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India takes over Paris

art-and-culture Updated: Jun 25, 2011 00:34 IST
Damini Purkayastha
Damini Purkayastha
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

The Pompidou Centre was crawling with Indian artists. The inside-out architectural curiosity was open to just a select few — some art collectors from Paris, London and India, the French media and the odd journalist from India.

Delhi-based artist Subodh Gupta, dressed in a blue coat with matching glasses, could be seen introducing his giant installation Ali Baba to some visitors, while graphic artist Sarnath Banerjee gave sound bytes to a TV channel, explaining his fantastical animated narrative.

The exhibition, Paris-Delhi-Bombay, kicked off in Paris on May 25 with a special lunch for the who’s who of the art frat hosted by French luxury brand and patrons of Indian art, Louis Vuitton. The show includes works by 30 contemporary Indian artists and 20 French artists — each interpreting the great Indian experience.

The Indian line-up includes Nikhil Chopra, who performs live; Tejal Shah , who explores trans-sexuality; videos by Shilpa Gupta, Ayisha Abraham and Kader Attia and works by Atul Dodiya, Jitish Kallat, Sonia Khurana, Vivan Sundaram and Sudarshan Shetty among others.

Sounds like a lot of art, doesn’t it? Well it is, and you’d be well advised to keep a couple of hours in hand if you hope to do justice to the mammoth exhibition.

Just outside the main exhibition area is an installation by French artist Orlan on the theme of the hour — a giant hybrid flag of Indian and French national flags made of sequins. As you walk in, past Krishnaraj Chonat’s tribute to e-waste, the central foyer is lined with charts and videos giving you a quick (and slightly cliched) introduction to Indian Gods, TV serials and Shah Rukh Khan.

Just around the corner, is French artists Pierre et Gilles’ kitschy look at Indian mythology, but it’s Leonardo Elrich, who steals the show when it comes to French interpretations. His installation is a lazily done-up bedroom, with magazines and discarded clothes. On both sides of the room are two windows — one overlooks the streets of Paris while the other has a video of a Mumbai street.

Popular with French visitors are Hema Updadhyay’s recreation of the Mumbai slums (made using recycled material) and Sunil Gawde’s Red Gardlands. Seemingly innocuous, on close inspection, the garlands turn out to be made of painted red razors. For artists, the exposure of Indian art to a new audience is always a boon. “It is great so much art has come under one roof, it will give people an idea of the scope of Indian art,” says Gupta.

Paris-Delhi-Bombay is on till September 19 at the Centre Pompidou. For more log on to www.centrepompidou.fr

New-age site in a historic city
The Centre Georges Pompidou rises up, literally out of nowhere, along the picturesque Rue Beauborg. A bulky, multi-coloured structure that looks more like an inverted factory than an art gallery, the centre is hailed among the landmark art spaces of the 21st century. Designed between 1971 and 1977, it was hailed by The New York Times as having “turned the architectural world upside down”. The Centre initially faced severe criticism from purists across France, who felt it’s strange architecture marred the Parisian landscape. However, the jury of the Pritzker Architecture Prize called it revolutionary, saying it brought the hitherto elite space of monuments and art into a more popular space of social exchange, at the heart of the city.

Anish Kapoor, Bharti Kher recently awed France too
This summer, Indian artists have been headlining at galleries across Paris. At the Grand Palais des Champs-Elysees, British-Indian sculptor Anish Kapoor unveiled one of his largest installations ever — a 35 metre PVC sculpture called Leviathan. The exhibition was hailed as one of Kapoor’s most ambitious shows. Also, on till last week at the Galerie Perrotin was an exhibition of works by Delhi-based artist Bharti Kher. Titled — Leave Your Smell- for the exhibition Kher used domestic, everyday objects to tell urban stories.