In a first, India goes to Venice Biennale as a nationDecember 2nd, 2010 - 3:40 pm ICT by IANS
By Madhusree Chatterjee
New Delhi, Dec 2 (IANS) For the first time in the history of the 115-year-old Venice Biennale, the Indian government will take a showcase of contemporary art to the event as an official entrant.
The 54th Venice Biennale will be held June 4-Nov 27 next year in the picturesque Italian town.
“This is first time India will be going as a nation to the Venice biennale, one of the oldest art fairs. India artists and galleries had participated earlier. They were chosen by the biennale curator in individual capacities,” Ashok Vajpeyi, chairman of the Lalit Kala Akademi, told IANS in an interview.
Lalit Kala Akademi, the country’s official arts promotion platform, will facilitate India’s participation at the Biennale and fund the move.
“The Venice showcase will host younger, lesser-known talented artists from around the country rather than the established names,” Vajpeyi said.
Why young contemporary art?
According to Vajpeyi, unlike many other European countries, Venice is familiar with modern Indian art because eminent Indian artists have consistently exhibited at the Biennale for nearly two decades.
In 2007, the Venice Biennale had come calling to Delhi with an offer for an India specific exhibition. “But somehow, it did not work out,” he said. But this year, the government did not need much persuasion.
“The government realises that Indian art is internationally recognised - though it has taken a lot of time. Private galleries showing abroad in New York, Paris, Berlin, Taipei and Shanghai have made a big contribution to international recognition of Indian art and we have instituted exchange programmes with various countries. The world is curious to know what India is doing in the field of contemporary art - which is not to say that modern art did not make a contribution,” Vajpeyi said.
India has nearly 400 galleries, Vajpeyi said.
The modalities are being negotiated. A Mumbai-based art critic, curator and writer Ranjit Hoskote will curate the exhibition.
“Ranjit and I will go to Venice in the second week of December to work out the nitty gritties,” Vajpeyi said.
The 54th edition of the Venice Biennale will be bigger in 2011 in terms of participation to include Bahrain, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Rwanda and Saudi Arabia.
India has been allocated space for the exhibition at the Arsenal - an old abandoned armoury converted into an art gallery. The Venetian Arsenal (Arsenale di Venezia) is a 12th century Byzantine complex of state-owned shipyards and armories that was once a node of Venetian naval power.
“It is one of the main exhibition spaces, along with Giardini, a historic exhibition space. The Arsenal is located close to the sea. Venice is full of national pavilions spread over the city. They are permanent gallery spaces built by participating nations,” he said.
The Venice Biennale format is multipronged.
It hosts a central exhibition and allocates space for country-specific exhibition. The exhibition for 2011 is titled “ILLUMInations”.
“They appoint a curator for the main exhibition. The curator decides on the thematic content of the show and selects artists from all over the world. In 2009, when I visited the Biennale, I was unhappy and infuriated that we were not present as a nation. I took it up with the government and it is bearing fruit,” Vajpeyi said.
The culture ministry has indicated that it has earmarked an additional budget Rs.1 crore which “may not be enough” for the five-month exhibition.
The government’s zeal to promote Indian art has enthused the institutions. The Lalit Kala Akademi is also trying to revive the “Triennale-India”, last held in 2006.
“The Triennale-India was conceived by former chairman of Lali Kala Akademi Mulk Raj Anand, as a developing world initiative by India, Sao Paolo (Brazil) and Havana (Cuba) to promote the art of emerging nations. It had a certain ideological location in that period of time. We plan to bring back the Triannele in late 2011,” he said.
The Triennale will be spread over 50 venues in the country.
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