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A recap of international shows of Indian art in 2011
Many of the world’s leading and most prestigious modern art museums hosted grand exhibitions that threw light on complexities and subtle undercurrents of contemporary Indian society, now more dynamic and creative than ever, albeit full of contrasts. A series of meticulously curated and thoughtfully conceived showcases all through 2011 referred to an intriguing mix of media and themes, forms and subject matter explored by emerging as well as established artists, to signify the spirit and ethos of new-age India, laced with a touch of tradition; here’s a quick wrap-up!

The year started on a near-perfect note with several solo and group shows by several renowned artists. In fact, the momentum for dazzling art displays was carried over from the previous year’s shows extending into 2011 like ‘ Samtidigt (Concurrent)’ courtesy Kulturhuset, Stockholm that gave a sense of the atmosphere and situation in India today while simultaneously revealing strong connections to its history, whereas ‘India Awakens - Under the Banyan Tree’ (Curator: Alka Pande) at Vienna’s Essl Museum presented several young artists with a strong focus on contemporary currents and tendency. ‘Concurrent India’ at Helsinki City Art Museum in Finland dealt with power structures that govern the actions of the individual.

California based-San Jose Museum of Art presented a landmark show of modern & contemporary art from India, entitled ‘Roots in the Air, Branches Below’. A meticulous survey of recent art from India, it showcased works that mapped the dramatic economic and social transformation of the country since its independence. Indian Highway IV’, continued its journey across 3 continents: Europe, South America and Asia – encompassing London (Serpentine Gallery), Oslo (Astrup Fearnley Museet), Herning (Museum of Contemporary Art), and Lyon.

TV Santhosh’s first solo exhibition ‘The Land’ in Berlin was held at Nature Morte in collaboration with The Guild. A solo by Rashid Rana at London-based Lisson Gallery highlighted large-scale photographic works that he considers ‘unpacking abstraction’. Sara Hildén Art Museum in Finland hosted Subodh Gupta, whom it described as ‘the superstar of India's contemporary art’, and also among the most important names in international contemporary art, at present. As we moved well and truly into 2011, contemporary Indian art continued its march with '21st Century: Art in the First Decade' at Queensland Art Gallery. The ambitious project at renowned art space in Brisbane focused on works created and acquired specifically in this period. It largely drew on the gallery’s comprehensive collection, all-encompassing in its geographic and generational scope.

Chicago based Walsh Gallery hosted a ‘Monumental’ show, involving top contemporary artists, true to its title. Largely a collection of founder Julie Walsh, the showcase divided into three major categories: personal narrative, specific historical events and current events through works by Subodh Gupta, Jitish Kallat, Atul Dodiya and Ravinder Reddy. On the other hand, idea behind ‘Paris-Delhi–Bombay’ courtesy The Centre Pompidou was to create awareness of the Indian art and culture scene to the people of France, and to bind two contrasting streams of thought, in the process. Curated by Sophie Duplaix and Fabrice Bousteau, it presented a new, exciting image of an emerging India, moving away from the stereotypes, to witness rapid transitions and transformations.

A host of talented female Indian artists seemed to be flavor of the season, in the second half of the year. Bharti Kher’s solo ‘Live Your Smell’, took place at Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin in Paris. It was based on the premise of allegory. The implied fragile precariousness of domestic life in her new works turned into a microcosm of the world itself where objects, with their innate function and differences left traces of and explore the ambiguities that exist within us. Simultaneously ‘In Transit’ by Mithu Sen was hosted at Espace Louis Vuitton, Taipei. Galerie Dominique Fiat in Paris presented ‘Babel’ by Anita Dube, an artist known for extending the visible thin line wherein words tend to act as corporeal manifestos to comment on the world around, as seen and perceived by her. The Musée Guimet, also based in Paris, presented recent works by Rina Banerjee as part of its ongoing spring-summer 2011 Indian Season. ‘There is a spider living between us’ at Montreal’s La Centrale marked Tejal Shah’s debut solo in Canada.

Meanwhile, another significant show at Hauser & Wirth (New York) incorporated recent works by Subodh Gupta, who turned his attention to instruments of measurement - those related to the food & drink that all humans measure through either daily consumption or desperately thwarted hunger – as metaphors in a chimerical visual poem about global appetite. In another indication of its growing stature in the domain of art internationally, the special Pavilion of India at the Venice Biennale represented diverse visual idioms, ideascapes and constituencies, reflecting immense plurality of the world’s largest democracy. Praneet Soi, Zarina Hashmi, The Desire Machine Collective (Sonal Jain & Mriganka Madhukaillya), and Gigi Scaria, selected by curator Ranjit Hoskote stood for a gamut of aesthetically rich and conceptually rigorous practices staged in parallel to the mainstream art market.

The 2011 Prague Biennale comprised a ‘Crossroads: India Escalate’ segment curated by Kanchi Mehtam, who wanted to represent the way contemporary Indian art scene is shaping up, imbibing an array of influences from the life and people around, to analyze them with an open mind. ‘The Word of God Series’ at The Andy Warhol Museum located in Pittsburgh, examining major world religions and their texts through contemporary art, featured Chitra Ganesh. Her works explored questions like: what is the best version of the Word of God; and does the artistic rendering of it enhance understanding or is some essential truth lost in translation?

‘Window in the Wall: India and China – Imaginary Conversations’ courtesy Shanghai-based Pearl Lam Fine Arts curated by Gayatri Sinha and Gao Minglu incorporated thought-provoking works by several established and talented artists from India. ‘Generation in Transition: New Art from India’ at Zacheta National Gallery of Art in Warszawa, Poland included works by Sarnath Banerjee, Rakhi Peswani, Prajakta Potnis, Jaishri Abichandani, Nikhil Chopra, Baptist Coelho, Rohini Devasher, Tushar Joag, Swati Khurana, Shilpa Gupta, Prayas Abhinav, Ravi Agarwal, Ashish Avikunthak, Ansuman Biswas, Charmi Gada Shah, Praneet Soi, Mithu Sen, Prasad Raghavan, Navin Thomas etc.

Even as the year drew to close, global galleries and museums continued to host events and shows by talented Indian artists, looking to redefine Asian consciousness in context of both individual and collective identity as well as investigating philosophical and cultural concerns effectively expressed through a wide array of media.