Thursday, October 22, 2009

Saffronart discussion

Last Thursday, Dinesh Vazirani, Amrita Jhaveri and I were on a panel at Saffronart's London space, talking about 'Junctures and Departures: Locating Modern and Contemporary Indian Art Today'. The hourlong discussion has been uploaded on Saffronart's website, along with a transcript, and can be accessed here.


DS said...

Girish. One comment by you really summed up the discussion. In an answer to a question on Hussain(who else) and his importance, placement, in global discourses on art you said he is "not interesting" enough. Spot on. There will be "junctures and departures" from Indian art and artists if and when they are interesting enough for a global audience to borrow from and be influenced by. I'd like to think we are on some kind of cusp and it will happen in the next decade.

Tut, tut, WHY can't you name a top 5 list? !!! :) :)

Girish Shahane said...

I wasn't quite so categorical, was I? I said something like, "If foreign artists didn't borrow from Husain, then maybe it was because Husain didn't produce something that was interesting".
As far as the Top 5 are concerned, if it is so easy to identify them, let's have your list!

manish nai said...

very interesting discussion girish.

DS said...

It is not easy! But always find it amusing that when there is a panel discussion there is always someone in the audience who really is only interested in asking the 'experts' a top 5 or top 10 list of artists that they can then hitch on to or whatever they want those names for. This question inevitably crops up in question time or in the cocktail hour that follows.

I will tell you my (amateur's) list when I meet you. :)

Jenny said...

That was a very interesting discussion!
I agree with you on the issue of Indian-ness. India has been included on the world art map only since liberalisation and because the west suddenly saw India as a huge potential market. Big Daddy seems to have decided that since India is such an old culture, it must have art of some merit or even some interest that might pique some amused curiosity. I remember being in the Rubin Museum in NY last year and overhearing an American visitor asking a member of the museum staff to explain why the deities in Thangka paintings look so ferocious. The explanation that followed was comically contorted and would have made any half- knowing Asian cringe! It was like Disney meets the Buddha. He was selling her an amusement park.
Up until 2002-03, the major museums in the US did not include India in their Asian art sections – it was only Japan, Korea and China (in order of market value). Even the sections that did show modern Asian art, had bronzes from the Gandhara periods and other such.
And then again, even if we were to assume that globalization has erased boundaries, Indians and all things Indian will still be defined by geography, physicality and cultural history. Black-Americans are still referred to as Black-Americans, Asians as Asian-Americans even after so many years of supposedly being socially and culturally integrated. One wonders what constitutes identity for art or artists. Is nationality not part of self-definition? It can be a case of switching for a cause, as Anish Kapoor did, but some people in the art world consider him more English than Indian.
As for Raqib Shaw and why no artist has self-consciously taken up decorativeness, the answer might be that in India, it is still largely seen as derogatory and ‘not modern’ or worst, not valid as art. I remember talking to the owner of a well- respected Mumbai based gallery about 2 or 3 years ago. I was doing abstraction then and he politely told me that he would not show my work because he thought it was decorative, which by any standards, it could not possibly be defined as.
In general, there seems to be a lot of confusion about what’s ‘contemporary’ and what’s not. It was the same 10 years ago, with what is now defined as modern. Everybody seemed sure about what modern art should be, but nobody was sure of what it was!