[The Month That Was]
by Franck Barthelemy
A businessman donated a Rs 880 Crore art collection to a museum just a few days ago. 1463 works from 350 artists.
I can already hear the 'WOWs' and 'HUMPHs' and a volley of questions: what collection? Which museum? Who is this guy? Unfortunately, let me disappoint you, the miracle did not take place in India. Dr Uli Sigg, the 66 year old Swiss national and famous collector of Chinese contemporary art, just decided to share most of its collection, the largest and most comprehensive one in the world, and above all, his pleasure with the future Museum Plus (M+) in Hong Kong to open in 2017. Ai Weiwei, Zhang Xiaogang, Wang Guangyi, Wang Keping, Ding Yi, Fang Lijan and many others' works produced between 1979 and 2009 will permanently be exhibited in the sixty thousand square meters building of the new West Kowloon cultural district. "This is my contribution to enable these artists to have a space with M+ where they will communicate with an international audience, and where they will meet with a Chinese public". Dr Sigg started collecting Chinese art in the 1990s when he thought no one was paying attention to the revolution that was happening in China. From a hundred to a thousand dollars is what he paid for most of his works. His intent was to document the fast moving art scene and acquire representative works. Lars Nittve, the M+'s director said he got a "readymade museum's collection". Is there anyone to follow Digg's path in India?
In June, Shanthamani Muddaiah shared with her Bangalore audience her Ganga stories in Reflections. She once rented a boat and followed the flow of the river for a few weeks. She observed the banks. She felt the water. She intensely explored the relationships between the river, the humans and the nature. Besides memories, she came back with hundreds of photographs, videos and installations. At some stage of her journey, she also felt the necessity to perform with the natural elements offered by the river and her surroundings. Shanthamani's exhibition is a multidimensional journal where she records her one-to-one experience with the river be it physical, intellectual or spiritual. It gives the viewers many an opportunities to step back and think. In front of Wind Unwind, an outsized spine made of charcoal spread on the floor, one can reflect on the cruelty one endures and one makes endure in our everyday life, perhaps how one can burn out. The viewers can make a parallel between life the vital spine symbolizes, and death represented by the burnt wood. The viewers can be absorbed by the videos and the constant immutable flow of the river they showcase: come what may, the river will gobble up, digest, transform and give back, like a living creature. The show can surely cool your mind!
The National Gallery of Modern Art brought to us Ramkinkar Baij - a Retrospective curated by sculptor K.S Radhakrishnan. Ramkinkar was a pioneer abstract sculptor, perhaps the first one in India. He was also a painter. Energy and joy are the features of his practice. Whether paintings or sculptures, there is a tangible movement in his works, a dynamism the viewers can feel. His works reflect the artist's freedom and independence. For Ramkinkar, there was no border to creation. The retrospective, on till mid-August, explores the artist's practice cleverly. An exhibition not to miss!
Right Lines organized Complex Machinery Confused Minds, an exhibition of paintings by Francis Desouza. In his 50s, the Goa based figurative artist has always been inspired by his direct surroundings his memories of the hippy capital. His canvases are colourful and light, perhaps very descriptive of the Goan way of life.
The Tasveer Foundation brought to us Prof. Jyotindra Jain for a lecture on Murals and Collages of Shekhavati. The traders from Haryana who set up base in the Rajasthan region in the early 19th century built palatial houses before moving to Calcutta. Their Shekhavati houses became holiday mansions decorated with a unique mix of Indo European colonial style: a dose of sacredness, a bit of eroticism and a touch of modernity.
Comics at Gallery SKE with the Flaneur in the city. Appupen, EP Unny and Gokul Gopalakrishnan created graphic stories and took the viewers through the streets of Kochi and Bangalore. They give us their count of our everyday urban tales in black ink on paper. We sometimes feel a bit of romanticism. We are sometimes submerged by black humour. We always enjoy the sharp lines of the artists.
The Alliance Française celebrated the now world famous Fête de la Musique started in France 30 years ago. Every year on 21st of June, the day of the summer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, amateur and professional musicians share their music and enthusiasm in the streets and concert halls, in the homes and museums, everywhere there is an audience. It is a night of follies and little sleep. Classical music, jazz, rock, hip-hop and many other styles of music provided moments of happiness! Hats off to the organizers.