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The art of arrival

In 2011,India could secure its place on the global art stage.

The art calender for 2011 looks exciting. India has already seen some stimulating international art events towards the end of 2010 and that augers well for the year ahead. Not only is Indian art going overseas,but art work from Europe and America is also making its way here — it may not be the cream of the selection,but it is undoubtedly way better than what we have seen in the past few years. Even eight years ago,international museums like Tate Modern and Serpentine in London,MoMA in New York and Guggenheim in Germany had not even heard of names like Atul Dodiya,Subodh Gupta and Bharti Kher. Indian curators had to contend with intellectuals of the West,who looked at contemporary Indian art with a hint of suspicion. The primary argument at that time was that modern and contemporary Indian art was too derivative of the West. In a sea change,Chris Dercon,the next director of Tate Modern,made a trip to India early this December to look for talent and build up an exhaustive collection of Indian art at the gallery. This happened soon after Delhi saw a grand opening of the first Anish Kapoor retrospective at the National Gallery of Modern Art after 10 long years of lobbying with the British sculptor of Indian origin. It was not that Kapoor suddenly developed an affinity for India; rather,the capital’s museum was finally ready with infrastructure and a gallery fit to host an exhibition of that calibre. The artist said as much at the opening of the exhibition. The same could be said for the Bhau Daji Lad Museum in Mumbai. Once home to termites and silverfish,it has been restored to its former glory through a public-private endeavour and has been having a series of exchanges with the Victoria and Albert Museum,London. Similarly,the India Art Summit,which began on a small scale in 2007,with more than a few sceptics clucking their tongues,now has international galleries at the next edition in January 2011. Damien Hirst’s work is one of the star attractions along with paper works by Pablo Picasso and Joan Miro. Add to that the presence of Kapoor and Hans Ulrich Obrist,who will be part of panel discussions. Obrist,an international curator who has the distinction of curating for the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris in his early twenties will speak,appropriately,on the importance of Indian art in the international art circuit. Many attribute this growing interest in Indian art to the brisk trade that the auction houses are doing,as collectors snap up works by moderns like S.H. Raza (his Saurashtra sold for Rs 16 crore) and Arpita Singh (her mural The Wish Dream went for Rs 9.6 crore this year),and sculptures by contemporary artists like Kher (whose life-sized elephant sold for about Rs 7 crore) and Gupta whose Very Hungry God sold for an undisclosed amount to Italian collector François Pinault who is currently showcasing the gigantic skull made of sparkling steel utensils in Venice.While money plays a big role,in creating infrastructure for art and a buzz about it,the perception of Indian art in intellectual circles too has changed. Indians looking self-reflectively at their culture is lapped up by Westerners,who,in a global scenario,can no longer harp about their prerogative to be modern or cutting-edge. The presence of Indian names at triennales and biennales and festivals like Frieze in London and Art Basel in Miami is no longer a token gesture but a necessity. The Venice Biennale will host its first Indian pavilion in May 2011 and the credit for this goes to the government that is finally putting money into the arts. About Rs 1 crore has reportedly been earmarked for the project. In 2011,the old adage that,after China,India is the next best market,may actually ring true about art as well.

First published on: 30-12-2010 at 03:15:31 am
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