With shopping malls, hotels and public platforms helping artists and galleries make the third edition of Art Chennai a success, here’s a beginner’s guide
What not to miss
1. Bright Noise will feature works in mixed media by 15 contemporary Indian artists—from Anita Dube, Manish Nai and Vivan Sundaram to Jitish Kallat, Rohini Devasherand Prajakta Potnis, at the Lalit Kala Akademi. The show is a curated celebration of imperfections, glitches and rejects that are conventionally considered ‘noise’ in communication theory, but still manage to engage aesthetically. February 13 at Lalit Kala Akademi.
2. The Future of the Past is a two-day art conference, exploring the future of painting, the future of tradition, the future of the museum, the future of the city and the future of art. This conference will bring together emerging artists, eminent theorists, museum curators, writers, historians and architects. At Hyatt Regency, February 14-15.
3. Deep (Skin) Skin Deep curated by Mayank Mansingh Kaul is a one-of-a-kind show in art, textiles and fashion with the likes of Kallol Datta, Malini Ramani and Shilpa Chavan participating. Exploring the journey of the act of clothing—from a simplistic operation to an artistic projection on skin—the show takes a look at the meaning behind a function that appears as mundane to one and essential to another. At Park Hyatt on February 15-June 18.
4.Parvathi Nayar’s solo show, curated by Annapurna Garimella, is a heady mix of science and emotion, with a plethora of mediums thrown in to capture the wonder that is nature. From woodwork and photos to animation and video installations, Ambiguity of Landscapes, works with microscopic images of body and earth to create a blur between the two.
5. Anatomy of Forking Paths, by Mumbai-based Reena Kallat, will showcase a series of the artist’s works dating back to 2008. Kallat’s signature rubber stamp motif predominates—a symbol of bureaucratic paraphernalia—as most of her themes revolve around power and powerlessness in a water-tight system. At Art Houz, Alwarpet. The show is from February 12-26.
75 ARTISTS, 20 galleries and a selection of 25 distinct venues—the dream of every art enthusiast in the city comes true with the third edition of Art Chennai. From conferences and a part-art part-fashion show to mall installations and beach projects, there’s something for everyone. Plus, art gets a wide range of price tags — apart from the yearly auction that can set one back by a few lakhs of rupees, Cholamandal gallery offers an affordable art sale that lasts just three hours. In a surprising twist, the festival’s main events are themes this time round. “Conservation and heritage is the main theme this year, and we don’t just mean old buildings in ruin. The adaptability and evolution of Chennai’s culture and heritage is also what we’re focusing on,’’ explains Sanjay Tulsyan, convenor of Art Chennai. A photography show by Raghu Rai and Vintage Vignettes, featuring photographs by veteran D Krishnan, are two other highlights geared towards the theme. “The focus remains on contemporary art. All we’re trying to do is in some way intersperse history with modernity. So this time, the fest is larger in terms of public interface —hotels, beaches, colleges and malls are actively involved in the art scene,” he enthuses. Accessibility being prime this year, entry is free to all events on the festival’s schedule. On the subject of festival formats, Tulsyan contemplates a sustainable revenue model. “There are two roaringly successful festivals – the Kochi Biennale and the Jaipur Literature festival. The Biennale, though a relatively new experience for Kochi locals, owes much of its success to the government’s support. The Jaipur Literature Festival has diversified into different forms of art to attract varied audiences. So art per se doesn’t hold too much significance in our city in terms of support,” feels Tulsyan adding, ‘‘The mission this year remains bringing art to the public forum in a bigger, better and more sustainable format and we hope to accomplish that.’’
? Shop of my Dreams by Mithu Sen, will take on a typical Chennai street stall recreated in a 4,000sq ft vacant shop at Express Avenue Mall. Anticipated to be a flowery spectacle, Sen intends to exhibit the flower as a cultural symbol and create a contrast by presenting the installation in a mall. ‘The project will be a way to understand the psychology of people in terms of identity and upward social mobility,” says Sen. ‘‘Expect garlands of different shapes and sizes, flower girls and kitschy signboards, ’’shares Sen.
Benita Perciyal’s installation for Bergamo Mall will see personal rebellion in her trademark use of natural materials such as limestone, mica shells and ebony. Defining and claiming her space in a setting associated with affluence and luxury, Perciyal intends to break norms and conformity.
? DakshinaChitra’s public show will see traditional glass bangle making artisans collaborating with Anjali Srinivasan to create organic sculptures. Open for public view, the event hopes to bring together the contrasts of modernity and tradition, and facilitate an exchange of ideas and techniques. At DakshinaChitra from February 8 – 23.
? Beach Projects of Vintage Vignettes (Marina Beach) from D Krishnan’ collection gives glimpses of Chennai streets and landscapes through photographs from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In Art Chennai’s creative director Girish Shahane’s view, “The exhibition is likely to have great potential in tapping into the historical significance of the city, considering it is in a less intimidating space for the public.’’.
? A photography exhibition (Elliot’s Beach) by women photographers focussed on ‘Harassment against Women’ curated by Else Gabriel in collaboration with the Goethe Institute. Encouraging discourse on the issue that’s currently making waves, the exhibition is also an effort by Tulsyan to create awareness on the same. February 11 onwards.
For art critics Sadanand Menon and Ashrafi Bhagat, the core of Art Chennai is evident—a non-commercial platform for artists that actively involves the city’s public as well.
But Menon voices his reservations for the future of art. “Chennai carries a plethora of strengths in the art domain, for instance, bronze casting. We’re likely to lose out on promoting these practices if Art Chennai simply focuses on modern and contemporary art,” he shares, adding, “The festival can evolve to be discriminatory if it tries to dictate the market for art and being non-inclusive.” Bhagat prefers the festival to stick to local artists and not involve country-wide participation too early. “In terms of comparison with the Delhi Art Fair and the Kochi Biennale, I really feel the fest can be bettered on the promotional front,” she says. “While a biennale promotes an interventionist approach to art and the fair is an uncompromisingly commerce-centric endeavour, Art Chennai is in between, and it’s a great model. Figure out a way to keep
the money rolling in, and you’re sorted,” explains Menon.
Artists will unite to paint the walls of Stella Maris College. The theme is ‘The Trees and the Skies’ and will showcase Jacob Jebaraj, Seema Kohli, Tanujaa Rane, students of Stella Maris and Ability Foundation. Conservation being the main theme, the wall art project will focus on environmental concerns and provide an opportunity for the public to interact with artists. According to Sharan Apparao, director of Apparao Galleries, the endeavour is bound to bring about awareness and spark a dialogue, even if it is a simple acknowledgement. ‘‘Though we cannot rely on efforts such as the festival to inculcate an interest in arts, events such as this form an integral part,’’ feels Apparao. From February 8 onwards.
For enthusiasts looking to own art but wary of the prices, Art World makes a concerted effort this edition to bring affordability to the fore. February 9 will see 25 local artists coming together in the shade of Cholamandal Art Gallery in an effort inspired by Shantiniketan to churn out drawings and watercolour paintings. With price points between Rs500 andRs2,000, the generosity comes with a catch—the sale is on only for three hours between 10 am and 1 pm. “As Art Chennai’s intention is to bring art to the public, what better way than making art affordable as well? Plus, the attempt is also likely to attract people who don’t normally visit art galleries to interact with artists and generat interest in Indian art like no other festival,” enthuses Bishwajit Banerjee, director of Art World. Details: artchennai.com