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: http://www.londonbb.com/frieze-art-fair-london/

Frieze Art Fair exterior, 2013. Image Credit: http://www.londonbb.com/frieze-art-fair-london/

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: http://www.project88.in/individual-work.php?artfair=ARFR0020&workid=9

Forthcoming Titles, 2012, Raqs Media Collective. Image Credit: http://www.project88.in/individual-work.php?artfair=ARFR0020&workid=9

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: http://friezelondon.com/exhibitors/exhibit/5393/3942

Trotskyites Anonymous, 2013, Sarnath Banerjee. Image Credit: http://friezelondon.com/exhibitors/exhibit/5393/3942

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: http://friezelondon.com/exhibitors/exhibit/5498/3637

Solstice, 2013, Mehreen Murtaza. Image Credit: http://friezelondon.com/exhibitors/exhibit/5498/3637

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: http://friezelondon.com/exhibitors/exhibit/5424/4225

I was you, 2013, Aisha Khalid. Image Credit: http://friezelondon.com/exhibitors/exhibit/5424/4225

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: http://grosvenorgallery.com/art-fairs/current-art-fairs/frieze-masters/

Untitled (Landscape), 1965, F. N. Souza. Image Credit: http://grosvenorgallery.com/art-fairs/current-art-fairs/frieze-masters/

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: http://friezemasters.com/exhibitors/exhibit/5608/4287

A Scene in a Heaven,
Anonymous. Image Credit: http://friezemasters.com/exhibitors/exhibit/5608/4287

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.

Diver-Cities II

Elisabetta Marabotto of Saffronart shares a note on the forthcoming exhibition at Latitude 28 in New Delhi

Arun Kumar HG, Untitled, 2012

Arun Kumar HG, Untitled, 2012. Image Credit: http://www.latitude28.com/index.php/works/newarrival/793

London: Starting from August 27, Latitude 28 presents Diver-Cities II. This exhibition is a celebration of cultural and urban diversities within India.

Baiju Parthan, End of Season, 2012

Baiju Parthan, End of Season, 2012. Image Credit: http://www.latitude28.com/index.php/works/newarrival/794

Eleven contemporary artists from different parts of India have been tasked to reflect on the idea of ‘city’ and its related concepts such as identity and globalization. Their works have then been brought together in one single exhibition to present their different interpretations and contemporary art practices.

Sarnath Banerjee, Lalbazaar Detective Department: Lower Pile

Sarnath Banerjee, Lalbazaar Detective Department: Lower Pile. Image Credit: http://www.latitude28.com/index.php/works/newarrival/804

Among the artists feature Baiju Parthan, Sarnath Banerjee, Gigi Scaria, Arun Kumar HG, Praneet Soi and Sudipta Das.

Gigi Scaria, Icarus, Yet Another Attempt, 2013

Gigi Scaria, Icarus, Yet Another Attempt, 2013. Image Credit: http://www.latitude28.com/index.php/works/new
arrival/908

Sunil Khilnani in The Idea of India noted: ‘India’s cities are hinges between its vast population spread across the countryside and the hectic tides of global economy, with its ruthlessly shifting tastes and its ceaseless murmur of the pleasures and hazards of modernity. This three-cornered relationship decisively moulds India’s future economic, cultural and political possibilities. The demographic drift across the world is unstoppably towards the urban.’ ‘Modern India’s political and economic experiences have coincided most dramatically in its cities – symbols of the uneven, hectic and contradictory character of the nation’s modem life. From the ancient sacred space of Benares to the decaying colonial pomp of Calcutta, from the high rationalism of Chandigarh to the software utopia of Bangalore, from Bombay’s uneasy blend of parochial politics and cosmopolitan to the thrusting new cities of the north. The evident urban disjuncture’s have enlivened distinct political sentiments. The real and imagined experience of the city has individually and together reconstituted both the nature and the range of the selves, the ‘identities’ that Indians can call their own.’

Praneet Soi, The Dream, 2008

Praneet Soi, The Dream, 2008. Image Credit: http://www.latitude28.com/index.php/works/newarrival/803

For more information on the exhibition click here.

Sarnath Banerjee: Enchanted Geography

Elizabeth Prendiville of Saffronart discusses Sarnath Banerjee’s newest Berlin-based work “Enchanted Geography” 

New York: Sarnath Banerjee has delved into several disciplines in his career. Although he started with an academic career in the natural sciences and biochemistry, he has now dedicated his work to the arts, specifically creating graphic novels that illustrate a variety of cultural topics. Banerjee combines words and fanciful visuals in his work to portray storytelling and artistic expression. His works cover various cultural topics and controversies such as politics, sports, literature and art. Banerjee is no stranger to the Indian political environment that he often discusses in his work. Prior to this year, Banerjee and his wife, Pakistani artist Bani Abidi were living in New Delhi. The political ramifications between India and Pakistan directly interfered with her artistic career, specifically travel restrictions. This, along with a fellowship for Abidi, motivated their move to Berlin, Germany, the scene of his most recent work, “Enchanted Geography”.

“Enchanted Geography” was directly inspired by Banerjee’s experience acclimating to this new cultural environment. The work documents the mundane and casual elements of this environment just as carefully as the exciting and colorful aspects. In doing this Banerjee hopes to push aside the inventive stereotypes that Berlin is known for. In “Enchanted Geography” he has revived a protagonist from his past works, Brighu. By utilizing this character as the vessel for exploring Berlin, Banerjee saw the city through completely new eyes. It was ripe with imaginative narrative for him to discover and explore. Many of the artist’s true experiences in Berlin are directly integrated into the story. Encounters that Banerjee had with real individuals in Berlin, including a Jewish German composer. The artist comments on his usage of equal parts imagination and life experiences: “In my works fact and fiction collide in strange ways. That can only happen in your head”.

Sarnath Banerjee, from Tyranny of Cataloguing, 2008. Deutsche Bank Collection

Sarnath Banerjee, from Tyranny of Cataloguing, 2008. Deutsche Bank Collection. Image Credit: http://www.db-artmag.com/en/77/feature/enchanted-geography-sarnath-banerjee-forays-through-berlin/

Overall this examination of real life occurrences shows through in his strong development of unusual, yet life-like characters. His past project “Tyranny of Cataloguing” documented the trials and tribulations of an author stuck in a maze of books searching for his own work and later dying in the endless stacks of books. His most recent exhibition in London, “Gallery of Losers” examines the often overlooked mediocre, anti-hero archetype.  Through his illustrations and words alike, Banerjee has the ability to transport the viewer into an undisclosed, but not unimaginable world. He balances the normal and realistic, without losing site of the artistic and engaging element of the work.

Sarnath Banerjee’s “Enchanted Geography” will unfold over six months every Sunday in The Hindu, one of India’s largest newspaper publications.

To learn more about his project click here.

A Word of Thanks & Happy 2013!

Dear Readers,

Here’s wishing you a very happy and prosperous 2013 ! The past year was an eventful one for Saffronart as we introduced an array of new categories and collectibles by way of our auctions and The Story, our new website featuring unique objects in curated collections available for sale every day!

Happy New Year from Saffronart

It was also the inaugural year for our blog launched in April of 2012. In a span of six months, we have come a long way with a readership of 1600 plus. We were happy to feature exciting reviews reports and interviews through this course. Some highlights included a guest post on Arpita Singh’s New York solo exhibition at the DC Moore Gallery, a series of walk-throughs of the Metropolitan Museum’s new Islamic galleries, a review of Zarina’s solo show at the Hammer Museum, interviews withTarun Tahiliani and Shilpa Shah of the TAPI Collection, as well as collectors like Anupam Poddar,and Kamran Anwar weighing in on their favorite lots from our inaugural Pakistani  auction. Other exciting conversations included one between guest blogger Diana Campbell, artist Rathin Barman and gallerists Priyanka and Prateek Raja, an interview with the Director of the ARKEN Museum in Copenhagen and with Beth Citron, the curator of the Rubin Museum on their exhibition program dedicated to Modern Indian Art as also one with  Sarnath Banerjee about his London public art project, ‘Gallery of Losers’.

We thank you for your support and look forward to bringing timely and engaging news, interviews, images and more from our offices around the world. A special word of thanks for our guests bloggers for their contributions. We hope our regular posts on this blog continue to offer you new insights into the products we feature in our online auctions, new ideas about collecting, and also a new perspective on Saffronart.

Best wishes,

Team at Saffronart Blog

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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