Art Beyond the Marketplace

It seemed as though Indian art took a moment of pause in 2012 — fewer shows, no record-breaking auction results, a calm marketplace and a general sentiment of considered reflection. The coming year, however, promises to bring in its share of excitement with art awards, historically significant exhibitions, international museum participation and critical dialogue within Indian art — all forming the much-needed bedrock and bringing forth intellectual rigour.

For starters, those who have not yet been, a visit to the Kochi-Muziris biennale is a must. The brainchild of contemporary artists Bose Krishnamachari and Riyas Komu, this first-of-its-kind non-profit, non-commercial initiative is visually, cerebrally and politically engaging. Presenting an opportunity to view contemporary Indian and international art created in age-old, dilapidated yet stunning spaces in the seaside town of Kochi is truly a rare treat in India. Stay at the charming Brunton Boatyard, enjoy Fort Kochi, soak into an Ayurvedic massage and relish the sumptuous food. Kochi Biennale runs until 13/3/13.

Another promising treat is the Skoda Prize finalist show, an exhibition of four selected artists — Shilpa Gupta, Srinivas Prasad, CAMP and LN Tallur — at the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA), New Delhi, opening on January 29. Occupying the entire gallery space, including both wings of the museum, the contemporary artwork will showcase the best of India's new talent.

Also travelling from the NGMA in Delhi to Mumbai and Bangalore in 2013 is the historically important exhibition on Rabindranath Tagore, "The Last Harvest", to celebrate India's Renaissance Man's 150th birth anniversary.  Curated by art historian Siva Kumar, the show gives us a glimpse into the mind of this Bengali polymath, a connoisseur of literature, music and art.

American museums such as the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Cleveland Museum, Peabody Essex and others house some vast and important collections of Indian art. One such is the Philadelphia Museum of Art, among the largest museums in the US. Holding a massive and unmatched Indian collection of over 3,000 works, including an extraordinary 16th-century Indian temple hall and the collection of the late Dr Stella Kramrisch, in recent years the museum has acquired pieces of contemporary art including a work by artist Atul Dodiya. And in an effort to increase dialogue between the museum and Indian art, in what is a unique initiative, visionary curator Darielle Mason will host Dodiya on February 13 at the museum where the artist will speak to movers and shakers in the US on his work. 

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