ASIA ART ARCHIVE’S ANNUAL FUNDRAISER AUCTION FEATURES ARTISTS FROM THE INDIAN SUBCONTINENT

Kanika Pruthi of Saffronart shares details about AAA’s upcoming Annual Fundraiser Auction in Hong Kong

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

New York: The Asian Art Archive is a Hong Kong based initiative which  provides a platform for the research, writing and understanding of the history of contemporary art in Asia. It aims to re-imagine the role of an archive and to address the expanding space of the global narrative in art history. They are committed to creating a collection of resources for the public which is accessible to the masses, facilitating research on existing material and also encouraging new ideas and creative endeavours through their programs.

AAA’s Annual Fundraiser Auction serves as a major source of support for its programs, activities and aims to raise funds to extend its global reach, expanding the educational potential of the archive and redefining the way worldwide audiences learn about contemporary art.

This year the auction features 74 works of art, generously donated by galleries and artists from around the world. The works can be viewed from 21-25 November at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center. Online bidding is open from 8-29 November and the live auction will take place on 30 November, 2013.

Among the many international artists featured this year, works from established and emerging artists from the Indian sub continent are included in the auction. These include Gulammohammed Sheikh, Atul Dodiya, Nalini Malani, Rajorshi Ghosh, Tanya Goel, Aditi Singh, Aisha Khalid and Huma Mulji.

Selected works can be viewed in the slideshow accompanying this post and the full auction catalogue is available online.

Frieze London 2013

Ambika Rajgopal of Saffronart looks at the 2013 edition of Frieze Art Fair and Frieze Masters.

London: With the onset of the British winter, as the trees of Regent’s Park shed their foliage to assume a structural minimalism, another edition of Frieze draws to a close. Running in its eleventh year, Frieze Art Fair is a conglomerate of art, artists, curators, galleries, collectors, dealers and critics who have a common affinity for art of the contemporary sort. Its younger sister fair, Frieze Masters, now in its second year is just as grand and deals with ancient to modern art.

Frieze Art Fair exterior, 2013. Image Credit: http://www.londonbb.com/frieze-art-fair-london/

Frieze Art Fair exterior, 2013. Image Credit: http://www.londonbb.com/frieze-art-fair-london/

I was fortunate enough to attend Frieze both in 2012 as well as in 2013 and the change within the two years was quite apparent. This year Frieze Art Fair condensed their number of exhibitors from 175 to 150, a move that reinforces Frieze’s emphasis on quality over quantity. Additionally the architectural design was also opened up to reveal a new entrance, floor, a revised gallery grid and a mezzanine café area, rather than the claustrophobic labyrinth of corridors from previous years.

This year the participation of South Asian galleries was lesser than last year, even though South Asian artists were well represented by international galleries. Project 88, the only Indian gallery to participate, has been at the helm of promoting cutting edge contemporary art in Bombay, India. This year Project 88 featured the works of Neha Choksi, Raqs Media Collective, Rohini Devasher, Sarnath Banerjee, Somnath Hore and The Otolith Group.

Choksi, now a regular name in the Frieze line up, concerns herself with the search for various forms of absences. She approaches and represents this absence by appealing to the presence of forms. In Houseplant and Sun Quotation, Choksi correlated the mechanized process of photography to the living process of the plant, both processes necessitated by the presence of light. She placed plants near paper that has been photo chemically treated with palladium salts, so as to expose the non-shadow part of the paper. The resultant effect was that the absence of the plant on the palladium paper was represented through a negative presence of the shadow form. The Burst series featured two ceramic sculptural forms or anti forms, if you will, that adopted absence and suspension in order to initiate her ideas of solitariness and expiry.

Forthcoming Titles, 2012, Raqs Media Collective. Image Credit: http://www.project88.in/individual-work.php?artfair=ARFR0020&workid=9

Forthcoming Titles, 2012, Raqs Media Collective. Image Credit: http://www.project88.in/individual-work.php?artfair=ARFR0020&workid=9

In Forthcoming Titles through referential comparison between influential authors in the canon of Marxism, Raqs Media Collective’s carefully displayed wall mounted library managed to resonate a faux seriousness only to be broken by the anagrammed names of the authors. Rosa Luxemburg, a Marxist revolutionary and a figure who has actively influenced Raqs own collective consciousness, became Luxme Sorabgur.

Sarnath Banerjee’s new series of drawings was replete with the caricatural humour that Banerjee is synonymous with. He made light of contemporary Indian society through symbolic representations and diagrammatic visual depictions.

Trotskyites Anonymous, 2013, Sarnath Banerjee. Image Credit: http://friezelondon.com/exhibitors/exhibit/5393/3942

Trotskyites Anonymous, 2013, Sarnath Banerjee. Image Credit: http://friezelondon.com/exhibitors/exhibit/5393/3942

Rohini Devasher’s paper work involved prints of satellite images of the Indian Astronomical Observatory and the surrounding landscape at Hanle, Ladakh, superimposed with drawings. Her project was an investigation of these mythic terrains where fiction blurs the boundaries of what is real and imagined. It was a process of converting the familiarity of geography into one of strange hybridization. The other artists on display at Project 88 were Somnath Hore and the Otolith Group with their newest video essay People to be Resembling.

Dubai based Grey Noise featured the works of Pakistani artist Mehreen Murtaza. Murtaza’s stylistic visual narrative consists of an amalgam of Sufi cultural imagery along with the futurism of science fiction. This odd juxtaposition enables science to question and reexamine religion, myth and superstition. While adopting the critical point of view of Western rationalism, Murtaza does not stray away from the Islamic historical heritage and thus her work operates in a realm where mystical ideas of spirituality synchronize with scientific theories.

Solstice, 2013, Mehreen Murtaza. Image Credit: http://friezelondon.com/exhibitors/exhibit/5498/3637

Solstice, 2013, Mehreen Murtaza. Image Credit: http://friezelondon.com/exhibitors/exhibit/5498/3637

In Transmission From A Missing Satellite, Murtaza payed homage to Dr Abdus Salam, a Pakistani theoretical physicist, who went on to win the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1979. Though Salam’s contribution to the field of science was remarkable, the memory of the man is tainted by prejudice due to his minority Ahmadi background. The work presented an assemblage of clues such as loose letters, telegrams and even a floating stone reminiscent of the Floating Stone of Jerusalem at the Dome of Rock. Through these artifacts Murtaza used artistic approaches to visualize the adventures in quantum immortality.

I was you, 2013, Aisha Khalid. Image Credit: http://friezelondon.com/exhibitors/exhibit/5424/4225

I was you, 2013, Aisha Khalid. Image Credit: http://friezelondon.com/exhibitors/exhibit/5424/4225

The other South Asian artists on display were Imran Qureshi and Aisha Khalid at the London based gallery Corvi Mora. Dayanita Singh also displayed her work at Frith Street Gallery. Singh also has a solo show Go Away Closer on display at the Haywards Gallery, Southbank Center till the 15th of December 2013.

In the other side of the park at Frieze Masters, the environment was quieter and less frenetic than it is in Frieze Art Fair. Whilst the older contemporary fair attracted a fair share of curious onlookers who come to marvel at the trends in contemporary art, Frieze Masters took on a more discerning vibe. The lighting was softer, public area was carpeted and the artworks were more traditional.

Untitled (Landscape), 1965, F. N. Souza. Image Credit: http://grosvenorgallery.com/art-fairs/current-art-fairs/frieze-masters/

Untitled (Landscape), 1965, F. N. Souza. Image Credit: http://grosvenorgallery.com/art-fairs/current-art-fairs/frieze-masters/

Grosvenor Gallery’s debut at the Frieze Masters featured a selection of Black on Black Paintings by Francis Newton Souza. This appearance at Frieze coincided with their current exhibition, F.N Souza: Black on Black Paintings on view till 28th October. The exhibition follow the legacy of Souza’s 1966 show Black Art and Other Paintings at Grosvenor Gallery where he presented a series of monochromatic works rendered in thick black impasto oil. Even though the inspiration for Souza’s stylistic turn toward such a dark somber palette is disputed, these works bear reflection to Souza’s state of mind in the 60s.

Difficult and demanding, Souza’s black series is not easy on the eye, but of course that was exactly Souza’s intention. As Toby Treves pointed out, Souza claimed that the visual intensity of his paintings was meant to be a jarring reminder about the visceral consciousness of life. In order for the work to reveal itself, a few moments are required in front of each work. The interplay between the light and the textured brushstrokes, caught by the eye only at a certain angle uncovers a world of forms, textures and worlds inside each canvas.

From the somber monochromes of Souza to the resplendent gleam of the Indian miniature works at Francesca Galloway, Frieze was a complete affair in itself. In conjunction with the fair itself, a host of galleries, museums and artistic institutions opened their doors to patrons by organizing lectures, panel discussions, performances and art projects.

A Scene in a Heaven, Anonymous. Image Credit: http://friezemasters.com/exhibitors/exhibit/5608/4287

A Scene in a Heaven,
Anonymous. Image Credit: http://friezemasters.com/exhibitors/exhibit/5608/4287

My favourite part of Frieze London was actually the Sculpture Park. While most of the public and media attention goes onto the two sister fairs, the Sculpture Park is often the portion of the fair, which has so much to offer. It also provides a nice escape to the bustling fanfare of the tented Frieze Art Fair.  Amidst the rolling greens of Regent’s park’s sculpture half of the fair was Amar Kanwar’s Listening Bench #4 (2013), a part of his The Sovereign Forest exhibition, currently on display at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. The benches offered visitors a place of quietude and contemplation after the influx of so much sensory stimuli.

Singapore Art Stage 2013 in Review

Piya Shivadasani of Saffronart selects her top picks from Art Stage Singapore 2013

Singapore: Art Stage Singapore 2013 kicked-off on strong footing with the Singapore Tyler Print Institute’s exhibition of master photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto’s project for Hermès, Couleurs de l’Ombre. Taking Polaroid photographs of the colours collected by the refraction of early morning light passed through a giant prism and reflected by a mirror onto a wall, Sugimoto creates large pools of saturated colour on Hermès’ iconic  Carré scarf. The futuristic imagery gives you a feeling of peeking into outer space, but wonderfully and simultaneously, the mostly primary colours take you back to the distant past and lend a sense of nostalgia. To learn more about this project, click here.

My favorite works at the fair itself included those by Pors and Rao and Ye Hongxing at Hilger Modern / Contemporary and Scream respectively.

Other noteworthy satellite shows included the openings at Gillman Barracks and The Collectors Show, Weight of History, at the Singapore Art Museum, where Aisha Khalid’s Appear As You Are, Be As You Appear and Yee Sookyung’s Translated Vase were highlights.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Karkhana: A Contemporary Collaboration

Elisabetta Marabotto of Saffronart revisits one of the most ground breaking exhibitions of contemporary Pakistani Art

Karkhana, Untitled. Karkhana A Contemporary Collaboration

Karkhana, Untitled. Karkhana A Contemporary Collaboration
Image Credit: http://www.aldrichart.org/exhibitions/past/karkhana.php

London: The Urdu word ‘Karkhana’ refers to the miniature painting workshops supported by Mughal Emperors who ruled over the lands of present-day India and Pakistan between the 16th and 17th centuries. In these workshops, several artists would work together on the same painting under the direction of one ‘ustad’ or master.

Following the steps of these predecessors, six Pakistani artists undertook a collaborative project in 2003 under the guidance of Imran Qureshi. The artist contacted the other five Pakistani artists who, like him, had studied at the National College of Arts in Lahore, and who, at the time, were based in different parts of the world. The artists included in the project were: Aisha Khalid, Hasnat Mehmood, Nusra Latif Qureshi, Talha Rathore and Saira Wasim.

As part of the project, each of them had to start two works on wasli and pass them to the other artists who would add further layers of imagery and significance to the original work. Five more works created individually by the artists were added to the project’s exhibition to show their personal characters and styles.

Karkhana, Untitled. Karkhana A Contemporary Collaboration

Karkhana, Untitled. Karkhana A Contemporary Collaboration
Image Credit: http://www.aldrichart.org/exhibitions/past/karkhana.
php

The project aimed to show the influence shared by the artists, their individual reactions to an already painted surface, and their ways in which their idioms spoke to each other. It also aspired to highlight the revival of miniature painting as an important aspect of contemporary Pakistani art, which entailed a comingling of tradition and modernity in fine and meaningful images.

Karkhana, Untitled. Karkhana A Contemporary Collaboration

Karkhana, Untitled. Karkhana A Contemporary Collaboration
Image Credit: http://www.aldrichart.org/ exhibitions/past/karkhana.php

Karkhana was an extremely innovative show, both because of the concept behind the project, and for its affirmation of contemporary Pakistani art in South Asia and the West. In fact, the project culminated in a travelling exhibition, first held in Rochdale in 2003-04, then at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, in 2005-06, and finally at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco in 2006.

Karkhana, Untitled. Karkhana A Contemporary Collaboration

Karkhana, Untitled. Karkhana A Contemporary Collaboration
Image Credit: http://www.aldrichart.org/exhibitions/past/karkhana.php

Hammad Nassar, founder of Green Cardamom, independent curator and writer, noted in the exhibition catalogue: “The nature of the Karkhana project is vast and multi-faceted. It explores the possibilities of collaborative practice and political resistance, the reinvention of a ‘tradition’, and the expression of diasporic identity. It also raises broader questions about globalization and political and marginalization…Karkhana, relying as it does on ‘traditional’ fields of representation, and on the institutionalized art world to arrange exhibitions, fund catalogues, and even to pay the courier bills  for its actualization, is not an activist demonstration but rather, a work of art. It is from this position, in fact, that it derives its political power- subverting elite institutions from within. It updates a historical form (the ‘traditional’ miniature), which served one empire, in order to confront another.  In their refusal to surrender the aesthetic in their art, the Karkhana artists use the very desire that their meticulously crafted and highly encoded paintings elicit to inject themselves into arenas where they would not ordinarily be granted access. At the hearts of the project is a challenge to commonly-understood notions of democracy and the collective.”

More information about the project can be found on the Aldrich Art Contemporary Museum website and in the catalogue, Karkhana, A Contemporary Collaboration.

Miniatures: Survival of a Revival

Guest blogger, Ali Adil Khan shares his views on contemporary miniature paintings from Pakistan

Lot 21- Rehana Mangi, 3 Figures (Gadrang)
Art of Pakistan Auction (November 7-8, 2012)

Toronto: We are experiencing a modern revival of the miniature painting tradition that is unrivaled. This contemporary miniature art movement, emanating from a premier art institute of Pakistan, while being firmly grounded in tradition, has taken post-modern art by storm. It has a serious following locally and internationally and enjoys the support of curators, gallery owners, critics and collectors alike.

This movement is strong, moving rapidly, and is sure to leave its mark on the international art scene. The credit goes to the modern practitioners and teachers of miniature art. Early visionaries at the National College of Arts (NCA) in Lahore, Zahoor ul Akhlaq, followed by Salima Hashmi, Bashir Ahmed and Imran Qureshi have believed in the talents of their students and designed an ingenious curriculum and an exigent training program that continues to bring the best out of them.

Some of these industrious students have become leading proponents of contemporary miniature art around the world with a broad private and institutional following.

Lot 30 – Shazia Sikander, Let It Ride # 3, 1997
24 Hour Auction: Art of Pakistan (Nov. 7-8, 2012)

Some stalwarts clearly standout. Shahzia Sikander was the first to breakaway from the miniature tradition, and helped establish an art form that is now known and recognised as contemporary or neo-miniature painting. She remains the greatest of them all and there are only two ways to describe her art practice — brilliant and exquisite. She has now entered the mainstream of contemporary art internationally and is a recognised superstar.

Others, who followed her success, have held their values and traditional training central to their practice, not compromising them for quick buck. These trail blazers, who are now in the upper echelon of contemporary miniature art internationally include: Imran Qureshi, Tazeen Qayyum, Aisha Khalid, Talha Rathore, Nusra Latif Qureshi, Saira Wasim and Reeta Saeed. They can be referred to as the magnificent seven of NCA. Others who are fast catching up through their prolific practice, creative talents, and international exhibitions are Waseem Ahmed, Hasnat Mehmood, Khadim Ali, Muhammed Zeeshan and Sabeen Raja.

Lot 31 – Imran Qureshi, Moderate Enlightenment, 2007
24 Hour Auction: Art of Pakistan (Nov. 7-8, 2012)

While Imran Qureshi’s work on wasli exhibited in London, Hong Kong, and Oxford more recently continues to be very strong (as he can probably paint with his eyes closed — meant as a compliment), his site-specific wall paintings at the 1st Singapore Biennale in 2006 was most impressive. It was truly outstanding and definitely leading edge.

The contemporary miniature art market is cut throat to say the least. As a new breed of young artists jumps on the bandwagon, there are bound to be more failures than resounding successes. As experienced curators and discerning collectors closely examine and follow the emergence and development of this trend, they will critique the works of the artists. Any repetition, reproduction, stagnation, mediocrity will be severely penalised. It can be said with confidence that not all currently practicing contemporary miniature artists are good.

The ones that are good and with potential of becoming great, are the ones that are continuously experimenting and pushing the boundaries beyond the restrained borders of miniature paintings. For example, Tazeen Qayyum has consistently surpassed expectations of curators and collectors. In the late 1990s she incorporated borders made from collages of interesting newspaper cuttings and quickly moved away from figurative to contextual use of a motifs such as the veil and cockroach that enabled her to assert her socio-political views on the wasli. She experimented and employed the use of block printing, Xerox photo transfer, and digital techniques in her works of the early 2000s. In 2005, she pasted strands of her own long hair on the wasli. In 2006, Qayyum took wasli to a third dimension by adding labels and entomology pins to her work and changed the framing to box frames. Her depiction of the disgraceful human pyramid made forcibly at Abu Gharib Prison in Iraq using cockroaches with minute details was stunning to say the least.

Lot 45- Sumaira Tazeen, Moti Tanka (French Knot), 2008
Art of Pakistan Auction (November 7-8, 2012)

There are many more promising senior artists who can reach new heights through rigorous experimentation and an urge to push and re-invent the boundaries. They are Ambreen Butt, Sumaira Tazeen, Usman Saeed, Sherbano Qizilbash and Saira Sheikh. Curators and critics will watch them closely as they fulfil the much needed requirement to re-invent and progress.

The survival of the revival now solely rests in the capable hands of these practitioners and new comers into the field who must learn from the success of their predecessors and set high standards for themselves. They should not and must not expect to sell their works for exorbitant prices, as they first need to experiment, prove and establish their art practice. As collector of contemporary Pakistani art, London-based Kamran Anwar notes, “The Pakistani art market is clearly at an inflexion point. The contemporary miniature movement has led the way and holds a distinct place in the South Asian artistic landscape.

“The big challenge for these artists is to continue to innovate and create without falling into the temptation of doing the same thing again and again for short term commercial gains.”

Ali Adil Khan is a prolific Toronto based collector and expert of South Asian art and antiquities. Khan has organized numerous exhibitions of South Asian Art in North America including  “Image and Identity: Being Ethnic” and “Cosmic Energy and Tantric Enlightenment: Art of Youngo Verma” which have received widespread critical acclaim. He has contributed notable articles on South Asian art to leading dailies including The Dawn Online Edition and Newsline of Pakistan. He has also been invited to share his expertise at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, Art Gallery of Mississauga and the 14th Asian Art Biennale in Dhaka, amongst others. Khan is a guest contributor for the Saffronart blog.

%d bloggers like this: