India’s art world is thriving with young and veteran talent alike constantly evolving, innovating and showcasing beautiful works of art. With more and more creative spaces and galleries opening up across the country, art is no longer limited to inaccessible high society galleries.
People have welcomed new avenues and mediums such as street art, installations and videos. As such, there have been some incredible showcases that have taken place by a variety of talents this year. From ‘anti-art’ fairs to the more traditional oil on canvas showcases, and even using art for a cause to raise funds for natural disasters.
Here’s a round-up of some of our favourite art showcases of 2018. With the spectacular art we’ve seen this year, we can’t wait to see what 2019 brings.
I. ‘Rekha@Sixty - Transient Worlds of Belonging’ at Sakshi Gallery, Mumbai
Known for her powerful work such as ‘Songs From The Blood Of The Weary’, iconic artist Rekha Rodwittiya was back with a bang on her 60th birthday with ‘Rekha@Sixty - Transient Worlds of Belonging’. The exhibition celebrates six decades of the artist’s growth and evolution and also contains some previously unseen multimedia work.
Rodwittiya had previously held a solo exhibition on the account of her 50th birthday in 2008. Crossing another decade, she believes that this showing represents her reflection of the social and political changes in India and elsewhere, that shape the discourses that embrace our existence. She tells Homegrown, “Though my territory of interest remains the same, it is the interventions of approach to it that are constantly changing. The archived photographic image becomes part of the palimpsest that situates memory and belonging.”
The exhibition is on at Sakshi Gallery, Mumbai till December 15, catch it while you can.
II. ‘India’s National Treasure Artists’ by DAG & Dr Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum
In the 1970’s, the Government crowned nine renowned artists as the “Navratna”, representing the emerging face of modern Indian art. These artists were icons of the changing socio-political landscape of the country, but are hardly recognised beyond knowing them for general knowledge for civil service examinations. Unfortunately, you won’t come across many young adults today who’d even recognise half of their names.
With this in mind, DAG collaborated with Dr.Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum to display prominent works of Raja Ravi Varma, Amrita Sher-Gil, Rabindranath Tagore, Gaganendranath Tagore, Abanindranath Tagore, Nandalal Bose, Jamini Roy, Nicholas Roerich, and Sailoz Mukherjee, in an attempt to get the public to engage with the various elements of these artists and their relationship with the work they produce.
More than simply a gallery viewing, DAG and Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum took extra measures to make the exhibition engaging and accessible. They held workshops and events curated around the art collection including free tours on the weekends in English, Hindi, and Marathi, and programs for school and college student groups.
The exhibition aimed to be accessible to those with special needs as well and a selection of the paintings were made tactile with Braille for the visually impaired. A special blindfold tour of these paintings was also conducted by Siddhant Shah. They were also tours for the hearing impaired, equipped with a sign language interpreter.
III. ‘Portrait of a Nation, A Nation in Portraits’ by Sarmaya
The month-long show featured vintage black-and-white and sepia-tinted photographs of 19th-century India captured by veteran photographers like Samuel Bourne, Felice Beato, John Nicholas and Charles Shepherd. This was online museum Sarmaya’s first photography exhibition and it chronicled not just the history of the nation but also the evolution of modern photography.
Going beyond the aesthetic framework of the space, each picture told stories about society and culture – forming an important link between the past and the present of the country. That has been Sarmaya’s aim all along, which we felt it had achieved in its debut exhibition. Their upcoming showcase ‘Issanama’ at the Serendipity Arts Festival in Goa reimagines the story of Jesus Christ in an Asian context.
You can see more of Sarmaya’s incredible collection here.
IV. ‘The Unity Of Opposites’ by Tanya Mehta at Rukshaan Art, Mumbai
In her exhibition, ‘The Unity of Opposites’, artist Tanya Mehta combined seemingly opposite elements into individual, lovely pieces that demonstrate the oneness in what one assumes to be dual. Pieces in the series included fine art prints, lenticular prints - printed images with an illusion of depth and movement - and animated light boxes that have the ability to change the image depending on the source of light be that front lit or backlit. Each piece was accompanied by a poem written by Mehta herself, and explored a different pair of opposites, such as Heaven vs Earth and Nostalgia vs Reality, through surreal and dreamlike images.
‘The Unity Of Opposites’ was Mehta’s fourth solo show. Her work has been exhibited all over the world, from London to Washington DC, but this Mumbai show was a return to home. Born in the city, Mehta studied photography at Goldsmiths University of London and went on to explore the art of new mixed media. She combines photography, collage, and digital painting to create beautiful and detailed artworks, and has explored the art of lenticular prints and light boxes to create dynamic and three-dimensional visuals.
You can see more of Tanya Mehta’s work at her website.
V. ‘S.H Raza: Traversing Terrains’ at Piramal Museum of Art
This showcase celebrated one of the most significant artists in Indian Modernism and a founder member of the Bombay Progressives. Curated by Vaishnavi Ramanathan, this was the first major exhibition of Sayed Haider Raza’s work following his passing in 2016.
The exhibition explored the unique amalgamation of influences on Raza’s work, from his classical French training to exposure to post-war American abstract expressionism and Bombay’s own art scene. The seminal artist’s impact on the Indian art world continues till date and the exhibition traced his development as an artist and philosopher, and offered insights into his contributions to independent-India’s artistic aesthetic.
VI. ‘The Irregulars Art Fair’
A three-day affair, ‘The Irregulars Art Fair’ was an ‘anti art-fair’ for independent artists, unlike any other we experienced before. Put together by fine artist and curator Tarini Sethi and Anant Ahuja, Creative Director at Bridge Studios, this anti-art fair brought together a variety of genres of art and culture, including fine arts, sculpture, music, architecture, dance and zines.
Taking over a rundown factory in New Delhi, the Fair was open to everyone and anyone to showcase their talent, with no limitation on what ‘true art’ can be, or should be. But why did they do this? “To challenge the traditional cultural landscape of the art market. To activate spaces that would not normally be used to show art by having low-cost exhibition spaces and low-cost entry for art patrons, public and practitioners alike we aim to widen the arts audience in India and broaden the dialogue of what constitutes value and economy in the 21st century,” they said.
VII. ‘Homomorphism-II’ by Queerala
Malayalee queer collection Queerala, brought together seven artists in ‘Homomorphism-II’ to showcase queer intimacy in India through art. The exhibition opened at the Kerala History Museum in Edappally and included the works of Pragya Pallavi (Mumbai), Aishwaryan Kumaran (Bengaluru), Arvin Ombika (Mauritius), Santanu Dutta (Calcutta), Sandeep T.K. (Bengaluru), Mahesh M. and Jijo Kuriakose (Kochi).
“Inspired from the innate synchronism of self-acceptance and self-representation, Homomorphism II is an art pursuit to mark the invisible impressions of same-sex intimacy,” stated Queerala. At a time when homosexuality was still criminalised and social conventions push the LGBTQ into the shadows, Homomorphism and Homomorphism-II provided safe spaces for explorations that would otherwise remain unknown.
VII. Social x Kranti Art Theory: ARTery
Social Offline partnered up with Kranti Art Theory to hold a silent art auction, ARTery to raise money for the reconstruction of Nagaland after it was hit with devastating floods, causing loss of lives, homes and infrastructure.
The silent art auction was held in Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Pune, and Chandigarh.
The artists curated by Kranti Art Theory including an exciting line-up of creatives such as Madhav Nair (deadtheduck), Sajid Wajid Shaikh, Nikhil Acquilla, Sashank Manohar(Skanke), Poorva Shingre, Tanya Eden, and Sushant Pawar. In Mumbai, the auction was kicked-off with a collaborative live event by Madhav Nair and Sajid Wajid Shaikh, who also spoke about their art pieces and interacted with the audience.
Turning to art for the better was a no-brainer for the team, as Shobita Kadan, Director- Marketing and Strategy, Impresario Hospitality and Entertainment Pvt. Ltd comments, “SOCIAL is an integral part of the cultural landscape of the young urban consumer. Both art and contributing to the greater good are things that matter to them - so why not bring both into one space? We wanted to provide a platform for artists who wished to contribute to the rehabilitations through their creations.”
IX. ‘Drawing Is Dead’ by Studio Khirki
Curated by Tarini Sethi, ‘Drawing Is Dead’ was a celebration of analogue artwork in a digital world. The show was held at Studio Khirki’s New Delhi exhibition space with stellar performances by Lush Lata and Priyam, two amazing female DJs and independent musicians.
At this unique art show, viewers got a chance to explore the world of drawing over three days of workshops and exhibits. Artwork by 57 different artists, including Priya Dali and Shweta Sharma, were on display, and the show provided an opportunity for artists and art-lovers to gain insight into the process of drawing. Displays included artist sketchbooks, zines and individual artworks, showcasing the beauty of everything hand-drawn.
Feature image credit: (L) S.H. Raza and (R) Sarmaya.
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