Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Berlin Canvas !

Dear Readers,

Here is my latest article published in The Telegraph newspaper in the Sunday edition reaching over 1 million readers......

Europe has been really cold this winter with a lot of freak storms and a chilly winter. In Berlin, though the art scene has been hot and vibrant. Due to the lovely confluence of cultures, Berlin attracts the best artists and with rental spaces still reasonable as compared to the rest of Europe, it has some of the most stunning gallery spaces.

Both Bodhi and Nature Morte, India’s top contemporary art galleries were present in Berlin at one time (Nature Morte is still around here) and there are also galleries like Christian Hosp which have been showing a lot of Indian and Pakistan contemporary art. Then came the recession and running a gallery with declining sales became a losing proposition and Bodhi had to shut shop.

I was fortunate that there was an important show at the architecturally inspirational “Haus Der Kulturen Der Welt”, the house of world cultures. The building looks like a flying saucer and is brilliantly conceptualised. The curators called the show “Why all the rage?”.

We had three important curators — Valerie Smith, Sussane Stemmler and Cordula Hamschmidt. They explored instances of rage and how it plays a role in people’s life — how rage gets manifested in communities and the effect that it has on people’s minds and bodies. The idea of rage as transformative energy is a key concept to the development of “On Rage” a vehicle from the negative to the positive, from status quo to revolution, from hopelessness to control.

Two artists who really stood out for me in the entire show were Shoja Ajari, an Iranian artist who now lives in New York. He was the co-winner of a Silver Lion award at Venice Film festival and he does photographs and video installations. Final Judgment, his work, was a video projection on canvas and projects the moral tales of Shiite Islam concerning the judgment day. Then inside this intricate work there was recent news footage of Muslim global political activity. It was stunning to see a canvas with flitting moving images — a very strong representation.

Shoja Azari‘s Final Judgement

Seher Shah was at her best with large scale drawings from her solo show “Paper to Monument 2”. These drawings dwelled on the complexities of urban excavation through public memory. Her three works were in the centre of the display and the black-and-white contrast of her drawings again reinforced my belief that she is one of the most important young artists of our times.

Paper to Monument II by Seher Shah

I also went to Probir Gupta’s show at Nature Morte Berlin. Probir’s work touches upon issues of war, religion, development, globalisation and genocide. He uses shrapnel in his work that he sources from abandoned military waste. Using this debris as his “clay,” he models mutant and macabre bodies and landscapes. The resulting paintings, fascinatingly complex with unexpected shots of colour, are chaotic to look at. Technically, he employs a thick, almost violent, use of impasto and brush strokes.

Assembled Identities by Probir Gupta

I liked the works which are not new but are the works that did not sell in the Philips de Pury auction house exhibition in January 2009. The works were beautiful but you could see that the pricing could have been better and hence even when I went, only one had sold. Large canvas works were priced at Rs 25 lakh. Now with the top names in Indian contemporary art down by 80 per cent from the peaks, Probir has still not understood the reality on pricing.

Artists need to understand that just because they sold a few works some years back at the height of the Indian contemporary art boom that does not become a pricing platform for years to come. I would have ideally liked the works to be priced drastically lower.

But in the art world, egos are bigger than usual and logic dies a slow death. That also shrinks the small collector base as people don’t like being taken for a ride. It’s high time that artists understood that collectors will not buy without logic and the fact that only one work has virtually sold in the last 15-18 months is a testimony to the new and informed collector !

Well, the journey was not complete in the art city of the world without staying in the art’otel at Berlin City Centre West. What attracted me to the hotel was the collection of Andy Warhol works they had. I enjoyed staying a in a hotel surrounded by the pop art works of Warhol and the rooms in bright orange, purple and green. Let us see when we get our first art hotel in the country!

Kapil Chopra is Senior Vice President of Oberoi Hotels & Resorts.He writes a blog on collecting and investing in Indian Contemporary Art at also writes for The Telegraph Newspaper in the Sunday magazine " Graphiti" every fortnight. In Delhi, he writes for "The Mail Today " Newspaper and the "First City" Magazine.


ArtVantage said...

Thanks Kapil! It was a nice article. Just also wanted to share this as well,


- Joy

deo prakash choudhary said...

wonderful article.thanks

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