Anupam Poddar on Art from Pakistan

Yamini Telkar of Saffronart in conversation with Delhi collector Anupam Poddar 

Famed collector, Anupam Poddar in his Delhi residence
Image credit: Ram Rahman

New Delhi: Anupam Poddar, undoubtedly one of India’s most important contemporary art collectors, hardly needs an introduction. Poddar has been acknowledged worldwide as a premier patron in the ArtReview Power 100 list and on CBS News’s and Apollo Magazine’s lists of the top 20 most influential collectors today, alongside François Pinault, Viktor Pinchuk, Eli Broad and Sheikh Saud Al Thani, the cousin of the Emir of Qatar. Based in New Delhi, Poddar along with his mother, Lekha, set up the Devi Art Foundation in 2008 to house their collection of more than 7,000 contemporary, modern and tribal artworks from across the Subcontinent. India’s first non-profit art center, it was set up to encourage the viewership of the most cutting edge and experimental work from the region. Poddar’s collecting interests have transcended Indian art to encompass Central Asian art including art from Uzbekistan, Oman and Pakistan. He and his mother travel to these countries in search of the best art and talent. The exhibitions at the Foundation are curated out of their collection. In 2010, the Foundation organized Resemble Reassemble, a cross-section of contemporary Pakistani art featuring the works of 45 artists who are part of Poddar’s collection, including Farida Batool, Imran  Qureshi, Ayaz Jokhio, and others.

Ahead of our inaugural Pakistani Art Auction, Anupam shared his insights about art from Pakistan in this tete-a-tete with Yamini Telkar of Saffronart. View the slideshow below for Poddar’s favorite works from the auction.

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Q. What got you interested in art from Pakistan?

I find contemporary art from Pakistan, honest, fresh at the same time experimental and challenging. It is amazing to see the quality of work produced by young students. During one of Rashid Rana’s visits to India, I happened to see images of some works that I found extremely exciting. Soon after, my mother and I made a trip to Pakistan to meet the artists.

Q. Having collected both contemporary Indian and Pakistani art, what according to you are some of the similarities and divergences between the two?

Despite having a shared history, I feel contemporary Pakistani art is more experimental in nature than Indian art. The artists follow their individual pursuits with convictions that are not driven by the market forces or contemporary trends; their personal expressions are highly skillful and insightful.

Q. There is a trend among the ‘culturalti’ to engage in India-Pakistan dialogues. Do you think this has any bearing on artists and the art world? Would you as a collector/institution be interested in such projects?

I don’t think so. They are very few artists who engage with the politics between the countries as their subject matter.To stay away from this, the curatorial strategy of ‘Resemble Reassemble’ was to create a playful visual narrative and not a national survey show. As a collector/institution we wanted the exhibition to challenge the preconceived notions many viewers have and at the same time set up a platform for Indian artists to interact with works and artists from the other side of the border.

Q. Based on your interactions with contemporary artists from Pakistan, what are some of their main concerns?

One of their concerns which I find very exciting is to preserve the miniature tradition. At universities, it is re visualized and presented in a way that it challenges its own boundaries and often tends to surprise the viewer with the outcome. Otherwise, works revolve around their local realities or regional issues. Due to political and financial constraints, many Pakistani artists do not get an opportunity to travel which makes their work more rooted in local realities which are far closer to them than that of an unseen world.

Q. What trends do you see marking the development and collection of Pakistani art in the near future? What is your opinion of an auction dedicated to Pakistani Art?

Compared to the past, there is a lot more interest in contemporary art in Pakistan. We see many galleries opening up in different parts of the world, dealing solely in Pakistani art. There was a presence at Documenta this year, many art fairs and international auctions. An auction dedicated to Pakistani art is a great idea. It makes it much easier for people to buy art from the region, by bypassing bank transfers/shipping/customs – which are an absolute nightmare!

Kamran Anwar’s Top 5 from the Art of Pakistan Auction (Nov 07-08 2012)

Elisabetta Marabotto of Saffronart in conversation with collector Kamran Anwar

“I find these artists and their works to be path breaking within the context of the time they were produced and the sheer ability to handle form with fineness and sensitivity.”

London: I recently had the pleasure of meeting Kamran Anwar in our gallery. Kamran has been a collector of Pakistani Art for many years having built his passion since childhood. He has collected art and antiquities from all over the world.

Kamran is also a regular critic and contributor on the most profound issues concerning the art of Pakistan.

I asked him to tell us which his five favourite lots in our forthcoming auction catalogue are.

Below are Kamran’s top five picks:

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We are looking forward to the panel discussion on 1 November  in London,where Kamran will be one of the speakers along with Faiza Butt. The panel will be moderated by Dr. Virginia Whiles. Stay tuned for an update!

Pigeon Blood: Burmese Rubies

Amy Lin of Saffronart explores the significance of rubies from Burma (Myanmar) 

Auction of Fine Jewels & Watches (OCT 30-31, 2012)

New York: Gleaming red with a fiery core, rubies have commanded the attention of kings and nobles throughout the centuries, who believed in the stone’s power to harbor fortune, passion, and vitality. The Burmese (Myanmar) mines have historically been the best source for rubies and produced some of the finest rubies in the world.

In our current Auction of Fine Jewels & Watches, we feature a magnificent ruby and diamond three stone ring. This historical piece dates back to c. 1915, and is set with a fine ruby originating from Burma. The cushion-cut ruby weighs 3.10 carats, and is flanked by an old-cut diamond on each side, and mounted in a gold band.

The ruby is part of the mineral corundum family. Pure corundum is colorless and it is actually traces of aluminum oxide impurities in it that give it brilliant colors. While most corundum are simply sapphires, rubies also contain chromium that gives them a scarlet color. Rubies range from transparent to opaque in color, with brighter gems containing more traces of chromium. Similar to sapphires, rubies score a 9 on Moh’s Hardness Scale, making them second in resilience behind diamonds.

Deep in the mountains of Burma, the Mogok (old) and Mong Hsu (new) mines have produced some of the most brilliant gemstones in the world. Rubies from the Mogok Valley tend to be magenta in color like the one set in this ruby and diamond ring. Mong Hsu rubies on the other hand have bluish hues that often have to be treated with heat. One of the finest examples is the Carmen Lucia Ruby discovered in Mogok around the 1930s, and currently in the collection of the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC. Weighing 23.10 carats, the gem glows a deep scarlet, a color nicknamed “pigeon’s blood” by the Burmese people.

Other legendary gems are the Nga Mauk and Kallahpyan rubies. Legend has it that these gems were once part of a 560 carat ruby found in the Mogok mines during the mid 19thcentury. One was presented to King Mindon Min, while the other was secretly sold off in Calcutta. When the King found out that he’d been deceived, he demanded the other half returned and ordered the villagers to be burned alive as punishment. Following the British government’s annexation of Upper Burma in 1885, the fate of these two gems remains unknown.

The Carmen Lucia Ruby
Image Credit:

In recent decades, the Burmese mines have faced several trials and tribulations. The miners work in risky and brutish conditions while most of the profits from the work go directly to the military junta that runs the nation. Human rights and political activists have called for a ban on Burmese rubies. In response, the International Colored Gemstone Association in 2007 urged its members to stop buying rubies from its government sources and the US enforced a ban on importing Burmese rubies. While conditions in Burma are slowly improving, Burmese rubies still remain a deeply contested issue.

An interview with Adeela Suleman

Josheen Oberoi of Saffronart speaks with Adeela Suleman about the trajectory of her art practice

New York: On November 7-8 next week, Saffronart will have it’s inaugural sale of Art of Pakistan. This is a curated selection of modern and contemporary art by established and emerging artists.

An important contemporary artist featured in this auction (including two of her works) is Adeela Suleman. She was born in Karachi, Pakistan and studied Sculpture at the Indus Valley School of Art (1999). Prior to that she completed a Master’s degree in International Relations from The University of Karachi (1995). Suleman has participated in group and solo exhibitions worldwide, including at Gallery Rohtas 2, Lahore, in 2008; Canvas Gallery, Karachi, in 2008; Aicon Gallery, New York, in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011; International Exhibition of Contemporary Art, Bologna, in 2008; and Hanging Fire: Contemporary Art from Pakistan at the Asia Society Museum, New York, in 2009-10.

Adeela Suleman
Untitled, 2008
Powder coated and enamel painted steel cooking utensil, steel spoon and cycle ornament, with foam and cloth
Image courtesy: Saffronart 24 Hour Auction: Art of Pakistan (Nov 07-08, 2012)
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Her body of work has consistently reflected a deep engagement with political, gender and societal concerns, an interest that was manifest in her years at the university as well. She has previously worked with found domestic objects made of metal, creating sculptures and body amours for women that beautify as much as cage the female figure (like in the work on the left) while her recent body of work sees a move towards a flatter silhouette in her sculptural work.

I had the pleasure of speaking to Adeela in 2010 during her solo show in New York at Aicon Gallery. Here I share with you my conversation with her about her work and the direction her art has taken.

Q: Your oeuvre has always had an underlying stream of social and political consciousness in it. Is that a deliberate choice on your part?

Adeela: I did my Masters in International Relations at the University of Karachi before my BFA and my experience at the university has been an influence in my work. The university was very politically charged and there was a great awareness and involvement amongst the student body. Even at that point, my college projects commented on such issues.

Q: Would you see yourself as an activist as well as an artist?

Adeela: I am not an activist. I am observing and acknowledging because one is aware of the surroundings, we don’t live in a bubble. I am not making a judgment on what should happen or not.

Q: There does appear to be a shift in the language you are using – from the steel utensils’ sculptures in the past few years to the works in your recent exhibition at Aicon Gallery in 2010, which have less volume. Could you talk about that?

Adeela:It has been a natural evolution for me. My college projects used to be about found objects, where I once made a tea fountain in a shrine. I then worked with motorcycles. The presence of utensils in my work came from using gadgets that made the life of women easier. So, I was making these objects my own. Now, I am using the skin of these objects to make the artwork. There is a loss of humor compared to earlier works because I am talking more of death in this suite of works.

Q: Is that also from a growing concern with the political situation in Pakistan and elsewhere in the world, the growing hostilities?

Adeela:Yes, you think about how we carry on with our daily activities when there is so much destruction around because it does not directly affect us. But there is always a tension between life and death, between what to do and not to do. The only thing certain seems to be death.

Q: Could you talk about the process in your recent suite of works After All its Always Somebody Else…?

Adeela:I wanted to use steel sheets like that used in mortuaries. Abdul Sattar Edhi, a great philanthropist started an ambulance network, where he would pick up unclaimed dead bodies, give them a bath and give them a dignified burial. This was on my mind when I started this suite of work. I do small drawings, put them on a computer and look for images I want to use, which are like found objects for me. Once I assemble the complete image, it is transferred to a larger scale and steel sheets are hammered to create them in three dimensions. I work with the craft people, because I am essentially a sculptor and see objects in three dimensions.

You can see more of Adeela’s works from this auction here and learn more about her practice here and here. You can also read  a New York Times review of her work here.

FIAC, Paris – An Art Fair Showcasing the Regulars

Guest blogger Kanika Anand shares her impressions of FIAC and its representation of Indian artists 

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Paris: Foire Internationale d’Art Contemporain, popularly know by the acronym FIAC, is France’s primary fair of contemporary art, hosted at the Grand Palais in Paris in October every year.

Enthused by my first visit to the fair and the general buzz of art events around it in Paris, I made my way one rainy evening to discover for myself the depth of the hullabaloo. The fair offered the usual suspects of the contemporary art world, both in terms of galleries as well as artists, such as White Cube, David Zwirner, Lisson, Victoria Miro, Galerie Perrotin along with their blue chip artists Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin, Cindy Sherman, Anish Kapoor & Yayoi Kusama. Takashi Murakami bedazzled and Paul McCarthy mocked… and shocked! Incidentally, this edition of FIAC marked Gagosian Gallery’s debut at the fair. These art market biggies dominated, if not wholly comprised the selection at FIAC.

Indian representation was limited to artists who already have a market in Paris and could be better defined as international artists of Indian origin. Widely exhibited in Europe, Mithu Sen’s solo show ‘Devoid’ opens today at Galerie Nathalie Obadia in Paris. This will be the artist’s first solo in France, although her work has been exhibited at FIAC before. Hanging in the gallery’s booth at FIAC was Mithu’s You taste like Pao Bhaji alongside a sculptural work by the gallery’s long time represented artist, Rina Banerjee. Banerjee already has a marked presence in Paris; noteworthy of mention was her solo exhibition, Chimeras of India and the West at the prestigious Guimet Musee in 2011.

A series of 10 ‘Untitled’ drawings by N.S.Harsha hung on the outside wall of Greene Naftali Gallery (New York). Zarina Hashmi’s beautiful gold flaked ‘Tasbih’ hung in the corner of Jeanne-Bucher/Jaeger Bucher’s  (Paris) booth, in the deserving company of Joan Miro and Susumu Shingu. Tasbih is from Zarina’s most recent body of work shown at the gallery in a solo exhibition titled Noor last year.

A painted store shutter titled Mumtaz by Atul Dodiya and a painting by Jitish Kallat adorned two main walls of the large booth of Galerie Daniel Templon (Paris). The last day of FIAC coincided with the conclusion of Atul Dodiya’s first solo exhibition in Paris – Scribes from Timbuktu at their gallery space. The gallery has in the past supported Indian and other Asian artists, showcasing works by Sudarshan Shetty, Anju Dodiya, Hiroshi Sugimoto & Yue Minjun.

Two round shiny Anish Kapoor steel works in gold and purple, one each at the booths of Lisson (London/ Milan/ New York) and Gladstone Gallery (New York/ Brussels) shimmered akin to the gloss of the fair itself. But for me, the fair lacked spunk – no experimental works, no new names, no interesting project booths and notably no Indian galleries! It was all that I ‘expected’, but then again I’m no collector.

FIAC, Paris runs several parallel events and programs around the fair. More information is available at

Kanika Anand is an art professional and budding curator specializing in Indian contemporary art. She holds a degree in Art History from the National Museum Institute, New Delhi, and has worked in the field for five years with Gagosian Gallery, Gallery Espace and Talwar Gallery in New York and New Delhi. She is currently pursuing the Curatorial Training Program at the Ecole du Magasin in Grenoble, France, in line with her interest to responsibly curate projects towards making art more accessible as well as inter-disciplinary.

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