How art has united two far-flung and seemingly very different regions of the globe, and helped to promote a cultural and commercial flowering in both
On 14 September Christie’s New York will offer ten artworks created and donated by South Asian contemporary artists — including, A. Balasubramaniam, Atul Dodiya, Jitish Kallat, Reena Saini Kallat and Ranjani Shettar — and Dag Modern during the South Asian Modern + Contemporary Art sale. All proceeds will benefit the Germination Project, a non-profit offspring of the Pamela and Ajay Raju Foundation created by avid art collectors Pamela and Ajay Raju and designed to reframe Philadelphia, Pennsylvania as a global leader in the fields of culture and commerce.
The IntXchange — an arts exchange programme between India and the United States supported by the Germination Project — opens a dialogue between two seemingly divergent art communities in order to foster and promote South Asian art. Of the five artists mentioned above, Jitish Kallat, Atul Dodiya and, later this year, Ranjani Shettar will have directly benefited from the programme. All of the featured artists are pioneers in their fields, pushing the boundaries of contemporary art by experimenting with material, space, representation, symbols and scale. Their works raise awareness of not only South Asian contemporary art and the Germination Project, but also Philadelphia and the city’s major institutions, such as the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
For more than 10 years Balasubramaniam has been using a range of media to explore the potential of materials to transcend their elemental expectations. Incorporating silicone, iron and bronze as well as stone and fibreglass, the India-based artist’s works have invited inquiry into the parameters of observation and the interaction of reality and illusion. His innovative works have been shown internationally, in New York at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), at Tokyo’s Mori Art Museum and at the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Seoul, among others.
Although well-known for his socially and politically-charged art inspired by the people and places of his native Mumbai, Kallat’s most recent series plays with the conceptualization of micro- and macrocosms to suggest that what remains unseen and unsaid holds as much importance as the overt. Taking close-up photographs of fruit and vegetable skins at Pali Naka market and then juxtaposing the prints with their negatives, Kallat offers a fresh orientation on expectation. His works have been shown at the Art Institute of Chicago and is currently at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA). In 2014, Kallat was the artistic director of the second Kochi-Muziris Biennale.
In 2013, Mumbai-born Dodiya was the featured artist from India for the inaugural edition of IntXchange’s biennial programme. His hyperrealist depictions defy clear categorisation and instead encourage the imagination with their open-ended abstractions. His works have been shown at the Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, and were most recently included in ‘7000 Museums: A Project for the Republic of India’ at the Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Mumbai.
Having been featured at the Vancouver Art Gallery and at the Kennedy Center, Washington, D.C., and with upcoming shows at the Colombo Art Biennale, Sri Lanka and at the MoMA, New York, Reena Saini Kallat has quickly become a figure of note in the art world. Her recent series Saline Notations (2015) reflects on the ephemeral nature of existence, using salt to represent the meeting of water with air. Annotating poems by female Indian writers, she transposes phrases onto a digital print of a beach-front, encouraging contemplation of what emerges from the undulation of the waves: the saltiness of words and art as lasting memorial.
As the featured 2016 artist for the IntXchange’s biennial programme, Shettar’s expansive sculptures epitomise the mystique of South Asian art and pose questions of materiality, space, representation and motif. Delicate yet solid, fluid yet imposing, Shettar’s works blend multiple dichotomies to approach the world beyond the immediate. In addition to exhibitions alongside many major artists such as A. Balasubramaniam, Alexander Calder, Sol Lewitt and Agnes Martin — to name a few — her works have been featured in solo shows at The Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) in Boston and the Modern Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas.