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‘ZegnArt’ artist for a prestigious public art project
Artist Reena Kallat’s new work of art has just been unveiled on the fascinating façade of Mumbai’s historic Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum courtesy Ermenegildo Zegna, Italian premier luxury fashion house, which has launched a major worldwide initiative to promote art. ZegnArt will serve as a dynamic platform to collate the group’s rich heritage and the throbbing culture of each host nation. And significantly, its debut takes place in India.

‘Public / India’, the first episode of this long-term program, seeks the annual activation, in an emerging, exciting country, of a deft dual path: the onsite construction of a public art work commissioned from a practitioner in mid-career albeit of international profile chosen from within the host country and done in close collaboration with a globally renowned local institution; the financing of a well-thought residency program offered to a young and talented artist from the host nation invited to do research in Italy. The work, funded by the group, is going to be donated to the museum.

Obviously, it’s a major milestone for Reena Kallat to be chosen for creating the first work of the project ‘Public’ by ZegnArt in India. It’s the first edition of the project promoted, created and organized by the Ermenegildo Zegna Group as part of ZegnArt, a platform that brings together in one coherent project plan all the operations that the Zegna Group realizes within a contemporary context. A press release elaborates, “The art installation, produced entirely by the Ermenegildo Zegna Group and slated to be donated to the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum, will remain on exhibit for a period of six weeks on the main facade of the museum. This particular location will make it accessible not only to museum visitors but to anyone passing along the road, which is well-traveled. The presentation will be accompanied by a schedule of educational workshops and studios developed by the artist for the Museum.”

The recent presentation in Milan was attended by the group’s Image Director and Fondazione Zegna President, Anna Zegna; project coordinator Andrea Zegna; Simone Menegoi and Cecilia Canziani, the curators of ZegnArt Public; and the MACRO Museum of Contemporary Art of Rome director, Bartolomeo Pietromarchi,among others. As the protagonist of the inaugural edition, Reena Kallat participated in the event. The meticulous process leading to her selection involved several stages, the first of which needed the curatorial team - composed of the two curators and project coordinator Andrea Zegna – to make several visits in collaboration with the Museum director, Tasneem Mehta. At the end of the comprehensive survey within the territory, conducted in accordance with the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum, seven Indian artists were requested to submit an extensive proposal for work designed by them specifically for the project: Atul Bhalla, Sakshi Gupta, Alwar Balasubramaniam, Srivanasa Prasad, Gigi Scaria, Hema Upadhyay, and Reena Kallat,

The jury including Gildo and Anna Zegna, Tasneem Zacharia Mehta, Minal Bajaj and Jyotindra Jain and Andrea Zegna, project coordinator, chose Reena Kallat from three finalists on basis of the following premise: “Her work fully responds to the spirit of the commission: it looks to favor and privilege the relationship with the public space, from a formal point of view, as the artwork is meant to be exposed on the main facade of the building, as well as in terms of content, having as its theme the history of colonial and post colonial life within Mumbai. It lends itself to offering an opportunity for a bright educational program. Most importantly it’s engaging, with an emotional and aesthetic impact, which can reach a wider audience.”

Known to be deeply influenced by the never-ending cycle of life and nature, as well as the extremely fragile nature of the human condition, Reena Kallat’s wide range of painterly interests encapsulates politics, femininity, and subtle evolutions in the human condition. Her preoccupation with the plight of the socially marginalized is invariably evident in her works likes ‘Penumbra Passage’ (Canine Cases) showcased at a major show of contemporary Indian art at Saatchi Gallery in 2010. Like a dated museum piece, the work seemed to carry a provocative, albeit subtle social-political undertone. Hung above display vitrines, these were portraits of ordinary people set in ornamental frames. The stained color, which formed by their mouth resembles, the shape of the PoK (Pakistan controlled part of Kashmir), referencing disputed territory and constant conflict.

The artist’s practice reflects the popular and iconic influences placed in context of the historical as well as contemporary narratives. Her signature motif involves employing the rubber stamp, an approved symbol of Indian officialdom. Another recurrent theme in her oeuvre is maps, as she looks to explore the dichotomy between stricter border controls and increased globalization.