Monday, June 29, 2015

South Australian 'Art From The Heart' to raise much-needed funds for poverty-stricken Indian schools

Jan Carey stands in front of some of the students' artwork.
PHOTO: Help-A-School Foundation director and Trinity Gardens Primary School principal Jan Carey in front of a selection of students' work donated to the fundraiser. (891 ABC Adelaide: Brett Williamson)

More than 350 students and 18 artists are creating artworks destined for auction to help raise money to purchase much-need equipment for poverty-stricken schools in rural India.
Jan Carey created the Help-A-School Foundation after she visited India on holidays and witnessed first-hand the disparities in the levels of equipment available for Indian and Australian schools.
There's no tables, there's no chairs and most of the schools I went to didn't even have mats for the kids. They were sitting on concrete floors all day.
Help-A-School Foundation director Jan Carey
Art From The Heart was a project developed by Ms Carey — who is also the principal of Trinity Gardens School — to raise funds to purchase essential school equipment for schools in Vellore and Edayanchavady Village in the Tamil Nado province of southern India.
"When you see schools over there with so little, it just inspired me to ask 'what could my school and other schools do to get involved to help?'," Ms Carey said.
On her return Ms Carey set about creating letter writing exchanges between schools, with students learning about rural India and joining in on fundraising activities to purchase student desks and seats, school resources and raise money for a girls' home at the Karunalaya orphanage.
"I went to three different little village schools in India and they basically had nothing," Ms Carey said.
With government funding providing buildings and staff, local communities are then left to their own devices.
"The children from years one to five actually sit on the floor; there's no tables, there's no chairs and most of the schools I went to didn't even have mats for the kids," Ms Carey said.
"They were sitting on concrete floors all day."
Text books are recycled from year to year and students are provided with one set of uniforms at the beginning of the year, but it does not dampen the children's spirits.
"The children there are just so excited to be at school and see education as a real way forward," Ms Carey said.
Since November last year Ms Carey has raised almost $7,000 of her $15,000 goal for the Indian schools, and the Art From The Heart project is expected to add thousands to the total.

What are you grateful for?

Fourteen school classes from Angaston, East Adelaide, Echunga, Stradbroke and Trinity Gardens and 18 professional artists have contributed to the Art From The Heart project.
Together they have produced more than 350 pieces based on the topic 'Gratitude'.
The 350 primary school students were asked to create pieces to resemble what they were grateful for.
"The kids have been so excited, so engaged and so proud of themselves that they can actually contribute and make a difference," Ms Carey said.
It is hoped the 18 works donated to the project by local artists will help bolster fundraising efforts from an online auction.
Artists and students were also asked to write a passage to explain their creation and reveal what they had chosen to show gratitude for.
All pieces donated by local artists are available for purchase at the foundation's Gratitude Art Auction site, with bidding closing at 9:00pm AEST, Tuesday June 30.

Seeing Beyond Space and Place Through Indian Contemporary Art

A panel discussion on “Space and Place: Transcending Local Meaning in Indian Contemporary Art” was presented by Eye on India Festival at downtown co-host Kavi Gupta Gallery, June 11. Moderated by Tanya Gill, the conversation was between artist and researcher at School of the Art Institute, Shaurya Kumar and curator of contemporary Indian art, Betty Seid.

Having been Fulbright scholar in Delhi, Gill considers herself a cultural ambassador, whose interest in Indian art began with marriage to a Sikh. She attempted to define and relate the terms of the discussion, opposing occupied “place” (that holds memories) to yet unoccupied “space” that can be moved into, insisting on the particular perspective inevitably brought by the observer. With global migrations, etc., (cyber-) space is collapsing all around us.
Seid presented six contemporary Indian artists whom she matched into three pairs to illustrate shared themes or approaches. “Melding Mythologies” was exemplified by Nalini Malani and Bari Kumar. By fusing epic heroines, Hindu Sita and Greek Medea, Malani (b. 1946), who underwent the trauma of Partition, has broadened her politics from local to global. Spurned Medea betrays her own people, then murders her lover Jason’s new bride and her own children by him. These scenes are juxtaposed to Sita’s “trial by fire” on either side of a vertical median line. Her “Curioser and Curioser” depicts Alice of “Through the Looking Glass” now adrift in the chaos of Mumbai. Exposed to Hispanic street art in California, Kumar (b.1966) persistently obliges the viewer to rethink the relation between image and text, as in his juxtaposition of secular and sacred, seeing versus blind faith. His art explores miscommunication, as in his portrayal of “Acceptance of Denial.”
Subodh Gupta and Manish Nai exemplify sustainability, a thematic Seid had elaborated in relation to the latter’s ongoing exhibition here at a previous panel, June 5. Nai’s objects fit formally into the Western canon but his process art is distinguished by a no-waste approach to humble Indian materials, Subodh plays on the extreme contrast between rural and urban life in India, on migrants and global displacement. His trademark is the glorification of ordinary objects, such as airport trolleys and taxis, and elevation of the readymade. His “This is not a Fountain” is made of dripping taps in a water-starved country. From the Bihar badlands of India’s poorest state, Subodh, who migrates through international art trade fairs to return home rewarded, has been attacked for exploiting his crisis of identity. His global vocation was launched by a poster he did for a local theater company.
Suhasini Kejriwal and Sanjeev Shankar were brought together under the rubric of “beyond the white box” that was introduced to Delhi in 1961 as framing device. Defiant and untamed (‘janglee’), Suhasini paints incongruous nightmarish scenes to expose the dark underbelly of nature, such her “Garden of Unearthly Delight” presented at Jaipur Festival. She thereby contributes to the “unmaking of the modernist idea.” Sanjeev, who lives as a migrant among tribals and marginals, was resident artist at Hyde Park. By having the inhabitants of a rural village on the edge of high tech Gurgaon (Delhi) repurpose unused cooking oil cans into a free-standing canopy, Sanjeev is developing a radical and democratic way to design community spaces.
As inspiration, Shaurya Kumar cited Salman Rushdie: “No matter how great the storm, if that plunges me into contradiction and paradox, so be it.” Defining his own cultural context of a postcolonial India that was still not really free and now the opening of the global neoliberal unprotected market, Kumar’s rapid synopsis of his various distinct projects highlighted how space and time determine the artist’s work. Especially significant was the encyclopedic “Painting of India” and “Handmade in India” initiatives of documenting the arts and crafts of every state that grounded him in a tradition from which he had become completely alienated. “My world was completely turned upside down upon coming to America,” he declared.
He illustrated his ongoing “Glimpses into the Vanishing Originals” with examples such as the 140,000 objects destroyed in the Kabul Museum, also in Baghdad, Beirut, etc., and construction of the Qutb Minar from about 26 destroyed Hindu temples. As member of a University of Chicago team comprising a historian, an anthropologist, and sociologist, Kumar is studying the emotional effects of looting, e.g. of images from derelict yogini temples.
Artist and dealer in Indian folk art, Manvee Vaid, asked whether one needs to know about the artist and his method in order to appreciate contemporary art. “The familiar traditional arts are so visually narrative and decorative that abstract art in comparison comes across as dry and rather strange to many viewers. The fear of asking the wrong question while seeing art, I think is the one of the main reasons that many just breeze through the artworks or paintings without making any inquiry into the process or their reaction to it.”
By Sunthar Visuvalingam

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Anish Kapoor Condemns Intolerance after Versailles Art Attack

Cor-Ten steel, earth and mixed media monumental artwork by British Indian Anish Kapoor at the gardens of the Chateau de Versailles. (Stephane De Sakutin/AFP/Getty Images)

Associated Press

Versailles, France: Vandals have spray-painted a controversial Anish Kapoor sculpture in the garden of the palace of Versailles outside Paris.
The 70-meter (230-foot) red metal work named ``Dirty Corner'' – which resembles a gaping cavern and had been dubbed the “vagina of the queen” by some French media – was sprayed Wednesday with yellow paint.

In a statement Friday, the 61-year-old Kapoor put the blame for the defacing on right-wing intolerance, saying the installation “has seemingly given offence to certain people of the extreme political right-wing in France.”
He said the vandalism “represents a certain intolerance that is appearing in France about art. The problem seems to be political.”
Two local officials have lodged formal complaints against the work, part of an exhibition that opened June 9 and runs until November, saying it degrades a national monument.
Kapoor, who inspected the Versailles site Friday, said he was considering keeping the yellow markings as artistic statement of what he has called “the dirty politics of exclusion, marginalization, elitism, racism, Islamophobia.”
“Does the political violence of the vandalism make `Dirty Corner' `dirtier'?” he asked in the statement.
But workers were later seen partly cleaning the sculpture.
Last year in Paris, a controversial inflatable sculpture by U.S. artist Paul McCarthy called “Tree” was vandalized and deflated during an installation on Place Vendome after conservative French critics decried the sculpture on social media as evoking a giant sex toy.
Culture Minister Fleur Pellerin had criticized the “Tree” vandalism, calling it “a serious attack on the principle of artistic freedom.”
That vandalism came as tensions were high in France over a 2013 law legalizing gay marriage.

Art With a Heart for Nepal

MG ROAD: Artmantram is organising an exhibition, Anahata -II, curated by Shan Re, an artist.
The show is raising funds for the rehabilitation of people in Nepal who have been struggling for survival , surrounded by death and destruction, fear and uncertainty.
This group show features over 25 artists and around 70 artworks and the artists include Yusuf Arakkal, Rekha Rao, C.F.John, Santosh, Shan herself, Sudhir Mehar, Romicon Revola, Kishore Roy and Rajesh Baderia among others.
Shan Re says,”Since the last show was a mega success, we are trying to raise some more funds to help homeless people to get shelter and infuse hope and a feeling of security into their shattered lives.”
Shan Re’s work Dream Unfolding is a reminder of how positive energy adds joy to human experience.
She adds, “My creative process is involuntary like breathing and my artistic language comes from intimate life experiences,spilling over into my dialogue with the canvas and the viewer.” Santhosh’s  Love Birds depicts the glory of the natural world. His works usually represent concerns about urbanisation conveyed through animals.
Romicon Revola’s coloured steel sculpture is titled  Star Gazing. She says, “A starlit sky has always had a special appeal for me. The random and ever-changing placement of the stars allows you to map out your own constellations and infuse them with your own stories. This is what I have attempted in my sculptures. Superimposing personal trajectories on to the cosmic compositions or vice versa throws up interesting questions about fate versus free will which remain largely unanswered in my mind.”
Sudhir Meher’s work is called Celebration of life and features a young boy holding a bunch of balloons. The composition is vibrant and captures the innocence of the boy and the multi-hued balloons perhaps represent the hopes and aspirations of a young mind.
This is a show with a difference, it’s non-thematic, giving artists creative freedom to express themselves. People with different tastes and budgets will find something they would like to take home and anybody buying art from this show would be bringing a ray of hope to the people in Nepal.
Anahata -II is on from June 27  to July 10 from 11 am to 6 pm at The HAVELI, 39, MG Road.

Buddhist Art from Asia's Oldest Museum, the Indian Museum, on View in Singapore

"The Great Departure" Gandhara, 2nd century, Loriyan Tangai, Schist, 48 x 54 x 8.6 cm
(Courtesy Indian Museum, Kolkata)

Any guess as to where Asia’s oldest museum is? We’ll give you a hint, some of its treasures are currently on loan to Singapore’s Asian Civilisations Museum.

“Treasure from Asia’s Oldest Museum: Buddhist Art from the Indian Museum, Kolkata” is currently on view at the Asian Civilisations Museum, commemorating 50 years of diplomatic relations between the city-state and the subcontinent. The exhibition follows the development of Buddhist art from the 2nd century BC through the museum’s collection of sculptures and paintings.With more than 80 rare objects on display, the exhibition details the cultural shifts and changes as Buddhist art progressed including across the Shunga dynasty, ancient Gandhara, the Gupta Empire, and the Pala Empire. Objects representing the Singapore-India relationship can also be viewed including an obelisk recognizing Singapore’s status as a port city under British rule and the Singapore Stone, an ancient marker that was dynamited with fragments sent to the Indian Museum.
Highlights of the exhibition include a 5th century 1.2-meter-tall sandstone Standing Buddha from Sarnath and a Buddha Preaching from Gandhara. Other objects relay tales of Buddhas life from his birth to maturity. Sculptures come in mediums of schist, sandstone, basalt, and bronze, with intricate details and carvings that highlight the artisan mastery of the style. As the Buddhist religion evolved, its objects and worship tools followed suit.
“Treasure from Asia’s Oldest Museum: Buddhist Art from the Indian Museum, Kolkata” is on view until August 16 at the Asian Civilisations Museum in Singapore.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Auction Wars: Christie’s, Sotheby’s, and The Art of Competition

The two houses will do almost anything to outmaneuver each other, and the friction between them will likely only increase under new CEOs.

by Stephanie Baker and Katya Kazakina

Illustration: Greg Kletsel/Bloomberg Markets

This May, after billionaires had outbid billionaires in New York’s contemporary art auctions, something became immediately clear: Christie’s had just clobbered Sotheby’s with a gavel.
Over four days, Christie’s sales totaled $1.7 billion, its biggest week ever. On one of those evenings, frantic bidding inside its Rockefeller Center salesroom enabled the auction house to sell $706 million of art spanning the 20th century in less than two hours. An anonymous bidder even plunked down $179.4 million for Pablo Picasso’s Les Femmes d’Alger, smashing the record for the most expensive work ever sold at auction. “We’re in a fantasyland,” proclaimed collector Michael Ovitz, the former president of Walt Disney Co., as he left the room.
In contrast, Sotheby’s moved just $890 million of art in two weeks—a little more than half of Christie’s tally—underscoring just how far it had fallen behind its nemesis.

Together, Sotheby’s and Christie’s control 42 percent of the world’s art auction market. The storied houses—both of which recently named new CEOs (more on that in a moment)—have one of the longest-running rivalries in business history going back to when they were established in London in the 18th century.
And there’s even been some good scandal. In the 1990s, the U.S. Justice Department charged the two houses with colluding to fix sales commissions. They eventually paid a total of $512 million to settle claims by buyers and sellers that they’d been cheated, and Sotheby’s chairman at the time, A. Alfred Taubman, spent 10 months in jail.
The competition has become cutthroat: There’s simply never been so much money at stake. Sales of art worldwide surged last year to an all-time high of €51 billion ($57 billion), according to the European Fine Art Foundation. Both auction houses also saw record sales—$7.9 billion for Christie’s (privately owned by French billionaire François Pinault) and $6.7 billion for Sotheby’s. Because Sotheby’s is publicly owned, however, its missteps are harder to hide. Profit fell 9 percent to $117.8 million because of increased expenses.
Sotheby’s has also endured a bruising proxy battle led by hedge fund manager Daniel Loeb of Third Point, who accused the company of being “asleep at the switch” and falling behind Christie’s in Asia and online. “Sotheby’s is like an old master painting in desperate need of restoration,” Loeb fumed in a 2013 letter to then-CEO William Ruprecht.
For all Loeb’s bluster, he highlighted one of the biggest problems facing New York–based Sotheby’s and London-based Christie’s. In the hunt to capture market share, the auction houses often tank their own commissions. “Sotheby’s will think, ‘If we don’t do it, Christie’s will,’ and vice versa,” says Philip Hoffman, a former Christie’s executive who now runs the Fine Art Fund, an investment group in London.
It doesn’t help that it’s a seller’s market, one where collectors play the houses off each other to earn the best deal. In 2013, when newsprint magnate Peter Brant decided to sell Jeff Koons’s Balloon Dog (Orange), he shopped the 4-foot-high (1.2-meter-high) stainless steel sculpture to both, hoping the sale would fetch as much as $75 million, according to people familiar with the matter. Christie’s made the winning pitch, they say, by offering to forgo most of its sales commission paid by the buyer. Yet expected bids from Qatar never materialized, and the piece went for $58.4 million. While that was the highest price ever for a living artist, people familiar say Christie’s made no money after marketing and installation costs. (Christie’s declined to comment.)
Similarly, Sotheby’s has offered lofty guaranteed prices so that sellers don’t decamp. Take its sale of Alberto Giacometti’s 1950 painted-bronze sculpture Chariot, the prize of Sotheby’s biggest-ever Impressionist and modern art sale in New York in November. The gavel went down after just a single $90 million bid from hedge fund billionaire Steven A. Cohen. The sale accounted for about a quarter of the auction house’s total that night and was the most expensive work auctioned in 2014. But Sotheby’s had guaranteed the seller, Greek shipping heir Alexander Goulandris, that the work would collect at least $103 million and had agreed to cover any shortfall. Even after the buyer’s commission brought the final price to $101 million, Sotheby’s still lost $2 million or more, depending on marketing costs, according to people close to the sale.
Loeb finally got his way when the board announced Ruprecht’s departure in November. It installed Tad Smith, the former CEO of Madison Square Garden, in his place. Admitting he knows little about art, Smith, 50, says he’s focused on building the Sotheby’s brand, expanding the house in Asia, and boosting its Internet business. He’s also vowed to tread carefully with guarantees. “We will not roll dice in the auction room with shareholders’ money,” Smith told analysts on May 11. Since taking the helm in March, Smith—who sports salt-and-pepper hair and a Hollywood smile—has been meeting major clients, such as Ovitz; Don Marron, CEO of Lightyear Capital; and David Geffen, the billionaire entertainment executive, to determine how the auction house can improve its game.
With Smith’s appointment, Sotheby’s appears to be taking a page out of Christie’s playbook. In 2010, Christie’s also installed an art world outsider as CEO—Steven Murphy, former head of publishing company Rodale. Murphy invested $50 million into Christie’s online auction platform and expanded its presence in Asia. Then, in December 2014, just two weeks after Ruprecht left Sotheby’s, Christie’s announced that Murphy would step down, giving no reason for his departure. Patricia Barbizet, a 60-year-old Frenchwoman who had been chairman of Christie’s and a longtime Pinault adviser, assumed the role of CEO.
Art dealers and former auction house executives say Murphy left because he sacrificed profit for the sake of gaining market share through excessive use of guarantees. Murphy declined to comment. Barbizet, for her part, dismisses concerns about guarantees. “Our profit margin is good,” she says via e-mail. “Guarantees are risk management and offer an assurance to the seller.”
Ahead of the May sales in New York, Barbizet floated through the exhibition rooms at Christie’s, Pinault at her side. She exuded the house of Pinault, wearing a necklace by Bottega Veneta (a Pinault brand) and a black-and-white striped jacket by New York designer Joseph Altuzarra (in whose company Pinault owns a stake). Barbizet has been a key figure in Pinault’s empire since 1989, when she became chief financial officer of his holding company. Though Christie’s technically falls under Groupe Artemis, where Pinault’s son, François-Henri, is chairman, Barbizet says she talks to 78-year-old François every day. The two paused the longest in front of Giacometti’s 1947 sculpture Pointing Man. Later, the work sold for $141 million, becoming the most valuable sculpture in the world—and trouncing Sotheby’s disappointing Giacometti sale in November.
“It’s a superaggressive, supercompetitive business,” says Thomas Seydoux, founder of private art dealer Connery, Pissarro, Seydoux and a 15-year Christie’s veteran. And in that sense, Christie’s appears to have the edge.
This story appears in the July/August Rivalry Issue of Bloomberg Markets magazine.

Friday, June 19, 2015

The abstractionist: Ram Kumar’s art

The opening sequence of Laurent Bregeat’s Ram Kumar: Nostalgic Longing, a documentary on Ram Kumar, shows the ageing artist, bent over his easel, drawing lines and curves with charcoal on a white canvas. “Ultimately nothing may remain of these shapes, but this is just an exercise in trying to find out something (…) important,” he says, as the camera zooms in on his face. Through Bregeat’s 48-minute film, the camera returns to this painting as it comes to life with every successive dab of oil paint. It’s fascinating to watch layers of yellow and green, dulled cream and translucent white fall over Kumar’s canvas and get shaped into abstraction with his palette knife.

Ram Kumar in a still from the film by Laurent Bregeat.

Kumar, now 91, is one of India’s most renowned abstract modernists, whose oeuvre evolved from figurative to abstract landscape over a successful career spanning more than 60 years. In the film,, we see one phase segue into another, each distinct for its colour palette as for the evolution of the artist’s thoughts and inspirations.
The first screening of this five-year-old film in Mumbai will take place as part of an event planned around an exhibition of Kumar’s works at the Jehangir Nicholson Gallery in the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS), Mumbai. The film was made in 2010 as part of a series on four modernists—Akbar Padamsee, M.F. Husain, S.H. Raza, were the other three—commissioned and produced by the Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi. Dadiba and Khorshed Pundole, who run Pundole’s auction house, asked the director to make another four films on other Indian modernists. The new films by Bregeat are on Krishen Khanna, Rajendra Dhawan, K.G. Subramanyan and Krishna Reddy, the last of which has only just been edited.

It’s a valuable endeavour, especially since the moderns drive Indian art auctions worldwide.
Kumar’s story however, refers to none of that—shop talk is eschewed in favour of artistic practice. The film begins with Kumar talking about the first time he saw a painting, as a final year postgraduate student of economics in New Delhi. He began taking evening classes under Sailoz Mukherjee, a prominent modernist in whom Kumar found a “profound and sensitive” teacher. In 1949, the artist borrowed money from his father and travelled to Paris on a princely scholarship of Rs.100 from the French embassy. There, he studied art from Cubist painter Fernand Léger and sculptor and figurative painter André Lhote. Unsurprisingly, when Kumar returned a year later, his first flush of works were figurative paintings. But the landscape of the city with tall buildings with squarish windows filled the background. Italian film-maker Roberto Rossellini told Kumar that these figures reminded him of Franz Kafka’s stories. “My figuratives were more of the urban predicament, fuelled by socialist realism,” says Kumar. In 1958, another visit to Paris, where he spent six months staying with close friend Raza, yielded further changes to his figures, but all that changed when the artist visited Varanasi shortly afterwards.
The historical city in Uttar Pradesh was, then as now, crowded, colourful and bustling. Kumar went with Husain, and the duo would spend all day—separately—roaming the ghats, sketching what caught their fancy. The effect it had on Kumar was “not just visual, but also psychological,” the artist says, adding that he made it a point to visit Varanasi several times afterwards. The landscapes that emerged in this prolific phase of the artist’s life depict a vivid range on the colour palette: from dull greys and mustards, to bright bursts of greens, blues and yellows.
Kumar says he never studied the science of colours, but his later works—inspired by the bare greens and browns of the Himalaya in Ladakh—prove his uncanny sense of achieving maximum visual effect from the colours he chose to deploy on canvas. Painting, says Kumar, who also wrote short stories in Hindi as a young man, is not like a novel, which has a definite ending. “Painting is a continuity. One painting leads to another. What you want to say is not finished with one painting,” he says.
Ram Kumar: Nostalgic Longing will be screened on 23 June, at 5.30pm, at the Visitor’s Centre Auditorium, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, Kala Ghoda, Mumbai.
A new biopic on one of India’s last great moderns explores his ideas and artistic practice
Dhamini Ratnam