Venezia Calling

Kanika Pruthi of Saffronart talks about the South Asian artists participating at the 55th Venice Biennale

New York: 2013 seems to have had a promising start for the art world considering the reviews received from the art fairs so far. Frieze New York opened this May with around 180 galleries from 40 countries showing works in all media, including performance. The visual and sensory frenzy then travelled across the seas to Hong Kong, which witnessed the debut of Art Basel Hong Kong, the commercial success of this venture still a worthy point of conversation in the art circles. They say the market has been resurrected, and the buzz continues at the 55th Venice Biennale which opened its doors to art aficionados from around the world on 1 June.

Massimiliano Gioni, Director of the 55th Venice Biennale

Massimiliano Gioni, Director of the 55th Venice Biennale. Image Credit:

Massimiliano Gioni, the Director of this edition of the Biennale, titled this year’s exhibition The Encyclopedic Palace. Echoing the credentials of its Director – heralded as one of the youngest, innovative and most talented international curators seen in recent years – it is no surprise that this year’s Biennale has already gathered overall positive reviews in its first week. The eclectic ensemble exhibited this year mirrors Gioni’s refreshing approach, which shuns the dichotomies of high and low art, insider and outsider artist – there is a place for one and all under the Venetian sun.

Several works by artists from India and the subcontinent are on display this year, signaling a continued affiliation with the biennale after the debut of India’s National Pavilion at the 54th edition in 2011.

Dayanita Singh is among four non-German artists showing in the German Pavilion this year. During the opening preview on May 30, she signed and stamped limited edition copies of her latest photo-book File Room for visitors. At the Biennale she will show photos from her 2001 work Mona, which chronicles the life of a eunuch living in India. Singh has worked with the subject for over a decade now. The continuity-and-change binary in her practice and the elusive meaning and layered contexts, seem to echo the dominant theme of the Biennale and the curatorial context of Gioni’s efforts, which highlight the changing landscape of artistic practice today – redefining and re-imagining existing models which are in a constant state of flux yet ever-present.

Outpost, Samar Singh Jodha

Outpost, Samar Singh Jodha. Image Credit:

Samar Singh Jodha is showing his work titled Outpost in the Arsenal. The work is a commentary on global consumerism and its impact on aesthetics – intentional and accidental. The subject of his work is discarded containers fashioned into habitat by miners in India’s pristine northeast. He utilizes this pictorial trope to invite interplay of narratives around consumerism and the impact of technology.

Imran Qureshi, one of the most acclaimed contemporary Pakistani artists, known for his modern miniatures inspired by Mughal art, is also showing at Venice this year. His series of miniature paintings titled Moderate Enlightenment (of which one featured in Saffronart’s first Art of Pakistan Auction last year) depicts various characters taking part in everyday activities. These images embody cultural shifts and quietly counter Western preconceptions, while commenting on the scenarios and situations in his native Pakistan.

Moderate Enlightenment, Imran Qureshi

Moderate Enlightenment, Imran Qureshi. Image Credit:

Faiza Butt, born and raised in Lahore, Pakistan, is exhibiting her pop culture infused works at the exhibition. Her works also draw from the miniature tradition, while commenting on current and controversial themes that explore issues of politics, gender and identity.

To read more about the 55th Venice Biennale click here.