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.

Imran Qureshi’s Inaugural Solo Exhibition in Rome

Elisabetta Marabotto of Saffronart suggests a visit to the MACRO in Rome for Imran Qureshi’s first solo exhibiton in Italy

Installation Shot at MACRO, Rome

Installation Shot at MACRO, Rome

London: The MACRO (Museum of Contemporary Art of Rome) is hosting Imran Qureshi’s first solo exhibition in Italy in collaboration with Deutsche Bank.

After being nominated Deutsche Bank “Artist of the Year” 2013 and after completing a large scale site specific installation at the MET in New York, Qureshi concludes a very successful artistic year with this exhibition.

Installation Shot at MACRO, Rome

Installation Shot at MACRO, Rome

Qureshi, one of the leading contemporary Pakistani artists, is internationally renown for the creation of contemporary miniatures. The artist in his work discusses the current socio-political situation in Pakistan including delicate topics such as terrorism using mainly traditional painting techniques on wasli (handmade paper). The dichotomy between violence and hope, destruction and creation are also permanent features in his art as well as the evocative red colour and the flower pattern which denote Qureshi’s optimism and peaceful resistance.

Imran Qureshi in an interview with Amna Tirmizi Naqvi said about his choice of studying miniature paintings:

“I did not choose it, it kind of chose me. I was adept at it and therefore Professor Bashir, the teacher who was conducting the course, insisted and declared that he felt I was really suited for it. I chose painting but he kept insisting. Contrary to his opinion I had my own misgivings and I replied that the tradition did not suit my temperament. He quoted a mahawara, which is witty idiom in Urdu. He stated that “we can tell from the aroma emanating from the cauldron about the condition of a single grain of rice”. I thought that if a teacher is conveying this idea with such persistence, there must be some truth in it.”

Installation Shot at MACRO, Rome

Installation Shot at MACRO, Rome

The present exhibition features recent works by Qureshi, some of which had been exhibited at the Deutsche Bank Kunsthalle in Berlin, including miniatures, oval canvases as well as site specific installations. The museum space is fitting to Qureshi’s works as it offers a classical presentation for the miniatures and a contemporary environment for the installations.

The exhibition stimulates the viewers to embark on a critical discourse on culture, politics and religion and their misconceptions and stereotypes.

Below you can enjoy a selection of the works on display.

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The exhibition is on until November 17, so you are still in time to visit Imran Qureshi’s first Italian solo exhibition at the MACRO in Rome! For more information click here.

Imran Qureshi, Raqib Shaw and Idris Khan among the 50 Most Collectible Artists

Shradha Ramesh comments on ART+AUCTION’s 2013 list of The Next Most Collectible Artists Under 50

New York: In continuation of last year’s list of 50 collectible artists by ART+AUCTION, this year, the list focuses on artists under the age of 50.

The selected artists have global backgrounds, and are well known in the international art circle for their solo exhibitions and awards. The list encompasses artists such as Ernesto Neto from Brazil, Raqib Shaw, an Indian artist based in London, and others from Southeast Asia such as Chiharu Shiota and Eko Nugroho.

The shortlisted artists represent a versatile spread of techniques, mediums and styles. When it boiled down to the reason for choosing these artists, according to the editors, “…two reasons for this emerged. First, there is a genuine resurgence of non-representational painting as artists under 50 re-examine that key modernist pursuit. Second, collectors perennially favor painting because it is understandable within an established tradition and is comparably easy to display and conserve.”

According to the article, the other artists to take note of are Imran Qureshi, Ali Kazma, Tala Madani, and Idris Khan.

To read the full ART+AUCTION articles see Part 1 and Part 2.

Venezia Calling

Kanika Pruthi of Saffronart talks about the South Asian artists participating at the 55th Venice Biennale

New York: 2013 seems to have had a promising start for the art world considering the reviews received from the art fairs so far. Frieze New York opened this May with around 180 galleries from 40 countries showing works in all media, including performance. The visual and sensory frenzy then travelled across the seas to Hong Kong, which witnessed the debut of Art Basel Hong Kong, the commercial success of this venture still a worthy point of conversation in the art circles. They say the market has been resurrected, and the buzz continues at the 55th Venice Biennale which opened its doors to art aficionados from around the world on 1 June.

Massimiliano Gioni, Director of the 55th Venice Biennale

Massimiliano Gioni, Director of the 55th Venice Biennale. Image Credit:

Massimiliano Gioni, the Director of this edition of the Biennale, titled this year’s exhibition The Encyclopedic Palace. Echoing the credentials of its Director – heralded as one of the youngest, innovative and most talented international curators seen in recent years – it is no surprise that this year’s Biennale has already gathered overall positive reviews in its first week. The eclectic ensemble exhibited this year mirrors Gioni’s refreshing approach, which shuns the dichotomies of high and low art, insider and outsider artist – there is a place for one and all under the Venetian sun.

Several works by artists from India and the subcontinent are on display this year, signaling a continued affiliation with the biennale after the debut of India’s National Pavilion at the 54th edition in 2011.

Dayanita Singh is among four non-German artists showing in the German Pavilion this year. During the opening preview on May 30, she signed and stamped limited edition copies of her latest photo-book File Room for visitors. At the Biennale she will show photos from her 2001 work Mona, which chronicles the life of a eunuch living in India. Singh has worked with the subject for over a decade now. The continuity-and-change binary in her practice and the elusive meaning and layered contexts, seem to echo the dominant theme of the Biennale and the curatorial context of Gioni’s efforts, which highlight the changing landscape of artistic practice today – redefining and re-imagining existing models which are in a constant state of flux yet ever-present.

Outpost, Samar Singh Jodha

Outpost, Samar Singh Jodha. Image Credit:

Samar Singh Jodha is showing his work titled Outpost in the Arsenal. The work is a commentary on global consumerism and its impact on aesthetics – intentional and accidental. The subject of his work is discarded containers fashioned into habitat by miners in India’s pristine northeast. He utilizes this pictorial trope to invite interplay of narratives around consumerism and the impact of technology.

Imran Qureshi, one of the most acclaimed contemporary Pakistani artists, known for his modern miniatures inspired by Mughal art, is also showing at Venice this year. His series of miniature paintings titled Moderate Enlightenment (of which one featured in Saffronart’s first Art of Pakistan Auction last year) depicts various characters taking part in everyday activities. These images embody cultural shifts and quietly counter Western preconceptions, while commenting on the scenarios and situations in his native Pakistan.

Moderate Enlightenment, Imran Qureshi

Moderate Enlightenment, Imran Qureshi. Image Credit:

Faiza Butt, born and raised in Lahore, Pakistan, is exhibiting her pop culture infused works at the exhibition. Her works also draw from the miniature tradition, while commenting on current and controversial themes that explore issues of politics, gender and identity.

To read more about the 55th Venice Biennale click here.

Imran Qureshi at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Manjari Sihare shares some snippets of Imran Qureshi’s work at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York 

New York: The Imran Qureshi Roof Garden Commission at the Metropolitan Museum, New York is now on view.  Entitled The Roof Garden Commission: Imran Qureshi, the project represents the artist’s emotional response to violence occurring across the globe in recent decades and his earnest hope for regeneration and lasting peace in the aftermath of man-made disasters. Here are some snippets from the special Frieze Art Fair VIP Preview held on Friday, May 10th. Watch this space for more on this spectacular exhibit. For all New Yorkers and those visiting for the Frieze Fair,  this is a must-see!

All images are courtesy the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

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