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Indian art attracts European response at Spanish fair

Indian art is the flavour of the season in Europe, with over 100 works of 54 contemporary artists of the country being under the spotlight at the ongoing 28th edition of the ARCO-Madrid.

art and culture Updated: Feb 13, 2009 20:24 IST

Indian art is the flavour of the season in Europe, with over 100 works of 54 contemporary artists of the country being under the spotlight at the ongoing 28th edition of the ARCO-Madrid - one of the most prestigious art fairs of the continent.

ARCO-Madrid opened on Wednesday at the sprawling trade fair complex of the Institucion Ferial de Madrid (IFEMA) - the country's official agency that hosts international trade conclaves - in the business district of the Spanish capital.

The mood was one of hard business as the top officials of ARCO-Madrid set the tone of the Feb 11-16 event, introducing India as the guest country and fair highlight to the European press, investors and collectors.

Artists in their 20s and 30s are the toast of the Indian selection. They are exhibiting an amazing variety of art that includes sculptures, video installations, electronic art, performance art, photographs and new media art practices that combines diverse genres like sound, theatrics and visual art - far removed from the shadow of the early modern masters.

"I am very happy with the representation of artists and the quality of artworks on display from India. We are upbeat about the response over the next five days," ARCO-Madrid director Lourdes Fernandez told IANS.

The Indian Panorama centres around an exhibition featuring art works by young artists curated by Bose Krishnamachari, a leading contemporary artist.

"The primary aim was to showcase the country?s diversity. I shortlisted the artists and requisitioned the galleries they are associated with to select the artworks and filtered them. We deliberately stayed away from traditional art while portraying Indian realities because the boundaries between local and global are blurring. Young art is mirror to the society," said Krishnamachari.

A look at the Indian Panorama section and interactions with galleries from New Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore suggested new trends.

The focus is shifting from conventional canvas art to installations and new media art that intend to drive home social messages. Moreover, photographs of the Indian way of life were being considered legitimate works of art in the quality-conscious Spanish market controlled by museums, institutions, high-end galleries and moneyed individual collectors.

Even as new faces like Jitish Kallat, Shilpa Gupta, Dayanita Singh, Nilima Sheikh, Chintan Upadhyay, Manjunath Kamath and Pors & Rao are finding berths in European collections, Subodh Gupta continues to be a popular name in terms of interest and prices. However, he is not on the Indian Panorama list at ARCO-Madrid.

Gallery owners said the initial response to their art was more than satisfactory.

Peter Nagy of Nature Morte Gallery has two kiosks at ARCO-Madrid. The gallery is also hosting photographer Dayanita Singh in a solo show.

According to Nagy, the response on day one to Singh's black-and-white snapshots of the Sundarban delta and coloured trees was "very positive".

"Photography has become an oeuvre because of the lot of machinery and processes involved. It does hold a space on the wall," Nagy said.

Mumbai-based Bodhi Art is exhibiting new age art by Shilpa Gupta. The collection comprises a body of light art, photographs and microphone installations that talk of the changing world and "India?s tryst with destiny" culled from Jawaharlal Nehru?s historic speech.

The centrepiece of the show titled Tryst with Destiny, a microphone installation with photographs and an excerpt of Nehru?s speech set to music, is already closed for sale. It was priced at 10,000 Euros ($13,000).

"The buyer is a Madrid-based European collector," said Sharmishtha Ray of Bodhi Art.

According to her, Shilpa Gupta, who works with light and sound, has a "strong market" outside India.

"She is very popular in France. But I noticed that Spanish, Swiss and Belgian collectors are also taking time out to enquire about her works," Ray said.

Mumbai-based gallery Chemould Prescott is exhibiting photographs, mixed media and installations by Jitish Killat.

"The reason why he is liked across Europe is the fact that his works are rooted in his country and city, Mumbai, where he lives. His dialogue has always been between himself and his city and the chaos that surrounds him," said Shireen Gandhy of Chemould Prescott.

Two of his works -- Aquasaurus, a sculpture depicting an old skeleton-like water carrier and a series of water paintings on paper titled Traumanama -- drew huge crowds.

Gallery Espace is pitching Chintan Upadhyay and young installation artist Manjunath Kamath, who has generated curiosity with his sculpture Vishnu Vilas.

"The market has witnessed a lot of corrections lately and it has given buyers access to good art at affordable prices," said Sunil Gautam, managing director of Hanmer MS&L, which is trying to rope in European galleries for its Aug 19-22 India Art Summit in New Delhi.