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

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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.

Hanging Fire: Contemporary Art from Pakistan

Josheen Oberoi revisits the seminal 2009 exhibition Hanging Fire at Asia Society, New York

New York: Asia Society, the premier global institution promoting understanding between Asia and the United States, held the first museum survey exhibition of contemporary Pakistani art in the United States at their flagship space in New York in 2009. Curated by the renowned writer and curator Salima Hashmi, the exhibition Hanging Fire was a study on the vibrancy and multiplicity of praxis of contemporary artists in Pakistan.

On the occasion of Saffronart’s inaugural auction of Art of Pakistan, starting today, I retrace my steps to a piece I had originally penned for the Saffronart website in 2009. The show included the work of fifteen Pakistani artists in diverse media, many of who are part of the upcoming auction. As a survey exhibition of contemporary artists and art practices in the country, the exhibition served to undermine the monolithic perspective of Pakistan and its art that often still dominates the news media. The artists in the exhibition addressed contemporary concerns ranging from the personal and local to the regional and global, thus offering a glimpse into the active internal dialogues that animate Pakistan. What follows is a brief survey of what I saw.

Hamra Abbas
Ride 2
2008
Painted fiberglass and wood
Approx. H. 72 x W. 39 x L. 94 in.
Image courtesy of the artist and Green Cardamom
Image source: www.asiasociety.org
From the exhibition – Hanging Fire: Contemporary Art from Pakistan, Asia Society, New York, 2009-10

Amongst the works on display was Hamra Abbas‘s Ride 2, 2008, an electric-pink fiberglass sculpture of Buraq (a mythic winged creature – half woman, half horse) believed to be Prophet Mohammad’s holy mare. A popular motif in Pakistan, it is often illustrated in classical narratives. However, it was the folk representation of the Buraq that Abbas reproduced in this life-size work, that claims the religious icon within a female narrative, and, through it, signifies both power and freedom.

Naiza Khan
Spine
2008
Galvanized steel and suede leather
H. 26 x W. 12 5/8 x D. 6 3/8 in. (66 x 32 x 16 cm)
Image courtesy of Mahmood Ali
Image source: www.asiasociety.org
From the exhibition – Hanging Fire: Contemporary Art from Pakistan, Asia Society, New York, 2009-10

Adeela Suleman and Naiza Khan’s works also evoked questions of identity and of the politics of the body. Naiza Khan’s sculpture Spine, 2008, for instance was a corset-like cage made of galvanized steel with red suede stitched over it. The sculpture appeared to be an armour-like trap encompassing and protecting the body, but was also seductive in the choice, colour and texture of the suede. Explaining her work, the artist says, “These objects occupy a place between love and war, and are ambiguous in their position of aggression and seduction.”

The sculptures by Adeela Suleman displayed in the exhibition were made of found domestic objects (tongs, jars, funnels and spoons) and physically resembled the structure of helmets worn by two-wheeler drivers in Pakistan. In Suleman’s works, objects associated with female-use are re-framed within a non-domestic setting, evoking questions of gender roles and boundaries. Also included in the exhibition were photographs of women wearing these object-helmets, bringing immediacy to the works by inserting the gendered self into them.

Mahreen Zuberi
Open Wide I
2008
Gouache on wasli
H. 9 5/8 x W. 12 5/16 in.
Image courtesy of the artist
Image source: www.asiasociety.org
From the exhibition – Hanging Fire: Contemporary Art from Pakistan, Asia Society, New York, 2009-10

Mahreen Zuberi showed six “austerely rendered vignettes” of the symbiotic relationship between pain and pleasure, executed in gouache on Wasli paper. Using the traditional miniature format, the artist presented images of objects that had the relationship of aggressor and victim. In one of the works, for example, disembodied hands holding dentist’s tools probe a similarly body-less mouth set on a flat negative space. This exploration of the human psyche using inanimate objects is a familiar trope for the artist as also seen in the work below from the upcoming Saffronart auction.

Mahreen Zuberi
Hysteria
2008
Gouache on Wasli
10.5 x 15.5 in
From: Saffronart’s 24 Hour auction: Art of Pakistan, Lot 68

Imran Qureshi
Moderate Enlightenment
2007
Gouache on Wasli
8.5 x 6.5 in
From: Saffronart’s 24 Hour Auction: Art of Pakistan, Lot 31
Exhibited and published: Hanging Fire: Contemporary Art from Pakistan, Asia Society, New York, 2009-10

Imran Qureshi’s works share the same medium and scale as Zuberi’s, but are deliberately sociopolitical in their intent. Working in the tradition of Mughal miniature portraits, Qureshi contemporarized the figures in his paintings. On the surface, their setting, background and garb appeared traditional, but the figures were depicted exercising with dumbbells or reading contemporary books; questioning stereotyping based on appearance. Qureshi had also installed a site-specific painting at the Asia Society for this exhibition. One of his important works in the current auction that was part of the Hanging Fire exhibition is on the right here.

Like Qureshi, Faiza Butt deals with the issue of stereotyping, but relates it to the recent, global increase in tension and fear. In two of her works on display at Asia Society (Get out of My Dreams, I and II, 2008), she presented noble young men in settings reminiscent of ‘Paradise’, staring out of the frame to meet the viewer’s gaze. A closer examination of the works, however, revealed that the figures are surrounded by symbols of modernity and technology like hairdryers, wine glasses, electric razors, and US currency, and that the young men themselves are bedecked with signifiers commonly linked to contemporary religious radicalism.

Faiza Butt
Get out of my dreams I
2008
Ink on polyester film
H. 24 x W. 19 in.
Image courtesy of the artist
Image source: www.asiasociety.org
From the exhibition – Hanging Fire: Contemporary Art from Pakistan, Asia Society, New York, 2009-10

Huma Mulji
High Rise: Lake City Drive
2009
Taxidermic buffalo, sheet metal, fiberglass, henna, and Duco paint
H. 137 7/8 x W. 82 7/8 x D. 26 7/8 in.
Image courtesy of the artist
Image source: www.asiasociety.org
From the exhibition – Hanging Fire: Contemporary Art from Pakistan, Asia Society, New York, 2009-10

Two of the other artists, Huma Mulji and Asma Mundrawala, dealt with the specific concerns of urban-rural relationships and the changing landscape of Pakistan, albeit in divergent ways. Mulji’s installation (High Rise: Lake City Drive, 2009) – a vulnerable looking taxidermic buffalo placed on a high Greek column – confronted the question of progress as defined by changing economies and the uneasy relationship between urban and rural Pakistan.

Mundrawala confined her work to the context of Karachi and the effects of modernization on its landscape and culture. Her works included pop-up books and a video installation, which re-imagined nostalgic scenes from moments of popular culture. Using photographs of people she didn’t personally know from her family albums, she reinvented idyllic Karachi scenes that did not necessarily exist anymore, “recreating an unsatisfactory world by furnishing it with imagined alternatives”.

A reimagining of oppositions was also seen in Rashid Rana’s photographic montages. In Red Carpet I, 2007, he created an elaborate, vibrant mosaic of a Balochi carpet using images from Pakistani slaughter houses as its minute, bloody components, making his concerns with duality and contradiction explicit. Ayaz Jokhio’s drawings also emphasized the visual impact of physical forms and the incongruity of their different functions. In Diptych No 1, 2008, the image of a pen was juxtaposed with an enlarged drawing of a bullet, startling the viewer with both their visual similarities and the sharp divergence of their functions.

Rashid Rana
Red Carpet 1
2007
Edition 1/5; C-print + DIASEC
H. 95 x W. 135 in.
Image courtesy of Gallery Chemould and Chattertjee & Lal Mumbai
Image source: www.asiasociety.org
From the exhibition – Hanging Fire: Contemporary Art from Pakistan, Asia Society, New York, 2009-10

Bani Abidi’s ironic video titled Shah Pipe Band Learns The Star Spangled Banner, 2004, followed a brass pipe band in Lahore hired by the artist to learn the Star Spangled Banner (the American national anthem). Through this work, the artist captured the anxiety of the uncertain times in Pakistan, and the country’s ambiguous relationship with the West. The futility of the exercise of learning the tune and the irony of it underlined this sentiment for the artist.

Ali Raza
Throne II
2008
Burnt paper collage and acrylic on canvas
H. 72 x W. 48 in.
Image courtesy of the artist
Image source: www.asiasociety.org
From the exhibition – Hanging Fire: Contemporary Art from Pakistan, Asia Society, New York, 2009-10

Also on display were Anwar Saeed’s explicit illustrations in the book, I Pierre Seel, Deported Homosexual, a true story of a boy imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp for being homosexual. By rendering these images, fantastical and sexual in form, the written story of pain and humiliation was made personal by the artist.

Like Saeed, Ali Raza also used text, but as raw material for his paintings. He burned advertisements and used the ash to create collages with acrylic paint, commenting on the issues of censorship and corruption that continue to confront Pakistani society on a daily basis.

Importantly, paintings by Zahoor ul Akhlaq, who died in 1999, were also part of this exhibition. An important figure amongst Pakistani artists, he revived the techniques of miniature painting, and encouraged students to innovate with subject matter. This teaching is evident in one of his works that was on display, the triptych A Visit to the Inner Sanctum 1-3, 1997, which although in the style of miniature painting was abstract in content and form.

This exhibition represented the range and vitality of contemporary Pakistani art, in terms of medium as well as content. The exhibition, not being too far in the past, is also a significant marker in the continuing practices of these and many other artists living and working in Pakistan.

Frieze London 2012

Elisabetta Marabotto of Saffronart on one of the most avant-garde fairs in the world

London: The time of the year when all contemporary art lovers descend on London for one of the greatest international art fairs has just passed. Regent’s Park in the heart of the city just hosted the Frieze Art Fair & Frieze Masters 2012 for four days (11-14 October).

With its overwhelming size and number of participants, Frieze allows you to view some of the best art from all over the world and immerse yourself in a sea of colours, shapes and unspoken words.

The presence of South Asian art at the fair seemed to be more evident in this edition compared to previous years. Two Indian galleries, Chatterjee & Lal and Project 88, which was in the Frame section of the fair last year, confirmed their presence and many of well-known international galleries included works by Indian artists in their exhibits.

Nikhil Chopra, Yog Raj Chitrakar, Memory Drawing IV, 2010

Nikhil Chopra, Yog Raj Chitrakar, Memory Drawing IV, 2010
Image Credit: http://friezelondon.com/exhibitors/exhibit/4973/1083

Chatterjee & Lal focused its attention on performance art, with Nikhil Chopra and Hetain Patel, two artists who approach this form of expression in different ways. While Chopra mainly uses costumes, drawings and photography, Patel works with self-decoration, video and photography. The latter explores issues of identity using characters to which he contrasts and compares himself. Nikhil Chopra, on the other hand, expresses himself through live performances whose characters are quite auto-referential and discuss the issues of the modern world. Time is an essential element of his performances. The artist is fascinated by how things transform over time and how the repetition of events is almost ritualistic. However, once the performance is over we are left with pictures and drawings which document the act and have the task of bringing the emotions provoked by the performance back to life.

Hetain Patel, Mehndi 9, 2012

Hetain Patel, Mehndi 9, 2012
Image Credit: http://friezelondon.com/exhibitors/exhibit/4973/1058

Project 88 had on display a selection of works by Sarnath Banerjee from his project on the London Olympic Games, “Gallery of Losers”which ironically tackles the theme of winning/losing. For the first time in the history of the Olympics the attention is focused on the losers and the people who almost made it.

Sarnath Banerjee, High Jump (set of 16), 2012

Sarnath Banerjee, High Jump (set of 16), 2012
Image Credit: http://friezelondon.com/exhibitors/exhibit/4953/1381

In “Poise II” Neha Choksi engages with themes of detachment and disappearance using installation art. The piece comprises a mattress held up by vases containing faded flowers.

Neha Choksi, Poise II, 2010

Neha Choksi, Poise II, 2010
Image Credit: http://friezelondon.com/exhibitors/exhibit/4953/1377

The feelings of sadness provoked by this work are soon lightened by an installation by Raqs Media Collective called “Whenever the heart skips a beat”.

Raqs Media Collective, Whenever the Heart Skips a beat, 2011

Raqs Media Collective, Whenever the Heart Skips a beat, 2011
Image Credit: http://friezelondon.com/exhibitors/exhibit/4953/1379

The unusual clock moving forwards and backwards, skipping beats regularly, creates witty combinations of words. Also on display is Raqs Media Collective’s “The Philosophy of Namak Haram Revised”, a picture reflecting on all the things we should do but we cannot. One of these is the debt we have towards books which give us knowledge without being repaid. Thus, we all are ‘Namak Haraam’, innate debtors for the knowledge we constantly steal from books in our daily life. The other artists on display at Project 88 were Huma Mulji and the Otolith Group.

Raqs Media Collective, The Philosophy of Namak Haram Revised, 2012

Raqs Media Collective, The Philosophy of Namak Haram Revised, 2012
Image Credit: http://friezelondon.com/exhibitors/exhibit/4953/1378

Other Indian art works on display at Frieze were by Dayanita Singh at Frith Street Gallery, Shilpa Gupta at Yvon Lambert, Bharti Kher at Galerie Perrotin, and Anish Kapoor at Lisson Gallery. Corvi-Mora Gallery exhibited works by the Pakistani artists Imran Qureshi and Aisha Khalid.

Imran Qureshi, This leprous brightness, 2011

Imran Qureshi, This leprous brightness, 2011
Image Credit: Picture by the author.

This year, for the first time, Frieze opened the door to galleries displaying work by old masters as well, perhaps to attract visitors and illuminate some of the forms, techniques and concepts behind contemporary art. This newly opened section had on display different kinds of art up to the year 2000, leaving the exclusivity of the last 12 years to the main area of the fair. Frieze Masters enjoyed great success, rivalling TEFAF Maastricht, perhaps because of the merging of old masters, antiquities and some modern artists. In this section Indian art was on display at the booths of Sam Fogg and Francesca Galloway.

After this deep immersion in the art world, we will need a few days to process all of the images and the concepts behind the works. Frieze is definitely a unique yet overwhelming experience. Nevertheless, as always, I’m already looking forward to seeing what will be on display next year to please our eyes and stimulate our minds.

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