Lodhi Art District

The tranquil Lodhi colony, built by the British around 1940 for soldiers stationed in Delhi, and now used as a housing area for middle-ranked government employees, has been transformed into a public gallery.  It’s a spectacular sight.

More than 25 artists from India and around the world – the US, Iran, Switzerland, Cambodia, Japan, Mexico, among others – used the two story high walls as their canvases. It took the dedicated crew of St+Art Delhi nine month to get all the necessary permits. And even after that people opposed some painting or the other because maybe black paint was used, which is considered inauspicious.

More often than not, the artists interacted with the locals or the location and developed their work from there. The German Hendrik Beikirch for example painted a woman he met in the nearby railway colony. Dwa Zeta from Poland created abstract forms which refer to the flow of Delhi’s streets. And the Spaniard Borondo  interprets the concept of life and birth in his river – opposite a maternity hospital.

More typical Indian themes can also be found on the walls. The lotus, India’s national flower, features prominently in the signature of Suiko. And Indian art traditions and styles like Gond Folk art were also used.

More here: http://www.st-artindia.org/


Lodhi Art District – “2 Hands Unterwater” from Doreen Fiedler on Vimeo.

Town Trot: Pre Durga Puja Walk

When the soil is still moist from the monsoon rains, there is a buzz in the air of the Bengali CR Park in Delhi. The most eagerly awaited festival of the community, the extravaganza that is the Durga Puja, is almost here: tents are being set up, clay idols are shaped, handicraft markets are installed.

Exploring Street Art in Shahpur Jat

Street Art in Delhi

A house (!) full of street (!) art and art lovers – an unmistakable sign that gentrification and hipster culture is making it’s way into Delhi. Nonetheless: the talks by the artists were very inspiring. All in all, the creators of St.ART Delhi did quite a lot to colour up the city.

Something’s wrong here…


find the mistake

Nobody wants a Warhol

India Art Fair - GandhiThe India Art Fair, arguably the largest such fair in the country, showcased over 1000 artists from India and across the world displaying their painting, sculptures, digital art, photography installations and performance art.

I walked around and wanted to know: What kind of art do Indians buy? Who are the potential buyers? And how healty is the art market now after the difficult years since the financial crisis in 2008? Here are the answers:

Michael Tekath, director Galerie Klaus Benden in Cologne, which specialises in Pop Art. They are in Delhi for the first time and hadn’t sold one piece on saturday afternoon:

“People buy a lot – but Indian art. Galeries like ours must be patient. The potential is there, but we must be patient. How long are we going to sustain? Not five years,” Tekath says. But he does see potential, as the situation was similar in Hongkong seven to eight years ago, when everybody, especially the mainland Chinese, bought Chinese art, and now the picture completely changed.

“If Indians are spending 15.000 or 20.000 Euros, they want something big, something colourful, something imposing, and not a print – of which 300 are available.” (referring to the Andy Warhols)

An Indian piece of art, Tekath thinks, has greater value for many Indians than a Warhol, as chances are that you show the Warhol to the guests and they don’t recognise it. “We overshoot it when we brought so much Pop Art with us.”

Damiano Femfert of Die Gallerie, at the fair for the 4th time. He sold one, two are reserved.

“Initially there was hardly any concrete interest. But it grew, and now we have regular customers.” Because people from the upper middle class, like doctors, professors, lawyers, have their specific interests, but don’t have any chance to obtain the work other than at these fairs.

India Art Fair - tyre

Tushar Jiwarajka, founder of Volte Gallery in Mumbai:

“We are doing pretty well, have sold something like 30 percent.” The buyers, he says, are a mix of upper middle class and the really rich. “Thanks to the Christie’s auction (in December, first one in India), more new people are entering the market.”

Carlos Cabral Nunes, Perve Galleries, Lisbon, Portugal, here for the first time, he sold seven paintings, and 14 are reserved.

“I hope to go home without any painting at all.” There was especially high demand for a painting from Raquel Rocha, which is figurative art, composed by patterns of figures – and all the characters in it are making love. “I could have sold this picture ten times,” he said.

On Indians buying Indian art, Nunes thinks: “At the moment they are protecting their own culture, their own way of thinking and being. I don’t know if this will last.”

A female salesperson at Gallery Espace, New Delhi, which sells Indian art and artists of Indian origin:

“Contemporary artists sell very well, even the younger ones.” And: “Sales are better than last year, because the economy is upward looking, so potential buyers are reassured. Maybe the Christie’s auction also had an impact. We hope this is a trend.”

Some of the buyers are younger ones, who want the art for their personal space, the saleswoman explains. The ones in their middle ages see it more as an investment, or to show off. “To let everybody know: I can afford it.” “The market is opening up gradually, beyond Indian artists, but people interested in these are still very few.”

Priya Jhaveri, owner of Jhaveri Contemporar:

“It’s picking up, there is great energy and activity. But it’s not a soaring market.” Galleries should adapt to the local market, she thinks. “We are a young gallery, so prices are sensible, and that is what many young people are looking for.”

India Art Fair - frisking

Kishore Singh, Head, Publication and Exhibition at Delhi Art Gallery:

“We need more events like this. There is not much art in the streets and public places.”

“In the schools, studies are driven by marks. So education in art is seen as a wastage of time, both by the schools and the parents.”

“There is no museum and gallery going culture, and in the schools there is no education in arts. So the images that stay with people are the ones from 100 or 150 years ago, the ones from the prayer rooms, the slightly realistic art.”

As the Indian masters are what Indians know, it’s also what they buy. “We are a young country. You have to give India a little more time to first accept Indian contemporary art and then look outside.”

“Even Indians who went to foreign countries and got to know other schools there, may want to look at it, but won’t necessarily buy this art.” And if they start buying western art, then it will first be the masters, not the contemporary art. “People want familiar names.”

The financial crisis 2008 has impacted many galleries and collectors. Many buyers felt cheated when the prices fell (at least the values of the masters hasn’t slipped very much).

“When you feel a little vulnerable, you buy tangible investments like properties, houses, gold. At the end of the day, these pieces of art a just a piece of paper.”

“Now, prices are moving up again, the interest is picking up. But it still is slow. The faith and confidence has to be won back.”

Art in the Park

How Bollywood influences Indian society

I had a very interesting interview today with an Indian film critic, Suparna Sharma. Unfortunately I could only put one of her quotes into my dpa story. As this didn’t do justice to her elaborate thoughts, I decided to publish the rest here. Enjoy.

There is no doubt that lead female characters in Bollywood films are mostly pretty props to delight not just the men, but increasingly to cater to women as well. They have perfect skins, gorgeous hair, lavish designer clothes, concave stomachs and the silouete of apsaras (celestial nymphs). They are perfect creatures for product placement.

And this hasn’t changed for a 100 years. But neither has the male character(s). We still have the angry young man, the eternal lover, the superman, with the same, age-old compulsions.

As a society, as a culture, we are today almost anti-nuance, anti-intellectual, as you see in the debate about sexual harassment, rape etc. Kill the rapists is the general reaction. We seek retribution, not justice. And that’s exactly what Indian cinema has portrayed for years. This hasn’t changed on ground, and is unlikely to change in cimena.

In two landmark rape films – Insaaf ka Tarazoo (the man who was a rapist in that film is now a politician, Raj Babbar), and Ankush – the rapists are killed, and in one the raped woman commits suicide. It’s this narrative, the linking of a woman’s and her family’s honour with her body that needs to change – not just in cinema, but on the gound as well.

Today a lot of responsibility for the treatment of women is pegged on cinema. People assume that it will somehow have an impact on how men act – that reasoning is screwed.

This strange link – man sees item number/sexy female on screen and this titilates him and thus he may go out and rape – doesn’t just reduce men to unthinking criminal imbeciles and reduces rape merely to a physical, sexual act, but also questions the woman’r right to show her body the way she wants to, to wear what she wants.

It’s an extension of the old patriarchal argument that women must not be seen – that they are things that tempt men and are thus best kept in burqas, purdahs, ghunghats, squarely placing the responsibility on the woman for the man’s criminal act.

In Bollywood movies, women unquestionable get shitty roles, without real jobs. And that won’t change for a while, I don’t see it happening for years to come. There is an audience responsibility as well: People love stories of complicated relationships and love triangles. If they keep on watching them, this is what they will get.

Cinema, after all, is a mass medium, it is made to entertain. Even if films are portraying women as CEOs of big companies, the ground situation is not going to change.

Street Art from Colombia in Delhi

Colombian Street Artist Stinkfish

‘Still Dirty’ – Jeet Thayil

The – quite rightly so – highly celebrated Indian poet, novelist, librettist and musician Jeet Thayil presented his new music video in Delhi. Called ‘Still Dirty’, it is a tribute to Berlin, the city that – other than Delhi – celebrates it’s filth and dreck. In my most favourite district, @Neukoelln2Null just discovered the graffiti: “Keep your neighbourhood dirty”. And his new track is likely “murky and draggy”, Thayil said.

Before showing us the music video, in which the expressive Thayil wears ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’ like aviator sunglasses, he shared some of his thoughts about Berlin, where he stayed for nearly three month during his tour through Europe.

Jeet Thayil

Jeet Thayil (l) in conversation with Robin Mallik, Director Programmes South Asia of Goethe Institute

“I was unprepared that in Kreuzberg you actually live in the 3rd world – unlike Munich or Paris. The graffiti tell you that,” he said. From his hip flat, provided by his publishers, and nearly empty safe for the three huge, framed photographs of factories (“factories!”), he could see a former squat across the road. “I wish the graffiti there would at least have been good graffiti. But the weren’t!” Nobody had made the effort to practice before spraying, Thayil complained.

Initially Thayil felt “solitude and isolation” in Berlin. “But when I left, I felt loyality. Like everybody who lives there for some length of time.” Berlin isn’t easy to like, he went on. “Because history is constantly looking in your face. The streets are not built for humans, they are built for tanks.” But to live there it is like going out with the person no one liked at High School. One starts to like the other – and then would defend him or her against everybody.

The closest metro station to his flat was Herrmannplatz, which happens to be one of Berlin’s drug selling points – Thayil himself was addicted for nearly thirty years. “Having seen junkies in many parts of the world, I was surprised to see that in Germany even the junkies are on schedule”, he said. They would only be at Herrmannplatz between noon and 5.30pm, because then they would go to have dinner.

He was also surprised when one day he saw police talking to the junkies. Finally they got busted, and order will be restored, he thought. But as it turned out, one junkie had stolen the other one’s mobile phone, and the police was only there to reclaim his belongings.



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