Sunday, March 30, 2014

ARTICLE 1356 - End of an Era

K. Chinnappa, who has painted cutouts of politicians and almost every actor over the course of his career, at his workshop in Bangalore on Friday. Photo: Bhagya Prakash K.

K. Chinnappa brings to an end an illustrious career of hand-painted posters

Hand-painted life-size images of film actors and famous personalities will be a thing of the past soon, with Rajkamal Arts, the only surviving company that paints posters and gigantic cut-outs of artistes and personalities in Bangalore, all set to shut shop.
A life size image of Nandamuri Balakrishna in Legend, an upcoming Telugu film, is perhaps the last painted work of 77-year-old artist K. Chinnappa, the man behind Rajkamal Arts. A 46-foot cutout of BJP’s prime ministerial candidate pick Narendra Modi is his last work of a well-known political personality. Interestingly, Mr. Chinnappa had breathed life to huge cutouts of Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi in the 1960s and ’70s.
On Thursday, when The Hindu went to meet the artist, his son Gopalakrishna, who is also a painter, was busy packing some rare works of Mr. Chinnappa at his workshop in Gayathri Nagar to transport them to London.
Mr. Chinnappa has painted nearly every major star in all four southern languages and Hindi in his career, numbering over 4,300. He has painted images ranging from MGR, NTR, Rajkumar, Amitabh Bachchan, Prem Nazir and even that of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone.
Mr. Chinnappa feels his works are not relevant in the age of digital printing. “There was a time when I used to work 18-hours a day to meet the needs of the film industry. Now the demand for hand-painted posters is almost gone. It has become difficult to pay salaries to workers, pay rent and electricity bills,” he says.
No one would want to ‘waste money’ when everything is digitised and prints could be got in a few hours, Mr. Chinnappa said.
Those working with Mr. Chinnappa have already found other jobs. Some are colouring temple Gopuras (tower) and paintings murals. Since when he started training under his guru Sri Sheenu at the age of nine, Mr. Chinappa has spent most of his life with colours and canvas. He began as an assistant, working on the iconic Mother India poster.
There is no missing the pride in Mr. Chinnappa’s tone as he talks of his work. “Keep a digital print next to a hand-painted poster and you will find a rich texture of myriad colours that is lacking in digital prints. There is no substitute to hand painting,” he says.
He is a recipient of the Indira Priyadarshini Award. The Discovery Channel has expressed interests in making a documentary film on him.


Thursday, March 27, 2014

ARTICLE 1355 - Rakhigarhi - Bigger Than Mohenjo-Daro

The newly discovered mound number nine situated to the west of the Harappan site of Rakhigarhi in Hisar district, Haryana. Photo: Vasant Shinde
The discovery of two more mounds in January at the Harappan site of Rakhigarhi in Hisar district, Haryana, has led to archaeologists establishing it as the biggest Harappan civilisation site. Until now, specialists in the Harappan civilisation had argued that Mohenjo-daro in Pakistan was the largest among the 2,000 Harappan sites known to exist in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The archaeological remains at Mohenjo-daro extend around 300 hectares. Mohenjo-daro, Harappa and Ganweriwala (all in Pakistan) and Rakhigarhi and Dholavira (both in India) are ranked as the first to the fifth biggest Harappan sites.
“With the discovery of two additional mounds, the total area of the Rakhigarhi site will be 350 hectares,” asserted Professor Vasant Shinde, Vice-Chancellor/Director, Deccan College Post-Graduate & Research Institute, a deemed-to-be university in Pune. The two mounds are in addition to the seven mounds already discovered at Rakhigarhi, about 160 km from New Delhi. The eighth and ninth mounds, spread over 25 hectares each, are situated to the east and west of the main site. Villagers have destroyed much of these two mounds for cultivation. A team of archaeology teachers and students of the Deccan College discovered them when they surveyed the site in January.
Dr. Shinde, a specialist in Harappan civilisation and Director of the current excavation at Rakhigarhi, called it “an important discovery.” He said: “Our discovery makes Rakhigarhi the biggest Harappan site, bigger than Mohenjo-daro. The two new mounds show that the Rakhigarhi site was quite extensive. They have the same material as the main site. So they are part of the main site. On the surface of mound nine, we noticed some burnt clay clots and circular furnaces, indicating this was the industrial area of the Harappan site of Rakhigarhi.”
Dr. Shinde had earlier led the excavations done by the Deccan College at the Harappan sites of Farmana, Girawad and Mitathal, all in Haryana.
On the surface of mound eight were found terracotta bangles, cakes, and pottery pieces, typical of the Harappan civilisation, said Nilesh P. Jadhav, Research Assistant, Department of Archaeology, Deccan College.
Artefacts found
From January 10, the Deccan College team has excavated five trenches on the slope of the mound four and another trench in the burial mound numbered seven. The excavation in mound four has yielded a cornucopia of artefacts, including a seal and a potsherd, both inscribed with the Harappan script; potsherds painted with concentric circles, fish-net designs, wavy patterns, floral designs and geometric designs; terracotta animal figurines, cakes, hopscotches and shell bangles, all belonging to the Mature Harappan phase of the civilisation. The five trenches have revealed residential rooms, a bathroom with a soak jar, drainages, a hearth, a platform etc … The residential rooms were built with mud bricks. The complex revealed different structural phases, said Kanti Pawar, assistant professor, Department of Archaeology, Deccan College.
Much of the Harappan site at Rakhigarhi lies buried under the present-day village, with several hundreds of houses built on the archaeological remains. The villagers’ main occupation is cultivation of wheat and mustard, and rearing of buffaloes.
Making cow dung cakes is a flourishing industry. There is rampant encroachment on all the mounds despite the Archaeological Survey of India fencing them. Amarendra Nath of the ASI had excavated the Rakhigarhi site from 1997 to 2000.
An important problem about the Harappan civilisation is the origin of its culture, Dr. Shinde said. The Harappan civilisation had three phases: the early Harappan from circa 3,500 BCE to circa 2,600 BCE, the mature Harappan which lasted from circa 2,600 BCE to circa 2000 BCE, and the late Harappan from circa 2000 BCE to 1,600 BCE.
Dr. Shinde said: “It was earlier thought that the origin of the early Harappan phase took place in Sind, in present-day Pakistan, because many sites had not been discovered then. In the last ten years, we have discovered many sites in this part [Haryana] and there are at least five Harappan sites such as Kunal, Bhirrana, Farmana, Girawad and Mitathal, which are producing early dates and where the early Harappan phase could go back to 5000 BCE. We want to confirm it. Rakhigarhi is an ideal candidate to believe that the beginning of the Harappan civilisation took place in the Ghaggar basin in Haryana and it gradually grew from here. If we get the confirmation, it will be interesting because the origin would have taken place in the Ghaggar basin in India and slowly moved to the Indus valley. That is one of the important aims of our current excavation at Rakhigarhi.”

T. S. Subramanian for the Hindu

Friday, March 14, 2014

ARTICLE 1354 - Eyes on Balgladesh

A local television journalist reporting last spring from the opening of an exhibition at Drik, a photography center, in Dhaka, Bangladesh.  The art scene in the Bangladeshi capital is expanding to include nontraditional themes. CreditAmy Yee

DHAKA, Bangladesh — Political turmoil and violent nationwide strikes regularly disrupted life in Bangladesh last year. But on a hot night in Dhaka, the capital, hundreds of people crowded into Dhaka Art Center for the opening of an exhibition of paintings by Rafiqun Nabi, an esteemed Bangladeshi artist famed for his newspaper cartoons.
Children with parents, young men, couples, elderly visitors and entire families crowded the center and spilled into its brick courtyard in Dhanmondi, a neighborhood known as Dhaka’s thriving arts hub. Art lovers posed for photos next to an expansive painting featuring a jumble of geometric, blue-skinned men playing cards, blowing a flute and napping in the lee of a wooden boat.
Boats and rivers are ubiquitous in Bangladesh, a river delta country between India and Myanmar, and were common motifs in Mr. Nabi’s paintings. So were lively street scenes, such as a family of three on a bicycle.

Dhaka Art Center shows work by new artists, too, such as drawings by a young artist named Arham ul-Huq Chowdhury. The compact works shown a week after Mr. Nabi’s exhibition creatively used calligraphy to illustrate Bengali proverbs, like one of a cat rendered in coils of elongated Bengali letters.
Bangladesh lays claim to a legacy of Bengali arts and culture shared by the neighboring Indian state of West Bengal, the birthplace of Rabindranath Tagore, the poet and Nobel laureate who wrote the national anthems of both India and Bangladesh.
A contemporary arts scene began to grow in Bangladesh 20 years after a bloody war of independence separated the country from Pakistan in 1971. Since the 1990s, more artists have graduated from the country’s arts academies and universities, and new art venues have sprouted up. Now art openings happen weekly in Dhaka’s galleries, clustered mostly in Dhanmondi — though getting to them is a challenge in a city of seven million that is choked with traffic.
In spite of the momentum, artists and patrons are still trying to push contemporary art beyond the country’s traditional notions. Some also strive to create an identity apart from grim scenes too easily associated with Bangladesh: cyclones, violent political protests, and bleak factories exemplified by the deadly collapse last year of the Rana Plaza building.
Founded in 1986, the Bengal Foundation was one of the first private arts institutions in Dhaka. Today it hosts exhibitions, concerts and other cultural events at the Bengal Gallery of Fine Arts in Dhanmondi, as well as the sleek new Bengal Art Lounge in Gulshan, the diplomatic enclave.
The business magnate Abul Khair Litu started the foundation out of personal interest in the arts, and “the vision of projecting a culturally rich Bangladesh, rising above clichéd portraiture of a country steeped in flood and famine,” as he wrote in a 2011 book by the Bangladeshi photographer Shahidul Alam.
Mr. Alam founded Drik, a photography agency and archive, in 1989 to use photography as a tool for social justice and to show Bangladesh in a different light.

“I wanted to ensure that the only identity of Bangladesh would not be an icon of poverty,” he said. “It’s not a P.R. campaign, but the world has a very narrow understanding of this country.”
Mr. Alam’s photographs have appeared in the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Pompidou Center in Paris and other museums around the world. After earning a doctorate in chemistry from the University of London — a useful degree for mixing darkroom chemicals, he noted — Mr. Alam stumbled into photography while hitchhiking in the United States with a borrowed Nikon. He was hooked and returned to Bangladesh in 1984. Eventually he founded Drik in his parents’ home in Dhanmondi. Today, Drik’s three-story building houses the agency, archives, a book publisher, and multimedia initiatives, along with galleries.
Drik put Bangladesh on the map for photography, as did Pathshala, the photography school nearby that Mr. Alam founded in 1998. Pathshala has trained hundreds of Bangladeshi photographers, including award-winning photojournalists.
Since 2000, Drik has hosted Chobi Mela, the largest festival of contemporary photography in Asia to be held every other year. In 2013, 130 international photographers converged in Dhaka for a week of talks and exhibitions. Some displays even took to the streets on bicycle carts. “Art has been confined to experts for far too long,” Mr. Alam said. “Social engagement is part of what we do.”
In spite of Drik’s prominence, Mr. Alam said that art in Bangladesh was associated primarily with painting. The Asian Art Biennale has been held at the Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy in Dhaka for 30 years, yet photographs are still not accepted into the art fair.
Others agree that acceptance of contemporary art must be broadened and internationalized. The art collectors Rajeeb and Nadia Samdani started the annual Dhaka Art Summit in 2012 to showcase contemporary art by Bangladeshi and international artists with a more avant-garde bent. The second summit, this past February, attracted 250 artists from South Asia and international curators for three days of exhibits, talks and experimental films.
The Samdanis, both in their 30s, hope the event becomes a platform for the region and brings Bangladeshi contemporary art onto the global stage. They started collecting art in 2008 and their ultramodern home in Gulshan looks part-gallery, part-nightclub, with striking contemporary art displayed throughout the house.
In the lobby, a life-size sculpture of a corpse by the Pakistani artist Huma Mulji lies on the floor grotesquely clutching at the air. Ms. Mulji modeled the sculpture on bodies of the “disappeared” found dumped in rivers in Pakistan. Upstairs, an outsize rack displays dozens of shiny metallic bras made of razor blades by the Bangladeshi arztist Tayeba Begum Lipi. Ms. Lipi’s work of a bed frame constructed of razor blades was recently acquired by the Guggenheim Museum in New York.
Ms. Lipi is part of the Britto Arts Trust, a group in Dhaka founded by Bangladeshi artists in 2002 as an incubator for experimental work like video and installation art that remains largely alien to the city’s traditional venues. “When we started, galleries didn’t give us space,” recalled Mahbubur Rahman, one of Britto’s six founders.
Britto has gained ground since then. It hosts workshops every two years for local and international artists, and has a new arts space near Dhanmondi where Britto’s 11 members work and exhibit.

In 2009, Britto also helped stage 1mile2, a display of films, public art and installations focusing on ecology over one square mile of Old Dhaka, the capital’s chaotic historic district. For one day, works by 40 artists spotlighted the environmental and urban degradation so prevalent in Old Dhaka. Works included a life-size replica of a traditional wooden boat made of empty plastic bottles that carried passengers onto the black, fetid waters of the Buriganga River, and a photo installation depicting Dhaka’s wild urban monkeys.
Mr. Rahman said that 15,000 people had viewed the show in a single day, including laborers who work and live in Old Dhaka. “They didn’t understand what was going on, but they are very much curious and enjoying,” he said.
Although pockets of contemporary art are thriving in Dhaka, challenges remain. Bangladesh’s fine arts academies and universities tend to neglect teaching the subject, and there is still more respect for older, traditional artists. “No one wants young people to get recognition,” lamented Mr. Samdani of Dhaka Art Summit.
Art patrons spoke of the divided, fragmented arts community in a country known for cutthroat politics. “It’s a pity,” said Giorgio Guglielmino, the Italian ambassador to Bangladesh and an avid collector who lectures on contemporary art. “If you want the country’s art to emerge, they should put together forces.”
Those who attend art exhibitions in Dhaka seem oblivious to this infighting. Back at Mr. Nabi’s exhibition at Dhaka Art Center, a 35-year-old banker named Sazzad Islam admired the paintings. Mr. Islam studied accounting at university. His fondness for art has grown by visiting Dhaka’s galleries.
“When I get any time I try to go there,” Mr. Islam said. “Day by day, I myself feel devotion.”

AMY YEE for The NY Times

Monday, February 24, 2014

ARTICLE 1353 - Occupy Museums!

A view of the intervention from the floor of the atrium. (image provided by G.U.L.F. aka Gulf Ultra Luxury Faction)

Last night, over 40 protesters staged an intervention inside the Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan during Saturday night’s pay-what-you-wish admission hours. Unfurling mylar banners, dropping leaflets, chanting words, handing out information to museum visitors, and drawing attention with the use of a baritone bugle, the group worked to highlight the labor conditions on Saadiyat Island in the United Arab Emirates, where Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, a franchise of New York’s Guggenheim, is being built.
Staged in the midst of the museum’s newly opened Italian Futurism exhibition, the intervention, a term used by some members of the group to describe the action, received both applause from visitors who seemed excited by the commotion and reactions of confusion from others unsure what was going on.

Flyers raining down onto the floor of the Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan, while protesters and chant and hold banners over the railings of the museum (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic unless otherwise noted)

The intervention began at 6:45pm EST with a bugle call and a loud question: “Who is building the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi?” The whole action continued for roughly 20 minutes, during which time security guards appeared to react slowly to the protesters as hundreds of museum visitors captured images and video of the protests.
The participants, who were a diverse group of artists, professors, students, and activists loosely affiliated with Occupy Museums, Gulf Labor, and various NYU-related groups, timed their protest to take place during the pay-what-you-wish hours of the museum, which normally charges $22 admission for adults. When I asked organizers if they purposely chose their action to coincide with the Italian Futurism exhibition and the Carrie Mae Weems retrospective, they told me that they did not, but that they were delighted for the coincidence since Futurism sought to combine art and politics, while Weems is a champion of those who have been historically excluded from museums.

The front cover of an informational brochure distributed during the February 22nd intervention. It was 
designed by Noah Fischer of Occupy Museums

“This is a new phase of the campaign, we’re moving beyond talk to action, and bringing it home obviously to the Guggenheim,” said Andrew Ross, a NYU professor of sociology, who is involved in the Gulf Labor coalition and the NYU Fair Labor coalition. “There are so many more people involved in this action that were not involved in Gulf Labor until this point. We’re widening the circle of participation, and that will have an impact.”

Gulf Labor is a coalition of artists, academics, and activists who have worked for over a year to ensure that the labor conditions on Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi, which will house Guggenheim- and Louvre-branded museums and a NYU-affiliated university, are not exploitative to workers. Many human rights organizations say that the workers who are brought to Saadiyat Island are victimized by the nation’s sponsorship system and face grueling and inhuman conditions on a daily basis.

During our brief conversation, Ross explained how their work raising awareness about workers’ debt, which translates to a type of indentured servitude for migrant workers, is connected to much bigger issues.
“We’re trying to make a connection with chains of debt that are transnational, and in the various locations we’re looking at, Bangladesh, Abu Dhabi, NYU, and the art world, there’s an enormous accumulation of debt in each of these places, and the money is getting extracted by the transnational creditor class,” Ross said. “And artists are more and more [in debt], and in order to practice art, you’re required to take on a big debt burden … so there’s a connection across many continents. Another art world is possible, one that’s more principled and ethical, and that looks out for the human and labor rights of all. Artists should not be asked to exhibit in museums that have been built on the back of abused workers … that’s what it boils down to. When you’re acquired by a museum that does that, that’s unfair. Your complicity is being bought along with the artwork.”

A close-up of some of the banners unfurled during the intervention

The idea of using art as a way to reimagine the world was at the heart of another participant’s passion for the issue. “Art, among other things, is about doing, living, and imagining a better world,” said artist Nitasha Dhillon of MTL Collective. “Art should not violate human rights, art should not endanger workers lives, and art should not create debt slaves. And definitely not be part of a system that creates debt bondage.”
She sees yesterday’s action as “a call for solidarity and a call for museums to do the right thing.” She added that “it’s important for museum goers to understand what kind of system they are participating in.”
One college student I spoke to, who originally hailed from China, said she was taking part in this, her first action, because it excited her to think about how art and social justice can work together to help change people’s lives. When I asked her how that interconnectedness changed her perception of art, she replied: “It changes art for the better for me.” She said she’d like to bring these ideas to China when she returns.
One Polish artist who participated with the group dropped one-sided leaflets he printed and brought to the event. The ambiguous pieces of paper featured an eye, a recycling symbol, an EKG, and the words “Human Toy Tool.”
I recorded as much of the intervention as I could on my smartphone, and the video is posted here:

After guards removed all the remaining banners, the intervention participants slowly left the museum. One man, who was playing the bugle, was temporarily detained by the NYPD, though he was released after a few minutes without providing ID or other personal information. Guggenheim guards, who were obviously unnerved by the event, yelled at one participant in front of the museum entrance. A few moments later, a guard came out to the street to tell hundreds of people lined up in front of the museum that no one else would be allowed into the building that evening. The crowd was visibly disappointed and many people lingered hoping the museum administration would change their mind. 

Museum visitors reading the manifesto tacked to the wall beside the introductory text 
to the Italian Futurism exhibition.

After the intervention, I encountered artist Amin Husain, who helped lead the chants, and I asked him if he thought it was all a success. “I think it was well-received by the people in the museum. One person told me that they didn’t know that was happening, so public education is really important,” he said. I asked him about the exhibitions themselves and whether he thought people understood what they were saying in that context, and he said he did: “I think the context is really appropriate, because they [the Futurists] talked about restructuring the universe, so clearly the museum is giving that some thought at this moment, and we want to talk about restructuring the universe without fascism and without slave labor.” 

The intervention, which was the first by a new coalition that includes Occupy Museums, Gulf Labor, and various New York University–affiliated groups, came about after a month of meetings between the various organizations. The coalition, which was using the acronym G.U.L.F. (Gulf Ultra Luxury Faction) to identify themselves in their informational brochure, hope that this will be the first in a series that builds bridges in their continuing fight for social justice. The next event is scheduled for Wednesday, February 26, 5:15pm EST, at NYU’s Global Center for Academic & Spiritual Life (GCASL), which is located at 238 Thompson Street, Room 369, in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village. 

Hyperallergic reached out to the Guggenheim Museum for comment last night, and we have yet to hear back from the organization. [UPDATE: The Guggenheim Director Richard Armstrong has provided Hyperallergic with a statement.]

The G.U.L.F. coalition’s manifesto that was placed on the wall of the museum and read by visitors

These were the words participants were chanting last night (according to a text provided to Hyperallergic during the intervention):

A readers comment with a photo on original news site: 

Image taken from 1971 Demonstration/performance by the Art Workers Coalition at the Guggenheim Museum in support of Art Workers' Coalition co-founder Hans Haacke, whose exhibition was canceled by the museum’s director over his artwork Shapolsky et al., Manhattan Real Estate Holdings, A Real Time Social System, as of May 1, 1971. Photographer unknown.

Hrag Vartanian for Hyperallergic

Monday, February 10, 2014

ARTICLE 1352 - Master Forger. Who?

Art historian Thierry Lenain claims Italian frequently forged artworks in order to obtain the originals from their owners by giving them the copies

He is known as a Renaissance great – but Michelangelo was also a skilled forger who made copies of major works before ageing them with smoke and swapping them for the originals.

The little known details of his penchant for forgery were revealed by art historian Thierry Lenain at the Institut Français in London.

According to Mr Lenain, author of Art Forgery: The History of the Modern Obsession, the Italian frequently forged artworks in order to obtain the originals from their owners by giving them the copies. On one occasion, Michelangelo made a painted copy of a print representing Saint Anthony by the engraver Martin Schongauer, making his version so similar to the original it was impossible to tell which one was which.

Speaking at the VIEW festival of art history, Mr Lenain said: “He admired these originals for the excellence of their art and sought to surpass them.”

This is not the first time rumours of the artist’s forgeries have emerged. One anecdote describes how in 1496 a young Michelangelo copied a Roman sculpture, Sleeping Cupid. He buried it in the ground to give it the various stains, scratches and dents needed to make it look like a genuine antique. He then used a middleman to sell the piece to Cardinal Riario for a substantial sum.

According to Mr Lenain, Michelangelo’s copies earned him great notoriety, which helped launch his career.

Significantly, the perception of art forgery in the Renaissance era was very different to the negative attitudes which developed in later centuries.

“In late-modern forgeries, the main goal consists not so much in the creation of a work of art than in the construction of a trap,” said Mr Lenain.

“The most important authors on art, from the Renaissance to the 18th century, had a completely different approach to the issue,” he explained. “Far from condemning those who performed that kind of trick, they hailed them with the utmost enthusiasm.”

CHLOE HAMILTON  for the Independent

Saturday, February 08, 2014

ARTICLE 1351 - Lakhan jo Daro

An astonishing ornamental ball discovered from Makran. It is 15 cm high and 15 kg in weight made by pure lead and wrapped in copper.
KARACHI: Pakistani archaeologists, historians and self-proclaimed experts have all clamoured for Moenjodaro’s welfare in the past few weeks. While few would argue the significance of this ancient yet well-known site, it is vital to understand that there is more to the country’s crumbling heritage that needs a prayer or better yet a cultural festival.
Lakhan jo Daro, located a mere 100 km away from Moenjodaro in the Sukkur industrial area, is believed to predate the ruins which have attracted such attention recently and is the second largest city belonging to the Indus Valley Civilization. Developmental activities are, however, pushing the site towards destruction.
Digging in just 10cm revealed much archaeological treasure but after careful excavations pottery, seals, vases, terra cotta ball and weights and ivory and copper object were unearthed, Dr Nilofer Shaikh, , Vice Chancellor of the Shah Abdul Latif University ( SALU) in Khairpur, told all those gathered at a conference highlighting French contribution to science in Pakistan.
Organized on the 50th anniversary at the Alliance Francaise, Karachi, the conference revealed that the Lakhan jo Daro site, discovered in 2009 and spread over three kilometers, was perhaps once a hub of commercial activity.
Door pivots, staircases, walls, platforms, covered drains in resembling those in Moenjodaro, an 'I’ Shaped brick formation on the floor, and a ritual room with some structures have been discovered which is new in context of Indus Valley Civilization.
According to Dr Shaikh, walls upon walls from this treasured archaeological site have been taken away or destroyed.
She said upon further excavation, as the discoveries already point to, the site could well turn out to be the longest-ever lived city in South Asia.

From Left to Right eminent French paleontologists, ( left to right) Didier Merle, Jean Loup Welcomme and Gregoire Metais.
Where are the bones of Baluchitherium?
Dr Gregoire Metais and Professor Jean- Loup Welcomme from France also shared details of their amazing discoveries in Dera Bugti, Balochistan, the famous bed of bones where fossils are best exposed to study.
Welcomme and his colleagues, discovered the fossils of ‘Baluchitherium’ or ‘the beast of Balochistan’, the largest ever land mammal in 2001 from Dera Bugti.
A huge kin of Rhinoceros, Baluchitherium was seven meters tall, and 25 tonnes in weight. The team made a nearly complete skeleton of the animal which was then locked in 12 metal containers and handed over to Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti – who actually took personal interest in the expedition and accorded full assistance to the paleontologists working in the area.
After the killing of Bugti, the bones were moved to the Geological Survey of Pakistan (GSP), headquarters in Quetta.
Metias said Dera Bugti was just like a misty rainforest in Cenozoic era and they discovered fossils of huge turtles, a seven meter long snake and other animals in the Paleo wild park of Dera Bugti.
Talking to, both Welcomme and Metias expressed concern over the misplacement of the bones belonging to the Baluchitherium fossils.
Both scholars urged the authorities to take immediate action over the matter.
Mehrgarh – the home of first ever dentists!
In the Balochistan province, several amazing sites of Mehrgarh, one of the most important Neolithic sites in archaeology, were discovered. It has been confirmed that first ever dentists of the world belonged to this area. It is the first ever place in South Asia where agriculture flourished, a progression from the nomadic lifestyle that existed earlier. A thread in a bead discovered from the area showed that the first ever cotton was weaved in the area thousands of years ago.
This was shared in a presentation of Jean-François Jarrige, eminent archaeologist who worked in the area for many decades and made several discoveries in the Mehrgarh to Pirak areas (3,000 to 10,000-years-old).
People of Mehrgarh quickly mastered ways making fine pottery and glass beads, their seals and buttons indicating complex geometrical patterns.
In mid-80s, another site near Mehrgarh was discovered named Naushahro which is a transition settlement from Mehrgarh to Indus Valley civilization.
The untold story of Makran
Thousands of years back, Makran was a center for trade and business not only in the area currently Pakistan, but its pottery and other goods were exported to Oman, Iran and even Afghanistan, Aurore Didier said while detailing the 20 years of archaeological work in Pakistan.
One of his slides, which put in focus a huge ornamental piece discovered from one of the 22 ancient settlements of Makran, stunned the audience. It is a 17 cm high and 15 kg elliptical ball made of pure lead encased in a copper jacket and decorated with sea shells.
Makran was also a place for manufacturing the finest pottery of its times.
Fossils of Sindh
French paleontologist Annachiara Bartolini and Pakistani scholar Dr Rafique Lashari also highlighted the importance of microfossils discovered from Lakhra and Jhirak areas of Sindh.
Both said the biodiversity of invertebrates’ fossils in the area were remarkable.
Dr Lashari from University of Sindh, shared his views on paleontological studies carried out in Lakhra, Ranikot and Jhirak areas, supported by the French government.
Lashari talked about the invertebrate fauna from Sindh within the context of continental collision. He collected 180 samples of invertebrate (microscopic) fossils which can be considered very rare.
It is also interesting to mention that the French and Pakistani experts also strived to find the traces of the past 100,000 years of global warming also dubbed as Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM). In geological terms this was the most extreme Earth surface condition which took place some 55.8 million years ago.


Tuesday, February 04, 2014

ARTICLES 1349 & 1350 - A Tale of Two Reporters


Moderate sales and lots of people at Delhi’s India Art Fair

Delhi’s annual India Art Fair, which closed tonight, is as important for the focus it brings to Indian art and for other events that happen at the same time across the city as it is for the show itself, which has settled into a predictable mould in its sixth year.
Indeed, the exhibitions away from the fair grounds that are featuring leading modern and contemporary artists are more exciting than the fair itself, which this year has lacked dramatic new contemporary displays. In a depressed market, galleries have been showing conventional works and there has been some criticism of a lack of consistent quality, especially with Indian galleries – “kitsch” was the unkind word used by one critic to describe some exhibits, responding to me saying it was all very “predictable”.
Maybe there is nothing wrong in that. Arguably, there is no reason why India should not produce its own version of art fairs in the same way that it challenges other foreign concepts of orderliness, quality and convention. That said, the fair does confound sceptics with its efficient organisation and presentation and, as I have written several times in earlier years, its importance is that it has successfully opened up interest in Indian modern and contemporary art both in India and abroad.
Thousands of visitors, including schoolchildren, who would never venture into formal art galleries, have been touring the stands, which provide them with access to culture that they would not otherwise experience. This is similar to the Jaipur Literature festival that I wrote about ten days ago, though there the audiences are building on their existing interest in books whereas the art fair is opening new vistas.
Established Indian collectors have been at the fair to see, and some to buy, instead of relying on internet images which, gallery owners tell me, astonishingly suffices for many buyers.
The fair also brings foreign visitors to Delhi – this year, for the first time, there is a group ofgallery owners and collectors and artists from China, while Christie’s, one of the fair sponsors, has brought an international group. Neha Kirpal, the founder and director of he fair, says that last year 40% of the works sold went to first time buyers, some from what are known as second tier towns that do not have art events. Several gallery owners however are sceptical about that figure, echoing doubts about some of the claims of attendances in past years which Neha has comfortably and rounded off to a cumulative unchallengeable figure of 400,000 over the past five years.
The array of art on show has ranged from Picasso and Andy Warhol to India’s reliable body of progressives such as M.F. Husain, F.N.Souza and contemporary artists such as Atul Dodya and a spinning mud installation and digital prints in plastic boxes.
There were 91 exhibitors, the biggest of which is the Delhi Art Gallery with 330 works covering 400 sq metres. Nearly a third of the total exhibitors are from abroad, though some big international names, such as the Lisson Gallery from London and Hauser & Wirth from Zurich, have not returned after appearances four or five years ago.
This indicates some disappointment with a lack of sales to big buyers, and also frustration with shipping and other problems caused by India’s customs controls that make it impractical to bring many foreign works for sale.  “There is a risk of this not going much further if the organisers don’t develop a co-ordinated programme with collectors and corporate buyers,” says Carlos Cabral Nunes of Portugal’s Perve Galeria, reflecting the views of other foreign exhibitors.
A quick survey of stands this evening produced some unhappiness, like Nunes’ frustration about a lack of big sales. Most galleries that had done well sold works ranging from under Rs100,000 (£1,000, US$1,600) to four or five times that figure, though some went far higher. London’s Grosvenor Gallery did exceedingly well selling works by Olivia Fraser., a Delhi-based British painter with limited edition prints of new works that started at Rs50,000. Archer Art Galley of Ahmedabad also did well with limited edition reproductions of well-known artists starting at Rs15,000.
At the other end of the scale, Aicon Gallery of New York and London sold four works by established Indian masters, M.F.Husain and F.N.Souza, and a younger painter G.K.Irani, for between Rs400-500,000 to Rs1.5 crore (Rs15m). Art Alive of Delhi sold a long Thota Vaikuntum that had been priced at Rs40 lakhs (Rs40m). Mark Hachim of Paris was also happy, selling lively works, all foreign,  and including digital prints of scent bottles in plastic boxes from Euros 5,000 (Rs420,000). Sakshi Gallery of Mumbai’s sales included a tiffin (meal) container carried by Mumbai’s dabbawwallas who are pictured in the small buttons.
Collectors will now be watching to see what effect these events have on the market.Christie’s had an amazingly good first auction in Mumbai in December that produced record prices but that has yet to have a visible impact.
On a broader front, experts have been saying that India should look eastwards to the buoyant Chinese and south-east Asian markets to develop links. That will now begin following the visit of collectors from China, led by Philip Dodd of Made in China. Among them was  Budi Tek, a prominent Chinese-Indonesian collector who is building a museum in Shanghai and is considering buying a contemporary work from Delhi’s Espace Gallery. Earlier in the day, he said the Indian private sector needed to build museums and public awareness.
India always looks westwards to Europe and the US for foreign accolades and praise so it will, I guess, be some time before it recognises that looking east is where the future probably lies if Indian art is to appeal internationally to a wider audience than its present relatively small group of western collectors.
John Elliott   for the Independent
A longer article that includes the other art events in Delhi mentioned above, and more illustrations including some of the works, is on John Elliott’s blog at: 

6th India Art Fair Reports Strong Sales

NEW DELHI — On the heels of Christie’s successful auction in India, the sixth edition of the India Art Fair demonstrated that demand in the country’s art market remains strong.
Spread across three tents and 200,000 square feet, this year’s fair, which ran from Thursday to Sunday, featured 91 booths and modern and contemporary works by over 1,000 artists from India and overseas.
Participants included 12 new galleries from outside India, including those from Israel, France, Portugal, Germany, Spain, Turkey and, notably, from Karachi, Pakistan. The Himalayas Art Museum in Shanghai and the Mark Rothko Museum in Latvia both participated in the fair for the first time.
The fair’s organizers said in a statement that a number of exhibitors sold out completely and that 96 percent of exhibitors reported “good” sales, but no figures on sales or attendance were released. Most of the Indian gallery representatives who spoke to India Ink said they were satisfied with their sales.
“We didn’t go in expecting very much, but we exceeded our expectations,” said Priya Jhaveri, the director of Jhaveri Contemporary in Mumbai, which participated in its very first art fair. “It was a positive experience for us because we were introducing artists who aren’t known.”
Among the works she sold were those by Rana Begum, Hamra Abbas, Alexander Gorlizki, and Yamini Nayar. None of the works, with the exception of the one by Ms. Begum, exceeded $15,000.
Jhaveri Contemporary’s booth was placed near several other notable Indian galleries, and these booths had some of the strongest contemporary works on display.
Yet critics and observers rued the lack of consistency in the quality of some of the art at the fair, saying that although top tier galleries from India and some from overseas had stellar works, many middle-tier galleries had lackluster offerings.
“In terms of art works and quality, the most interesting pieces were at some of the contemporary galleries,” said Mallika Advani, a well-known independent art consultant and former India representative at Christie’s. “Although I normally deal more with the Moderns than with the younger artists, I can’t say there were too many works by the senior artists that I would recommend to collectors.”
She said most of the artwork on display had been featured on other commercial platforms, including auctions and previous gallery shows.
There were gems to be found, however. Ms. Advani singled out the Experimenter Gallery of Kolkata and Gallery SKE, based in Bangalore and New Delhi, which displayed the work of the mixed-media artist Avinash Veeraraghavan, Volte Gallery of Mumbai, which had a visually appealing bronze sculptural work by the British studio Based Upon, and Atul Dodiya’s works at Vadehra Art Gallery of New Delhi.
Despite criticism about overall quality of the art, there was universal agreement that the fair acts as a creative catalyst and draws a diverse audience that includes a global community of curators, museums and collectors as well as locals who wouldn't normally have access to such a wide range of contemporary art.
"It's an important national convening that didn't exist before," said Melissa Chiu, director of the Asia Society Museum in New York.
Ms. Jhaveri said although 90 percent of her buyers at the fair were those already known to her, she met many people who hadn’t known that her gallery was in Mumbai.
Tushar Jiwarajka, founder and director of Volte, said he sold a few major works, but beyond that, he saw the fair as a great platform to showcase his gallery. “In the four years I have participated, we have sold to new collectors,” he said.
Mr. Jiwarajika’s booth had works by the South African artist William Kentridge, the British-Indian artist Anish Kapoor, and Indian contemporaries like Sheba Chhachhi, Ranbir Kaleka and Nalini Malani.
Auxiliary events that take place outside the fair, including museum shows of modern and contemporary Indian art, are almost as important as the fair itself. The National Gallery of Modern Art is currently showing two major exhibitions, one by the contemporary artist Subodh Gupta and one on the pre-Independence works by Amrita Sher-Gil.
Other highlights included a solo show of paintings by Zarina Hashmi, “Folding House,” at Gallery Espace, Ms.Malani’s solo show, “Cassandra’s Gift,” at Vadehra Art Gallery and Sudarshan Shetty’s show, “Every Broken Moment, Piece by Piece,” at Gallery SKE.
“The curated exhibitions like those by senior artists like Nalini Malani and Zarina Hashmi, that didn’t happen before, that is in large measure due to the fair as a convenor,” said Ms. Chiu. As a curator, it’s a very good way of getting a sense of what’s happening with Indian artists today, both emerging and established.”
Neha Kirpal, founder of the India Art Fair, wasn’t fazed by the criticism about the quality of art this year. An art world novice when she founded the fair six years ago, Ms. Kirpal said that her goal was to make the market more democratic.
“This is a domestic fair for a domestic audience,” she said. “The art scene here is small and the preference is not to exclude galleries right away.
“We could have made it very exclusive and have only the absolute best, in which case from India there would be 20 galleries that made that cut. But that’s precisely the problem — the art world is inaccessible. I am that public that was too intimidated to walk into a gallery as a young person growing up in India.”
Among the fair’s 400,000 visitors over the past five years, she said, thousands of them had never before seen art in their lives.For such folks, works like the oil on canvas by Henry Singleton (1766-1839) titled “The Last Effort and Fall of Tipu Sultan,” which was featured at the Delhi Art Gallery booth, would have been an eye opener.
“I am passionate about building something in this country for art and culture that did not exist before,” she said. “We are at a different stage in its development cycle. We are where London was maybe 50 years ago — we are just about starting off.”

 GAYATRI RANGACHARI SHAH  for the New York Times