Indian art in the UAE


A flourish of Indian art
Contemporary Indian art is going international. The response to a recent exhibition in Dubai of modern day artists signals the cross over of Indian art to the global arena. Rajeev Nair has the details
 
Photographs: Chandra Balan
 
Elizabeth Rogers is confident. The curator of Indian Art Unbound II, the second edition of an international showcase of contemporary Indian artists in Dubai recently, looks forward to the art auctions in New York and London, later this year.
“You will finally see non-Indians buying Indian contemporary art at a serious level,” she asserts.
Rogers understands the pulse of the global art lovers. More involved in museums than in galleries, she was invited to India by the Dalai Lama to document the works of art at the Tibet House. An art historian, she had graduated in Buddhist Art and Asian Art, a passion ignited by a family tradition of collecting Buddhist works of art.
An artist friend introduced her to Nitanjali Art Gallery, founded by Anjali and Nitin Bhalla, art collectors for the last three decades. She worked with them on a photography exhibition of Mohit Midha, a photographer with National Geographic Channel, India, and continued the association as curator for Indian Art Unbound II, organised at Grand Hyatt Dubai by Nitanjali Art Gallery and Kanika Subberwal.
The three-day exhibition featured the works of illustrious artists including MF Hussain, Anjolie Ela Menon, Jatin Das, Madhuri P. Bhaduri, Sachindra Nath Jha, Satish Gupta, Kishore Roy, Sujata Dere and Subash Awchat, among others. It was an eclectic showcase of Indian art, reflecting its “cosmopolitan character and myriad aesthetic and creative lexicons,” according to Rogers.
Indian Art Unbound I was earlier held in London and the next stop in the international showcasing of Indian art in Dubai was a “fantastic experience,” says Kanika Subberwal. “I am glad I brought the project to Dubai. The city has welcomed Nitanjali Art Gallery.”
She reiterates Rogers’ observation that Indian art is now more universal in appeal. “We had visitors from all nationalities; it was a perfect blend and I am amazed at the response.”
The exhibition also marked the arrival of Nitanjali Art Gallery to Dubai on a more regular footing. “London is very educated on art. For me, therefore, it was challenging to come to Dubai because we realised that the market is not well researched. While a few know a lot about art, many know nothing,” says Anjali. “Fortunately, we have evoked a lovely response. We love to educate more people about buying art – not just as a fashionable hobby but also as a fabulous investment.”
Encouraged by the initial response, Anjali plans to showcase a photography exhibition of Mohit Midha, for the public in November in Dubai. A cross-section of his works was on private exhibit at Grand Hyatt. “The way the market has welcomed us here, there is no looking back now,” says Anjali.
Nitanjali had brought to the Dubai exhibition, Indian artists from all corners of the country. The sheer diversity of the selection is also a pointer on how difficult it is to brand contemporary Indian art. “It is impossible to pinpoint one single trend in modern Indian art,” says Rogers. “Thank God, it is still evolving. It gets diverse with every artist.”
Their influences too are myriad. Rogers says that while it is not essential that each artist must depict his or her inspirations, there is a lot of Western influence in the works of many artists. It isn’t a definitive observation, though. “Some have an overt Buddhist influence; in others it could be Christian or Muslim; some artists stick to classical mythology,” Rogers quickly adds. The single important feature, however, is that most artists appeal straight to an international audience, she says. “They need no interpretation.”
Rogers does not want to stereotype Indian art. Her own affinity springs from the artists’ “sense of colours and richness of texture. They don’t mind mixing traditional and modern motifs, and all the paintings are so alive. They are never cold.”
Indeed, the riotous colours, varied themes and self-assured brushstrokes that characterised the paintings on display exuded a rare level of vibrancy. “The exhibition uncovers and reveals interior landscapes,” observes Rogers. “They inspire one to journey further and to participate in the creative activity of becoming ‘unbound’ as the artists explore, provoke and expand universal imagination.”
And in Dubai, the journey indeed fetched welcome patronage. That should auger well for Indian artists, who have for long been sidelined in the international arena. 
 

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