Indian Art Rings in the New Year with a Series of Important Shows

In addition the much-anticipated India Art Fair (previously known as the India Art Summit), held in New Delhi from 25-29 January, art galleries across the country hosted some of their best shows to begin the New Year. Here is a look back at some of these exhibitions.

The festivities began early at Delhi’s Vadehra Art Gallery which is presently hosting ‘Our Beautiful Daughters’ by Yoko Ono, one of the world’s leading advocates of Fluxus art, also known as John Lennon’s widow. Mixing different media, gestures and performance, Ono’s work is being exhibited in India for the first time. ‘Our Beautiful Daughters’, dedicated to the women of India, is a show that makes us stop and consider notions of gender, the idea of being a woman, and the joy that is often neglected in our country. Interactive in nature, Ono’s works also deal with the process of healing and mending: audiences are invited to fix broken ceramic pottery, mend a slashed canvas and to create a tribute to their mothers. Incorporating an element of public art as well, Yoko Ono’s trademark wish-trees are also currently placed at various spots in Delhi. ‘Our Beautiful Daughters’ is on view till 10 March, 2012, at Vadehra Art Gallery’s Okhla space.

Alwar Balasubramaniam’s stunning solo show ‘Nothing from my Hands’ represents a continuation of the artist’s effort to give form to the formless. Using ‘nothing’ spaces, like the inside of the human fist, a crack on the wall, the artist’s aim is to bring to notice the fleeting nature of such spaces. Exceptionally installed at Talwar Gallery’s space in Neeti Bagh, New Delhi, the viewer is made to discover the works of art they make their way up from the basement to the terrace of the three floor gallery. Hidden in a niche in a wall, hung from the ceiling, suspended in the stairwell, and gently moving to the tune of the wind on the terrace, Alwar Balasubramaniam’s works are a visual and intellectual delight. ‘Nothing from my Hands’ is on view till 27 April, 2012, at Talwar Gallery in Neeti Bagh.

If you missed Vivan Sundaram’s much talked about ‘Gagawaka: Making Strange’ at the Lalit Kala Akademi in New Delhi in December 2011, and even if you missed seeing the models wearing the works and walking through the aisles of the India Art Fair, you have one more chance to witness this crossover between art and fashion: Chemould Prescott Road in Mumbai is currently playing host to the exhibition that makes fashion out of waste. In keeping with the artist’s previous works that made art out of trash, Sundaram goes a step further and creates wearable fashion out of shoe soles, wire mesh, paper cups, etc. ‘Gagawaka: Making Strange’ is on view at Chemould Prescott Road, Mumbai, till 21 March, 2012.

L N Tallur’s ‘Quintessential’ at the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum in Mumbai curated by Tasneem Mehta saw the artist making crucial interventions in the museum space. Trained as a museologist, in this exhibition Tallur explores the value that an object achieves when it is formally ‘museumized’. The most popular piece in the show was an interactive, three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle of an elephant. The story goes that in 1864, the British attempted to move a large stone elephant (dated to 540 AD) from the Rajabunder Jetty at Elephanta Island off Bombay. During the move however, the crane crashed, and the elephant was shattered to pieces. These pieces were brought to the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum (then the Victoria and Albert Museum) and reassembled by the curators. Tallur invites his viewers to reassemble his broken sculpture, to invoke the museumization of the same. Six of the sculptures will also be shown as part of the exhibition ‘Password’ at Nature Morte’s new space in Gurgaon, till 4 April, 2012.

Borrowing its title from a poem by Rumi, ‘The Elephant in the Dark’ curated by Amirali Ghasemi at the Devi Art Foundation in Gurgaon shows works by 52 contemporary Iranian artists. The show provides a sweeping view of contemporary art practices in Iran, and is divided into three distinct sections that steadily build up the narrative. In the first section, ‘Departure from Form’, the artists use the traditional geometric and idyllic forms stereotypically associated with Iranian and Islamic art, but tweak these to shed light up on contemporary social and economic issues that they grapple with in Iran on a daily basis. ‘Reflection of a Complex Society’ takes this exploration further by bringing into play works that very directly confront issues like censorship, the suppression of women, prostitution, and illegal abortions. The final section, titled ‘The Politicized Scenery’, touches upon violence and war in the region, issues of national identity, and the constant flux that it is in.

With its stunning installation, breathtaking works of art, and a geography as yet unexplored in India, ‘The Elephant in the Dark’ is truly a museum quality exhibition, and is on view till 30 May, 2012, at the Devi Art Foundation in Gurgaon.

‘Crossings’ at the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art in Saket, New Delhi, acts like a check-list for the must-see in modern and contemporary Indian art. Currently on at view in the museum are some of the most significant and well-known works of art produced in India. Akbar Padamsee’s monumental ‘Grey Nude’, a series of drawings by India’s enfant-terrible F.N. Souza, Vivan Sundaram’s ‘Trash’, L.N. Tallur’s ‘Unicode’, Dayanita Singh’s installation ‘File Room’, Bharti Kher’s massive fiberglass and bindi-covered elephant ‘The Skin Speaks a Language not its Own’, and Ranbir Kaleka’s multi-channel video work ‘Crossings’, which lends it title to the show, form the highlights of the exhibition. The show marks the landmark transformation of a private collection into a museum, and offers visitors a one-stop introduction to Indian art.

Back in Mumbai Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke is exhibiting the works of celebrated German artist Eberhard Havekost alongside those of young Indian artist Manish Nai. The juxtaposing of the two is interesting: the works of both probe the nature of physicality, expanding the limits of painterly imagination. While Havekost is an established artist with works in collections like those of the Tate Modern in London and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Nai is a young contemporary Indian artist. The dialogue is interesting, to say the least. The show will continue till 31 March, 2012.

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