara, near Angamaly, Kerala, is still an active home for experimental theatre and culture. I have seen and still see passionate practitioners of theatre even if they struggle to survive with their passion.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>So I was pleasantly surprised to see Deepan’s version of Dr Caligari. According to Deepan, as told to a newspaper, “The central concern was how space works as a key component in theatre, because, at least in theatre, we never consider it as an important component like text, script or performative body. Space is always a given space.” So he chose a warehouse in the university to set his play. The rest followed.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I was overwhelmed by the production, performances, direction, scenography and adaptations of the play. Every second of Dr Caligari was with performative surprises and sudden shifts in theatrical languages. And the text in this case took a back seat. You return from the play with exaggerated emotions and memories of incredible sets. Wiene’s film reflects the sentiments of that time, depicting an authority that is brutal and insane, manipulating those under its observation to their own whim. Deepan turns the idea of the film on its head, reflecting upon our contemporary times.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I was happy to be with the Kochi-Muziris Biennale team of 20 and everyone was grateful to Deepan and Prakash Bara, who essayed the role of Dr Caligari. It was done with great difficulty and creative freedom for Kerala’s flood relief. We are active in theatre with an International Theatre festival in Thrissur to boot. Yet efforts like Deepan’s need to be appreciated and supported not just morally, but financially, too. It is a rarity. So all the more precious.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This version of the German epic is a dark thriller that evokes the times we live in subject to political climes. In these times of fake truths, this play is a reminder of the truths that we try to avoid but have to live with.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b></b></p> Sat Feb 23 17:47:18 IST 2019 The-celebration-of-lot-2019 <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>We are literate. But do we know our literature? That question would not perturb the mind of the average Malayali. The distance between literature and the literate is easily traversed in this coastal state, what with more than half a dozen literary weeklies being published, not to mention fortnightlies and special issues. This was further reinforced when I recently participated in the Kerala Lit Fest in Kozhikode. I had the opportunity to participate in it two years ago. This time, I was overwhelmed by the way it has grown to become one of the most important lit fests in the country.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According to the organisers, it is “the grandest celebration of words, stories, and ideas”, and the “second largest cultural gathering in the country”. I could not agree more. The humble Ravi Deecee, chief facilitator of the Kerala Lit Fest, whispered in my ear that the Kochi-Muziris Biennale was his inspiration. It made me wonder if the ‘People’s Biennale’ in Kochi was the biggest cultural gathering in the country. The jury is still out.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A couple of years ago, I had visited the Zee Jaipur Literature Festival. It was overcrowded with celebrities and corporate support and appeared to be more like a jamboree of bigwigs than a place where ideas and thoughts were exchanged. I was completely disillusioned by the experience and I began thinking: Is this where literature is at?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Today there are a number of lit fests from Mumbai to Kolkata, Hyderabad and Bengaluru to the ‘Ka’Lit Fest in Thiruvananthapuram. Yet, Kozhikode to me seemed to be beating other lit fests all ends up when it came to the participation of the youth and local residents. Other lit fests are mostly high-brow affairs where the elite gather to get a fair degree of literary jollies. What added more colour to the Kerala Lit Fest was its location—the Kozhikode beach. The venues were also equally enticing: Ezhuthola, Aksharam, Thulika, Vaakku and a special venue, Vellithira, to screen films.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Kerala Literature Festival, 2019, saw a massive turnout of 2.6 lakh people attending various sessions conducted by around 500 guest speakers and authors. The topics covered were invigorating to say the least—everything from Sabarimala and women empowerment to literature and rebuilding Kerala after the floods.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I returned with a lingering thought that writers are at the shy end of the spectrum—silent watchers of life rather than noisy graspers of it. It is such thronging crowds that allow them to be in zones where they can speak their minds. In that respect, the Kerala Lit Fest will be marked in the sands of time. It takes a city to organise a festival like KLF.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Speaking of which, I must say that my mental floss about KLF was soon cleaned out by the event that the Kochi Biennale Foundation was about to host: the first ever contemporary art auction in Kochi. But by the night of January 18, when the auction was about to conclude, all my apprehensions vanished, because most of the bidders were young people from Kerala. They had no inhibitions in putting their money where their heart was—the art works on sale. Such confidence would go a long way towards encouraging the young artists whose works were among the ones auctioned. KLF and KBF’s auction for flood relief are to quote American author Thomas Pynchon: “I don’t believe in any of it, Ode”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b></b></p> Sat Feb 09 12:03:30 IST 2019 a-biennale-for-everyman <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>I start with a sad story. It has been a month since the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, South Asia’s biggest contemporary art festival, began successfully. However, a lump in the throat still remains. Soon after the biennale had started, I was told that one of my dearest friends had passed away in his sleep. Tushar Joag was always an artist interested more in being an educator than in his practice. He was always socially conscious and politically critical.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Talking about Tushar is very difficult because our bond goes back a long way to our days in the Sir JJ School of Arts, Mumbai. He was couple of years senior to me in college and was pleasant and handsome. His time at an artist-residency in Amsterdam changed his perception of contemporary art. Tushar co-founded Open Circle, an artist collective that sought to engage with contemporary socio-political issues via an integration of theory and practice. Tushar was a good soul and I will always miss him. He was supportive ever since Riyas and I made the proposal for a biennale in Kochi. In fact, after he joined Shiv Nadar University as a professor of arts, he brought students from the university to the last biennale.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Amid the despair about a dear departed friend, something else cheered me up. This happened in the middle of the opening of the fourth edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale. This was the invitation to be a member of the International Biennale Association (IBA). Top biennale functionaries from across the world came to Kochi for three days of official deliberations. The IBA, based in Sharjah, the United Arab Emirates, and founded in 2012, also held its fifth general assembly in Kochi. The board meetings on the first two days and the general assembly were closed-door. The final day’s conference was open to the public.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The public conference, titled ‘Shifting Borders: Biennials in Transforming Landscapes’, was held at the Biennale Pavilion in Cabral Yard, Fort Kochi. The Kochi Biennale Foundation co-hosted the four-hour meet. The keynote address was delivered by Yuko Hasegawa, chief curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, who shared her experiences and work at numerous biennials. It was followed by panel discussions to further explore the role of biennials and their ability to connect art with communities.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>IBA president Hoor al Qasimi, who also heads the Sharjah Art Foundation, spoke on the occasion. Select IBA members from around the world gave presentations about their biennials and institutions with a view to increase representation while offering opportunities for collaboration. Aichi Triennale, Ballarat International Foto Biennale, Biennale of Sydney, Land Art Mongolia, Manifesta, Media Arts Biennial Chile, Rencontres de Bamako and the Atlantic Project gave interesting thoughts. I was overwhelmed and, also, informed for the better. It was great to have them all here. That is what Kochi is all about. We aspire to be good hosts and the biennale is a way to educate, entertain and emancipate.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There are new initiatives with this biennale, like every time. This year the Students’ Biennale expanded and included students from the SAARC countries. It was a great experience to see them work here. It reaffirmed the fact that art, and only art, can bring people together. We are one and nothing can separate us. The evidence lies in the fact none of the hartal calls had any effect on the footfalls at the biennale. This biennale, so far, has been as the famous Ornette Coleman songs go: ‘Open to The Public’; ‘Check Out Time’. Just as Tushar reminded us.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b></b></p> Mon Jan 14 16:10:20 IST 2019 my-kolkata-conundrum <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>This is the biennale season. With little time left for the fourth Kochi Muziris Biennale to begin, all of us are wishing we had more than 24 hours in a day. There is so much to be done. Every morning, when you return to the office or visit a site, you are struck by yet another task that remains undone. Our emotions are oscillating between anxious despair and macabre excitement. So, naturally, this is the most difficult time to sit down and write a column that is unrelated to what you are preoccupied with. However, a column is neither a date that you can be late to, nor afford to miss. Thankfully, unlike most of my colleagues working at KMB, something fell in front of me like manna from heaven. It was like the timeout that a basketball team yearns for in a tight match. This provided me with the subject for this column.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Before getting there, I must fill you in with something that happened about a year ago. I had gone to Kolkata to see a gallery space, on the invitation of my dear friend, the journalist, critic, gallerist and art consultant, Anupa Mehta. She wanted to introduce me to Richa Agarwal.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Reams can be written about the story of the friendship between R.S. Goenka and R.S. Agarwal. It was on the foundations of this friendship between two Marwaris that the empire of the Emami Group, which built its fortunes in the cosmetic industry, was built. They were one of the first off the blocks in India to see skin care and beauty health care as a sunrise industry.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Today, their children have taken the business to even higher levels. Richa, daughter-in-law of R.S. Agarwal, started Emami Art, a contemporary art space in Kolkata, 10 years ago. However, it failed to make any significant impact. Richa grew up in south India and lived in Coimbatore most of the time, before getting married to Aditya Agarwal. She is humble and down-to-earth but ambitious to the core, which is more a virtue than something to be scorned upon, if you are born in the Emami household.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Anupa had given me a gist of the vision and mission. Emami Art wanted a rebirth and a commitment from me that I would open with my show at their 9,000sqft art space. When I visited the space, it was a work-in-progress. The resurrected space was being designed by Mumbai’s designer-architect-collector Pinakin Patel. I have known Pinakin for almost 25 years as a designer, and he has collected my abstract works. He was developing a 75,000sqft building dedicated to art, design, craft and education of Indian mythology. I was literally floored. Without a moment’s hesitation, I committed to do the inaugural show with Richa, Pinakin and Anupa.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Things can be exciting once the relationship and trust develop; here, Pinakin (aka PK) and Agarwal’s grew with total commitment to create a complex for creativity. Unfortunately, I could not fulfil my commitment, but Emami Art opened with a spectacular show. It was a collection of painting, prints, graphics, products and photography from visionary artist and designer Dashrath Patel’s collection. On November 21, Emami Art and Kolkata Centre for Creativity opened its doors to the public.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>My responsibilities with the Kochi Biennale Foundation got the better of the word I had given to Pinakin, Richa and Anupa. However, after I saw Dashrath’s collection, I felt sometimes things happen for the good.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b></b></p> Sat Dec 08 17:15:18 IST 2018 bangkok-embraces-modern-art <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>In French author Michel Houellebecq’s controversial novel Platform, one western character describes Thailand as a place where “everybody gets what they want, there’s something for everybody's tastes....”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Houellebecq (read Wellbeck) was making a contentious reference to the growing influence of the sex industry in Thailand. But, Thailand is not just about tourism anymore, as I discovered last month when I attended the inauguration of the first Bangkok Art Biennale (BAB). Bangkok is a city of culture, traditions, hospitality and gastronomy. However, censorship of the arts is often whimsical and subjective. So, artists find their freedom to express themselves curbed. BAB seems to have put all those concerns to rest with a very bold biennale.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I met Thailand’s most respected art critic and historian Dr Apinan Poshyananda at Venice, a couple of years ago during a brunch organised by the Biennale Association. He gave me his BAB business card, which reignited my excitement about the number of contemporary art initiatives growing in south and southeast Asia.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Poshyananda is the driving force behind the biennale. With Thailand battling issues such as the conflict between Muslim and Buddhist communities, and the inability to reconcile with the influx of persecuted Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, Poshyananda has pulled off a grand event with great defiance. The other issues addressed in the biennale, particularly by Thai artists, include the exploitation of migrant workers, the plight of women in a patriarchal society and the wrath over environmental pollution of Thailand’s rivers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In an interview after the opening, Poshyananda is reported to have said: "People said to me: ‘Why ask for trouble?’ And yes, we chose to take the difficult path. But under the military we have gone through five years of intense scrutiny and it is time to have a breather and be able to freely express ourselves." Despite apprehension, there has been no interference by the authorities, despite two venues being the city’s most famous temples—Wat Pho and Wat Arun. In a highly religious country, they were the unlikeliest places to display contemporary art. Yet, the government complied.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is not easy to establish a festival on contemporary visual art. But, the BAB has been able to overcome all adversity. Poshyananda was aided by an advisory committee of prominent art figures. During the inaugural ceremony, he invited the incredible Marina Abramovic to join him on stage, to represent all the participating artists at the BAB.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The exhibition is also taking place across urban public spaces, from historic architectural sites to iconic landmarks like the East Asiatic Company building, Bangkok Art and Culture Centre and Bank of Thailand Learning Centre.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>These beautiful venues hosted fantastic paintings by Francesco Clemente, the trademark pumpkins of Yayoi Kusama, Heri Dono’s kinetic works, AES+F’s huge scale video, Gauri Gill’s photographs, Mark Justiniani’s installation and some brilliant performance pieces by Kawita Vatanajyankur. Kawita is a Thai video artist who creates thought-provoking works that emphasise the importance of gender equality. At the BAB, the young artist undertook physical experiments to examine weaving, knitting and printing processes in the textile industry. She was seen performing as a spinning wheel and textile shuttle.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is difficult to cover 200 works spread over 20 venues. Yet, it was heartening to see that for a country that has been under a military regime, BAB has come as a welcome relief.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b></b></p> Sat Nov 17 15:53:29 IST 2018 death-of-a-ferryman <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Anoop Antony Scaria was exactly that: a ferryman. He took art, hospitality and music to many shores. But it had to start from one shore and that was Fort Kochi. I did not know much about him till he set up the pioneering Kashi Art Café. That was literally the beginning of art in Kochi. It gave the people in Kerala—starved of venues to see, discuss and display art—a platform.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He and his wife, Dorry, would invite unknown artists to his café and provide them all the facilities to further their practice. It was shorn of any selfish motive and was the result of pure love for art. They gave them food, space and loving company. There was a well-concealed altruistic selflessness in Anoop. And he had a vision when he began Kashi.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But, Anoop was backstabbed by the very artist he promoted, and he and Dorry left Kashi. Now, Dorry and their two beautiful children have to survive his permanent absence. He is no more. The vision has come full circle. Kashi has taken a new avatar, but it is not quite the same. Nobody could match Anoop’s zest, energy and ability to make art possible in Kochi. But the success of Kashi spawned a number of galleries in Fort Kochi.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>One of the firsts that Anoop introduced to Kochi, and Kerala, was artist residencies. He set up a residency space and studio in Kakkathuruthu, a lovey island in Alappuzha district. Then, the Kashi Art Prize, which is being continued by the new owners of Kashi. There are many other things he started, one of which was the beach festival that has now taken the form of the Cochin Carnival. Then there was the tree festival during which he and his friends planted nearly 10,000 trees in Kochi. All of this happened before I got to know him.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I first met Anoop in 2003 during my show De-Curating. We bonded immediately and that was the beginning of a long friendship. Anoop and I insistently sought each other’s constant company. The first time I worked with him was for a group show, Remembering Bhupen Khakhar. Then I went on to do many shows in Kashi, some my own and some curated by me. I prefer not to list them here because it is painful to remember all of them at this moment. I invited him to be a part of ARCO Madrid as a participating gallery when I curated the India Pavilion. I also did several other things with him, one of which was giving an advance to buy property in Kakkathuruthu on the recommendation of Anoop and Dorry. Now I see it as an ominous sign because I never went back there.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The amazing and, of course, mouth-watering thing about Anoop’s and Dorry’s hospitality was the food they served. It was not the food that they served to their customers, most of whom were tourists, in the café. It was homemade food that both the couple and their staff ate. When in Kochi we could never think of eating anywhere else. Sometimes, we went to Shala in Princess Street. What I cannot forget is meeting a lot of artists, through them, like Upendranath T.R. and K. Reghunathan.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When Kochi became the art hub of Kerala, Anoop—the gallerist—turned out to be more interesting than the artists. He was not just a gallerist, but a friend to artists.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Gifted with a great sense of humour, among other gifts such as his handsome Native American looks, Anoop never resisted a good laugh though he himself was the butt of many jokes. He used humour to navigate situations when things heated up between competing artists. Even when he was fatally ill and bedridden, that jovial quality never left him. But then all good things must come to an end. And the ferryman had to leave.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b></b></p> Sat Nov 10 19:12:25 IST 2018 going-going-gone-graffiti <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>If you follow contemporary art, there is no way you would not know Banksy. If you follow politics, there is no way you would have missed Banksy. If you follow controversies, you would be familiar with Banksy. If you like pranks and practical jokes, then surely all things Banksy are up your alley. If you are NOTA, Banksy is an artist from Bristol whom the entire art world knows of but has never seen.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He works under the cover of darkness to make provocative and radical statements. His true identity is the subject of much speculation. Some say Banksy is 3D aka Robert Del Naja of the trip hop band Massive Attack, who was a graffiti artist before he became a founding member of the band. He is credited with pioneering the stencil graffiti movement. But nobody is sure he is Banksy. And nobody can keep Banksy quiet.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Last week, he pulled off one of the most outrageous stunts in the history of art when he automated one of his iconic works, ‘Girl With A Balloon’, to self-destruct after being sold at a Sotheby’s auction for £1.04 million. It was the final item to go under the hammer that evening and soon after it was sold, the canvas began to slide through a shredder installed in the frame. Later, Banksy posted an image on Instagram of the shredded work dangling from the bottom of the frame with the title “Going, going, gone….”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>That episode triggered a number of questions about the mechanics of the art market. Banksy was obviously cocking a snook at it. It renewed worldwide interest in Banksy’s work and in the art of graffiti. The history of graffiti is complex and is inextricably entwined with events that make it remarkable and events that push it to obscurity. It had its birth in the Stone Age. Graffiti, dated to 78 BC, has been found in Roman cities with themes of debauchery, opulence and politics.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In 1949, Edward Seymour introduced the idea of putting paint in a spray can. In the early 1960s, controversial people such as Cornbread and Cool Earl started writing on the walls [in Philadelphia], a trend that quickly spread to New York. In 1972, Hugo Martinez started the United Graffiti Artists collective that displayed graffiti in galleries for the first time. This history is vividly captured in Henry Chalfant’s documentary Style Wars (1983).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The decline of the USSR and the fall of the Iron Curtain spawned more expressions in Eastern Europe and elsewhere. This allowed artists like Banksy more freedom, and graffiti began selling in galleries. By 2007, the art had also gained ground in India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Apart from Banksy, a figure who stands out in the world of graffiti is Jeffrey Deitch. He has been especially engaged with the careers of three of his contemporaries, two of whom were master graffiti artists—Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The third was Jeff Koons. He ran a gallery called Deitch Projects in New York. But he closed the gallery to become director of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. During his three years at MOCA, he presented 50 exhibitions and projects of which the graffiti show called Art in the Streets (2011) was the most significant. It had the highest attendance in the museum’s history. I was lucky enough to see the show in LA. Then, a couple of years ago, I met Deitch at Art Dubai preview nights and took some selfies.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Something tells me that Deitch was also responsible for introducing some of the most important contemporary artists from the subcontinent like Ravinder Reddy and Shahzia Sikander to the west. I think, he was also instrumental in promoting Iranian artist Shirin Neshat, who incidentally is one of the participating artists in this year’s Kochi-Muziris Biennale. The painting, incidentally, is on the wall closer to home.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b></b></p> Mon Oct 22 10:10:20 IST 2018 bend-it-like-germans <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Sometimes, it is at the most unexpected places and in extraordinary situations that the smallness of your existence dawns upon you. One of those rare occasions made a house call just last week. I received an invitation from Bernhard Steinruecke, director general, Indo-German Chamber of Commerce, to speak at the 62nd AGM of the chamber in Mumbai. I first met Steinruecke when he was director of the Deutsche Bank in Mumbai. Tata House, in the city’s Fort area, the residence of the Tatas till 1992, had just been restored. And Deutsche Bank opened their head office on the premises in 1995. To experience Deutsche Bank’s art collection was nothing but exhilarating. Deutsche Bank must be one of the biggest art collecting banks in the world.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Steinruecke had great taste for art and was an avid collector. This was reflected in his personal life. He found his life partner in the Mumbai art world, the beautiful Ranjana Mirchandani. Ranjana and her mother, Usha, now run one of the best contemporary art galleries in India—Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke. I have seen the growth of the new tasteful gallery and one could notice that Steinruecke’s influence had transformed it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It was indeed a great honour for me to address the gathering at the IGCC, among whom was the chief guest Monika Grütters, German federal government commissioner for culture and the media, and minister of state to the German chancellor; Martin Ney, German ambassador to India; and the guest speaker Sabyasachi Mukherjee, director general, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, Mumbai (formerly the Prince of Wales Museum of Western India). I have immense respect for Mukherjee, for the commitment, passion and open-mindedness that he shows towards running the best public museum in India. To my chagrin, he says all of it is possible, and the museum is sustaining itself, because of the beautiful people of Mumbai.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The subject of IGCC this year was business and culture. My talk was primarily about the Kochi-Muziris Biennale and how the fledgling event has turned out to be South Asia’s largest and the only ‘people’s’ biennale in the world. In fact, the IGCC is hosting its delegates in Kochi during the opening of KMB this year. I was pretty pleased with my presentation till my somewhat bloated ego was punctured. Thomas Fuhrmann, IGCC president and CEO, Grütters and Ney told me about how much Germany invests in culture every year. It is nearly €2 billion, which goes into the 6,200-plus museums and 800 opera houses they have. Not to speak of the year-round cultural activities and, of course, the art institutes.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Last year, when Grütters announced a 23 per cent boost for annual national arts funding, she said that it was meant to emphasise how ‘culture is the foundation for our open and democratic society’. This year she got the German Bundestag to up it to €1.8 billion. Today, Berlin is the hub of culture in the world. Any art organisation worth its salt wants to have a foothold in Berlin. I personally know of artists from different parts of the world who have migrated to Berlin. I am not saying that we in India should be like Germany. In fact, we cannot come anywhere near even if we try. But what I am saying is that it shows how much Germany cares for its culture. The German parliament could dare to set aside that kind of money only because they are well aware of the fact that there would not be any public backlash. If we begin to care, our politicians will begin to dare!</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b></b></p> Fri Oct 05 19:01:30 IST 2018 kerala-time-for-sustainable-development-post-floods <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The floods have come and gone, leaving in their wake a heap of debris, delirium and despair. However, if we were to train our eyes from the watchtower of optimism, then every disaster offers an ocean of opportunity. With all the controversies surrounding donations, their disbursement and misuse/disuse notwithstanding, the money already in the kitty can be judiciously used to explore new and sustainable methods of development.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The government can start by seriously looking at rebuilding Kerala from scratch. It can look at building new roads, bridges and other public infrastructure that are of international standards and at par with first-world amenities.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>China is not too far away to look for models. If one were to put aside petty politics and squabbles based on assumed ideologies, then China’s Belt and Road Initiative has a few lessons to offer. The government, whichever dispensation it may belong to, can create an environment where Malayalis can create valuable and successful businesses that do not depend on donations. This ecosystem can be based on infrastructure development that follows a minimum standard procedure to begin with. This moment has presented us with the best opportunity to salvage Kerala from the scourge of plastic—the bottles, bags and polystyrene wrappings that are blocking our drains and our docks and harbours, not to mention littering our parks and paths.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Yet the disposal of plastic offers one of the most exciting prospects of not only solving the problem but also helping the most vulnerable among us. And this can be easily done by creating and incentivising an army of informal waste-pickers. In exchange for cash from private and government-run companies, internally displaced people who have moved out of flood relief camps to makeshift habitats can collect 150-300 kilos of plastics a week. More than 80 per cent of this secondary raw material can easily be exported to South Asian countries for industrial purposes, or to recycle for use as packaging in cities like Bengaluru, Mumbai and Delhi.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This is how we can see recycling as the right direction for the future. There are more than two million informal waste-pickers around the world, and recycling of waste is now a legitimate global business, with robust international markets, extensive supply and transportation networks, and a rapidly rising international market for secondary raw materials, especially in China. This sector could offer significant economic opportunities for our flood recovery activities, as well as create more jobs and allow inflow of money into the state.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>An intensive investment in broadband and turning the state into one big smart city can go a long way in drawing the attention of venture capitalists and startups and those ploughing money into future technologies.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>However, modernisation must not be at the cost of the environment. We should plant more coconut trees, areca nut trees, pepper and spice plants as vertical gardens and look at creating forests of deep-rooted trees. At the same time we should protect our mangroves. The ‘Things-to-Do’ list can go on and be as ambitious as it can be. Yet, it goes without saying no project can kickstart itself without planning, vision and meaningful discussions. Silence, of course, should not exist. And no noise, if productive, is loud enough. Just as charity begins at home, it is in our hands, not those of the politicians.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b></b></p> Sat Sep 22 16:15:01 IST 2018 flood-kerala-with-art <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Last week, I talked about the similarities between what happened in New Orleans ten years ago, and what happened in the month gone by in Kerala. This is what Hurricane Katrina did to New Orleans: nearly 2,000 deaths, more than $100 billion in damage, flooding in 80 per cent of the city, and the displacement of 400,000 residents. The impact of the floods in Kerala is yet to be completely assessed, though the government estimates that rebuilding would require about Rs 30,000 crore.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The case of New Orleans is worth going back to for more reasons than one. In the Kerala government’s decision to cancel all cultural festivals for one year, including the International Film Festival, makes it all the more relevant. Despite state apathy, New Orleans recovered fast. Much of its convalescence was catalysed by a vibrant art community, which not only restored the fabric of the city of music, Mardi Gras and memories but also recast its future.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It began with Prospect 1, an art biennale that was instituted and hosted by New Orleans within a month after the tragedy and went on for four months. It was the idea of international art curator of Dan Cameron, who had first-hand experience of witnessing host cities reaping huge rewards, both social and financial, from biennale exhibitions. Prospect 4, which ended in February this year, is now a major platform for artists from the Global South. Not only did it make a tremendous impact on cultural tourism but it also inspired artists embrace the social mission of the biennale, and created projects that resonate deeply with the city’s unique history, culture, people, and institutions.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Prospect was not the only thing that Katrina triggered culturally. There was a multi-media dance festival called Katrina Katrina: Love Letters to New Orleans; since then D.C. Blues Society has been dedicating its 18th annual festival to the music of New Orleans; that year the PEN/Faulkner opened its season with a New Orleans Night, with renowned authors reading New Orleans stories. But the hallmark of the post-Katrina year was a stupendous show titled Seeing Is Believing, Seeing Is Healing.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>No one doubts the noble intention behind diverting finances set aside for cultural festivities to the disaster relief fund. But I cannot fathom the fact that it stems from the belief that art and culture is a luxury. I feel art has a crucial role to play in the reconstruction of Kerala.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When Hurricane Sandy hit the New York City, the US Department of Arts and Culture (USDAC) published a report titled Art Became the Oxygen: An Artistic Response Guide, in which it argued that “crises need creativity”. Art has always been not only about visual or aesthetic pleasure, which is important, but also about creative responses to emergent situations. Nature has bestowed us abundant splendour, but our modern practices of architecture and urbanisation have worked against both the benefactor and those who benefitted. When we rebuild Kerala, it should be done with a complete understanding of our inheritance. Our standardised, context-free building and zoning practices that respond only to expediencies of economics will not do anymore. Art that is aware and sensitive of its materials and its context, and thinks beyond any immediacy can contribute greatly. Instead of turning its back to art activities in the name of austerity, Kerala should adopt curated/edited “emergency arts”, the coming together of artistic practice, emergency management, and community development.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b></b></p> Fri Sep 07 17:14:38 IST 2018 rebuilding-kerala <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Around this time in 2005, New Orleans on the Gulf Coast of the United States was struck by Hurricane Katrina. The devastation inflicted on the southern American city then, and now on Kerala by floods caused by the relentless monsoon rains is similar. The reaction of the respective national governments—George W. Bush was the US president then—to the death and destruction is also sadly similar. There have been complaints of apathy and even of not encouraging support coming in from outside. Of course, there is a lot of work to be done in the next few months in Kerala’s case, and one hopes that the Central government plays its part and helps the people in putting their lives back together.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The jury is still out on how much of the disaster could have been averted through better land and construction practices, environmental zoning and more efficient on-ground coordination. These are important reflections that must be undertaken. However, this must not be reduced to bickering. As the chief minister of Kerala rightly said, we should concentrate all our attention, energy and faculties on rebuilding Kerala.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There are many ways to do this. As we embark on the Herculean task of reconstructing our houses, roads, bridges and schools, we should bear some basic points in mind. We should remember that it is not just a brick-and-mortar process. It also involves long-term planning, efficient and sustainable building ideas and innovative material sourcing. I think the rebuilding must make use of the ideas and skills of architects and post-disaster reconstruction experts. In the present urgency, we must not make the mistake of amplifying the devastation by building difficult and unseemly infrastructure that ultimately reduces the quality of life. Kerala must answer the crisis by becoming stronger, healthier and more beautiful.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The typical aesthetics of the landscape must be taken care of. I have said this on this column before and I am repeating it. We should look for eco-friendly materials as well as designs. Building regulations, especially near river banks, have been flouted with impunity. When we rebuild, these regulations must be respected. Better architectural and design practices are not luxuries, and could actually reduce the financial burden of reconstruction.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There are examples that we can learn from. Look at how Fukushima and the neighbouring area rebuilt itself after it was struck by the tsunami. I began with New Orleans for a reason. The city bore the brunt of the damage when the levees failed, submerging 80 per cent of the city. I am not ignoring the lives lost and the trauma that was caused in 2005, but New Orleans is a vastly-improved place now. The reassembly of the city’s infrastructure was thoughtful and multilayered. High school graduation rates have jumped from 56 per cent before the storm to 73 per cent today, thanks to a proliferation of charter schools. There are more and higher-paying jobs than before Katrina, and the city is safer from floods thanks to a massive hurricane and flood protection system. An influx of the millennials post-Katrina delivered a stream of educated professionals to the city, flush with new ideas and energy. The infrastructure has got such impetus that tourism, which, like in Kerala, is the mainstay, is now much improved. New Orleans is one of the greatest comeback stories in American history. Kerala, too, can become a symbol of resurrection in India’s history.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b></b></p> Fri Aug 24 16:00:19 IST 2018 plan-cities-for-their-residents <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Ever since the Kochi-Muziris Biennale was conceptualised, I have become a part-resident of Kochi. However, despite the success of the biennale, the state of the city is worrisome.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On the roads, one can see garbage piling up on the sides. During the monsoon, the roads become unusable. As the city expands, not enough is done to seek better ways to accommodate its citizens. Last month, there was a conference in Shanghai, and the spokesperson for the Communist Party of China said they had started working on the city project towards the 22nd century, and its first part would be ready by 2025. This is the scale of their planning!</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It’s not just about urban planning, but also about involving architects and artists so that aesthetics is attended to. In Kerala, we should look for eco-friendly materials and try to avoid steel and glass as much as possible. Heritage buildings in and around Fort Kochi and Mattancherry should be protected and not allowed to fall prey to the real estate market. This can be done by bringing in regulations that restrict demolitions and building new structures, and even if a new structure is allowed, the height and look of the building can be defined.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Too many smart city visions concentrate on big data and connectivity while there are many more fundamental problems. I’ve heard that Jakarta and Beijing are both exploring data dashboards and citywide sensing projects to address issues of traffic congestion. What these cities really need are improved public transport systems. Similarly, Kochi has a world-class metro rail network now, but it needs to be seen how far it has gone in solving people’s transportation needs.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As mentioned, Kochi has a huge waste management problem which needs to be addressed with express efficiency. The once-beautiful canals in the Fort Kochi region have become drainage and waste-dumping systems. Worse, it is on the sides of these dirty canals that a good portion of the population lives. Another issue is the water supply to houses. People are now seeking refuge in cans of supposedly purified water because they don’t have a proper drinking water supply. Planning for the future must create open, green spaces and playgrounds because Kochi is not just for us but for our children and their children, too.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For these problems to be addressed, two things must happen simultaneously.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>One is a strong and visionary leadership. This should come from the public sector. Some of the standout smart cities—Barcelona, Amsterdam, Malmö—exhibited dynamic leadership from their mayors as well as chief executives. Crucially, they did not leave the evolution of the city to the market. In parts of Africa and Asia, smart cities are almost purely private sector-driven. As a result, we are seeing elaborate hi-tech satellite cities gathering dust.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Second, many smart city projects fail in communicating their goals and in capturing the imagination of people so they can be bothered to participate. Here, the aesthetic and cultural dimension is crucial because that will help connect to people. This must be part of the conversation apart from political will.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b></b></p> Fri Aug 10 17:08:12 IST 2018 accolades-aplenty <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Awards are more than momentary recognition. They can demand responsibility of the achiever whilst bestowing an honour. There are many important awards in the art world such as the Marcel Duchamp Prize in France or the Turner Prize in the UK. The latter, given by Tate Britain to celebrate contemporary visual art, was named after the legendary British artist J.M.W. Turner because he had wanted to establish a prize for young artists. The £25,000 prize money is considered a token amount given the prices for contemporary art. But the prize is a prestigious accolade in the international art world.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Similarly, the Artes Mundi (Latin: arts of the world) is an international biennial contemporary art exhibition and prize, held in Wales and organised by the eponymous arts charity. Mysuru-based artist N.S. Harsha was an early recipient (Artes Mundi 3 in 2008). In the UAE, The Abraaj Capital Art Prize worth up to $1 million divided among five artists from South Asia, North Africa and the Middle East has become an important benchmark. The Hugo Boss Prize, which is funded by the German lifestyle and menswear brand, annually collaborates with The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation for a solo exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. The Future Generation Art Prize, an international award funded by the Victor Pinchuk Foundation, gives up to $100,000 in cash and towards the production of a new work, plus up to $20,000 to fund artist-in-residency programmes for up to five ‘special prize’ winners. This level of patronage goes to show that prizes have become a big marketing strategy for brand building.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>However, it is not all about huge prize money. The prestigious Golden Lion and Silver Lion at the Venice Biennale that honour the best national participation and the most promising artist carry little prize money. The BMW Art Journey enables the winning artist to go almost anywhere in the world to develop new ideas, find new themes and envision new projects. The seventh winner of the award is now on his journeys.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I was recently invited to be one of the jury members for the Signature Art Prize 2018, funded by the Asia Pacific Breweries Foundation and organised by the Singapore Art Museum. The other members of the jury were Mami Kataoka, chief curator, Mori Art Museum, Tokyo; Joyce Toh, head of content and senior curator, Singapore Art Museum; Gerard Vaughan, director, National Gallery of Australia, and Malaysian artist/politician Wong Hoy Cheong.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The prize is now a decade old. The inaugural edition of the triennial award in 2008 had 34 nominations from 12 countries. The fourth edition this year had 46 different countries and territories, with Central Asia being included for the first time. Jury members had to review 113 works and many more again on PowerPoint presentations in closed rooms. The artist and art works were nominated for the prize by 38 invited curators/artists from different regions and countries. After rigorous conversations and critical debate, we invited 15 projects. In fact, the jurors had to visit Singapore again to see the original exhibitions of 15 shortlisted entries at the National Museum.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Vietnamese artist Phan Thao Nguyen was finally awarded the Grand Prize—SGD60,000. Her poetic, regional story telling, including paintings and video, caught the jurors’ attention. Indian-Singaporean artist Shubigi Rao and Thailand’s Thasnai Sethaseree received the two Jurors’ Choice Awards, receiving SGD15,000 each. Indonesian narrative story painter Gede Mahendra Yasa received the People’s Choice Award worth SGD10,000. And, the Signature Art Prize—an important art award in Asia—completed another successful edition, brilliantly structured and executed by the Singapore Art Museum’s team at the National Museum of Singapore.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b></b></p> Fri Jul 27 12:43:05 IST 2018 india-remembered-at-basel <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Anytime is a good time to be in Europe if you are a culture vulture, but June is the standout month. And Basel is the place to be, because art, creativity and diversity are this riverside city’s calling card. It may lack the glitz and glamour of Zurich or Geneva, but it hosts one of the most important art events in the world—Art Basel. In 1970, three Basel gallerists, Ernst Beyeler, Trudl Bruckner and Balz Hilt, created an international art fair with 90 galleries and 30 publishers from ten countries. It proved to be an instant success with an attendance of more than 16,000 visitors.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Today, it brings the art world together, with 290 of the world’s leading galleries showing the works of more than 4,000 artists. I have already written about this year’s Art Basel. But a quick flashback to two things I missed to mention is warranted. One is Unlimited—Art Basel’s pioneering exhibition platform for projects that transcend the classical art-show stand, including massive sculptures and paintings, video projections and live performances. This year Unlimited was curated by New York-based Gianni Jetzer and one of the exhibits was our own Sudarshan Shetty’s Shoonya Ghar (Empty is this house).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Design Miami also opened next door the same time. Apart from the usual fare of publications’ booths, cafes, restaurants and bars there, was a section called Conversations—curated talks by Mari Spirito, founding director of the art organisation Protocinema.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Moreover, Basel boasts some 30 museums, including the world-class Kunstmuseum, Foundation Beyeler, Museum Tinguely and Schaulager Basel. The Schaulager has an amazing show by Bruce Nauman—Disappearing Acts [till August 26]. The Foundation Beyeler, in its Renzo Piano-designed building, is expanding the museum space with the help of Swiss architects Peter Zumthor &amp; Partner. Both the Kunstmuseum and the Foundation has world-class collections, from Rembrandt and Rubens to Monet and van Gogh. The Kunstmuseum houses the largest and most significant public art collection in Switzerland, and is listed as a heritage site of national significance. The Gegenwart, also known as The Museum of Contemporary Art (Museum für Gegenwartskunst), is a wing of Kunstmuseum built in 1980, and was the first public museum in Europe exclusively dedicated to the production and practice of contemporary art. In 2016, it was enlarged and renovated, and was turned into two buildings designed by the Swiss firm Christ &amp; Gantenbein. The other interesting museum in Basel is the Vitra Design Museum near Basel, designed by Frank Gehry and Herozog &amp; De Meuron.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But Museum Tinguely is where you’ll find truly wacky installations. It is head-scratchingly good. Jean Tinguely was a 20th century master of mechanical sculpture, whimsically transforming machinery, appliances, and items straight from the junk heap into ironic and often macabre statements. He was the Swiss version of Kerala’s Perumthachan. One of Tinguely’s more elaborate constructions, Le Ballet des Pauvres, from 1961, suspends a hinged leg with a moth-eaten sock, a horse tail and a fox pelt, a cafeteria tray, and a blood-soaked nightgown, all of which dangle and dance on command. Many of the sculptures are activated at preset times, usually every five to 15 minutes, so it pays to wait and see them in action.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I had first met Tinguely Museum director Roland Wetzel during CiMAM’s (International Committee for Museums and Collections of Modern Art) annual conference in Tokyo. Then he visited the third edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale during which the work of Gauri Gill caught his attention. He invited her to create a show at Tinguely Museum during Art Basel. I was proud to see a larger collection of the same series of black and white photographs from her ‘Notes from the Desert’ project set in Rajasthan. Somehow, India can’t be ignored, even in Basel.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b></b></p> Sat Jul 14 15:17:36 IST 2018 behind-enormous-artworks <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Human imagination and skill are essential elements in making art. Whenever one encounters an art installation, skilled craftsmanship, understanding of materials and awareness of structural engineering are required to have its aesthetics.</p> <p>Whenever I see enormous artworks, I wonder how and where they had been produced to such exacting and polished standards. Artworks like Sir Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate at Chicago’s Millennium Park were all ‘fabricated’ at specialist producers that artists are increasingly reliant upon for their most ambitious projects. Another example is Swiss artist Urs Fischer’s Venice Biennale project at Arsenale. His large wax candle sculptures were scaled copies of figures which slowly melt away over the six-month-long biennale. Subodh Gupta’s Carrara marble works or giant metal banyan tree—outdoor installation at National Gallery of Modern Art, Delhi—were produced with the precision and attention to detail normally reserved for architecture and high specification engineered products.</p> <p>A few years ago I heard about a place called Sittertal, St Gallen, in rural Switzerland. Two of my colleagues from the Kochi Biennale Foundation—Riyas Komu and Shwetal Patel—visited the place and told me about a secluded foundry and its amazing production centre for contemporary art works.</p> <p>As I was attending the annual Art Basel fair this summer, I wrote to Marianne Burki, head of visual arts in the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia, to arrange a guided tour and appointment with Felix Lehner, the founder and director of the art foundry Kunstgiesserei St Gallen.</p> <p>Along with Richa Agarwal, an art connoisseur and a patron of Kochi Biennale Foundation, I set out to see the production facilities. Richa will be opening her new gallery space and 60,000 square-foot cultural centre in Kolkata this September.</p> <p>There are two institutions on site. The art foundry, Kunstgiesserei St Gallen, and Foundation Sitterwerk—a nonprofit institution with an exhibition space, a library, a material archive and two guest studios. At Sitterwerk, we were received by Roland Früh, librarian at Sitterwerk Art Library. He accompanied us on a guided walk through the institutions of Sitterwerk and Kunstgiesserei St Gallen, recalling its history and anecdotes along the way. About three decades ago Felix met with artist Hans Josephsohn, and being a passionate craftsman Felix started producing sculptures for him and others. In 2006, Felix founded the Sitterwerk Foundation with Hans Jorg Schmid, owner of the area, and Daniel Rohner, book collector. The art foundry is located on the grounds of a former textile dyeing factory. The library at Sitterwerk has over 25,000 volumes on art architecture and design, all meticulously archived. The material archive has an incredible collection of materials and mediums, and processes of every kind imaginable. The foundation includes two residency art studios, a gallery space called Kesselhaus Josephsohn—an exhibition and storage space for the works of Hans Josephsohn, and a collection of casted artworks, moulds, catalogues and other materials.</p> <p>While walking through the Kunstgiesserei, one could see miniature models to massive sculpture-making foundries, ceramic studios, 3D printers, graphic studios, wax mounding to all kinds of steel, aluminium, copper and metal processing facilities.</p> <p>We were able to see the making process for Subodh Gupta, Urs Fischer, and many other eminent works at the factory. Approximately 50 craftsmen, artist-assistants and fabricators were working towards what the artists envisioned. It was great to join with Felix, Roland and others at communal kitchen to have lunch together, and I was touched to see Felix queue up with other staff for food.</p> <p>As we departed for Art Basel, Felix said: “We hope to see you at Art Basel tonight. Also, look out for some fresh works from the Kunstgiesserei at the gallery booths.”</p> Tue Jul 03 22:38:06 IST 2018 returning-to-yinchuan <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Tis the season to be… at art biennales and fairs. June saw the opening of four biennales: the 10th Berlin Biennale on June 8; the second Yinchuan Biennale in China on June 9 and Manifesta, the European biennale, in Palermo, Italy, on June 16. Not to mention the place where everybody worth his salt in the art world will be flocking to—Art Basel, the mother of all art fairs.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I was thrilled to watch the second edition of the Yinchuan Biennale, which opened in Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA), Yinchuan. I could be reasonably proud of it, as I curated the first edition in 2016. That gave me the unique opportunity to familiarise myself with Yinchuan, the capital of the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. Flanked by the Yellow River in the east and the Helan Mountains in the west, the region is serene and scenic. This landscape has influenced the architecture of MoCA.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This year's Yinchuan Biennale has new commissions alongside ancient artistic relics from public museums and private collections. The participating artists have been selected from over 30 countries, with particular attention being paid to the western borders of China (from Mongolia to central and southeast Asia) in a way that is consistent with the exhibition’s geopolitical and investigative methods. The title of the biennale, 'Starting from the Desert - Ecologies on the Edge', was apt for the works from 80 groups (92 individuals) of artists. These were displayed within the museum, the International Artists Village, and the Hui Nongqu Eco-Park.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The concept put together by chief curator Marco Scotini and his team—Andris Brinkmanis, Paolo Caffoni, Lu Xinghua and Zasha Colah (from India)—was daunting in its scope, yet thought provoking in the end. It had a reasonably good Indian representation with Ravi Agarwal, Navjot Altaf with Rajkumar Korram and Shantibai Vishwakarma, Sheba Chhachhi, Nikhil Chopra, Shiva Gor, Prabhakar Pachpute, u-ra-mi-li (Iswar Srikumar and Anushka Meenakshi), and Justin Ponmany.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Justin never refrains from springing surprises with his art projects. This time, I had the chance to see his choreographed and theatrical performance, a first for me. His project has been put together with the help of local theatre students and faculty. Using an outdoor amphitheatre with the landscape—a Chinese metaphor [for the well-regulated state]—as backdrop and a bicycle as prop with mimicked birdsong, the performance was at once mesmerising, persuasive and meditative. There was another performance by the compelling Nikhil Chopra—his live drawings alluding to nomadic nature.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>My Yinchuan MoCA team was thrilled to see me back. It was really nice to hear most of them say, “We remember you a lot and miss you,” which immediately transported me to the days I spent there with my small team—Jessal Thacker, Mithika Mathew, the unpredictable maverick Manoj Nair, the lovely Rebecca, Julia and others. Su Chen, then artistic director of MoCA, who had invited me to curate the inaugural biennale, has moved on to other pastures and been replaced by Professor Lu Peng.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But setting up a biennale is as exacting as it is exciting. Thinking about a new biennale itself is a risk with inherent questions like, is it possible; where are the sites; who will run it; who is the audience; who will fund it; how many artists; how many days and finally who is going to ensure quality and consistency. And, Yinchuan is a distant and diffident place to run both a museum and a contemporary art biennale.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Yet, I was struck by the diversity of the works on display at Yinchuan. The works of Shiva Shreshta from Nepal, Mariam Ghani from Afghanistan, Kim Sooja from Korea and many others were impressive. However, what I left Yinchuan with was the image of a fantastic carpet, an arte povera work by the legend, Alighiero Boetti.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b></b></p> Sat Jun 16 12:40:20 IST 2018 a-day-at-delfina <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>I had been hearing about Delfina Studios in London since my student days as the ideal place for upcoming artists to learn and work in an international atmosphere. It was set up as a residency space in 1988 by Spanish philanthropist Delfina Entrecanales. It was initially above a jeans factory in East Stratford. Later, as its scope increased, it moved to Bermondsey Street and had 34 studios. Twelve of them were fully funded by Delfina and the rest were available to artists at discounted rates.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>After almost two decades, she reinvented it as the Delfina Foundation and invited the dynamic Aaron Cezar to be its director. Aaron, who continues to lead the foundation, has devised its thematic residency programmes. In its latest residency, the foundation has supported several artists from the Middle East and South Asia, such as Khalil Rabah, Farhad Moshiri, Susan Hefuna, Haluk Akakce and Khosdrow Hassanzadeh. This time, during my visit to London, I was able to fulfil my long-cherished dream of visiting Delfina. I wanted to understand the mechanics and workings of such a successful space. And I was not disappointed, because Aaron, the perennially charming master of public relations, obliged. I had met him at various art-related events around the world and seen him enjoying drinks and dancing light-footedly with friends and rank strangers. Aaron is easygoing, fluid and interested in developing relationships and cultivating ideas.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I had informed him that I will be coming over with a couple of friends—Shafi Rahman, a London-based Malayali journalist, and Sara Moralo, a young photographer from Spain. The foundation is located at 29-31 Catherine Place, Victoria, London, and has been renovated and designed by Studio Octopi and Egypt-based Shahira Fahmy Architects. It is only 100 metres from the Buckingham Palace and within walking distance from many of London’s iconic landmarks. Aaron welcomed us with a warm hug and I introduced my friends. He then took us around explaining everything to the minutest detail.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Delfina Foundation can accommodate up to eight residents at one time. With interchangeable spaces, the house is an ideal base for research and developing ideas. The entire house, from the kitchen to the gallery, is treated as ‘studios’. It has done away with the idea of having dedicated spaces solely meant for work. The organisers prefer to host a mix of residents with a range of backgrounds, from artists and writers to collectors. Therefore, the facilities are not equipped for specific practitioners. The house includes a 1,650sqft event and exhibition space. It also has a communal kitchen area, an outdoor terrace and a courtyard, the foundation’s offices, and a library/ resource room.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A place [like this] is created by committed patrons and visionary directors. Without the efforts of the 90-year-old Delfina or the dashing Aaron, this place wouldn’t have the glories it has. It is the largest and the most sought after residency space in London. So far more than 250 artists, writers and collectors have gone through the lived experience of culture in Central London. Among its alumni are a dozen Turner Prize winners and nominees such as Shirazeh Houshiary, Jane and Louise Wilson, Mark Wallinger, Anya Gallacio, Tacita Dean, Glenn Brown, Mark Titchner, Martin Creed, Goshka Macuga, and Tomoko Takahashi.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Aaron continues to knit relationships/ collaborations with North Africa, the Middle East, Latin America and South Asia. I have seen creative and passionate people take art institutions to new heights—Sir Nicholas Serota at the Tate; Hans Ulrich Obrist and Julia Peyton-Jones at The Serpentine Galleries; Nicolas Bourriaud at Palais de Tokyo in Paris; Thomas Girst head of BMW’s cultural engagement department; and our own Jyotindra Jain at the National Crafts Museum, Delhi. With Delfina Foundation, Aaron has joined their ranks. Who could have imagined that Edwardian houses amalgamated into one property would become a hub for cultural exchanges.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b></b></p> Fri Jun 01 18:07:35 IST 2018 an-incredible-exchange-at-tate <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Ever since 2012, one question that has been consistently confronting all of us at the Kochi Biennale Foundation is: how did you put up this incredible biennale? It is a question that does not have a one-word answer or can be explained in a sentence or two. “It just happened,” is our common refrain, though we all know that it took more than a village to establish it in Kochi. And, now, Kochi is on the global art map.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Recently, we were at the Tate Modern in London, demonstrating how to build a biennale. I was invited by Winchester School of Art (WSA), University of Southampton, as part of the celebrated ‘Tate Exchange’ programme, involving participants who were mostly students from various disciplines in the production of contemporary art. We explored how to make, organise, design space, curate and install or orchestrate works of art. The programme also included a variety of workshops to discover what it means to build art ‘events’, including the use of 3D digital scanning, an introduction to crowdfunding, participation in performance-based art and a series of daily thoughtful discussions.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According to the Tate website, Tate Exchange is “a space for everyone to collaborate, test ideas and discover new perspectives on life, through art”. It has more than 60 associates—charities to universities and health care trusts to community organisations from the UK and other parts of the world. And, it includes working within and beyond the arts in association with Tate Modern and Tate Liverpool.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In 2000, the derelict but historic Bankside powerhouse was converted into a grand museum by Swiss architects Herzog and De Meuron, and Tate Modern was born. Couple of years ago, it opened an annexe called the Blavatnik building—WSA held Tate Exchange on the fifth floor of this new building.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On the first day, we explored how to install a work, followed by a discussion between me and Tate Exchange participants on ‘Production’ as a concept and practice and the diverse biennale practice, especially in the context of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale (KMB). On the second day, national and international participants (including Jitish Kallat, second edition curator of KMB) were invited to submit proposals and formulate materials for the book, How to Biennale! The Manual, a practical guide for making your own art events.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Also, participants collaborated with Chinese calligraphy artist Zhang Qiang, making silk scrolls to be exhibited on the Tate Exchange floor. On the fifth day, Zuleikha Chaudhari, who participated in the third edition of KMB, devised an event called ‘The Ideal Spectator’, in which she held auditions for the position of spectator or even an impostor artist! Interestingly, Sudarshan Shetty, curator of the last biennale, was a participant and had a dialogue with Zuleikha later.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The last day was an open forum that discussed the future of biennales. The programme concluded with a live event, with the curator of the next edition of the KMB, Anita Dube, joining us from Kochi.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I have known Robert E. D’Souza, head of Winchester School of Art, and Sunil Manghani, professor of theory, practice and critique and director of doctoral research at WSA, since the inception of the KMB. Both of them have visited the biennale several times and have been part of the ‘History Now’ (art talk series at the KMB). They also published the first academic book on the KMB, India’s Biennale Effect: A Politics of Contemporary Art. The ‘How To Build An Art Biennale’ programme was conceptualised and organised by Tate Exchange, WSA and Shwetal Patel, consultant to the KMB.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I was overwhelmed by the response that the programme received. It was a great opportunity to meet incredible minds from the biennale world—artists, curators, writers, journalists, Tate members, Tate curators and, undoubtedly, the wonderful students of WSA. Drawing inspiration from the KMB, they produced three works based on Subodh Gupta’s Sea of God, Robert Montgomery’s text-based light works and the tents of Francesco Clemente. It was quite an unusual experience to watch students and tutors install the three massive works at the fifth floor of the impressive Blavatnik building.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b></b></p> Fri May 18 15:09:30 IST 2018 art-and-the-pearl-of-the-orient <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Not so long ago when I was in Hong Kong, I could see the West Kowloon District across from where I was—the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. Past the Victoria Harbour, the skyline and across the bay, in the distance, on reclaimed land, one could see a huge signage that screamed M+.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>M+ is home to a future world of culture. Funded totally by the government, the site is being developed into one of the most buzzing areas for culture in the world with parks, museums, theatres, exhibition spaces, food courts and other commercial spaces that speak nothing but culture. The idea germinated in 2008, with an upfront endowment of $21.6 billion. The project is taking off in phases, with most of the spaces for cultural activity already in place and one of the most spectacular operas taking off last year at its opera house. The total cost of M+ is expected to be more than $63 billion. It is expected that the authorities would make nearly $100 billion from the commercial activities alone that would sustain the cultural spaces and activities within.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On my return to Kerala, I imagined Aspinwall House in Fort Kochi from the other side of the backwaters, Vypin. Well, in comparison to Kowloon Cultural Hub, it is only a drop in the ocean, and revolves around a single event, the Kochi-Muziris Biennale. However, we had created borderless and non-hierarchical expositions with minuscule amounts compared with any other international operations. But, a fruitful beginning has been made.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Going back to Hong Kong, I have been attending the last three iterations of Art Basel Hong Kong, and I am always eager to see the wide range of contemporary art from around the world one gets to see there. Especially ‘Encounter’, which as I have mentioned earlier, is a large-scale project commissioned by Art Basel Hong Kong and is curated by Alexie Glass Kantor, director of Artspace, Sydney. This time she had invited 16 artists, one of whom was Subodh Gupta.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>One of my duties at Art Basel Hong Kong is to be part of a jury to shortlist and later select a winner from among the individual projects shown by the 23 galleries participating in the ‘Discoveries’ sections of the events.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We have shortlisted three artists for this year’s BMW Art Journey —Los Angeles-based artist Gala Porras-Kim, Lahore-based Ali Kazim (represented by Jhaveri Contemporary, Kazim drew a lot of attention) and Berlin-based New Zealander Zac Langdon-Pole. Each artist will be invited to submit a proposal for an artistic project that involves a journey to anywhere in the world.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This edition of Art Basel HK had a large Indian participation compared with the earlier years—Chemould Presscot, Espace, Experimenter, Jhaveri Contemporary, Nature Morte, Sakshi, SKE, Vadehra, Tarq, and Icon Gallery (NY) and Kavi Gupta (Chicago) from abroad.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It was also a proud moment to attend the Asia Society’s Game Changer Awards ceremony. Asia Society is a global non-profit organisation and is a leading force in forging closer ties between Asia and the west through arts, education, policy and business outreach. This year, Asia Society honoured the artistic excellence and pioneering contributions to the arts of Subodh Gupta, Shirazeh Houshiary, Ju Ming, and Park Seo-Bo.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Like at any event of such a scale, one can do several things at Art Basel Hong Kong: attend Asia Art Archive’s Special Conversations and talks (it was good to hear the legendary Guerrilla Girls), visit some fantastic exhibitions, and curated exhibitions at the Para Site; and browse through all art magazine and art news paper stands. UBS and Davidoff VIP Lounges were ideal places to hold meetings.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Astha Butail, BMW Art Journey awardee of 2017, had a great presentation of her research and installations. She had a short conversation with Dr Thomas Girst, BMW’s global cultural head. We are truly making our presence felt on the global front. Back home? Well, that’s another story all together.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b></b></p> Sat May 05 15:08:29 IST 2018 a-visit-down-under <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Some time back, a gallerist friend of mine asked: “What are artist residencies?” It is a question that is asked often. Residencies are studio spaces of varying sizes to which writers, performers, dancers, artists and scientists are invited to live and work, mostly for a short period of time. A normal residency has living facilities and work spaces. Residencies provide creative professionals with connections and an audience.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Residency programmes are never the same. Each programme or guest studio, large or small, established or experimental, has its own background and atmosphere. Working periods differ enormously: from two weeks to six months, sometimes even a year or two. Some specialise in one discipline, others are interdisciplinary. I have participated in some fabulous artists residencies to work, learn and live. One of them, called Headlands Centre of Visual Arts, was at Sausalito—a city in California, across the Golden Gate from San Francisco.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I would like to use this space to talk about a few people behind such spaces. One of them is Alexie Glass-Kantor. I met her a few years ago at Art Basel Hong Kong. She has been the curator for the large-scale installations called Encounters at Art Basel in Hong Kong. I had attended her moderated talk sessions called Conversations during the event. She is a fluid, articulate and prolific speaker, a great conversationalist and an inspiring moderator. During our trip to Australia, we met her at Artspace [art gallery in Sydney] during the professional preview. She has been the director of Artspace for the last four years. She has a great team and spirit to run such spaces.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Support comes from state agencies like Australian Council for the Arts (ACA). In fact, the artists’ studios or cultural institutions in Australia are mostly funded by the ACA. It also coordinated the Meet the Artists programme for visiting international curators at Artspace, and other venues such as Carriageworks Studios, Parramatta Artists Studios and ACE Open in Adelaide. We went through a lot of good artists’ presentations. At the Gertrude Contemporary in Melbourne, we heard and saw Sangeeta Sandrasegar. Her works are extremely minimalist and conceptual.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Now, we are also looking forward to welcoming Alexie to Kochi soon to continue our artist and studio exchange programmes. It would also be an opportunity to learn her administrative and multi-tasking abilities.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>ACE has some good exhibition spaces and had a good show by ten Muslim artists—part of the Australian Muslim artist collective, Eleven. (The collective was initiated by Tripoli-born, Sydney-based artist Khaled Sabsabi. I had showed his works at the Yinchuan Biennale 2016 and Sudarshan Shetty invited him for the Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2016. In fact, Khaled was everywhere: Biennale of Sydney, and ACE and Samstag Museum in Adelaide.) ACE has also set up a few new studio spaces. There are a lot of complimentary spaces that are also used by ACE, like Jam Factory Contemporary Craft and Design, a fantastic foundry for blown glass and ceramics. It is a lovely exhibition space and has a cool design shop, everything produced by artists or designers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Riyas Komu, director of programmes, Kochi Biennale Foundation, and ACE’s CEO Liz Nowell and reputed curator Natalie King had a meeting for long-term relationship building between Kochi, Adelaide and Melbourne. Within a minute’s walk from ACE is the Samstag Museum. It was a great feeling to ruminate on the works of some of our KMB artists. One of them was Angelica Messitti, who participated in the 2012 edition. She will be part of the Australian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale 2019.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I have a lot to write about our visit to Australia, but here I would like to inform you about a fairly new space called Victoria College of Arts at the University of Melbourne. Vikki Mcinnes, the managing editor of the art journal Art +Australia and an independent curator, and Natalie gave us an enlightening walk through the students’ studio spaces, workshops, graphic studios, space for conversations and the gallery next door, the Buxton Contemporary. There were three eminent people during our short visit at the university—Vietnamese artist Tiffany Chung, curator and historian David Elliott and our own artist N.S. Harsha. They were there as guest tutors. I wish our students also got such opportunities, patronage and infrastructure like studios, galleries, libraries, museums, parks and gardens.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b></b></p> Sat Apr 21 15:48:06 IST 2018 an-incredible-australian-adventure <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Art can be exhausting. It can also be invigorating. Three art festivals within one week can take its toll. But, it did not because I was in the good company of Riyas Komu and other curators. The Australian Arts Council (ACA) had invited us to participate in the visiting international curators programme, along with 11 other curators from different institutions, museums and galleries around the world. It can be exacting. On the contrary, it was exciting. As artist Marco Fusinato’s work at the Sydney biennale demonstrated, minimalism can go with maximalism. His work established the fact that noise can coexist with silence.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The 21st edition of Biennale of Sydney was curated by Tokyo-based Mami Kataoka, chief curator of the Mori Museum. Since 2005, the city has been following a tradition of opening any project or festival with a blessing ceremony presided over by an Aboriginal. This time, the biennale opened with a smoking ceremony, which is a cleansing ritual performed only on special occasions. The guidance of ACA project officers Sabina Finnern and Matthew Loftus helped us understand the journey of the Biennale of Sydney, the Adelaide biennale and the Melbourne design triennial.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The high point of the Sydney biennale this time was a conversation between Kataoka and the legendary Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. Sometimes art events can be tiring for the participants. However, Weiwei’s two works—Crystal Ball (crystal, life jackets) and Law of the Journey (reinforced PVC, with aluminium frame)—made up for it all. When an artist’s work speaks for him, he does not need a pulpit to shout from.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This space is not enough to list all the artists who made a lasting impression on the viewers, but the works of Australian artists Brook Andrews and Khalid Sabsabi did have some incredible resonance.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Sydney biennale was spread across seven sites: Art Gallery of New South Wales, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Artspace, Carriageworks, Cockatoo Island, Sydney Opera House and, for the first time, 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Each site offered its own speciality, and Kataoka had put a lot of thought into allocating each of the 69 participating artists their space. Among them were four Indian artists and one of Indian origin: Sosa Joseph, Prabhavati Meppayil, Tanya Goel, N.S. Harsha and Simryn Gill.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It was a moment to cherish, and I was pleasantly surprised when a gallerist and collector from Australia asked me if I knew Sosa Joseph. “Of course,” I replied, because Sosa was part of the first edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale. And, it is amazing how things fall into place, and are connected without our knowledge. Kataoka has been a regular visitor to KMB, and it was during one of those visits that Harsha mentioned Sosa’s name to her. She made it a point to visit Sosa’s studio in Kochi. Prabhavati, too, was a participating artist in Kochi.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>All these thoughts and cross-connections occupied my mind as we cruised through the packed schedule that included visiting various locations of the biennale, meeting artists, directors and curators, and visiting the respective studios and residencies. There was one thing that stood out through all of that: every organisation had a huge responsibility to perform well. And, every one entrusted with that responsibility was a stakeholder in its successful execution. And, I thought, what if the Australian Council of Arts did not have people like Wendy Were and Amrit Gill? They make an important contribution towards ensuring that art does not become tiring, irrespective of how much you pack into the itinerary.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b></b></p> Sat Apr 07 16:44:13 IST 2018 a-selfie-with-the-french-president <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>In May this year, Julie Ward, a British member of the European Parliament from the Labour Party, will intern at the Bonnefanten Museum in Maastricht, the Netherlands. She chose the museum because she is interested in ancient artefacts, design and community work, and, particularly, because of the museum’s focus on youth, gender and sexuality. It is part of the political internship programme initiated by the Network of European Museum Organisations, to give politicians an understanding of the workings and importance of museums. It is actually an extension of a programme called ‘More Than Worth It’, run successfully by the Netherlands Museum Association. So, do not be surprised if you find a Dutch minister behind the reception desk, when you enter a museum in the Netherlands.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Politicians play an active role in cultural activities in the west. They are regular visitors to galleries, museums, art shows, fairs and biennales. I vividly remember the Argentinian president visiting the Argentinian pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2011, when I had gone there with Riyas Komu, Sunil V. and Shwetal Patel to make our first presentation about the Kochi-Muziris Biennale to an international audience.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Incidentally, that was the only year when India had a pavilion at the mecca of contemporary art.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>My first encounter with a culturally, socially and politically conscious minister from a European country was during ARCO 09, Madrid, where India was the focus country and I was the guest curator. I thoroughly enjoyed the company of the politician who was talking to me about art, sans the company of bodyguards or bureaucrats. I wondered if such a thing would ever happen in India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But, when we began the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, several Kerala politicians including former chief minister Oommen Chandy and the current chief minister, Pinarayi Vijayan, visited the event. Some of them have not missed any edition since. KMB was born out of former culture minister M.A. Baby's wish to bring international visual art to Kerala. Last year, president Pranab Mukherjee visited the biennale and addressed the audience.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Here I am writing about another president’s visit. Recently, French President Emmanuel Macron came to India on an official visit. And, guess what was on his itinerary. A trip to artist Subodh Gupta’s studio. Subodh is having a major retrospective at the 1,154-year-old Monnaie de Paris—the French mint is the oldest enterprise in the world. The charming president and his cheerful wife, Brigitte, visited the Gurugram studio where Subodh and his wife Bharati Kher work. Also in attendance were 60 invited guests—artists, designers, writers, museum directors and gallerists.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Subodh took our hands (Riyas’s and mine), pulled us closer to Macron and said: “I wanted to introduce both these artists. They have changed Indian art and we are so proud of India’s biennale in Kochi.” Later, we met again and explained KMB in detail to an attentive president. He was, of course, coming from a culturally conscious country. The French understand the value of soft power. France has the most visited art museums and cultural spaces in the world.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Macron's visit to Subodh and Bharti's studio is history. I hope our political figures also come down to earth. At least, our new and young blood should respect the wealth of art and culture. Art is humane and humble; it is like a mirror. Riyas could not miss the selfie-opportunity. He took out his mobile and asked if he could take a selfie with Macron. Jitish [Kallat] and I squeezed into the frame!</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Just before the president left, he said to us: “I know where to go on my next visit.” After a pause, he said: “Kochi!” He might as well.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b></b></p> Sat Mar 24 16:19:42 IST 2018 free-lunches-anyone <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>They say there is no such thing as a free lunch. There could be some, though. India, 'the land of bikshuks’, has a tradition of serving free food to rank strangers. The Bhikshuka Upanishad lays down the lifestyle of four types of mendicants, who live mostly on alms. India is also the land of the Golden Temple in Amritsar, which has the world’s largest kitchen where nearly a lakh people eat everyday. ISKON, the organisation of Krishna devotees, has a concept of community kitchen called akshayapatram, and history tells us that we have always been feeding, not feeding on others.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Last week, I attended the inauguration of the Janakeeya Bhakshna Shala (JBS)—which roughly translates into ‘people’s dining hall’—conceptualised by Kerala’s finance minister Dr Thomas Isaac. The first one of these food centres has been set up in his constituency of Allepey, on National Highway 66.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In evolutionary biology, an organism is said to behave altruistically when its behaviour benefits other organisms, even at a cost to itself. In The Descent of Man, Charles Darwin discussed the origin of altruistic and self-sacrificial behaviour among human beings. Studies inspired by Darwin have proved that the capacity to be caring, generous and being kind have been built into the brains, bodies, genes and social practices of human beings.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But then, how do you sustain altruism? Let us look at the mechanics of JBS. It was initiated by eight people, who worked day in and day out to provide food to nearby hospitals. Now, with the help of the Kerala State Financial Enterprices, it has started this centre spread over 1,500sq.ft. I was talking to local artists and common folk and they took me to the backyard of the JBS building and showed me a patch of land—nearly four acres—that has been donated by a generous man to cultivate vegetables for and by JBS.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It made me think about the near total absence of Indian philanthropists (if you were to stack up the number of philanthropists, against the number of Indian billionaires, then you will get the picture). Of course, philanthropy in India means setting up schools or temples in the name of family members. Philanthropy is more of an ego-boosting exercise. The rich in India seldom open their wallets, but to build collections of jewellery, fast cars, yachts, private jets and ostentatious farm houses.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While on a drive down the Mattanchery Bazar road, I saw yet another heritage structure brought down by moneybags, and it brought back memories. I began wondering how they are able to execute their wishes with impunity. Isn’t there any policy that protects the heritage zone? Kochi and Mattanchery area have been declared as heritage zones by the UNESCO. And, just the other day, I was reading about how a new project, commissioned by the Foundation for Jewish Heritage, has identified synagogues built before the second World War, from Cork in Ireland in the west to Vladivostok in Russia in the east. Each has been catalogued with construction dates and materials, the Jewish community it served, its present use and condition, and a “significance rating”. Simon Schama will launch the project with the backing of more than 40 high-profile supporters including architect Daniel Libeskind, television newsreader Natasha Kaplinsky and artist Anish Kapoor. Such a thing is possible only if we have an idea of what our heritage is, and only if we look beyond immediate short-term gains.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I have had the good luck to meet incredible people whose passion, intuition and inquisitiveness have taken them to their desired destinations. One such person is the 84-year-old Lady Helen Hamlyn. I met her last week. She was one of the first fashion designers to pass out from the Royal College of Art in 1963. And, now she preserves, protects and funds conservation. Three of the projects are in India: the Reis Magos Fort in Goa, the Nagaur Fort in Rajasthan and the Chittoor Palace in Kerala. Apparently she spots these places on her own, and is not approached by anyone in India or abroad. Altruists walk alone.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b></b></p> Sat Mar 10 19:08:21 IST 2018 india-art-fair-an-art-fair-to-remember <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Recently the India Art Fair, which was launched in 2008 by Neha Kirpal, concluded its 10th edition.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Last year, the MCH Group, the Swiss fairs, and behemoth events, invested in the India Art Fair. While such a fair provides a much-needed aesthetic acupuncture to a city like Delhi, it also helps instigate and inspire the lives of culturally conscious minds while creating a healthy business. So, the move by MCH is a smart one. The India Art Fair had the aesthetic imprints of the new director Jagdip Jagpal and her team, including artist UBIK and VIP relations director Noel Kaddar. The expertise of MCH, also the owner of the preeminent Art Basel (Basel, Miami and Hong Kong) in fair production, was conspicuous at the NSIC grounds, the location of the annual event. This year, I saw many new faces from the art world, new collectors, young curators and writers. Of course, one would not miss the BMW art car by celebrated artist Jeff Koons.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Jagdip Jagpal’s arrival on the scene has brought in a breath of fresh air. The London-born Indian-origin director, now living in Delhi, has had to quickly absorb the nuances of the Indian art scene. Jagpal, who has great faith in the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, provided space for the same at the art fair. Anita Dube, Jitish Kallat, Riyas Komu and myself were invited to an opening-day panel discussion moderated by curator Michelle Lun from the Asia Society, New York. The Asia Society awarded the Kochi Biennale Foundation (KBF) its prestigious Game Changer Award, which was accepted by Riyas Komu and me on behalf of the foundation. It was a proud moment of recognition for us, our entire team and trustees, as well as our sponsors and patrons, and, the people of Kochi who supported the dream of a biennale in India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As at most art events, we had to come to terms with the fact that we cannot see everything in a week. There were too many parallel exhibitions, talks and tours. Some of my personal highlights of the week included seeing Pooja Sood’s Khoj International studios that has an exhibition of small-scale artworks by young artists, Shalini Passi's great collection of art works and Tarana Sawhney hosting on behalf of the Tate museum.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The energetic Feroze and Mohit Gujral’s Gujral Foundation organised a brilliantly curated exhibition at their project space, 124 Jor Bagh, an old building that has been transformed for special exhibitions. This year, the space was dedicated to photography. A trustee of the KBF, and design legend V. Sunil hosted a Motherland magazine party at his Dhan Mills office, and Manish Arora held a mini-retrospective of his greatest pieces from the catwalks in an adjoining ex-warehouse building. Dhan Mills Compound is quickly turning into a must-visit place in the capital.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Another highlight was Riyas Komu’s Holy Shiver at Vadehra Gallery. In my knowledge, Komu is one of the finest artistic minds in India and his works are an acerbic look at contemporary social issues, much needed in the fractured political climes that we live in. His works confront you with questions on religion, Constitution, nationalism and concerns of the minority. Artist friend Anju Dodiya created visceral drawings, paintings and sculptural paintings on textiles collected from Germany and India. Her creations are on show at the Bikaner House. The exhibition is Dodiya at her best, and it lingers in my thoughts.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Another must-see event was 50 years of Vivan Sundaram’s work in a poignant retrospective, curated by Roobina Karode at the Kiran Nadar Museum. Kiran Nadar—patron, collector and an astounding mind that leads with tremendous vision—and her better half, Shiv Nadar, are a great asset to the country. We need more of such patronage of arts and a strong private and public partnership to build the necessary arts infrastructure, especially in our nation’s capital.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The India Art Fair is a good reason to think on those lines. When such events are held, one must also think of making them more accessible to the common man and not confine it to a cocoon within the city.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b></b></p> Sat Feb 24 17:06:00 IST 2018 art-in-the-pink <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>There is something new in the country to be cheerful about. This, at a time when finding something to be happy about is as difficult as fishing in plastic-filled waters. There is a new Sculpture Park at the Madhavendra Bhavan palace in Nahargarh Fort, Jaipur, which showcases the finest three-dimensional works by contemporary artists.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We were invited to the palace to attend a dinner hosted by Shreyasi Goenka of Zee and Aparajita Jain to celebrate the Jaipur Literature Festival. The exhibition is curated by Peter Nagy, and has works by 17 Indian and eight international artists.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Peter Nagy is an artist who moved out from New York to India, after closing his East Village gallery in 1996. Exhibiting works in rented and leased out locations in Delhi, Nagy became one of the most familiar names in the art world as a gallerist. He set up, and, now co-runs, the prestigious Nature Morte Gallery in New Delhi with Aparajita, whose Saath Saath Arts is in partnership with the state government of Rajasthan for the Sculpture Park project. The state government has given the space out on a ten-year lease for the project.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I missed the grand opening in December, and so was very excited to visit the exhibition. To my surprise, it was an exhibition of brilliantly put together sculptures and installations; outdoor, indoor, on the ground, hanging from the ceilings and on the terrace of the well-maintained and restored palace. The works blend very well with the grandeur of the fort, built by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II in 1734. After my visit, I felt the government should lease out spaces for the long term to dedicated and committed art professionals and specialists like Nagy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The exhibition seems to have received some corporate support with names like Zee, Borosil, PI Foundation and JSW being displayed prominently. There are similar projects encouraged by the government, such as the Museum of Legacies—a historical building, which once served as an art school, that has now been made a museum dedicated to tribal and traditional art, textiles and design.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I think the people behind the immensely successful JLF—Sanjoy Roy, William Dalrymple, Namita Gokhale and their team—should seriously think about crowd management, which was quite exhausting. There were great speakers at five venues, every day, from the fields of arts, literature, social and political sciences, media and cinema. I was a guest delegate at the JLF and was able to attend reading sessions, conversations, book releases and visit pop-up bookshops, besides enjoying the great food and entertainment—Kailash Kher, my good old friend Talvin Singh and many more.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But, there was a terrible flaw. Most of us could not see the speakers, especially on opening night, because of the backlights! Clumsy stages and garish sets turned it into the caricature of chaos. That managed to overshadow the amazing speakers who had come from all parts of the world. Festivals like this should have exemplary design.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Jaipur has a lot to offer, culturally, like the Jawahar Kala Kendra designed by Charles Correa, and now directed by Pooja Sood. I was lucky to visit ‘Where is Space’, an architecture/art show curated by Rupali and Prasad Shetty. Though I found that some of the works were beyond me, as I couldn’t connect them with architecture or space.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Another sight at the JLF that delighted me was a group of around 70 students and tutors from St. Teresa’s College and Sacred Heart College, both in Kochi, Kerala, along with the selfie performances that have become customary these days. I was privileged to attend, at the JLF, the fourth edition of Ojas Art Awards, an initiative of art lover Anubhav Nath. This year, the award went to Anwar and Uttam Chitrakar, Pattachitra artists from West Bengal. The Pink City overwhelmed me with its love for art.</p> <p><b></b></p> Fri Feb 16 15:59:11 IST 2018