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:

Frieze Art Fair exterior, 2013. Image Credit:

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:

Forthcoming Titles, 2012, Raqs Media Collective. Image Credit:

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:

Trotskyites Anonymous, 2013, Sarnath Banerjee. Image Credit:

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:

Solstice, 2013, Mehreen Murtaza. Image Credit:

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:

I was you, 2013, Aisha Khalid. Image Credit:

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:

Untitled (Landscape), 1965, F. N. Souza. Image Credit:

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:

A Scene in a Heaven,
Anonymous. Image Credit:

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.

The Sovereign Forest + Other Stories

Ambika Rajgopal of Saffronart shares a note on Amar Kanwar’s show ‘The Sovereign Forest + Other Stories’ at Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

London: Amar Kanwar is regarded as India’s foremost contemporary artist. His cinematic focus challenges and redefines the politics of power, violence, sexuality and justice. Fusing the documentary perspective with a unique aesthetic, his work opens out multiple layers of experience and perception. His work has always aimed to expose and shed light on social and political issues that have plagued the Indian subcontinent since the partition.

The Sovereign Forest, 2010-2012, Amar Kanwar. Image Credit:

The Sovereign Forest, 2010-2012, Amar Kanwar. Image Credit:

Yorkshire Sculpture Park will be the host to Amar Kanwar’s first major UK exhibition The Sovereign Forest + Other Stories in October 2013. The Sovereign Forest (2011-) is a conglomerate of films, objects and stories, where each element interacts with the other. It is a body of work that has been done with the collaborative effort from farmers, indigenous tribes, artists and activists in Odisha; and highlights their state of conflict with the government and mining corporations. It has the transformative ability to function as an art installation, a library, a memorial and an archive. 

Farmers and local tribes in the state of Odisha have been in the middle of a clash with government against building open pit bauxite mines. These mines displace forests, agricultural lands, rivers, coastlines, homes and livelihoods of all the agrarian communities who have been forced out of work. The Sovereign Forest has special resonance at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, since it is situated on the Yorkshire coalfields and surrounded by former mining communities.

The Sovereign Forest 2012-, Amar Kanwar. Image Credit:

The Sovereign Forest 2012-, Amar Kanwar. Image Credit:

At the crux of the work is the film The Scene of Crime, which provides us with a vision of the natural landscape of Odisha, prior to its acquisition and division for commercial use. All the images are from land captured by the government and the corporations. It bears testimony to the extent of damage caused due to these mining sites, which strips the local communities of their access to the natural resources.

Some of the other exhibits on display are 272 different varieties of rice seeds brought from the farms of Odisha, which show the disappearance of local crops, and the effect global agriculture has on local organic farmers; and handcrafted books with the text silk screened onto banana fibre paper, which narrate stories that expose the concerns of those affected by the flux of global demands.

The Sovereign Forest in on permanent display at the Samadrusti campus in Bhubanesawar, Odisha. The work is in a state of constant evolution by encouraging visitors to contribute to the evidence presented. The evidence on display includes photographs, lists of residents, land records and tax receipts, proofs of occupancy, maps of acquired villages, documents.

Also on display are The Listening Benches, Kanwar’s first sculptural objects for the open air that are situated around Bothy Garden, situated within the sprawling confines of the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. This work is a commission by the artist specially made for the YSP and is made out of the timber of a 19th century organ from the estate chapel. The benches offer a place of quietude and contemplation while overlooking Bretton Estate and coalfields beyond. The work is completed by an audio installation of music, which imparts a voice to the now nonoperational organ.

The show is on view from 11 September 2013 till 2 February 2014.

For more information, please access the website.

Project Space: Word. Sound. Power. At The Tate Modern.

Emily Jane Cushing suggests the Tate Modern exhibition ‘Project Space: Word. Sound. Power’

London: Tate Modern exhibition ‘Project Space: Word. Sound. Power’ is the first in a series of international collaborative exhibitions exhibited at the Tate Modern, London.

Anjali Monteiroand K.P. Jayasankar, Still from Saacha (The Loom) 2001, Image Credit,

Anjali Monteiroand K.P. Jayasankar, Still from Saacha (The Loom) 2001, Image Credit,

Driven by the desire of strengthening cultural exchange and dialogue throughout the world, the series presents contemporary art through a series of collaborations with cultural organisations.

Project Space: Word. Sound. Power. is curated by Loren Hansi Momodu at Tate Modern and Andi-Asmita Rangari, Khoj, International Artists’ Association, New Delhi. Indeed, what makes this exhibition so exciting is the bringing together of emerging curators from both the Tate Modern and selected international venues to create shows to be exhibited in both London and the inspired location, in this exhibition the other location will be New Delhi.

The series will show-case the work of new artists, those recently established and of rediscovered artists. Among these artists are Amar Kanwar and Anjali Monteiro and K.P Jayasankar using medium including audio documentary, video, performance, text and sound. The Tate writes that it hopes this exhibition takes a moment to listen to the harmony and dissonance of voices rising.

Amar Kanwar’s film ‘A Night of Prophecy’ was shot in several regions of India including Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Nagaland, Kashmir. The artists from these regions used music and poetry of tragedy and protest to express emotions resulting from caste-bound poverty and the loss of loved ones caused by tribal and religious fighting.

Amar Kanwar, Still from A Night of Prophecy 2002, Image Credit;

Amar Kanwar, Still from A Night of Prophecy 2002, Image Credit;

Anjali Monteiro and K.P. Jayasankar, Still from Saacha (The Loom) 2001, Image Credit;

Anjali Monteiro and K.P. Jayasankar, Still from Saacha (The Loom) 2001, Image Credit;

Saacha is about a poet, a painter and a city. The poet is Narayan Surve, the painter Sudhir Patwardhan and the city is Mumbai; the birth place of the Indian textile industry and the industrial working class. The film addresses the politics of representation and the decline of the urban working class in an age of structural readjustment, whilst simultaneously exploring the relevance of art in this contemporary social environment.

Related events include Performance and music; Mithu Sen  will make public readings of a new work entitled ‘I am a Poet‘, which she describes as being ‘not bound by rules of grammar, diction, vocabulary and syntax’. Mithu Sen will be reading ‘I am a Poet‘ on Friday 12 – Sunday 14 July 13.00, 14.00, 15.00, 16.00.

And a film by Anand Patwardhan: We Are Not Your Monkeys; Jai Bhim Comrade, Monday 15 July 2013, 18.00 – 22.30

The exhibition will show from 12 July – 3 November 2013 at the Tate Modern London, and continues at Khoj, International Artists’ Association, New Delhi, 10 January – 08 February 2014.

More information about the Tate exhibition can be found here.

Symposium on dOCUMENTA (13), Sharjah and Kochi-Muziris Biennales at SAA-JNU

Manjari Sihare shares details of a symposium on dOCUMENTA (13) and the Sharjah and Kochi-Muziris Biennales hosted by the School of Arts and Aesthetics, JNU and the Goethe Institute, Delhi

New Delhi: The School of Arts and Aesthetics (SAA), JNU, and the Goethe Institut are hosting a day-long symposium exploring key issues in international art exhibitions from the recent past on Friday, April, 19, 2013.

The symposium has been conceptualized by Geeta Kapur and focuses on dOCUMENTA (13) (June – September 2012).  Speakers are invited to address the curatorial concept of this edition. And to address, as well, a peculiar call on dOCUMENTA curators to offer, in the very form of the exhibition, a virtual world-view.

In the second part of the symposium, there will be a discussion on Biennales that are placed within more precarious circumstances. The risks and gains of working with a meager infrastructure, social taboos, uncharted aesthetics, will be brought forward. A substantial debate on the newest, most proximate Kochi-Muziris Biennale (December 2012 – March 2013) is expected. Participants will be invited to discuss, for instance, how this Biennale offered ‘site imaginaries’ in lieu of a predetermined concept; and an exhibitory poetics largely activated by participating artists. Also the role of the State (with reference to India) in supporting large-scale, audience-friendly and ground-breaking exhibition projects such as the Kochi-Muziris Biennale will be put up for scrutiny.

Friday, April 19 2013, 11.00 am – 5.30 pm
Auditorium, School of Arts & Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University

Session I (11 am to 1 pm)
Chair: Kavita Singh: Introduction and Sum-up

Vision Documenta
Referring to earlier editions, but focusing on dOCUMENTA (13) (June – September 2012), speakers are invited to address the curatorial concept of this edition; and to address, as well, a peculiar call on dOCUMENTA curators to offer, in the very form of the exhibition, a virtual world-view.

• Geeta Kapur: dOCUMENTA aesthetics in the 21st century
• Vidya Shivdas: Brief introduction to the dOCUMENTA project
• Panel: Jeebesh Bagchi, Sonia Khurana, Shuddhabrata Sengupta

Session II (1.45 pm to 3.15 pm)
Chair: Pooja Sood: Introduction and Sum-up

Ideological Readings: from Documenta to Sharjah
A reflection on Biennales placed within newer, more precarious circumstances; the risks and gains of working through untested locations, meager infrastructures, social taboos, uncharted aesthetics.

• Amar Kanwar
• Ravi Agarwal

Session III (3.30 pm to 5.30 pm)
Chair: Geeta Kapur

The Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2012-2013
More than a ‘debate’ or even a measure of success and failure, understanding the conditions of production of the newest, most proximate Kochi-Muziris Biennale (December 2012 – March 2013) is important. Once staged, what are the meanings that accrue from the democratic mix of international and local viewers; with diverse spectatorship, is there a better case for state support of contemporary art? Can publics in relation to large-scale, ground-breaking projects (such as this), incite the art community into a discursive engagement with avantgarde art as a form of contextual combustion?

• Riyas Komu: ‘Against All Odds’; a presentation on the Kochi-Muziris Biennale (with visual documentation)
• Panel: Vivan Sundaram, Sheela Gowda, Subodh Gupta, Gayatri Sinha, Sheba Chhachhi
• Summing Up: Parul Dave Mukherji

For further details please contact: [email protected]

Amar Kanwar in 2013 Carnegie International

2013 Carnegie InternationalManjari Sihare shares details of the forthcoming 2013 Carnegie International

Pittsburgh: The Henry Heinz II Director of Carnegie Museum of Art, Lynn Zelevansky, recently announced the artists participating in the 2013 Carnegie International, which opens on October 5, 2013 and will be on view until March 16, 2014.  The Carnegie International is the longest-running international survey of contemporary art at any museum. It was first organized at the behest of industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie on November 5, 1896 in Pittsburgh. He intended the International to provide a periodic sample of contemporary art from which Carnegie Museum of Art could enrich its permanent collection.

The Carnegie Museum of Art is nationally and internationally recognized for its collection of fine and decorative art from the 19th to 21st centuries. The collection also contains important holdings of Japanese and old master prints.  For more information about Carnegie Museum of Art, one of the four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, visit its website.

The 2013 Carnegie International brings together 35 artists from 19 countries, including a series of large-scale commissions throughout the museum and beyond. Three major projects join what is, in essence, a conversation among artworks, the museum, and its visitors: an exchange of experiences and perspectives. A playground, designed in 1972, and installed outside the museum entrance, will be contextualized by a richly illustrated exhibition of postwar playground architecture. An ambitious reinstallation of Carnegie Museum of Art’s permanent collection of modern and contemporary art will explore the International‘s legacy and unique history. Finally, the 2013 Carnegie International amplifies its ongoing engagement with Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods, inaugurated by the Lawrenceville Apartment Talks, which have been ongoing since 2011.

A notable inclusion in this year’s edition is that of renowned New Delhi based filmmaker, Amar Kanwar who has established a distinctive voice, having directed and produced over 40 films, and through them studying the economies and psychologies of power as they direct the evolution of health, ecology, labor, development, politics, philosophy, art and law. Recurrent themes in Kanwar’s practice include the splitting of families, sectarian violence and border conflicts, interwoven with investigations of gender and sexuality, philosophy and religion, as well as the opposition between globalisation and tribal consciousness in rural India. Kanwar’s work is currently on view at the Guggenheim New York, as part of No Country: Contemporary Art from South and South East Asia.

To learn more about Carnegie International, follow their blog.

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