Indian Art: A Reflection Of Our Global Presence

Written by Suneet Chopra | Updated: Sep 21 2003, 05:30am hrs
Events at the recent WTO meet at Cancun leave us in no doubt that India has a special place with countries like China, Brazil and South Africa, in shaping the global future; so our art too reflects the importance we have in the world.

This importance is not, in the least, related to how we behave as the cannon fodder for the global super-power, rather how independent we are of it as we have been on the issues of subsidies and Singapore extension of powers of the WTO to non-trade issues.

A painting by Sailoz Mukherjea
The market is not king, the people are. And whenever they have been successful at asserting this, their culture and artifacts are considered valid investments by the people of the world as a whole.

Our art, having grown out of the successful overthrow of British colonial rule, is not only maintaining the unity in diversity after defeating the separatist moves of a number of its princes and remaining secular in the face of a communal onslaught, but also gained respect in the world.

Moreover, its consistent evolution along democratic lines over the last half century and its facing up to the US seventh fleet when it came out in an attempt to support the Pakistani army during the liberation of Bangladesh, gives it a confidence that contemporary artistic expression lacks in many countries.

This confidence translates itself into success in the market. And, indeed, I note that despite the recession the world over, the market for Indian art continues to grow, especially in those parts of the world where NRIs have succeeded in building a base for globalisation with an Indian face. It is not the faceless globalisation of capital but the down-to-earth globalisation of human beings. This is behind the success of the globalisation of Indian art.

Every week, major shows are being mounted in the capital. Last week alone, there was Jayashree Chakravartys exhibition at the India Habitat Centre, sponsored by Vadheras; Amitava Das excellent solo show sponsored by Sakshi Gallery of Mumbai at Sridharani Gallery; the opening of a two-floor gallery by Delhis doyen of art galleries, Dhoomimals; a large show by the newly opened Aryan Art Gallery; and a coming one at the Arpana Gallery by Arushi Arts; not to speak of Christies auction at New York.

Recently, Arpana Caur and Arushi Arts held shows in London, while Sidharth is taking one to Britain soon. So, one thing is clear. Sales could not be bad with so much venture capital being invested in our contemporary art.

It is interesting that a number of artists figure in all the mega shows. They are MF Husain, Ganesh Pyne, Anjolie Ela Menon, FN Souza, SH Raza, and Jamini Roy. Clearly, a core of our artistic vision emerges from this. And it finds its extension in the works of Sailoz Mukherjea, Arpana Caur, Arpita Singh, Sidharth, Gogi Saroj Paul, Jogen Choudhury, Paresh Maity, Amitava Das, Rameshwar and Shobha Broota, Sunil Das, Somenath Hore, Paritosh Sen, Krishen Khanna, Akbar Padamsee and Vivan Sundaram. Theirs is a varied and often radical vision.

Among the young innovators we have artists like Atul Sinha, Atul Dodiya, Apoorva Desai, Bose Krishnamachari, Valsan Kolleri, Yati Jaiswal, Mohan Singh, Yusuf Arakkal, TM Azia, Bratin Khan, Farha Deeba, Dharmendra Rathore, Nupur Kundu, Sabia Munindra Rajbongshi, Subrata Saha, Laxman Aeley, Meena, GR Iranna, Pooja Broota, Swapan Bhandari, Thyagaraja, Sarab Soni, Durga Kainthola and Ravi Kumar Kashi, to name a few.

And through all these works, we have a consistent thread of art that is independent in outlook, neither reflecting the dictates of styles as in the West, nor stylistically and symbolically dominated by conventional concepts of emotions.

It moves us because of its direct and simple expression, drawn from the powerful art of our peasants and tribal traditions which have refused to be co-opted by imperial aesthetics.

Theirs is an art that lacks the posturing of self-conscious aesthetics. It is an art that can speak for itself anywhere in the world.

And most of all, it has original solutions to offer. That is why it sells all the way from San Francisco and New York to Tokyo and Sydney. This makes it the good investment it is and gets it the venture capital it needs to underpin its development.