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Indian Spring Season, Flash Art International, Milan

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It is almost impossible to miss the new zeitgeist that has crossed the continents for London and the UK. Art from the Indian subcontinent has settled upon our shores like a welcome handshake from the old colonies. Like China, India has developed beyond all recognition, and both countries are positively thriving on their ambition for economic and cultural supremacy.

The institutions of contemporary art in London have followed such economic shifts and have taken to introducing Indian art to a palpable new audience. Artists like Subodh Gupta, his wife Bharti Kher, Jitish Kallat, TV Santhosh and Atul Dodiya are among a new elite of young Indian artists that have already conquered the international art scene and cemented a reputation for themselves. They suc-ceed Anish Kapoor, the revered British sculptor who was granted permission recently to fill the exhibition corridors of the Royal Academy with red wax and a firing cannon. It may not have been Kapoor who introduced Indian art to the capital — in fact, he has been vocal about not wanting to be associated with such trends — but explosive painterly work at the RA has only helped to trigger something of a landslide for all things Asian in London, including an aptly titled Indian Winter season on Channel 4 television. While audiences were drawn to the sheer scale and strength of Kapoor’s survey show at the RA, Subodh Gupta was given the hallowed bank vaults of the Hauser & Wirth spaces in Piccadilly and NewBond Streetin October to exhibit solo. Gupta was also included in a 2008 group show organized by the Serpentine Gallery called “Indian Highway,” which included installations, sculptures and photography by Bose Krishnamachari, Tejal Shah, Dayantia Singh, Shilpa Gupta and Sheela Gowda among others. In light of such exhibitions, philanthropists and art collectors Charles Saatchi and his counterpart in the north, Frank Cohen, have instigated a near-monopoly on contemporary art from the subcontinent by acquiring a vast body of new works from the length and breadth of India. Charles Saatchi revolutionized contemporary art in London with his interest and investment in the young enfants terribles of the late 1980s that included Gary Hume, Tracey Emin, Sarah Lucas and Damien Hirst.

Opening galleries and occupying aging government buildings, Saatchi absorbed Britain, took hold of Europe, rewarded a new generation of talented Americans and then looked east toward the new sophistication of Asia. Exhibiting contemporary works from China in 2008 and works from the Middle East, including Iran, Lebanon and Dubaiin 2009, he has single handedly been responsible for orchestrating seismic changes in the parameters of contemporary art. Frank Cohen, to a lesser extent, has sought to do the same, absorbing a large portion of this emerging market. Last February, Cohen unveiled part of his collection in “Facing East” with works from Japan, Chinaand Indiaat theManchesterArtGallery. Cohen’s exhibited collection appears to mimic Saatchi’s new show “The Empire Strikes Back: Indian Art Today” that opened in Sloane Square weeks previously with a larger collection of works from some twenty-six artists, both established and emerging. This seminal show of contemporary Indian art appears to have consummated London’s new passion for work from the subcontinent.It is a marker of how far Indian art has come that such institutions have followed the market and taken to these artists with such gravitas.

Independently of the fervor surrounding Saatchi’s new collection are subsequent solo shows by Jitish Kallat, Bharti Kher, TV Santhosh and Subodh Gupta. Kallat’s solo show “The Astronomy of the Subway” (February 15 to March 10) at Haunch of Venison includes vast new installations and a video projection. Kher has a debut solo show “inevitable undeniable necessary” at Hauser and Wirth (March 20 to May 15), while Subodh Gupta has also been commissioned by the same gallery to show an astonishing installation entitled “School 2008” (February 23 to March 27) consisting of 45 cast brass stools andthe stainless-steel utensils that have become his signature objects. Keralan-born TV Santhosh has a solo show of new works and sculpture at Aicon Gallery, and Sunil Gupta, the curator of the new exhibition “Where Three Dreams Cross: 150 Years of Photography fromIndia,Pakistan and Bangladesh” had a solo show of his own photography last January at Grosvenor Gallery. “Where Three Dreams Cross” at the Whitechapel Gallery is a sizable collection of photo works from three countries that are intertwined by geography, history and politics.

With these ambitious shows it appears that India’s contemporary art history is being written here as quickly as her economy at home is expanding. This new found cultural wealth has become an integral part of our landscape.

Rajesh Punj, April 2010

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Written by Breathe Arts

August 17, 2011 at 3:47 pm

Posted in General

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