Bharti Kher’s New Monumental Exhibition

Elisabetta Marabotto of Saffronart invites you to visit Misdemeanours, Bharti Kher’s largest solo exhibition in Asia

London: Misdemeanours is coming soon at the Rockbound Art Museum in Shanghai. Starting on January 11 the exhibition boasts to be the largest solo exhibition in Asia of the celebrated Indian artist Bharti Kher.

Self Portrait, Bharti Kher

Self Portrait, Bharti Kher. Image Credit:

The show, which occupies all six floors of the museum, features a selection of works created in the last 15 years by the artist as well as some site specific installations.

Kher uses different forms of art to express herself such as painting, photography and sculpture yet most of her works have in common monumental dimensions. The artist in this exhibition discusses the relationship between human beings and animals, hybridity, ethics, gender, politics, globalization and cosmopolitanism. The poetics of the body reveals Kher’s interests in entropy, mutation, and transformation, as witnessed by humans and animals alike.

The Skin Speaks a Language not its Own, Bharti Kher

The Skin Speaks a Language not its Own, Bharti Kher. Image Credit:

“The exhibition also includes two site-specific installations that serve as conceptual and physical “skins” that encase the museum’s monumental façade and conjoin two exhibition spaces on consecutive floors. These architectural interventions serve as mirrors to Kher’s own use of the bindi to serve as a carrier of the other, and an object that revels in both in its ability to decorate and enliven attention, as well as to subsume and obscure the gaze. ”

Kher has stated, “If I could remake my artistic career, I think I would be a minimalist painter. All the art that I love comes from the tradition of reduction—but I can’t because I’m super maximum!”

Misdemeanours, Bharti Kher

Misdemeanours, Bharti Kher. Image Credit:

Misdemeanours has been curated by Sandhini Poddar, Mumbai-based art historian and adjunct curator at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York and the works on display include loans from leading private and public institutions as well as new commissions.

The exhibition will be on until March 20 and it will be accompanied by events and a catalogue. For more information click here.



Gaitonde Retrospective coming to Guggenheim NY

Elizabeth Prendiville of Saffronart  announces an upcoming Gaitonde retrospective in New York.

New York: Coming next Fall (November 2014) the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City will be producing an exhibition of the late Vasudeo S. Gaitonde’s work.

This retrospective of Gaitonde is showing a new trend in the recent programming at the Guggenheim. Having just concluded a premiere retrospective of Zarina Hashimi, the Guggenheim Museum is showing modern and contemporary Indian artists more than ever.

For this upcoming retrospective, the first exhibition of the artist’s work since Saffronart’s show in 2011, Associate Curator of Asian Art, Sandhini Poddar hopes to gather forty pieces of Gaitonde’s work ranging in various mediums including oil and pencil.

These pieces will be borrowed from both private and public collections from all around the world.

Gaitonde’s work is considered non-representational and experimental and he is often referred to as India’s foremost abstractionist. However, prior to his death in 2001, the artist was quick to dismiss the term “abstract art” and preferred “non objective” to describe his subliminal imagery.

Throughout his career his work was included in premiere exhibitions, and is part of the permanent collections of institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Gaitonde was awarded the prestigious Padma Shri Award in 1971.

The Guggenheim hopes this expansive retrospective will tour to other institutions such as the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, the National Gallery of Modern Art in Delhi and their international sister institution Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, scheduled to open in 2017.

No matter the institution, a retrospective of Gaitonde’s work is sure to offer a collection of exceptional and pivotal paintings.

Guggenheim’s No Country: Contemporary Art from South and South East Asia: A Review

Manjari Sihare reviews the Guggenheim’s latest exhibition – No Country: Contemporary Art from South and South East Asia 

New York:  The exhibition, No Country: Contemporary Art from South and South East Asia represents the diversity of contemporary artistic practice from the region by way of a selection of work by twenty-two cross-generational artists. “No Country” implies borderlessness and that is the very essence of this show. In recent years, we have seen American museums such as the Rubin Museum of Art and the Asia Society host surveys of art from specific regions, whether it is modern and contemporary Indian art or Pakistani art, but this is probably the first time an American museum is showcasing a collective survey of South and South East Asian art . It facilitates a new way of seeing South and South East Asian art as an important part of and within the larger international contemporary art scene.

The curator of the show, June Yap, in her introductory note stresses on the choice of title adapted from a W.B. Yeats poem, a phrase that reads “No Country for Old Men” the show’s purpose, “to propose an understanding of regions that transcends physical and political boundaries”, and its outcome, “…it confirms that South Asia’s contemporary art is multifarious and highly evocative.”

Its raining Asian Art at the Guggenheim New York

Its raining Asian Art at the Guggenheim New York

Untitled 1, Rustam Series, 2011–12. Watercolor, gouache, and ink on paper, 27 1/2 × 19 5/8 inches (69.9 × 49.8 cm). Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York Guggenheim UBS MAP Purchase Fund, 2012 2012.143. © Khadim Ali

Khadim Ali, Untitled 1, Rustam Series, 2011–12. Watercolor, gouache, and ink on paper, 27 1/2 × 19 5/8 inches (69.9 × 49.8 cm). Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York Guggenheim UBS MAP Purchase Fund, 2012 2012.143. © Khadim Ali

It is noteworthy that the works in the show are part of a larger body of work acquired by the museum through funds made available by the Swiss bank, UBS, the main sponsor of the MAP initiative. The museum itself is representing a strong pan-Asian focus with its Manhattan flagship currently peppered with exhibitions of artists from the region. Of a total of six shows currently on view, four center around Asia – a retrospective of Gutai, Japan’s most influential avant-garde post-war collective, a solo show of New York based artist of Indian origin, Zarina Hashmi, an installation by Danh Vo, a Vietnamese artist living in Denmark, and the No Country exhibit. More so, the museum has recently announced the inauguration of another initiative to further the discourse on contemporary Chinese art.  The Guggenheim is joined by other museums in New York to focus on contemporary art from Asia, most noteworthy among which are of course the Rubin Museum and the Asia Society and more recently the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Met has roped in noted Pakistani contemporary artist, Imran Qureshi to create a site-specific work atop its Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Roof Garden (which has previously hosted works of international contemporary artists such as Tomas Saraceno). Such initiatives speak volumes about where the attention of the international art world is. Economics, of course has played a prominent role in defining this focus. But it is not limited to that. South and South East Asian Nation States have been challenging the western world’s monopoly in many disciplines, as is illustrated in the international art market in recent years.

What strikes most about the exhibition is the innovative selection of artists, more biennial regulars that art market favorites. It is a surprising selection but a very refreshing one. The twenty-two artists are from the length and breadth of the region including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Myanmar, Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam. The works largely address effects of colonization and globalization on national identity. Many of these nations have similar pasts, as a result of which, all the works speak to each other in a collective way.

Navin Rawanchaikul
Places of Rebirth, 2009
Acrylic on canvas, 220 x 720 cm
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Guggenheim UBS MAP Purchase Fund
© Navin Rawanchaikul and Navin Production Co. Ltd.
Photo: Courtesy the artist

Among the works that stood out for me were Navin Rawanchaikul’s 2009 canvas titled “Places of Rebirth” and Bani Abidi’s “The boy who got tired of posing”. Rawanchaikul is a Thai artist whose ancestral roots are in the Hindu-Punjabi communities of present day Pakistan. He holds a Japanese permanent resident status. In this iconic canvas rendered in quintessential Bollywood hand-painted hoarding style, the artist explores his personal identity. The canvas reads “A lonesome son of Hindu Punjabi diaspora and product of cross-cultural negotiation….From remote villages of Punjab to Northern Thailand…then a return after 60 years of wonder.” In the center, one sees the artist himself, with his Japanese wife and daughter riding the Tuk Tuk (ubiquitous Thai taxi and important symbol of the country’s tourism). The vehicle bears all three flags of the artist’s identity- India, Pakistan and Thailand. The Tuk-Tuk driver wears a cap “anywhere, anynavin” evocative of the impact of migration, colonization on individuals alike. This is a documentation of the artist’s first trip to Pakistan since his family moved out. The panoramic canvas is a humorous cinematic tale infused with symbolism from the history of India and Pakistan and the relationship of the two nations. You thus see pictorial anecdotes such as Khushwant’s Singh famous book on the partition of India, “Train to Pakistan”, a guard from the “lowering of the flags ceremony” at Wagah border, Pakistani truck art etc. At the center of most Rawanchaikul’s works is the notion of collaboration which we see here as well in the form of credits in the lower half of the canvas. The title points to the artist’s attempt to reconstruct the place where he is now as a site of rebirth.

Bani Abidi’s “The boy who got tired of posing” (see right)
Installation view: No Country: Contemporary Art for South and Southeast Asia, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, February 22–May 22, 2013
Photo: David Heald © Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation

Bani Abidi’s “The boy who got tired of posing” is a three – part photo and video installation centered around an eighth century Arab war hero, Mohammad Bin Qasim, credited  to be the first colonial founder of Pakistan owing to his victorious invasion of Sind in 711 CE. The video has humorous undertones. Through three imagined narratives – a series of studio photographs of a young boy posing as Bin Qasim, a video clipping of a TV drama on in Qasim’s conquest of the Sindh telecast in 1993, and present day photographs of a young man believing himself to be Bin Qasim – Abidi presents her take on the ‘Arabization’ of religious and cultural identity in Pakistan. A Pakistani artist based in Karachi and Delhi, Abidi usually deals with the political and cultural tension between India and Pakistan in her work. In an interview with Nafas Art Magazine, Abidi explains, “by presenting exaggerated scenarios of a nation that takes refuge in a selected glorious past, I hope to engage viewers in questions about the need or the extent to which we limit our identities.”

Tayeba Begum Lipi Love Bed, 2012Stainless steel, 81.3 x 213.7 x 185.4 cmSolomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Guggenheim UBS MAP Purchase Fund© Tayeba Begum Lipi Photo: Kristopher McKay © Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York

Tayeba Begum Lipi
Love Bed, 2012
Stainless steel, 81.3 x 213.7 x 185.4 cm
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Guggenheim UBS MAP Purchase Fund
© Tayeba Begum Lipi
Photo: Kristopher McKay © Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York

Other interesting works included Bangladeshi artist, Tayeba Begum Lipi’s Love Bed, a stainless steel structure composed of razor blades and paper clips, exhibited last at the 2012 Dhaka Art Summit; Shilpa Gupta’s 1:14:9, a sculptural piece documenting the numerical data about the fenced border between India and Pakistan; and Filipino artist, Norberto Rolden’s diptych canvas showing an F-16 fighter jet flying over Afghanistan on one side, and a quote by former US president, William McKinley on the other. The work is a commentary on the politics around the colonization of Philippines.  Another notable inclusion is a group of three contemporary miniature paintings by Pakistani artist, Khadim Ali.

Norberto RoldanF-16, 2012Oil and acrylic on canvas, 182.9 x 365.8 cm overall, diptych Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Guggenheim UBS MAP Purchase Fund© Norberto Roldan Photo: Courtesy the artist and TAKSU, Singapore

Norberto Roldan
F-16, 2012
Oil and acrylic on canvas, 182.9 x 365.8 cm overall, diptych
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Guggenheim UBS MAP Purchase Fund
© Norberto Roldan
Photo: Courtesy the artist and TAKSU, Singapore

Complimenting the exhibition is a series of 5 videos/films which are on view on all days except Friday when the New Media Theatre plays host to a special educational film program. I missed this but will definitely go back for these works. Holland Cotter’s review in The New York Times also lists Amar Kanwar’s work as worth seeking out.

All the works in the show are juxtaposed with interpretative captions for the global audience which sometimes leave you asking for more, especially in the context of specific regional references, unknown to an American audience. The exhibition is scheduled to travel to Singapore and the Asia Society in Hong Kong wherein the Guggenheim team will collaborate with curators at these venues to adapt the display to the audiences there. It will be interesting to see how and whether the interpretive materials are transformed for the Asian venues, where the audience is most likely to be more familiar with the histories and references than their American counterparts.

The overall reception of the exhibit is best summarized in this reaction from an American woman viewing the show: “Thank God! No Al Qaeda!” The exhibition, though small, has moved beyond the cliches that have shadowed the region.

Contemporary Bangladeshi art at the Guggenheim Museum

Elisabetta Marabotto of Saffronart on the Guggenheim Museum’s recent acquisition of an artwork by Tayeba Begum Lipi

London: From February 22, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York will host the exhibition ‘No Country: Contemporary Art for South and Southeast Asia’, featuring works by 22 artists from Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Pakistan, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. This is the inaugural exhibition of the Guggenheim UBS MAP Global Art Initiative, which after New York will be travelling to Singapore and Hong Kong. All the works featuring in the show have been acquired by the museum and will become part of its permanent collection.

Among the 22 artists featured is Tayeba Begum Lipi, one of Bangladesh’s leading contemporary artists, whose work is critically acclaimed both nationally and internationally. She was one of the five artists chosen to represent Bangladesh in the country’s first pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2011, and in April 2012 she also participated in the inaugural Dhaka Art Summit. Through her work, Lipi explores the feminist issues of marginality and representation of the female body. She strives to understand why the notion of beauty is largely determined by heterosexual male sensibilities. This concept is often illustrated through the use of razor blades as one of her main materials.

Love Bed, Tayeba Begum Lipi, 2012. Image Credit:

Love Bed, Tayeba Begum Lipi, 2012. Image Credit:

Lipi’s ‘Love Bed’ which was exhibited at the Dhaka Art Summit last year has been chosen for the Guggenheim’s collection.

We are currently featuring one of the artist’s works on on The Story by Saffronart, in the Bangladesh focused collection, Tastemaker: Nadia Samdani. So, if you want to follow the Guggenheim’s steps in starting a collection of contemporary South Asian art, simply click here.

Private, Tayeba Begum Lipi, 2012. Image Credit:

Private, Tayeba Begum Lipi, 2012. Image Credit:

More information on the Guggenheim exhibition can be found on the museum website and in this article.

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