Something Old, Something Older

As the online bids for our Design Sale start pouring in, we present a quick and last look at some of the significant lots in this auction, along with Living Traditions, the concurrent online auction of folk and tribal art. Put together, they form an unusual and charming style of art and decor for the eclectic collector.

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Living Between Tradition and Modernity

Saffronart is excited to announce its April auctions dedicated to two important lifestyle defining categories.

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Art and Activism at Broad Art Museum

Amit Kumar Jain reflects on The Artist as Activist, a joint exhibition by Bangladeshi artists Tayeba Begum Lipi and Mahbubur Rahman

The Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum opened a landmark exhibition on two leading Bangladeshi artists, Mahbubur Rahman and Tayeba Begum Lipi, earlier this month. Considered as the forerunners of contemporary art practice in Bangladesh, Rahman and Lipi are also well-known for having co-founded, and currently running, the Britto Arts Trust, a non-profit organisation supporting young artists, since 2002. Their first major museum exhibition, The Artist as Activist brings together an extensive body of the duo’s collective work under one roof, which has “emerged from their shared journey as a husband and wife, and reflect their continual interchange of ideas and pursuit of like-minded themes,” according to curator Caitlin Doherty.

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The Eli and Edythe Broad Museum, Michigan, USA. Image courtesy: Amit Kumar Jain

Doherty transforms the museum space effectively, by dedicating a gallery to each artist and showcasing works from various periods of their career. Lipi’s section is designed as a quiet, intimate and personal space, making the viewer look inwards to the role of the women in the Bangladeshi society. Her works look at the domestic, and how the woman negotiates the constant tussle of her personal ambitions and societal demands. As one moves through the gallery, one moves through her body, culminating in a womb-like, protective environment, where she secludes her innermost desires and emotions from the taxing outer world. This is the space where My Daughter’s Cot, an empty cradle made of stainless steel razors, signifies the vast contradiction between the personal and the societal, and gives a sense of longing in what is supposed to be a beautiful, but threatening symbol of motherhood.

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My Daughter’s Cot, Tayeba Begum Lipi, 2012. Image courtesy: Amit Kumar Jain

Contrary to Lipi’s gallery, Rahman’s artworks speak for the abject, dissatisfied man, beginning with a self-portrait series of charcoal drawings that depict the artist screaming in frustration, in response to his own helplessness and inability to fight the political and social failure of his country. He approaches activism through social commentary, highlighting the plight of the indigo farmer through an ongoing performance piece titled Transformations. In Sounds from Nowhere-8, Rahman symbolically captures the pain and the loss that followed the collapse of the eight-storied Rana Plaza building in Dhaka, which caused death and injury to thousands of garment factory workers. He navigates his own identity in the contemporary political history of Bangladesh, a nation still recovering from two wars. Rahman’s gallery becomes more vocal and versatile as he adapts to multiple mediums in highlighting the struggles he shares with his fellow citizens in a postcolonial, developing country.

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Charcoal drawings by Mahbubur Rahman. Image courtesy: Amit Kumar Jain

The last gallery brings together the works of Lipi and Mahbub under a common endeavour. Through their non-profit organisation, they initiated a project to work with the transgender community in Dhaka. Reversal Reality, a solo project by Lipi, compares the living realities of the artist and co-collaborator Anonnya, a transgender woman, while focussing on the struggles of the latter. While Lipi’s project takes on the individual, Rahman’s video project Time in a Limbo looks at the transgender community through their rituals, dialogues and practices. The museum has proposed to use this gallery with the LGBT community of East Lansing, and hopes to bring Anonnya to the United States to share her experience.

The Artist as Activist is the first major exhibition from South Asia at the Broad Art Museum, and will continue till 7 August 2016. Previously, the museum had showcased a project by Mithu Sen and an exhibition of works by Imran Qureshi and Naiza Khan.

—Amit Kumar Jain, Curatorial Consultant for The Artist as Activist

 

Exhibition details:
The Artist as Activist
Featuring: Tayeba Begum Lipi and Mahbubur Rahman

Dates:
5 March – 7 August 2016

Venue:
Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum
Michigan State University
547 East Circle Drive
East Lansing, MI 48824
USA

 

 

 

 

A Legend Passes Away: Mrinalini Mukherjee

Rashmi Rajgopal tries rebuilding the image of  the artist and sculptor and asks readers to add in their pieces as well

A photo of Mrinalini Mukherji by Manisha Gera Baswani

A photo of Mrinalini Mukherji by Manisha Gera Baswani

How do you create an image of someone you have never met before in your life? Instinct would drive you to read about this person, or speak with people who knew her. But if you’re looking for something more impactful, simply attend a memorial service being held for that person.

On Friday, February 6, visitors flooded the National Gallery of Modern Art in New Delhi in remembrance of acclaimed artist and sculptor Mrinalini Mukherjee. The NGMA, currently holding a retrospective titled “Transfigurations: The Sculpture of Mrinalini Mukherjee”, held a memorial service for the artist who, aged 65, had succumbed to a prolonged lung problem last Monday. Among those who spoke fondly of her were Professor Rajeev Lochan, director of the NGMA; Peter Nagy, curator of the ongoing retrospective; critic Geeta Kapur; and some of the artist’s close friends whose messages were read out during the service. As Professor Lochan put it, “It was a tragic irony that Mrinalini was hospitalised just a day before the opening of the solo exhibition and that she could not see the impact it had made on art lovers.”

A photo of Mrinalini Mukherji by Manisha Gera Baswani

A photo of Mrinalini Mukherji by Manisha Gera Baswani

It’s possible that visitors at the memorial were drawn there owing to a deep sense of respect for the artist and her work. It’s possible that some among them were present out of curiosity and, perhaps, were in the dark about the artist. Who was Mrinalini Mukherjee? Why did she matter? What legacy did she leave behind?

For those who knew her, Mrinalini was a woman with a powerful personality, and an emblem for women artists carving their paths in the art world. Over the phone, artist Shukla Sawant spoke of how revolutionary Mrinalini was, as an artist and person. “She had an astonishing personality and lived life on her own terms. For my generation of artists, I think this is very important,” said Shukla.

Mrinalini came from a lineage of artists. Born in 1949 to the illustrious artist pair Binodebehari and Leela Mukherjee, Mrinalini did not let their success overshadow her career, and grew to become a fearless and unconventional artist. She studied painting at the Faculty of Fine Arts, M.S. University, Baroda (1965-1970). While there, she discovered hemp fibre and it featured frequently in her sculptures. By choosing to use this unusual medium, often dyed in vibrant shades, she imbued her works with a rare sensitivity and grace of form.

Van Raja (King of the Forest), 1991-1994, Collection: Kiran Nadar Museum of Art Part of “Transfigurations: The Sculpture of Mrinalini Mukherjee” Courtesy: The National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi

Van Raja (King of the Forest), 1991-1994, Collection: Kiran Nadar Museum of Art
Part of “Transfigurations: The Sculpture of Mrinalini Mukherjee”
Courtesy: The National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi

Aranyani,1996, Collection: Jhaveri Contemporary & Nature Morte Part of “Transfigurations: The Sculpture of Mrinalini Mukherjee” Courtesy: The National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi

Aranyani, 1996, Collection: Jhaveri Contemporary & Nature Morte
Part of “Transfigurations: The Sculpture of Mrinalini Mukherjee”
Courtesy: The National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi

Vruksha Nata,1991-92, Collection: Kiran Nadar Museum of Art Part of “Transfigurations: The Sculpture of Mrinalini Mukherjee” Courtesy: The National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi

Vruksha Nata, 1991-92, Collection: Kiran Nadar Museum of Art
Part of “Transfigurations: The Sculpture of Mrinalini Mukherjee”
Courtesy: The National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi

Works like Vana Raja, Aranyani, and Vruksha Nata offer a window into the artist’s meticulous mind. With incredible attention to detail, Mrinalini has breathed into them a striking semblance to organic motifs. Every fold and contour has a restrained elegance, yet appears robust.

While hemp carried with it a certain flexibility, she also worked with ceramic and bronze. Her choice of mediums symbolised a gamut of personalities. Ceramic offers a brittle resilience, and bronze possesses a more obstinate strength in its form and nature. Mrinalini’s sculptures were sensuous: they drew from organic forms and resembled plant motifs, but also bore strong sexual undercurrents. She opened a new avenue through her choices and imparted each work with a layered personality.

Forest Flame IV, Bronze, 2009, Collection: Jhaveri Contemporary & Nature Morte Part of “Transfigurations: The Sculpture of Mrinalini Mukherjee” Courtesy: The National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi

Forest Flame IV, Bronze, 2009, Collection: Jhaveri Contemporary & Nature Morte
Part of “Transfigurations: The Sculpture of Mrinalini Mukherjee”
Courtesy: The National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi

Orange & Green, 2000, Ceramic, Collection: Jhaveri Contemporary & Nature Morte Part of “Transfigurations: The Sculpture of Mrinalini Mukherjee” Courtesy: The National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi

Orange & Green, 2000, Ceramic, Collection: Jhaveri Contemporary & Nature Morte
Part of “Transfigurations: The Sculpture of Mrinalini Mukherjee”
Courtesy: The National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi

Matrix 4, 2006, Bronze, Collection: Jhaveri Contemporary & Nature Morte Part of “Transfigurations: The Sculpture of Mrinalini Mukherjee” Courtesy: The National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi

Matrix 4, 2006, Bronze, Collection: Jhaveri Contemporary & Nature Morte
Part of “Transfigurations: The Sculpture of Mrinalini Mukherjee”
Courtesy: The National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi

Flora (light), 2000, partially glazed ceramic, Collection: Mirchandani & Steinruecke Part of “Transfigurations: The Sculpture of Mrinalini Mukherjee” Courtesy: The National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi

Flora (light), 2000, partially glazed ceramic, Collection: Mirchandani & Steinruecke
Part of “Transfigurations: The Sculpture of Mrinalini Mukherjee”
Courtesy: The National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi

“Transfigurations…” features some remarkable sculptures and encapsulates the legacy she has left behind. Her works are also part of many renowned collections both in India and abroad, such as the NGMA in New Delhi, Bharat Bhavan in Bhopal, the Lalit Kala Akademi in New Delhi, the Chandigarh State Museum, and the Tate Modern in London.

Mrinalini’s image is far from complete. If you’re reading this, do acquaint yourself with her works and add in your own pieces. We may never get close to building a complete picture – the task is too monumental. But we would be adding to a bigger, richer memory of what she aimed to show the world.

5 Art Happenings to Keep You in the Know

Alekha Engineer of Saffronart keeps you up to date on recent happenings in the art world
If you’re all caught up in FIFA fever and haven’t kept abreast of art, here are five events that would be great conversation starters:

1. A Claude Monet painting, Nympheas, sold for £32 million at an auction in London on Monday, 23rd June. The sale marks the second highest price ever paid for a work by the renowned impressionist painter.

Monet’s Nympheas  Image Credit: BBC News Online , http://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-27991977

Monet’s Nympheas
Image Credit: BBC News Online. http://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-27991977

2. An original drawing of Tintin, made in 1937 by Herge, the creator of the series, sold for a record 2.65 million euros at an auction in Paris. The 2-page spread intended for the inside covers of Tintin books set a new record price for a comic book strip.

Herge’s original drawing showing some of the easily recognisable panels from the comics Image Credit: Artcurial.com

Herge’s original drawing showing some of the easily recognisable panels from the comics
Image Credit: Artcurial.com

3. Art Basel 2014 closed on Sunday, June 22nd to resoundingly positive reviews. The fair once again proved to be a leader in the industry, with large volumes of sales taking place both during the preview and continuing through the week. This years edition featured two leading Indian contemporary galleries, Chemould Prescott Road, Mumbai and Gallery SKE, Bengaluru.

Art Basel 2014 Image Credit: Niels Ackermann for The New York Times

At the opening of Art Basel 2014
Image Credit: Niels Ackermann for The New York Times

4. The Whitney Museum of American Art opened its largest exhibition dedicated to a single artist on Friday, June 27th. ‘Jeff Koons: A Retrospective’ features close to 150 pieces created between 1978 to the present. The show has opened to mix reviews, not surprising as the artist himself is widely lauded but often criticised.

Jeff Koons' Sculpture, "Play-Dough", which took 20 years to complete Image Credit: Fred R.Conrad for The New York Times

Jeff Koons’ sculpture, “Play-Dough”, which took 20 years to complete
Image Credit: Fred R.Conrad for The New York Times

5. The Arts Council England and the BBC re-launched a web platform, The Space. It was initially launched in 2012 as a six-month pilot programme with  live broadcasts and archive footage functioning as an on-demand digital arts service. It is back as a free website for users to explore new art commissioned by the organization. The Space commissions works across genres through open calls and partnerships with new works launched every Friday. Ai Weiwei has lent his support to the initiative, donating his personal data for use at the sites inaugural event, ‘Hack the Space’, held on June 13 and 14 at the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern. The world-renowned artist gave the names of over 5000 children and young people who died in 2008’s Sichuan earthquake in China, after the government refused to release the names.

“Hack the Space” at the Tate Modern Image Credit: David Parry/PA, theguardian.com

“Hack the Space” at the Tate Modern
Image Credit: David Parry/PA, theguardian.com

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