The Kochi-Muziris Biennale begins today!

Manjari Sihare shares details of the much awaited Kochi- Muziris Biennale

Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2012 An interactive map of India's First Biennale celebrating contemporary artists from around the world.

Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2012 An interactive map of India’s First Biennale celebrating contemporary artists from around the world.

New York: The date 12.12.12 is going to go down in India’s books for more than one reason.  The country’s largest contemporary art event, and its first biennale, the Kochi-Muziris Biennale is being inaugurated today across different venues in the Fort Kochi area of Cochin in Kerala, South India. While India has a strong history of hosting triennales, the very first of which was organized in 1968 by the legendary Mulk Raj Anand, the Kochi- Muziris Biennale will be the first biennale in the country.

Typical of the phenomenon of an international art biennale, this one is also centered on the city, in this case, invoking the underlying multi-ethnic spirit of the modern metropolis of Kochi and its mythical past, Muziris, the recently excavated ancient city that was buried under layers of mud and mythology after a massive flood in the 14th century. The biennale is the brain child of eminent contemporary Indian artists, Bose Krishnamachari and Riyas Komu. The first edition will feature approximately 90 Indian and international artists, introducing contemporary international visual art practice to India in manner not done before. Special highlights include newly commissioned works by artists such as Ariel Hassan (Argentina), Amanullah Mojadidi (Afghanistan), Anita Dube (India), Sudarshan Shetty (India), Subodh Gupta (India), Hossein Valamanesh (Iran/Australia), Tallur LN (India), Vivan Sundaram (India), Sheela Gowda (India), Joseph Semah (Netherlands), Nalini Malani (India), Atul Dodiya (India), UBIK (Dubai), Rigo 23 (Portugal), Jonas Staal (Netherlands), Dylan Martorell (Scotland/Australia), Ernesto Neto (Brazil). British singing sensation of Tamil descent, Mathangi Arulpragasam (M.I.A.) has been roped in to perform at the inauguration. Known for her avant-garde music, M.I.A. has previously shared stage space with the likes of Madonna and Rihanna, as well as  been a part of the A.R. Rahman’s team for the music of Slumdog Millionaire.

The event is a multi-faceted one including a two-day symposium, ‘Site Imaginaries’, on 15 & 16 December, 2012.  From the situated ground point of Kochi, the symposium aims to explore and retrieve memories in the current global context to posit alternatives to political and cultural discourses, and build a platform for dialogue for a new aesthetics and politics rooted in the Indian experience. The panelists include Aman Mojadidi, Amar Kanwar, Ariel Hassan, Ashok Sukumaran , Atul Dodiya, Clifford Charles, Shahidul Alam, Gayatri Sinha, Geeta Kapur, Gulammohammed Sheikh, Jonas Staal, Joseph Semah, Marieke van Hal, Nalini Malani, Nancy Adajania, Paul Domela, Pooja Sood, Ranjit Hoskote, Riyas Komu, Robert Montgomery, Sarat Maharaj, Tasneem Mehta, Vivan Sundaram, Vivek Vilasini.

The biennale will be held across different venues including the Aspinwall House loaned to Kochi-Muziris Biennale by DLF Limited in association with the Gujral Foundation, a restored Dutch bungalow called David Hall, spice warehouses and heritage structures being opened to the public for the first time ever. Characteristic of leading biennales across the world, this one too is expected to give a boost to the State’s economy.

Read more.

Marg – A Path Less Trodden

Nishad Avari of Saffronart explores the history of India’s pioneering art and architecture magazine

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Mumbai: Over the last 66 years, Marg magazine and its associate publications have lived through several logos and avatars. Soon after Marg was founded as a not-for-profit publisher in 1946, with the support of industrialist and philanthropist J.R.D. Tata, Marg became a division of Tata Sons Ltd. In 1986, it was moved under the umbrella of the newly established National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA), and finally, in 2009, the Marg Foundation was created as an independent Public Charitable Trust.

Marg, established as a magazine dedicated to art and architecture, was first published in October 1946, a year before India’s independence. The publication was founded by novelist and writer Mulk Raj Anand, who served as Editor for several of its volumes. As the Marg website notes, “With ‘seven ads and two rooms’ provided by the visionary industrialist J.R.D. Tata, it took up the massive task of identifying, cataloguing, and publicizing the nation’s heritage in the built, visual, and performing arts.”

Over the next decades, Anand, along with Assistant Editor Anil de Silva and Art Advisor Karl Khandalavala, led and firmly established this independent quarterly journal as one of the country’s most well-regarded publications in the fields of art and architecture. Following Anand’s long and celebrated tenure as editor, Saryu Doshi and Pratapaditya Pal led the publication, and this year, Vidya Dehejia took over the post.

Saffronart’s Words & Lines III Auction, held earlier this year, featured two issues from the very first volume of the magazine, published in January and April 1947 respectively, which included articles contributed by Frank Lloyd Wright, Karl Khandalavala, Herman Goetz, John Terry, Martin Russell and Kekoo Gandhy among others. A treasure trove of information and a collector’s delight, this set sold for more than four times its estimate.

An excellent resource for the study of ancient Indian art and culture as well, early Marg magazines have included some of the most pioneering scholarship on sites like Ajanta and Ellora, Khajuraho, Hampi and Konark. Saffronart’s collection From the Library of a Collector, features several early Marg publications on these subjects, as well as on the Heritage and Splendours of India.

Today, from its headquarters at the historic Army & Navy Building in Mumbai’s Kala Ghoda art district, Marg publishes quarterly issues of its magazine (currently in its 63rd volume) and four hard bound books each year. The Marg Foundation also collaborates with various entities to publish several single author books and other special publications, and has produced a few documentary films as well.

Mulk Raj Anand in the Indian National Archives

Sneha Sikand of Saffronart on the Indian National Archives’ latest acquisition

Mulk Raj Anand (1905 – 2004)
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New Delhi: Eight years after celebrated novelist Mulk Raj Anand’s demise, the National Archives has been able to acquire a collection of his belongings – 88 sealed boxes that contain documents spanning articles and jottings by Anand on the political shape of India, particularly his papers on the Asian-African Conference of 1955. Other items include his personal letters, notes, books and other jottings.

As part of the archival process, the boxes need to be air-cleaned, fumigated, and finally get classified. The idea is to have an entire room dedicated to the writer. The Mulk Raj Anand Room will be a space for all the invaluable material  which could serve as a well documented history of the world during his time.

Known widely for his novels Untouchable, The Village, and Coolie among others, he was one of the first Indian novelists to write in English. Despite some amount of resistance from Anand’s family members, his trust was finally handed over to the archives.  Known as the “founding father” of the Indo-English novel, social awareness was the core of most of his writings. Despite his serious writings, one gets a very good picture of his humorous and self-mocking side while reading his Self Obituary written in 1999, five years before his death.

Read more about his collection at the National Archives.