Installation, digital art join mainstream

New Delhi, Aug 25 (IANS) Indian art buyers and aficionados are developing an interest in solid three-dimensional art. The exhibits and the sales trend at the just concluded India Art Summit 2008 were proof that installation art and sculptures were acquiring a toehold in the mosaic of mainstream art.

At the end of the three-day art summit Sunday, art promoters and auction houses admitted that curiosity and awareness about installations and sculptures - the mainstays of contemporary art across the world - were rising in India.

Gurgaon-based Gallery Alternatives sold an offbeat installation work, ‘Everyone Thinks I am an Animal’, by young artist Krishna Murari, showing how women are ill treated in society. Done in fur, leather and fibreglass, the work was sold for Rs.400,000 to a collector from Mumbai.

‘I also sold a bronze sculpture, ‘Politician’ by Krishna Murari, to a collector in Gurgaon for Rs.150,000. I thought the canvases and the textile art would go first, but I am so glad that the sculptures have been sold,’ Manu Dosaj, director of Gallery Alternatives, told IANS.

Murari, 33, a graduate from the Kolkata-based Government Art College, has several international shows to his credit.

Contemporary artist Amitesh Verma told IANS that the desire to explore new creative frontiers beyond the formats of conventional canvas frames gave birth to new genres like installation, digital art and three-dimensional solid in a variety of tangible mediums from metals, wood, traditional clay to industrial scrap.

This genre of contemporary art, according to art historians, came to prominence in the 1970s. Many trace its roots to early artists like Marcel Duchamp and his use of readymade art objects, rather than traditional art and sculpture.

Installation artist Shiv Verma belongs to a traditional Bastar family from tribal-dominated Chhattisgarh.

Verma, who holds a master’s degrees in Fine Arts from the Baroda School of Art, has contemporised the traditional Dokra sculpture of the region after a long artistic engagement with the local ethnic communities to highlight their plight in the wake of mindless industrialisation.

‘Verma’s untitled work, a steel and iron cast installation showing the impact of mega industries on rural lifestyles in Bastar, has been booked several times over,’ Shefali Somani of the Delhi-based Shrine Gallery told IANS.

A galaxy of bidders, including four big collectors from New York, Delhi and Mumbai, along with the Fine Art Fund and Christie’s, are vying to acquire the meticulously crafted Dokra-style work priced at Rs.600,000.

Somani said installation art and sculptures are popular because they are eye-catching and interactive.

British contemporary artist Will Martyr’s installation artwork ‘Three monkeys’, which uses simians clad in Byzantine outfits embellished with motifs of consumer luxury brands as a metaphor for modern-day human aspirations and its hollowness, has been sought after by 15 buyers from across the country.

‘I never thought I would be able to show my work in India,’ Martyr told IANS.

The ‘monkeys’, priced at $7,000 (Rs.550,000), was brought to the summit by Britain-based Emerging World Art.

Anil Bhimjiyani, a London-based gallery owner, said he was surprised by the response to his cache of alternative digital and installation art.

‘I have had bookings for almost everything from a wide cross-section of people including a senior politician, who is also an art collector,’ Bhimjiyani said. The prices of works he offered ranged between Rs.75,000 and Rs.180,000.

Vikram Bachhawat, director of the Kolkata-based Emami Chisel Art and Aakriti Gallery, agreed that Indian buyers were warming up to the aesthetic value of sculptures and installation art.

He attributed the trend to the rise in the number of private collectors across the country and abroad.

‘As art is becoming more collector-based, awareness about sculptures is growing. Indian taste for sculptures is changing from the old British concept of decorative sculptures to contemporary installation art and solid figures,’ Bachhawat said.

Bachhawat has been flooded with enquiries about ‘Touch and Be Green’ - a bronze sculpture by Subrata Biswas priced at Rs.155,000 - and sold one from his catalogue to a buyer in Mumbai at the fair.

Two impressive sculpted motifs - ‘Iron’, a horse head by Mumbai-based Arzan Khambatta, and ‘Soliloquy-I and II’ by Paresh Maity - which sat facing each other at the centre stage of the summit separated by a distance of 500 yards, showed that installation art and sculptures had come of age in India.

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