Kallat for Kochi

Aaina Bhargava of Saffronart on Jitish Kallat’s appointment as the curator for the second edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennial in 2014.


London: Jitish Kallat, by any standard, is one of the internationally most well established Indian contemporary artists.  Which is perhaps why his appointment as the next curator of the Kochi-Muziris Biennial (KMB) comes as no surprise. Declared by Hon. Mayor of Cochin, Mr. Tony Chammany, as the official curator of Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2014, he was selected by an elite and diverse panel of Indian art professionals put together by the Kochi Biennial Foundation.  Consisting of art historian Geeta Kapur, director of Dr. Bhau Daji Laad Museum, Tasneem Mehta, director of Outset India and the Gujral Foundation, Feroz Gujral, director of Gallery Maskara, Abhay Maskara, artists Sheela Gowda and Balan Nambiar, and the President and General Secretary of the Kochi Biennale Foundation, Bose Krishnamachari and Riyas Komu, they provided the following official statement in support of their choice:

“To continue the unique character of this artist led Biennale we are selecting Jitish Kallat as the new curator for the 2014 edition. Jitish brings immense international experience to the next Biennale. He possesses sound theoretical knowledge about contemporary art along with a diverse yet meticulous approach to his own practice. We are confident that Jitish will curate an innovative and experiential second edition.”

Because the legitimacy of biennials is essentially evaluated based on their constant recurrence,  the successful execution of the second edition biennial becomes imperative to its future continuation and representation of contemporary art in India.  The first edition of the KMB, already having been declared ‘the second largest running biennial in the world after Venice, with almost 400,000 visitors’, has provided the KB Foundation and government of Kerala with motive to not only maintain but progress the standard established in 2012.  Appointing Kallat as curator is clearly an attempt to cement the KMB’s reputation as a legitimate institution.  He has participated in countless biennials, his works have been exhibited at major museums around the world, so given his international exposure, critical acclaim, and commercial success as an artist his representation and endorsement of the biennial certainly adds great value to the entire event.  Even if he does lack curatorial experience, he has extensive experience with biennials, and an understanding of how they function.  Additionally, he also happens have Keralite roots, hailing from Thrissur, although he was born and bought up in Mumbai.

Jitish Kallat for Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2014

Jitish Kallat for Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2014. Image Credit: http://kochimuzirisbiennale.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/announcing-web-poster-04.jpg

From a political perspective, the commitment to promoting Kerala as a cultural center remains a priority, however, for the coming editions, there is a greater responsibility of establishing India as a destination for contemporary art, outside of a commercial context.  Intentions to push this standard and expand the the impact of the biennial have been voiced by the officials and organizers of the biennial:

“The first edition of the Biennale accentuated the tourism and cultural sectors of Kerala,  the biennale requires a permanent venue as it promises to return every two years, and we are searching for such a place to make this possible.” – Mayor of Cochin, Mr. Tony Chammany

“This return is required for the Biennale to develop its unique grammar and vocabulary. ” He also said that the media played a vital role in initiating a dialogue and bringing biennale to people’s home’s.” – Jitish Kallat.

As the contemporary art scene is constantly growing and evolving, the appointment of Jitish Kallat as curator is highly reflective of it’s current situations.  Kallat’s career is representative of a culmination of the academic acclaim and popular or commercial success, much like Subodh Gupta or Atul Dodiya – and since the biennial is an institution that is essentially non commercial, but is trying to navigate itself in a very commercially driven art society, Kallat could be the negotiating factor between both worlds.  He has also managed to achieve his success at a relatively young age (he is just 39) and since the KMB seeks to affect mainly the youth, perhaps a fresher perspective is the next step to progressing the already impactful biennial.  Furthermore, contemporary art is still relatively an unknown field to the general public and one of the goals of the biennial is to expand the reach of contemporary art, it is perhaps more effective to approach it with a more popular manner, rather than an extremely academic one.  Again, the mesh between the academic and the commercial becomes critical.  The notion of recurrence and repetition is essential to the longevity of biennials, and in order to keep occurring, the nature of the biennial must adapt to its current situations, and by attracting as many visitors as possible.

“That’s what art is all about. Sometimes it’s just a shift of vision…Let us hope it will be different but the genetic link will remain and it will be the continuation of the same language…I want to bring a new set of tools to work with the same set of ideas.”- Jitish Kallat

Preparations are clearly underway to ensure the next KMB as impacting as the inaugral edition, until then we just have to wait and see what Kallat’s unique vision will hold.


Art Night Thursday, Mumbai

Tarika Agarwal of Saffronart gallery-hops in Mumbai on the occasion of the latest edition of ‘Art Night Thursday’

Mumbai: It was quite an exciting experience walking around the Mumbai Art District at night for the first time as part of Art Night Thursday last week.

Started in London, the idea is that on the first Thursday of the month, participating galleries and museums stay open past 9 pm. It was an amazing way to get introduced to the great art scene in the vibrant city of Mumbai. It has managed to promote museums and art galleries as fun places to hang out in the evening.

The trail consisted of seven galleries. There was a vast variety of  works on display – tapestries, video art, sculptures, installations, oils, acrylics to name a few. I started my journey alone but somewhere along the way it became a nice little group of art lovers walking about the streets of Mumbai from one gallery to another. It was nice to see how college students, art students, the retired and collectors were in the same space enjoying, appreciating and discussing an artist’s work.

In this edition of Art Night Thursday, here is the list of a few of the artists being exhibited and the kinds of work they were showing –

Monika Correa, Homage to Kepes, White Warp
Image Credit- http://www.gallerychemould.com

In an exhibition of Tapestries at Chemould Prescott Road, Monika Correa has explored the underlying relationship between weaving and the diverse patterns and textures of nature. Read more.

Prakaash Chandwadkar, Untitled – 001, Acrylic on Lokta Paper
Image Credit- http://www.gallerybeyond.com

In a group show at Gallery Beyond, Prakaash Chandwadkar had showcased a few acrylics on Lokta Paper (wild crafted, handmade artisan paper indigenous to Nepal).  These works display the vistas of the Himalayan Ranges around Nepal where he treks.

At the Guild, Rakhi Peswani presented ‘Anatomy of Silence’. The artist believes that silence is an integral part of paintings, sculptures and objects. Art holds a mute relationship with the society it is created and survives in. She shows the human body in a handmade avatar which is close to displacement and demise. The relationship between a laborious work and a craftsman’s body is explored and seen vis-à-vis the situation of the handmade today.

William Kentridge

William Kentridge, Untitled, Indian Ink on pages from The Century Dictionary; An Encyclopedic Lexicon of the language.
Image Credit- http://www.volte.in

One of the best shows was the William Kentridge solo exhibition, ‘Poems I used to know’ at Volte, which combines large drawings done in Indian ink on multiple pages from books that have been put together, a film installation, a series of slip book films, sculptures and a large tapestry. Read a review of the show in the Mint by Girish Shahane.

Shine Shivan, Glimpse of Thirst (11), Fabric, jute, fiber, marbles, fiber glass, artificial hair, sequins and beads.
Image Credit- http://www.artinfo.com/

Shine Shivan’s ‘Glimpse of Thirst’ at Gallery Maskara exhibits a provocative body of work including a large group of hybrid, fantasy characters crafted from various non-typical materials and a video installation.

Nityan Unnikrishnan

Nityan Unnikrishnan, Untitled, Mixed Media on Paper
Image Credit- http://www.chatterjeeandlal.com

Chatterjee & Lall previewed Nityan Unnikrishnan’s solo show ‘While Everyone is Away’ during Art Night Thursday. This exhibition consists of fourteen paper-works and two sculptures, and is the first time the artist’s three-dimensional works have been shown. According to the exhibition note, “He derives from a variety of sources to build his works: memories, literature, the arts, Arcadia, the modern world, his present life. The individual works are open to a variety of interpretations; little niches and low voices offer up clues as the viewer navigates their densely worked surfaces.”

Risham Syed

Risham Syed, Untitled Lahore Series # 11, Acrylic on Board on Canvas
Image Credit- http://www.project88.in

Risham Syed’s first solo exhibition in India titled ‘Metropolyptical: A Tale of a City’ was on view at Project 88. The artist portrays modern day Lahore, a place she calls home, yet remains a complete stranger to, due to the construction and deconstruction which is a mystic version of post-modernity.

Imagine getting a chance to see different collections of great art for an evening every month. Four to five hours of one’s time spent in appreciating the creativity of the young and the established felt like no time at all! I consider this a MUST DO if you are visiting Mumbai or are in South Mumbai when the next editions of Art Night Thursday are taking place.

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