Blogs Untitled (Blog) On the Road

Building Bridges: Symposium at the Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo

This past weekend, Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo in Turin hosted Building Bridges, a symposium reflecting upon curatorial practice and how curators move from educational to institutional contexts. The conference was held on occasion of the tenth anniversary of the Young Curators Residency Program (YCRP), which annually brings three non-Italian recent graduates of curating courses to […]

Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Turin

Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Turin

This past weekend, Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo in Turin hosted Building Bridges, a symposium reflecting upon curatorial practice and how curators move from educational to institutional contexts. The conference was held on occasion of the tenth anniversary of the Young Curators Residency Program (YCRP), which annually brings three non-Italian recent graduates of curating courses to Italy to research contemporary Italian art. During the residency, the curators travel across the country, meet artists and visit museums, and complete the project by curating an exhibition drawing on their research.

The symposium audience

The symposium audience

Following a welcome by foundation President Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, the foundation’s curator, Irene Calderoni, introduced the symposium’s aims and key themes. Looking back at the residency since its inception in 2007, the symposium sought to evaluate its goals, structure, and influence on the field. Firstly, Calderoni addressed how training and educational contexts facilitate a move into institutional employment and, in particular, how study, research, and experimentation translate into professional modes of working. Secondly, Calderoni positioned the conference as a means for the foundation to evaluate its approach as both a contemporary arts institution and an educational organization (aside from YCRP, the Foundation runs Campo, a curating course established in 2012 for students based in Italy).

Beatrix Ruf, Dr Simon Sheikh, Mark Rappolt, Tom Eccles, Pavel Pyś

Beatrix Ruf, Dr Simon Sheikh, Mark Rappolt, Tom Eccles, Pavel Pyś

The first panel brought together Beatrix Ruf (Director, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam), Tom Eccles (Executive Director, Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College), Dr. Simon Sheikh (Reader in Art, and Programme Director of MFA Curating, Goldsmiths College), and me, moderated by Mark Rappolt (Editor-in-Chief, ArtReview). All of the panel’s participants had arrived to curating from a variety of paths—semiotics, dance, sociology and art history. Each emphasized the very inceptive nature of contemporary art, which has meant that curating is inherently cross-disciplinary, informed by lateral thinking and hybrid approaches that pool together knowledge from vastly different places. How then do you teach a profession which doesn’t comfortably sit within a single discipline and university department? Eccles and Sheikh both agreed on the importance of combining theory and practice and providing young curators with practical experience while still studying. We all emphasized the importance of the physical, embodied encounter with art, rather than its digital representation. As an example, Eccles pointed out that the first assignment students at Bard College face is to select a work from the CCS Bard collection and propose its display and interpretation. Ruf, Sheikh, and Eccles all drew attention to the waning viability of working as a freelance curator, and the shift from the model of the “independent curator” popular in the 1990s to professionals increasingly affiliated with ever-larger institutions. Following a round of questions, all of the panel’s participants noted that curating courses lack a more informed and detailed approach to teaching fundraising, as well as management and leadership skills.

João Laia, Joanna Warsza, Mark Rappolt, Francesco Manacorda, Kate Strain

João Laia, Joanna Warsza, Mark Rappolt, Francesco Manacorda, and Kate Strain

The second panel brought together João Laia (Co-Founder and Curator, The Green Parrot), Francesco Manacorda (Artistic Director, Tate Liverpool), Kate Strain (Director, Grazer Kunstverein), and Joanna Warsza (Head of CuratorLab, Konstfack). The afternoon’s conversation centered on themes of audience engagement and fostering relationships between institutions and visitors. Strain argued for curators to work in a variety of contexts and cited her own experiences ranging from running a vegan cafe to collaborating with universities as giving her a strong sense of the importance of hospitality and working with a different demographics. Warsza responded that it is the curator’s very responsibility to deal with their audience, while Laia argued for sensitivity towards the geopolitical nature of local contexts and how projects are translated and adapted to these. Manacorda stressed the need for institutions to collaborate directly with audiences and cited the recent Tate Liverpool exhibition An Imagined Museum as an example of the museum engaging in direct dialogue with local audiences. The exhibition drew on Ray Bradbury’s 1953 science fiction novel Fahrenheit 451 to propose a fictional scenario in which the exhibited artworks will cease to exist. As part of the exhibition, Tate Liverpool asked local audiences to memorize the works, and then removed these from view in the exhibition’s final weekend. Visitors were then invited to return to Tate Liverpool and recollect and narrate the missing artworks, sharing their personal experiences and readings.

Elisa Caldana, Molly Everett, Cesare Pietroiusti, Rä di Martino, Stefano Collicelli Cagol, João Laia, Rosalie Doubal, Gianluca e Massimiliano De Serio

Elisa Caldana, Molly Everett, Cesare Pietroiusti, Rä di Martino, Stefano Collicelli Cagol, João Laia, Rosalie Doubal, Gianluca e Massimiliano De Serio

Sunday’s sessions brought together past YCRP participants and artists previously invited to exhibit their work as part of the curators’ final exhibition. Moderated by Stefano Collicelli Cagol (Curator at Large, Trondheim Kunstmuseum, and previous YCRP co-ordinator), the discussion focused on the curators’ and artists’ experiences of collaborating, their expectations and the challenges they faced. Artists including Rä di Martino, Cesare Pietroiusti, and Chiara Fumai shared their experiences of working with non-Italian curators and the memories of the final YCRP exhibitions they participated in. In particular, the artists noted their enthusiasm for establishing relationships with curators, which often translated into long-term conversations. Curators including me, Rosalie Doubal (Associate Curator, ICA London), Kate Strain, and Andrey Parshikov (Head of Research, Manege Museum Association) recounted their expectations and experiences of working in Italy, the challenges of working with curators they had previously never collaborated with, as well as questions of sensitivity towards local context and artists. Both the artists and curators discussed the long-term results of the YCRP, which has nurtured ongoing collaborations and extending invitations to artists to participate in further exhibitions. The legacy of the YCRP program lies largely in this network of ever-growing exchanges and dialogues between Italian artists and non-Italian curators.

Building Bridges made apparent that there is no fast-track, linear, logical, and formal path for curators to move from the educational to institutional contexts. Instead, curators enter institutions through a series of both formal educational experiences as well as self-organized professional ones. The YCRP, along with opportunities such as the Walker Art Center Curatorial Fellowship and Cubitt Curatorial Fellowship, provide a vital in-between stepping-stone from study to work. Crucial to the YCRP is the ability to spend time with artists and peers, talking, exchanging ideas and engaging with a new cultural context. Driven by research, the residency teaches young curators how to work together, often beyond a linguistical boundary, and collaborate to create a culturally sensitive and timely exhibition. Here, at the Walker, the Curatorial Fellowship program provides young curators with a wide scope of experiences. The program places fellows at the center of the visual arts department, offering the opportunity to work closely with senior curatorial colleagues and directly with artists, the collection and across the visual arts program. The fellowship provides a firm grounding in curating in an interdisciplinary and institutional context and allows young curators to contribute to an exhibition from its conception through to fruition. Fellows are also exposed to good working practices, such as team-building, management skills and collegiality, which as Building Bridges saw are usually values and skills learned on the job, rather than as part of a structured working environment. Opportunities such as the YCRP and the Walker’s Curatorial Fellowships are key ways of developing professionals in the field, embedding curators right at the heart of an institution’s mission.

 

Konnichiwa

I have just returned from a Merce Cunningham-related research journey to Japan, where I visited the Sogetsu Art Center’s archives at Keio University in Tokyo and the Kyoto Costume Institute, among many other places.  This work has been generously supported by a grant from the Mellon Foundation, which has also kept me working on the Walker’s Cunningham acquisition […]

I have just returned from a Merce Cunningham-related research journey to Japan, where I visited the Sogetsu Art Center’s archives at Keio University in Tokyo and the Kyoto Costume Institute, among many other places.  This work has been generously supported by a grant from the Mellon Foundation, which has also kept me working on the Walker’s Cunningham acquisition for the past year and a half.  While I reacquaint with this time zone and prepare a more thorough reflection, enjoy these images:

Tokyo Commute

Tokyo commuters in a relaxed mode. Photo: Abigail Sebaly

Tokyo Hamburger

Plastic window burger and fries. Tasty. Photo: Abigail Sebaly

Prada Store

Prada store in Ginza, designed by Herzog and de Meuron. Photo: Abigail Sebaly

Kanazawa Museum

Museum of the 21st Century in Kanazawa. Photo: Abigail Sebaly

Touch screen vending machine in Tokyo subway. Photo: Abigail Sebaly

Touch-screen vending machine in Tokyo subway. Photo: Abigail Sebaly

Shrine atop the Dover Street Market in Tokyo. Photo: Abigail Sebaly

Eleganza in Ginza. Photo: Abigail Sebaly

Eleganza in Ginza. Photo: Abigail Sebaly

Garden in Meiji Shrine, Kyoto. Photo: Abigail Sebaly

Garden in Meiji Shrine, Kyoto. Photo: Abigail Sebaly

Mediacity Seoul 2012: Olga Viso’s Top Picks

While in South Korea for the 2012 Gwangju Biennale, I visited the main venue of the 7th Seoul International Media Art Biennale — Mediacity Seoul 2012 — at the Seoul Museum of Art. The title of this installment was Spell on You, which was meant to conjure the deluge of media and its effects we […]

While in South Korea for the 2012 Gwangju Biennale, I visited the main venue of the 7th Seoul International Media Art Biennale — Mediacity Seoul 2012 — at the Seoul Museum of Art. The title of this installment was Spell on You, which was meant to conjure the deluge of media and its effects we are witnessing in contemporary culture. This theme, set by artistic director Jinsang YOO, professor of Kaywan School of Art and Design, seemed apt in a digital media city like Seoul defined by its commitment to advancing technology and myriad technological industries in the country.

My top picks, out of the 49 participating artists from 20 countries.

1. Zbyněk Baladrán’s diagrammatic lecture Model of the Universe, 2009

2. Till Nowak’s digital creations of impossible amusement parks

Till Nowak, High Altitude Conveyance System, 2011. Photo: Framebox.de

Till Nowak, The Centrifuge Brain Project, 2011. Photo: Framebox

3. Akram Zaatari’s melancholic typewritten love story on film Tomorrow Everything Will Be Alright, 2010

4. David Claerbout’s  black and white montage of 600 different views of the same “happy moment” on an Algerian rooftop

David Claerbout, The Algiers’ Sections of A Happy Moment, 2008. Courtesy the artist and Yvon Lambert

5. Dennis Feser’s absurd performance before the camera, staged on a rooftop overlooking Frankfurt using tape and celery

Dennis Feser, Vertical Distractions, 2010. Photo: Dennis Feser

6. 3D video installations by Robert Lepage, Sarah Kenderdine, and Jeffrey Shaw that create a projected theatrical space that visitors can experience in the round

7. Donghee Koo’s melancholic quest on camera as a man searches for a manmade stream using a divining rod

Donghee Koo, Under the vein; I spell on you, 2012. Photo: Mediacity Seoul

8. Ryota Kuwakubo’s hypnotic shadow installation, The Tenth Sentiment (2010), created using a child’s train set and light

9. Hong Seung-Hye’s minimal projections of rectangles on the wall and floor

Hong Seung-Hye, The Sentimental 8_Complementary Installation, 2012. Photo: Mediacity Seoul

10. Zimoun’s audio recording of 25 woodworms consuming a piece of wood

11. Daito Manabe & Motoi Ishibashi’s mesmerizing installation Particles involving an 8-spiral rail with animated balls of LED lights

12. Robert Overweg’s haunting still photographs of the precipitous edges of landscapes in video games

Robert Overweg, The end of the virtual world 4, Modern warfare 2, 2010. Photo: ShotbyRobert.com

Curatorial Journal: Olga Viso Visits the Gwangju Biennale

On a recent trip to Seoul, South Korea, where I was invited to participate on a panel at the National Museum of Contemporary Art about the role of museums in the 21st century, I had the opportunity to travel three hours south to the Korean city of Gwangju to see the ninth installment of the […]

Contrasts in Korea: Seoul’s new City Hall and Gyeongbok Palace, first built in 1395 and reconstructed in 1867. Photos: Olga Viso

On a recent trip to Seoul, South Korea, where I was invited to participate on a panel at the National Museum of Contemporary Art about the role of museums in the 21st century, I had the opportunity to travel three hours south to the Korean city of Gwangju to see the ninth installment of the Gwangju Biennale. I was joined by Walker senior curator Clara Kim and MoMA curator Doryun Chong (formerly of the Walker) to see ROUNDTABLE, which closes November 12. This sprawling global survey, with a strong focus on artists from Asia and the Middle East, includes works by more than 92 artists, artist groups, and temporary collectives from 40 countries around the world and encompasses multiple city venues, including the main Gwangju Biennale Hall, Cinema Gwangju, Temple Mugaksa, Daein Market, and several other off-site locations around the city. Some 45 commissions and 15 artist residencies were realized in ROUNDTABLE.

Curated by a six-member team of Asian curators, all women, the show uses the metaphor of the roundtable as a locus for nonhierarchical exchange and the intersection of divergent perspectives and urgencies. Despite best efforts to hold in balance a multiplicity of contradictory world views, artistic sensibilities, and curatorial approaches, the spirit of the roundtable seemingly devolved during the show’s organization and, the result was an unfortunate hodgepodge of an exhibition with very mixed results and uneven curatorial selections and positions.

As is always the case in these massive biennial exhibitions, individual artists and works stand out to make the journey and research worthwhile. For me, the highlights were:
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Olga Viso: Highlights of Manifesta, TRACK, and Beyond

Walker executive director Olga Viso shares snapshots and notes from her late July 2012 trip to European art exhibitions and venues. In addition to dOCUMENTA (13) in Kassel–which she reviewed this week–she visited Antwerp, Genk, and Ghent. Here are some of the works that stood out. Kendall Geers’ flaming tire sculpture outside the entrance of […]

Walker executive director Olga Viso shares snapshots and notes from her late July 2012 trip to European art exhibitions and venues. In addition to dOCUMENTA (13) in Kassel–which she reviewed this week–she visited Antwerp, Genk, and Ghent. Here are some of the works that stood out.


Kendall Geers’ flaming tire sculpture outside the entrance of Manifesta, the roaming European Biennial which took place this year in Genk, Belgium. (more…)

Olga Viso: Highlights of dOCUMENTA (13)

Yesterday, Walker executive director Olga Viso shared her review of dOCUMENTA (13), the art exhibition that occurs in Kassel every five years. As a supplement, here’s her top picks from her July trip. Coming soon, her highlights from Manifesta and TRACK. 

Yesterday, Walker executive director Olga Viso shared her review of dOCUMENTA (13), the art exhibition that occurs in Kassel every five years. As a supplement, here’s her top picks from her July trip. Coming soon, her highlights from Manifesta and TRACK. 

(more…)

Interview with Robert Bechtle

Robert Bechtle has been painting his surroundings in the San Francisco Bay Area since the 1950s. When I went to interview him the other day, it was a bit like being inside one of his photorealist works. On my way to his place in Potrero Hill I walked up some steep hills flanked by rows […]

Robert Bechtle in his studio.

Robert Bechtle has been painting his surroundings in the San Francisco Bay Area since the 1950s. When I went to interview him the other day, it was a bit like being inside one of his photorealist works. On my way to his place in Potrero Hill I walked up some steep hills flanked by rows of sunlit flat-front houses, under crisscrosses of power lines, and in and out of morning street shadows I recognized from his paintings and drawings. I crossed the streets in 20th and Mississippi Night (2001) and a few blocks over to the east is the corner in Covered Car – Missouri Street (2001)—both charcoal on paper drawings in the Walker’s collection. He would say later, “They’re all things that I’ve noticed just living here. Things that I see on my walk in the morning, or I’m driving by and something jumps out and says, ‘Photograph me.’” He may be the most familiar with San Francisco’s architecture over the past 60 years. Sometimes he’d draw and paint the same scene several times. (more…)

Chuck Hits the Road

Chuck Close’s Big Self Portrait (1967-1968), which is featured in the Lifelike exhibition, also recently made a sojourn (in postcard form) to Nepal and India. His presence incited a few double-takes and queries from the locals — Who is this smoking guy? Do you worship him? Close said of his portraits in 1970, “I am not trying to make facsimiles of photographs. Neither […]

Chuck Close’s Big Self Portrait (1967-1968), which is featured in the Lifelike exhibition, also recently made a sojourn (in postcard form) to Nepal and India. His presence incited a few double-takes and queries from the locals — Who is this smoking guy? Do you worship him?

Chuck Close's "Big Self-Portrait" installed in "Lifelike"; to the left is Duane Hanson's "Janitor" (1973). Photo: Paul Schmelzer

Close said of his portraits in 1970, “I am not trying to make facsimiles of photographs. Neither am I interested in the icon of the head as a total image.”  Here Chuck inhabits new places, sometimes a familiar face, sometimes just a man with the mountains.

Chuck having an existential moment with a Pepsi machine in the Delhi airport. Photo: Abigail Sebaly

Chuck on a Spice Jet flight to Kathmandu. Photo: Abigail Sebaly

Chuck, with an interest in telecommunications. Photo: Abigail Sebaly

Chuck trying out the local cigarettes. Photo: Abigail Sebaly

Chuck with the Himalayas and Buddhist stupa in the background. Photo: Abigail Sebaly

Chuck's crowning moment at Tengboche, 12,687 feet, with Mount Everest in the background. Photo: Abigail Sebaly

Chuck with bindi. Photo: Abigail Sebaly

Sundance Journal: Clara Kim on Jurying World Documentary Films

With the theme of “Look Again” in mind, I arrived in great anticipation to Park City, Utah at the reputable haven for independent filmmaking for the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. Droves of eager visitors—programmers like myself and Walker curator Sheryl Mousley, industry folks from Hollywood and Europe, actors, directors, and aspiring filmmakers—made for a motley […]

Clara Kim on the award ceremony stage. Photo: Alfonso Medina

With the theme of “Look Again” in mind, I arrived in great anticipation to Park City, Utah at the reputable haven for independent filmmaking for the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. Droves of eager visitors—programmers like myself and Walker curator Sheryl Mousley, industry folks from Hollywood and Europe, actors, directors, and aspiring filmmakers—made for a motley group that traveled in waves from the Salt Lake City airport to the Sundance headquarters at the Park City Marriott to the festival’s many theater venues in this quaint ski resort town.

Walker film curator Sheryl Mousley at the Salt Lake City airport

Park City landscape

As part of the World Documentary Jury along with the charming filmmaker Jean Marie-Teno and BBC Storyville’s Nick Fraser, I had the privilege of watching the 12 films in competition for nine days with packed houses and special insight from the directors at the Q&As. My first screening Searching for Sugar Man kicked off the festival with a bang—a moving portrait of a ‘70s rock musician from Detroit called Rodriguez who fell into obscurity, despite his propensity for making beautiful music, and was largely believed to have been dead. The film follows South African music aficionados motivated by the desire to solve the mystery of Rodriguez’s death, only to discover that he’s alive and well, living a humble existence for the last decades. Rodriguez gets a second wind as he is welcomed with open arms in South Africa and plays to consecutive sold-out concerts. The most beautiful and symbolic moments of the film are of Rodriguez trekking through the Detroit snow—his walk, a distinct gait, is at once deliberate, melancholic, almost noble. A standing ovation greeted Rodriguez as he walked up to the stage and so poetically articulated to the audience: “home is about acceptance.” Thanks to Sony Pictures (who bought the rights to the film) it will be shown widely—look out for it in your local theaters. The film won the Audience Award as well as the Special Jury Prize.

Clara Kim with Jean-Marie Teno and Nick Fraser

Searching for Sugar Man director Malik Bendjelloul, Rodriguez and daughter

 

Days two, three, four, and five followed with consecutive film screenings, moving from one theater to the next. Thanks to the kind volunteer drivers like Kyle Richards, we were whisked from screening to screening in a fleet of Audi-sponsored vehicles, with Timberland parkas and boots in hand. Saturday brunch was hosted at the Sundance Resort—a winding hour-long drive up into Park City’s glorious slopes to a luxurious cabin where Robert Redford set up shop decades ago when he bought two acres of land for $500. Addressing the filmmakers, he noted that what happens in Park City is not Sundance (by which he meant the industry folks, the sponsored parties, the celebrity factor), but that independent filmmaking is driven by passion, individual passion by you (the filmmakers)—a simple but powerful statement to make. I had the pleasure of meeting Sam Pollard, who was part of the critical PBS series “Eyes on the Prize” and editor of Spike Lee’s films, who had a new film at the festival called Slavery by Another Name that recounted the disturbing practice of slavery via peonage and convict labor in state-run enterprises decades after abolition. The film was produced by our very own Twin Cities Public Television, which sent representatives to the screening, as well as US Attorney General Eric Holder.


Robert Redford (left), and Sam Pollard with Jean-Marie Teno (right)

Two films about the complexities of politics and everyday life in Israel and West Bank were especially resonant. The first called The Law in These Parts was a riveting journey into the governance of the West Bank as told through the military judges who justify and administer the blatantly unfair systems of law. Brilliantly crafted and edited by its director Ra’anan Alexandrowicz, the film treaded a delicate territory through interviews where each judge is made to take the stand, sitting behind a nondescript, bureaucratic desk. We awarded the film the World Documentary Grand Jury Prize. Fellow juror Nick Fraser was right in saying–it is a great film, a tough film, an unforgiving film, and everyone needs to watch it. 5 Broken Cameras depicts life on the other side, through the tenacious director Emad Burnat who records the everyday life of his Palestinian village Bil’in which famously chose nonviolent resistance to protest the encroachment of their land. Purchasing the first of five cameras to initially record the birth of his son, the film follows his fellow villagers as they come face to face with the Israeli army and the colonists. We awarded the World Documentary Directing Award, deservingly.

5 Broken Cameras directors Guy Davidi and Emad Burnat with Sundance festival director John Cooper (center)

Other impressive docs were Big Boys Gone Bananas—a harrowing, real life tale of a documentary filmmaker who was sued by the fruit company Dole for his previous film Bananas* and in the process encounters the the power of corporate America and its influence over the media, and the Queen of Versailles about the utterly enjoyable, tragic film of a couple’s ambitions to build a 90,000 square foot mansion inspired by Versailles.

After sitting for countless, consecutive hours in dark theaters, it was a treat to be invited to the house of art collectors Mihail Lari and Scott Murray who have a beautiful home in Park City, as well as one in Santa Fe. Joined by the director of the Kimball Art Center and collector friends Maria Jose Lopez and Alfonso Medina, we were taken through the sprawling house and their collection of works by Spencer Finch, John McCracken, Michael Light, Sophie Whettnall, Leo Villareal and a beautiful print by Anni Albers. A lovely dinner at the Montage in Deer Valley followed.

Collector Mihail Lari (second left) with Kimball Art Center director and collectors Maria Jose Lopez and Alfonso Medina

Nine days into the festival, with 15 films under my belt, and countless quick meals at Café Trang, came deliberation day. We were summoned to the Sky Lodge and under the guidance of the Sundance triumvirate—John Cooper, the festival’s director; Trevor Groth, the director of programming; and David Courier, senior programmer—were given directions and parameters of the awards for our individual categories. Of notable people on the other juries included director of The Eyes of Tammy Faye Fenton Bailey, the very cool Anthony Mackie of Hurt Locker and 8 Mile (who lives in New Orleans, working on classic cars and has a burgeoning art collection), the elegant actress Julia Ormond, Sheffied Doc/Fest director Heather Croall and Inside Job director Charles Ferguson. Sequestered on individual floors of the Sky Lodge condos (with hot tubs on the terrace enticing us), we deliberated.


Fenton Bailey (left); Deliberation day: Julia Ormond, Charles Ferguson, Anthony Mackie

Award night was a smattering of unpretentious, good fun—the ceremony was hosted by John Cooper, who stood in for Parker Posey who unexpectedly feel ill, as well as presented by the actor Edward James Olmos who told me that the inimitable film Stand & Deliver, for which he received an Oscar nomination, was recently inducted to the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress (congrats!). He is working on a film adaptation of the Korean drama 49 Days. The ceremony was followed by an after-party with Grey Goose cocktails flowing and a dance floor on fire. After what seemed like a marathon in Park City (for someone who isn’t seduced by snowy slopes), the evening ended, as all good ones do, with greasy pizzas from Domino’s.

Edward James Olmos and Clara Kim

India Journal: Darsie Alexander at India Art Fair 2012

Walker chief curator Darsie Alexander is in New Delhi for the India Art Fair. Read her earlier dispatch, on her visit to the studios of Bharti Kher and Subodh Gupta. The India Art Fair is now in day three, and the crowds have hardly subsided. While the clientele is not entirely what one might find […]

A reception at Blue Frog, Delhi

Walker chief curator Darsie Alexander is in New Delhi for the India Art Fair. Read her earlier dispatch, on her visit to the studios of Bharti Kher and Subodh Gupta.

The India Art Fair is now in day three, and the crowds have hardly subsided. While the clientele is not entirely what one might find at other global fairs like Frieze, there was a lively energy in the booths and passageways (there are three large tented sections to the fair). Of special note to me was the numbers of kids roaming the booths. Packs of teenagers (and younger) made their way in and out of the small exhibit spaces, often led by a teacher or guide. The fact that their education would include going to an art fair (and that there was clearly no anxiety over the supposedly challenging content of some contemporary art forms) was very heartening. It signaled to me that the fair was serving an important pedagogical function, and that kids were getting critical exposure to art and culture during their formative years. I remember noticing the same thing about the Gwangju Biennial last year in Korea — tons of kids prowling the halls and spaces, having their conversations, joking with one another, and being easy around the art.

A performance work based on mourning rituals that nourish departed souls with food, conceived by Subodh Gupta

Organizers of the India Art Fair have made an effort to contextualize the offerings with a lecture series, which has included some important writers, artists, and collectors. For people coming from distant locations, having strong collateral events — which could include performances, off-site events, and speakers’ forums — is good incentive to make the trip because art fairs are not always about buying. Often they are networking opportunities, moments to stimulate new ideas through dialogue with artists form the area, and needed time away from the daily routine of emails and meetings. Trips — be they for a specific event of an art fair or to support multiple projects under development — provide essential space for thinking, and being in a new place can heighten perception in ways that are ultimately productive for work. This has certainly been the case here in India, where customs and codes of behavior (not to mention driving habits!) are so very different from western models. The past three days have been a sensory overload, with all facets of perception in a state of high-alert, including but not limited to the visual experiences catalyzed through art.

Video/sculpture installation by Suchitra Gahlot

But back to the fair. No doubt this one is difficult to summarize, but understanding that the casualness of “on the road” blogs inevitably promotes generalizations, a few things can be said of the India Art Fair 2012, which is now in its fourth edition. There is a lot of volume at this fair — not only of people but of packed booths filled with art awaiting an audience. Figural works had strong showing, particularly in the more historic booths (the fair was not exclusively contemporary), and paintings outnumbered other media to a significant degree. While some key European and American galleries were present, the Indian presence was strong and visible. In this post, I highlight a few projects that captured my attention, but they are by no means a representative selection of this year’s offerings.

The small disk-like images on this work by Valay Shende represent the families of suicide victims, whose lives as farmers ended in debt and crisis

A new work by Vibha Galhotra

These sixties era photographs by Madan Mahatta document the amazing modernist/brutalist architecture of Delhi, at PhotoInk

An ornate textile work by Chittrovana Mazumdar

Cutout composition by Sachin George Sebastian, in which the paper "petals" resemble buildings or weaponry

A watercolor by Avishek Sen, at Beatrice Binoche

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