Public Art installation by Reena Kallat at the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum in Mumbai

Hena Kapadia takes a look at Reena Kallat’s latest public installation at the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum in Mumbai

Bhau Daji Lad Museum, interior, Mumbai

Bhau Daji Lad Museum, interior, Mumbai

Mumbai: Created by the artist, Reena Kallat and curated by the Bhau Daji Lad Museum in collaboration with ZegnArt/Public, this impressive ‘Untitled’ installation captures the viewers’ attention at once. Several rows of over sized rubber stamps form a cobweb covering the entire facade of the colonial era museum. Instantly invoking ideas of bureaucracy and the passage of time, each stamp on the web bears on it the name of a street which has been changed in the city of Mumbai as part of the renaming and decolonizing of the city. Like the museum itself, originally named the Victoria and Albert Museum, the city of Mumbai as well as the country as a whole has undergone a reclaiming of public spaces through the renaming of institutions, roads and even entire cities.

Reena Kallat's installation at Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum

Reena Kallat’s installation,“Untitled (Cobwebs/Crossings)” at Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum

Kallat is able to visually recreate the cobwebs of the past that continue to crowd our spaces, and will eventually be forgotten with the passage of time. Kallat’s project was chosen from a group of seven artist’s proposals including projects from Gigi Scaria, Hema Upadhyay and Sakshi Gupta by the curators of the museum and ZegnArt Public. A separate gallery space gives visitors an opportunity to see the proposals for projects that might have been.

Reena Kallat's installation at Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum (detail)

Reena Kallat’s installation at Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum (detail)

A gargantuan effort, this project ties into the Museum’s focus on the contemporary. Under director Tasneem Mehta, the museum has been host to a series of curated exhibitions in which contemporary artists are invited to respond to the Museum’s collections. Among several artists who have exhibited here are this year’s Skoda Prize winner, LN Tallur, Ranjani Shettar and Sudarshan Shetty.

Reena Kallat's installation at Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum (detail)

Reena Kallat’s installation at Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum (detail)

Read more about ZegnArt Public.

Hena Kapadia is a Mumbai based art professional, who has a Master’s Degree in Modern and Contemporary Art World Practice.

Urban Art in India

Guest blogger Hena Kapadia reflects on street art in Delhi and Mumbai and its value

Banksy Maid, London, Courtesy BBC

Banksy Maid, London, Courtesy BBC

Mumbai: Of late, there have been several instances of urban art in India and internationally that have grabbed the attention of people in both the art world and everyday life. While graffiti has been a part of urban life for years now, The Los Angeles County Museum of Art  (LACMA) held the first major show of street art in the United States in 2011, creating a new and more formal context for street artists like US based Shepard Fairey and UK based Banksy. These artists have worked extensively both in the street as well as through a concentrated and decidedly commercial studio practices. Read more about this exhibit.

Street Sign, Daku, New Delhi, 2013

Street Sign, Daku, New Delhi, 2013

India has it’s own brand of urban art – which so far hasn’t found its way into museums, and exists exclusively on the streets. Some of it is created organically, appearing innocuously all around us. Organic street art like the work of Daku, seen above on street signs in Delhi and below, as graffiti in Mumbai, have a sense of the uncanny, making them subtly provoking. By almost becoming part of our urban surroundings, Daku’s works leave viewers pleasantly surprised and amused.

Graffiti, Daku, Lower Parel Mumbai, 2012, Courtesy NH7

Graffiti, Daku, Lower Parel Mumbai, 2012, Courtesy NH7

At other times, street art in India is created for specific festivals and public spaces as temporary installations on the street. Mumbai recently saw the return of the Kala Ghoda Festival, which serves as host to several installations on the street, some of which are constrained by the public nature of the festival. For example this work by Paresh Maity titled “Ants” that blends in with the surrounding mechanical environment in the city. What is lost at times is the sense of subtly and cheek that is evident in Daku’s work.

Paresh Maity, Ants, Scrap Metal, Mumbai 2013

Paresh Maity, Ants, Scrap Metal, Mumbai 2013

What is interesting is which we perceive to be as street art  and  how we value these types of works. How much are these installations or reproduced pictures of them worth? Is its value in the free access it allows individuals to art? How is value ultimately affected by the artist’s decisions to work more out of a studio than on the street? Would you buy this kind of work from an art fair?

Hena Kapadia is a Mumbai based art professional, who has a Master’s Degree in Modern and Contemporary Art World Practice.

‘Vernacular Architecture’ in Chandigarh: Nek Chand’s Rock Garden

Guest blogger Tracy Buck visits the Nek Chand Rock Garden in Chandigarh, India

Chandigarh: In a project that paralleled Le Corbusier’s ‘master plan’ for the creation of Chandigarh, an Indian Government roads inspector named Nek Chand created and populated a fanciful, labyrinthine city from the refuse of the nationalist, official project of capital-building. Started in secret in 1958 and opened to the public in 1976, this sculpture garden popularly called Nek Chand’s Rock Garden occupies some 18 acres of land and is supported by the Nek Chand Foundation.

Working with urban and industrial waste – the cast-offs of the project to build an Indian capital for the post-Partition state of Punjab – Chand claimed and fashioned a landscape that might be thought of as a replacement for the village he left behind in what became Pakistan after the events of Partition. At its heart, the Rock Garden is a project of location amidst displacement, a coming to terms with and reorienting oneself during upheaval, of shifting together a new world in the wake of nation-building and Nehruvian positivist politics. It is a fantastical act of world-creation, that, while Le Corbusier’s ‘master plan’ operated at the official, highly visible, and nation-building level, Chand enacted in secret, a personal vision that would be today called ‘outsider art’ for its folk style and existence beyond the established borders of the art world.

In a manner perhaps similar to Vivan Sundaram’s trash projects of recent years (living.it.out.in.delhi, 2005; Trash, 2009; and Gagawaka, 2011), Chand’s work is in dialogue with issues of world-creation, waste and value, and the personification of discarded items that once had lives intimately connected to those of their owners. In Chand’s created world, people are fashioned out of broken glass bangles and bits of shattered pottery – refuse is assembled to resemble those who discarded it – and recognizable animals are placed alongside multiple-headed fantasy beasts. Fields of people and creatures are on display and oriented towards the pathway, while others seem to exist more for their own accord, positioned almost beyond sight atop a waterfall or behind a serpentine wall structure. To the visitor, the Rock Garden reads like a place that would exist whether anyone were there to see it or not, a created realm that is not contingent on viewership but that feels autonomous in its pleasantly rather haphazard construction.

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A small, hand-painted sign near the exit of the garden announces that Chand, aged 89, will meet with visitors to discuss the project and answer questions by appointment. A project that was threatened with destruction upon its discovery in 1975, ultimately supported by the government and opened to the public in 1976, and featured on an Indian postage stamp in 1983, today sees an estimated 5,000 visitors a day. Situated in Sector 1 of Le Corbusier’s planned city – beyond the official buildings of modernist architecture and the designed gardens that reflect Nehru’s efforts to ‘catch up’ with the West – the Rock Garden stands as a monument to the personal vision of Nek Chand.  An informal architect and ‘outsider’ artist, Chand has created a world that gives voice to the impulses of memory, fantasy, to the continuing lives of discarded objects, and to the unofficial projects that attempted to sort out at a personal level a post-colonial, post-Partition India.

For further reading, consider Nek Chand’s outsider art: the rock garden of Chandigarh, by Lucienne Peiry, John Maizels, Philippe Lespinasse, Nek Chand. Published by Flammarion, 2006.

For some spectacular  interactive panoramas of the Garden, visit the Nek Chand Foundation’s website.

Guest Contributor Tracy Buck is currently pursing a PhD in Art History at the University of California, Los Angeles.  She holds MA degrees in South Asian Cultures and Languages and in Museum Studies, and has worked as Collections Manager and Curator in several history and art museums in Seattle and Los Angeles.

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