Krishnamachari’s Curatorial Callings

Aaina Bhargava of Saffronart on artist – curator Bose Krishnamachari’s selection as the curator for the Indian Pavilion at Art Stage Singapore 2014, and it’s new feature Platform

London: Singapore’s annual art fair – Art Stage Singapore – is introducing a new feature to its latest edition in 2014, regional platforms for seven participating Asian nations/regions including southeast Asia, China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Australia, and India.  Each platform essentially functions as an exhibition showcasing works by artists from each particular region.  Curators have also been regionally selected to create these platforms, with India’s, being curated by the Kochi-Muziris Biennial cofounder and co-curator Bose Krishnamachari.   In a brief, recent, interview he explains his initial approach to the project:

“I will be looking at the works of Indian artists and have to pick six to eight of them through their galleries.”

While his previous large-scale exhibition curatorial project was the Kochi Muziris Biennial, a much more academic and locally contextualized endeavor, the Indian Platform for Art Stage is a “curated sales exhibition,” that aims to exhibit works in a contemporary Asian framework.  This provides an intriguing contrast in terms of audiences who he will be curating for and artists that he will select to represent the Indian contemporary art scene and will contribute to defining the contemporary Asian art scene, the premise upon which Art Stage Singapore seeks to operate. Heralding the motto, “We are Asia,” this event brings together 131 galleries, 75% of which are from Asia Pacific.  Through juxtaposing works by known and emerging artists from various different Asian regions, Platform commits to Art Stage’s attempts to make Singapore a solid and driving force in the Asian art market.  Expanding on the importance of representing a diverse Asia, Lorenzo Rudolf (Founder and fair director) states,

“When we speak about Asia, we cannot speak about an undifferentiated, single Asian contemporary art scene as the region is highly segmented. From a western perspective, there is sometimes limited understanding of the market differentiations within Asia and little depth of knowledge about the individual art markets…This new addition [Platform] will give visitors not only a holistic overview of artistic developments, but also a deeper understanding of contemporary art from Asia Pacific.”

To allow viewers the opportunity to witness this comparative juxtaposition of artworks from different regions, Platform will be exhibited in a non-segregated, museum like format over approximately 20% (or 1800 sq. meters) of the fair exhibition space. The Southeast Asia Platform is to be the largest of the Platforms. These works are to include “site-specific works, interactive installations and innovative conceptually driven works, meant to discuss important topics that address the contemporary society.”  This description holds similar to that of works made for or presented at biennials, particularly site specific works and cutting edge, innovative conceptual works.  Presenting these types of works at an art fair and having this particular exhibition curated by renowned curators such as Krishnamachari who are known for their work at biennials and other non commercial exhibitions, reflects a desire to bring a critical credibility to the fair as well an educational component.

The paradigms that both art fairs and biennials (and other art events) follow seem to be coming closer and closer together, although both institutions have fundamentally different goals.  They are increasingly starting to include educational collateral programs that exist not only to stimulate discourse and raise awareness about contemporary art but also to create a more informed market.  Krishnamachari’s role (and that of other curators for different platforms) will become instrumental in determining which Indian artists are representative of an evolving contemporary Indian art scene, and negotiating that with those who are able or who have the potential to succeed commercially.  Whether this negotiation can be successfully achieved in actuality remains to be seen till the opening of Art Stage Singapore on January 15th 2014, we are certainly looking forward to seeing the final exhibition of Platform and how it contributes to the fair.

Mithu Sen at Art Stage Singapore

Mithu Sen at Art Stage Singapore. Image Credit:

For more information visit: Art Stage Singapore.


Shilpa Gupta’s debut in Parisian opera set design

Manjari Sihare on Shilpa Gupta’s set design for the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris  

New York: In April 2012, the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris showcased John Adam’s opera Nixon in China, featuring Shilpa Gupta’s first ever-set design for an opera stage. The tradition of artists designing opera, ballet and theatre sets is a well-established one, particularly in Paris, where several impressionist and post-impressionist painters including Picasso, Chagall and Dali contributed to important theatrical productions.

Centered on American President Richard Nixon’s 1972 meeting with China’s revolutionary leader, Mao Tse-Tung, this opera documents a watershed event in American-Chinese relations. An article in the Hindustan Times on May 27, 2012, records that this project dates back to the summer of last year, when the director of Théâtre du Châtelet approached Gupta to design the set, having seen her work in Paris.

The opera opens with Nixon and his wife, Pat, stepping out of a big wall designed by Shilpa Gupta – evoking China’s isolation from the West and the differences between the two societies. Gupta’s design captures the confrontation between the two worlds and the complexity of protocols during such diplomatic visits. The state banquet scene at the end of Act I has a chandelier composed of 50 TV screens, which Gupta created in collaboration with video artist Olivier Roset, emblematic of the media frenzy that surrounded this event. These screens flash archival video montages from that period. In Act II, Gupta underscores the American First Lady’s visit to the Summer Palace using floating golden statues of mythical creatures in glass cases and moving children in automated trolleys – a comment on the powered nature of such visits by the wives of the heads of states.

Scene 1: The Nixons descend onto a gangway set against Gupta’s brick wall

Act 1: Gupta’s sculpted chandelier of TV screens

Act 2: First Lady, Pat Nixon’s visit to the Summer Palace

Act 2: First Lady, Pat Nixon’s visit to the Summer Palace (close-up)

To see the entire production of Nixon in China, click here.

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