Four galleries from India at Art Basel HK

Four galleries from India at Art Basel HK
Indian galleries seem to have recognised the importance of being seen along with other major galleries from across the globe. That should explain the four Indian art galleries — Chemold Prescott Road from Mumbai, Experimenter from Kolkata and Vadehra Art Gallery and Delhi Art Gallery from Delhi — at 2014 Art Basel Hong Kong (ABHK) held at the spectacular Hong Kong convention and exhibition centre between May 15 and May 18.

Usually, Indian galleries present the work of Indian artists. However, at this ABHK, Experimenter chose to showcase Nadia Kaabi Linke from Germany, who, incidentally, has been chosen winner of the $25,000 Discoveries Prize. Born in Tunisia to a Ukrainian mother and Tunisian father in 1978, Linke’s work can be seen in several public and private collections, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Critics say that her ‘installations, objects and pictorial works (are) embedded in urban contexts, intertwined with memory and geographically and politically constructed identities’. Linke’s unique style was much in evidence at the ABHK, where she employed the ‘breadth of her style in painting, printmaking and sculpture’.

According to the judges at ABHK, her artwork In Confinement my Desolate Mind Desires explores the ‘notion of confinement, its multifaceted physical, psychological and social implications’.

This is the second showing for Delhi Art Gallery at the ABHK. As in the previous year, the works on show were sourced by the gallery from its vast collection of works of renowned Indian painters. It must have been a difficult task, since the gallery is said to own one of the largest collections of original artworks. Beginning with the earliest British painters in India, the collection includes Indian art right up to the leading painters of today.

Recently, I had the fortune of seeing Divinity, the show organised by the Delhi Art Gallery. It might be considered a window into the gallery’s vast collection. I have seldom failed to be fascinated by the artworks displayed by the gallery and this time was no different, either. Displayed chronologically, the show offered a fascinating selection of the earliest works featuring gods and goddesses in traditional Bengal style in oil paints, similar in many ways to the oleographs of Raja Ravi Varma. Then there were the wash paintings such as Nandalal Bose’s Shiva with the cup of Poison and folk art as seen in Laxma Gaud’s fascinating gouache of Durga. There were so many works by famous names, one might say that at some stage or the other, almost every artist, no matter how successful, turned to painting divine beings. Each created these images of gods and goddesses in their own distinctive styles, the best examples are MF Husain’s paintings of goddesses and FN Souza’s paintings of Christ and landscapes with churches.

(The writer is an author and a former art gallery owner)

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