Saturday, April 25, 2015

Making a comeback

According to Knight Frank's The Wealth Report 2015, "it is always possible to commission a new yacht, but nobody can paint another Monet or build a classic Ferrari"

"Gold has lost its lustre. That's the conclusion global asset managers are making as condominiums and contemporary art emerge as more attractive investments" - as reported in The Times of India.
 According to Knight Frank's The Wealth Report 2015, there has been a 3 per cent rise in ultra-high-net-worth-individuals (UHNWIs, those with wealth in excess of $30 million) worldwide, with 42,272 individuals in Asia (60,565 in Europe, 44,922 in North America), of which the Indian distribution is as follows: Mumbai 619, Delhi 157, Bengaluru 75, Chennai, Hyderabad 39, and Ahmedabad 20. With 'art its most popular investment of passion', what does this say about the art market in India, currently centred in New Delhi and Mumbai (in that order)? And what of the 40 most important cities for UHNWIs in which Mumbai figures at 26th spot, Delhi doesn't figure at all, and the top five cities are London, New York, Hong Kong, Singapore, Shanghai?
 With art market research suggesting that art appears to be bouncing back with an annual growth of 15 per cent, what does this portend for India? More importantly, is the $1 billion Indian art market (of a total $60 billion, $16 billion of which is made up by China) even aware of it and creating strategies around it? Frank suggests that big spends will involve luxury and its associated brands. Where does art figure in this? Especially as the report suggests that "it is always possible to commission a new yacht, but nobody can paint another Monet or build a classic Ferrari."
 Art as an asset class has recovered almost all over the world, and prices have begun to harden in India, though still nascently, allowing for huge opportunity as wealth increases and the rich look for a diverse portfolio that moves beyond property, gold and luxury brands. Not only is art seen as aspirational, it also remains accessible with multiple entry points in different price ranges. Though the market stayed stagnant for longer than had been anticipated, the movement now appears stronger, built on a bedrock of competitive pricing and a demand for provenance and documentation that will stand the test of time.
 More interestingly, it brings to question the need for infrastructure not just in the prime UHNWI cities in India but also around the world. Should cities with the world's richest populations develop an infrastructure that will support the growth for Indian art? This becomes especially moot because prices for Indian art are currently seen as low and, with sufficient interest, could become the fad of the global collecting world. If a surge follows, it will return investment on value at a far higher rate than art from more established markets, making it a savvy investment. No wonder banks have started advising clients about art as an asset class that should be considered in the mid-to-long-term range.
 As happened in the period from 2002 to 2008, this will heat up the market, but with the wisdom of hindsight, punters can hedge their bets better, not playing hokey with supply and demand as much as on quality. Having had its fingers burnt, previous investors might be cautious, but with a new, emerging class of investors, art makes great capital sense for most for its uniqueness.
 The difference, this time, might be in the buying parity for Indian art. With global investors watching the India business story play out under a new government, it might be they - rather than Indian collectors - who will power the market. In which case the best time to buy Indian art, before prices escalate, is now.

Kishore Singh    April 25, 2015

Thursday, April 23, 2015

India-Nepal sign MoU to promote art and culture

Kathmandu: Aiming to strengthen their close cultural relations, India and Nepal today signed a MoU to promote cooperation in the field of art and culture. The MoU was signed between Nepal Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) and New Delhi-based Lalit Kala Akademi as part of the Nepal-India Art Exchange Programme.
The two academies will work hand-in-hand to further enhance mutual understanding and cultural relations between the Fine Arts academicians, creative artists, cultural experts, scholars and intellectuals of the two countries, according to MoU.
“Art is one of the crucial areas that bring India and Nepal closer. The Embassy of India will lend all support to promote exchange of art and culture between our two countries,” Indian Ambassador to Nepal Ranjit Rae, who was mpresent on the occasion, said.
The two countries will strengthen their cultural relations through exchange of visits by artists and fine art academicians of the two countries and organise art exhibitions and symposiums on a reciprocal basis, a statement said. The two academies will organise art exhibitions, support translation and publish books related to fine arts of both the countries.
They will also organise seminars and symposia on contemporary art practices, conduct art workshops and other relevant activities between two countries.

— By PTI | Apr 23, 2015

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

"Sultans of Deccan India, 1500–1700” exhibit opens at the Metropolitan

“Sultans of Deccan India, 1500–1700” exhibit opens at the Metropolitan
Photo: The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

PanARMENIAN.Net - The Deccan plateau of south-central India was home to a succession of highly cultured Muslim kingdoms with a rich artistic heritage. Under their patronage in the 16th and 17th centuries, foreign influences—notably from Iran, Turkey, eastern Africa, and Europe—combined with ancient and prevailing Indian traditions to create a distinctive Indo-Islamic art and culture. The landmark exhibition Sultans of Deccan India, 1500–1700: Opulence and Fantasy, which opened April 20 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, brings together some 200 of the finest works from major international, private, and royal collections, Art Daily reports.

Featuring many remarkable loans from India, the exhibition—which is the most comprehensive museum presentation on this subject to date—explores the unmistakable character of classical Deccani art in various media: poetic lyricism in painting; lively creations in metalwork; and a distinguished tradition of textile production. A highlight is the presentation of all of the known masterpieces and several new discoveries in painting, the greatest art of the Deccan. Another highlight is the display of diamonds—some of the largest ever found—that originated in the great mines of the Deccan.
The population of the Deccan plateau by the 16th century included immigrants from Central Asia and Iran, African military slaves, native-born Muslim nobles, and European missionaries, merchants, and mercenaries. As a result, it boasted one of the most cosmopolitan societies of the early modern world. To provide a glimpse into this dynamic, yet little-known society, the exhibition will focus chiefly on the courtly art of the kingdoms of Bijapur, Ahmadnagar, Bidar, and Golconda. These dynamic centers of royal patronage drew some of the greatest artists, writers, poets, and musicians of the period.
The golden age of Bijapur under the rule of Sultan Ibrahim Adil Shah II (1580–1627) defines the spirit of Deccani art. Masterpieces in painting by the leading court artist Farrukh Husain demonstrates the refined and lyrical style that influenced much of Deccani art. Ahmadnagar’s African nobility included the legendary Abyssinian Malik Ambar (1548–1628), whose portraits are included among other rare surviving works. Numerous examples of the celebrated bidri metalwork tradition from the kingdom of Bidar are also shown. These feature a base composed of a blackened alloy of zinc and copper with thin sheets of silver inlay in striking designs.
From antiquity until the 18th and 19th centuries, when diamonds were discovered in Brazil and Africa, India was virtually the sole source for these precious gems. The extremely rich mines of Golconda produced some of the largest known diamonds. Whether given as diplomatic gifts or traded by merchants, India’s diamonds reached an appreciative audience among European royalty. The Deccan, already astonishingly wealthy, was further enriched by foreign demand for these gems. Among the treasures from Golconda—whose diamond mines were the source of such diamonds as the legendary Kohinoor—is a group of magnificent gems from international royal collections, including the “Idol’s Eye” and “Agra” diamonds.
Also shown are spectacular large painted and printed textiles (kalamkaris), several over nine feet in height and all richly painted with motifs drawn from Indian, Islamic, and European art. These are shown along with sumptuous royal objects made of inlaid and gilded metal, precious jewels, carved wood, and stone architectural elements, many of which draw inspiration from the art of Safavid Persia and Ottoman Turkey.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Modern Indian artist S H Raza 'Yet Again'

Syed Haider Raza who recently turned 93 is the subject of a new book, which gives insight into the life and art of the grand old master of modern Indian art through the eyes of his friends and critics.

"Yet Again," containing nine new essays on Raza has been edited by friend, poet and former chairman of Lalit Kala Akademi Ashok Vajpeyi.

The tome has been brought out by Akar Prakar, the Raza foundation in association with Mapin Publishing.

The nonagenarian artist has led a long painterly life from middle of the 20th century and has been widely acknowledged as a master of modern Indian art.

For nearly six decades his work, vision and life have attracted critical attention from various points of views, his art has been explored and evaluated in many books and collectors of his paintings exist worldwide, says Vajpeyi.

The new book begins with thoughts on Raza's art by critic and poet Ranjit Hoskote who writes about the "Cartographer of lost continents."

Raza's life began in the 1940s with his apprenticeship to academic realism as a student of Sir Jamsetijee Jejeebhoy School of Art in Mumbai. As a founder of the Progressive Artists Group, together with F N Souza, K H Ara, M F Husain and others, Raza passed quickly into an engagement with a stylised reinterpretation of retinal reality in the 1950s.

"Eventually, and after migrating to France, he gravitated towards abstraction, cultivating a symbolist vocabulary; his rhythm of continuous, annual return to India, now culminating in a permanent homecoming, nourished his attentiveness to the teachings of Indic traditions," says Hoskote.

Kishen Khanna, a fellow Progressive Artists' Group member recalls Raza "sitting in one corner of a street in Bombay sketching and painting the streets and houses of localities he was drawn to" and an exhibition of works that Raza painted on a visit to Kashmir. His style, says Khanna was influenced by Walter Langhammer, an exile from Europe.

"At 93, he defies the impediments of age, faces a blank canvas, with a prayer in his heart and brush in his hand ready of the next encounter," says Khanna.

Author and cultural historian Geeti Sen says Raza would not describe his work as 'spiritual' but as 'significant form'.

Born in 1922, after Independence, Raza did not leave for Pakistan as did his first wife and other members of his family, says Vajpeyi. In Paris, Raza met and married a French artist Janinie Mongillat.
Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 
April 7, 2015

Friday, April 03, 2015

Peabody Essex Museum hands over Indian artwork involved in trafficking investigation

The Peabody Essex Museum announced on Friday that it is handing over an Indian artwork to the Department of Homeland Security as part of the government’s ongoing investigation into an alleged international art fraud enterprise.

The work, a mid-19th century Tanjore portrait in the Salem museum’s collection, was purchased in 2006 from Subhash Kapoor, museum officials said. Authorities arrested Kapoor in 2011 on charges of trafficking in looted Indian antiquities.

“These situations are not happy, but I believe at the same time that it’s important to make situations like this transparent and publicly known,” said Peabody Essex Museum director Dan L. Monroe, speaking by phone on Friday. “That’s precisely what we’ve done.”

Monroe said the allegations of Kapoor’s art trafficking have created “shock waves” around the world. “It involves a substantial number of art museums, and they’re not just in the US,” he said, adding that he knew of 18 museums with pieces linked to Kapoor in their collections. “I believe there will be a number of works returned.”

Monroe said the Peabody Essex has been working with Homeland Security Investigations, a division of the federal agency, since Kapoor’s arrest at the airport in Frankfurt in late 2011.

“We took a proactive role to notify the Department of Homeland Security of all works we had through gift or purchase from Mr. Kapoor,” said Monroe, adding that museum officials met with investigators to discuss the provenance, or ownership history, of the piece, titled “Maharaja Serfoji II of Tanjavur and his son Shivaji II.”

“They provided information that certainly confirmed in our mind that this was a work with a fake provenance, and therefore had been illegally sold,” Monroe said.

The Peabody Essex is not the first US museum to voluntarily agree to relinquish a work of art linked to the dealer: Earlier this week the Honolulu Museum of Art returned seven pieces purchased from Kapoor, who is awaiting trial in India.

Luis Martinez, a public affairs officer with Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said by phone on Friday from Honolulu that the investigation, known as Operation Hidden Idol, has already recovered approximately 1,000 items, worth an estimated $150 million, linked to Kapoor. While some of the works are more recent, many are much older, including a second-century BC pillar sculpture valued at nearly $18 million and a 2,000-year-old terra cotta rattle.

“It is the largest seizure that HSI has made from an individual,” said Martinez, who added that investigators have identified approximately 2,000 pieces linked to Kapoor that they suspect were looted. He noted that many of the works are in museums and private collections. “A lot of these museums are victims themselves. They received these works as gifts, or they purchased them from collectors.”

Monroe said Kapoor first established his relationship with the Peabody Essex by donating works to the collection. “He made several gifts to the museum and then eventually offered works for purchase,” Monroe said. “We had no reason to doubt the provenance or doubt the legitimacy of the sale. We reviewed the provenance and did appropriate due diligence relative to our practices and the practices of the field at the time.”

He added that the Peabody-Essex still has “six or seven” of Kapoor’s works in its collection, which federal investigators have told the museum do not appear to have been improperly acquired.

“I applaud the Peabody Essex Museum’s decision to assist HSI with our investigation by returning this precious artwork,” said Raymond R. Parmer Jr., special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in New York, in a statement. “I hope their example sets the standard for other institutions that may have inadvertently purchased or received stolen artifacts.”
“Maharaja Serfoji II of Tanjavur and his son Shivaji II,” an Indian painting from the mid-19th century in the Peabody Essex Museum collection.
“Maharaja Serfoji II of Tanjavur and his son Shivaji II,” an Indian painting from the mid-19th century in the Peabody Essex Museum collection.

Monroe said the museum purchased the Tanjore portrait through Kapoor’s Manhattan gallery for $35,000.

But with some of the antiquities involved in this investigation, Martinez said, the value is hard to judge. “For the people affected, it’s a national treasure. Some were religious relics that were looted,” he said. “For them, it’s priceless.”

Malcolm Gay can be reached at
By Malcolm Gay Globe Staff  

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Kochi Art On World Map

The second edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, titled Whorled Explorations and curated by artist Jitish Kallat, is slated to open on December 12 at multiple venues in Kochi. The exhibition, featuring 95 artists from 30 countries, will be open to the public till March 29, 2015.

The first edition of the Biennale in 2012 was founded and curated by artists Bose Krishnamachari and Riyas Komu. Whorled Explorations will be accompanied by ‘History Now’, a series of talks​​ and seminars conceived by the Kochi Biennale Foundation. In addition, there will be the Student’s Biennale, a pilot programme opening on December 13 engaging students from government-run art colleges across India, led by young curators selected from across the country. The programmes include performances, collateral events, interactive projects for children, as well as the Artist’s Cinema project.

Some of the key artists include Franceso Clemente, Anish Kapoor, Christian Waldvogel, K G Subramanyan, Sudhir Patwardhan, Ghulammohammed Sheikh and Namboodiri among others. The exhibition brings together art works that picture versions of the world with references to history, geography, astronomy, time and myth, interlacing the terrestrial with the celestial.

Explains curator and artist Kallat, “Two chronologically overlapping but unrelated historical episodes in Kerala during the 14th to 17th centuries became the focus of this exhibition. Drawing from them, allusions to the historical and the cosmological recur throughout the exhibition like exaggerated extensions to gestures we make, when we try to see or understand something.”

From the 15th century, the shores of Kochi were closely linked to the maritime chapter of the Age of Discovery — a tale of grit, greed and human ingenuity as a string of navigators arrived here after traversing large uncharted portions of the planet seeking spices and riches. The era heralded an age of exchange, conquest, coercive trading and colonialism, animating the early processes of globalisation. This drama of search, seduction and subjugation decisively altered the cartography of the planet. Within the shifting geography were sharp turns in history where we find, in an embryonic form, several of the themes we inherit in our world today. The 14th to 16th century was also the time when astronomer-mathematicians belonging to what came to be known as the Kerala School of Astronomy and Mathematics were making transformative propositions for understanding our planet and locating human existence within the wider cosmos. 

Whorled Explorations is conceived as a temporary observation deck hoisted at Kochi. The exhibition draws upon a wide glossary of signs from this legendary maritime gateway to bring together sensory and conceptual propositions that map our world.

By Poonam Goel 
(Poonam Goel is a freelance journalist who contributes articles on visual arts for
Published: 19th November 2014 06:07 AM 

Mumbai gets some colour with street art

MUMBAI: Viewing art is commonly thought of as a stodgy affair, requiring hushed tones, hors d'oeuvres and deep pockets. But on the once-grimy bylane walls off 16th road in Bandra, there's art aplenty - one wall has a mesh of aquamarine tetrapods, another with a honeyed cat licking its paws above a fish pond, nearby a dystopian assembly line for mechanized teddy bears - for all and sundry to enjoy. These vivid murals are the result of the St+art India Foundation's almost month-long street art festival, which brings together 20 national and international artists to make art more egalitarian, by "taking art out of the galleries and onto the streets, while also giving the grey landscape of the city a much-needed facelift," said co-founder Arjun Bahl.

The roster includes Indian visual artists Ranjit Dahiya and Amitabh Kumar, German illustrator Dome, Chinese graffiti artist Ano and Polish abstract artist Seikon, who will adorn walls around Bandra and Versova. The artists were handpicked by co-founder and curator Giulia Ambrogi "for their ability to do site-specific work". This festival in collaboration with Celebrate Bandra will highlight subcultures associated with street art such as B-boying, and hosting cycle tours of the murals as well as graffiti workshops. 

It is important to note the distinction between graffiti and the street art created during the festival, which seeks to ruffle no feathers having legal, family-friendly content despite having a few graffiti artists like the controversial Tyler in their collective. "One of our biggest agendas is to go to find spaces which are ignored and dirty, only to clean them up and create something beautiful. People then start taking care of those spaces because the artwork makes it worth saving," said Bahl. Living across a dreary wall that is now brightened by the tetrapod mural, Mrs. Bonnie D'Souza can attest to the power of street art to uplift the city and our spirit. "I am reminded of the ocean as a picture of Marine Drive comes into my mind's eye immediately. It's such a relief."

Ayesha Venkataraman,TNN | Nov 19, 2014, 05.20 AM IST