Thursday, 4 August 2016

Tea with Krishen Khanna

Jyotsna Sharma

Over tea & cake we chatted about his life and his artwork. I got to know a truly exceptional human being.

His first picture / artwork was sold to Dr. Homi Bhabha in Bombay for INR 225. He never met Dr. Bhabha; in fact, M.F Husain had made that sale for him since he (Khanna) was busy working at a bank in Madras. Husain had inducted him into the PAG - progressive artists group. He told me that the members of ‘the group’ (PAG) were quite close; they would help each other sell artworks, organize shows and even curate each other’s shows, this kind of camaraderie in the art world is rare, especially in contemporary times.
“If you are an artist you have to believe in yourself. It is a stronger belief than any religion can even dictate, and the compulsions it creates to work are phenomenal.” He agreed that it was difficult especially when there was little money coming forth. Leave alone being recognized and making it big, he said none of them in ‘the group’ even knew if they were going to make money from it.

He recounted how when he was working at the Grindlays Bank in Mumbai, his day at the bank would be from 8am to 6pm, after which he would come home, spend time with his family, and after dinner he would start painting and would go on till 3am. This schedule carried on for a number of years. When he had served at the bank for 12-13 years he finally gave it up and decided to pursue painting fulltime. His family, especially his father supported & encouraged him in this decision, even though, he himself was about to retire from his job and theirs was a sizable family. However, Krishen Khanna had immense confidence and self-belief, which helped him take this bold step. Also, by this time he had many showings of his work, some even abroad, including the show in 1954 with Husain. After he gave up working at the bank he had his first show in 1960-61 at the Jehangir Art Gallery in Mumbai and coincidently, the director of the bank he had worked for visited that show and bought an artwork. They went on to become friends and of course that gentleman bought numerous paintings from him over the years.

Born in 1925 in Pakistan, he got a scholarship to study in England in 1938; he was there when the World War II broke out. In 1942, with the war raging, his parents who hadn’t seen him in a number of years wanted him to come home....

Read the full article here

Monday, 1 August 2016

Pichwai Made Popular Again

By Jyotsna Sharma

I remember being captivated by a facebook post about an exhibition of Pichwai paintings at a house in Jor Bagh, New Delhi sometime in 2015. It was as part of Pooja Singhal’s effort to revive the dying art form. The show was well received and it helped to turn the spotlight on this art form. Subsequently, these beautiful paintings were seen at the India Art Fair 2016; needless to say, the booth was sold out. The Kochi Biennale 2016 is their next stop.

I caught up with Pooja at her Lodhi residence to chat about all she is doing to revive this art form. She credits her mother, her upbringing and her ties to her hometown Udaipur for her interest in Pichwai. As a child in Udaipur, she saw her mother interact, guide and support the local Pichwai artists, who till date have great regard for her family.  Being immersed in art and specifically Pichwai since her childhood helped her absorb and develop a great love for this art form.

For the uninitiated, Pichwai’s are cloth or paper paintings depicting scenes from the life of Lord Krishna and also the rituals that take place in his temple. These were originally created as a form of devotion by artist who belonged to the ‘Pushtimarg sect’, founded by the philosopher Vallabha Acharya. The paintings were used as backdrops for the Srinathji Idols (a child form of Lord Krishna). Pichwai is a Sanskrit word; ‘Pich’ means back and ‘wais’ means hanging. The story goes like this- in the 17th Century, the Idol of Srinathji was being moved from Mathura to Rajasthan to protect it from a raid by Aurangzeb. The Idol was accompanied by priests, the caretakers, the halwais (cooks) and also the Pichwai painters. During this journey, the wheels of the cart got stuck in mud in a village in Mewar and couldn’t be freed despite various attempts. The priests took this as a sign that the lord had chosen that particular place for his temple and this is how Nathdwara with the famous temple of Srinathji was established under the reign of Maharana Raj Singh of Mewar.

August Issue | No. 55

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

The World of Online Art Buying

There has been an increase in online art sales platforms recently, but the question is - Are these viable? Is the Indian buyer comfortable buying art online?
By Jyotsna Sharma

My Mother: “I can’t buy art online. I need to have a look at it, stand in front of it and visualize how it would look on my wall.”

My Brother: “ Yes, I would buy art online. I don’t have the time to visit gallery after gallery; this is quicker and private as well.”

An interesting development has been the emergence of online art sales platforms in India. Over the last decade there has been a shift; auction houses and galleries are also now increasingly transacting online. In fact, Saffronart (estd. 2000), the well-known auction house was the first successful online art-trading platform in India.

Globally however, online art platforms have been popular for a number of years. Recent data from the Hiscox 2016 online art trade report suggests:

-       The online art market has continued to grow strongly (up 24% to $3.27 billion) despite the global art market slowing in 2015. Based on this trajectory, we could expect the online art market to be worth $9.58 billion by 2020.

-       92% of online art buyers expect to buy more or the same amount of art online in the next 12 months.

-       Existing online art buyers are buying more, but there is still resistance among 51% of art buyers in buying art online.

-       Sotheby’s reported online sales of over $100 million in 2015. Christie’s reported $162 million in online sales in 2015.

-       As per the Hiscox report, Christie’s LIVE tops in terms of visitor experience, Sotheby’s BidNow in terms of buyer experience and Ebay Art for the maximum number of purchases.

In India, one finds that the popularity of the online platform is primarily because buyers don’t feel intimidated when buying art online. Also, they are able to easily find/ locate the type of art/ collectibles they want online, which is not always the case in the physical space. Further, online platforms offer transparency of price and broaden the scope of the market. The popularity of such platforms is increasing but buying at the physical space / gallery remains important and still retains its primacy.

Online platforms usually feature all kinds of art and here the buyers are the tastemakers, so they decide what is good taste. In contrast, a physical gallery promotes just a few artists and the curator plays an important role in selecting and displaying the art. He also helps the buyer pick out the artwork best suited to his needs.

Read the whole story here

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Evening Sale of Modern and Contemporary Indian Art | Saffronart | 24th February| Mumbai

The upcoming Saffronart auction is scheduled to be held on the 24th of February in Mumbai. Here is what we like the best :

Manjit Bawa Lot 11

Rs 2,00,00,000 - 3,00,00,000
$294,120 - 441,180

Sakti Burman Lot 25


 V.S. Gaitonde Lot 39


Akbar Padamsee Lot 40


S.H Raza Lot 46


Anish Kapoor Lot 71


Subodh Gupta Lot 75


Thukral & Tagra Lot 80


The Auction catalogue can be viewed on

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Re-reading FN Souza

In between the glimpses of Goa and some of FN Souza’s most iconic works, including his acclaimed Gentlemen series in charcoal, Shumona Goel and Shai Heredia built the late artist’s portrait in their 11-minute film, An Old Dog’s Diary. A jigsaw evocation on screen resonates with the beats of the popular Konkani number Molbailo Dou. It won the best short film award at the 2015 London Film Festival last week. “We appreciate the recognition of our effort to push cinematic language,” say the duo. Goel is a Mumbai-based experimental filmmaker and installation artist and Heredia, a filmmaker, curator of film art and founder of Experimenta, the international festival for experimental cinema in India. They were introduced to the artist — his persona and works — when UK-based charity organisation Xandev Foundation commissioned a film on Souza in 2012. That’s when they decided to independently work on a project on Souza. A founding member of the Progressive Artists Group and often referred to as the Indian Picasso, Souza drew heavily from expressionism, working on human figures. What followed was years of intense archival research, which included scanning letters, writings and essays. Shot on black and white 16 mm and super 8 film, the narrative of An Old Dog’s Diary draws from his inner world, with text from his book Words & Lines that runs as subtitles. In the narrative, there is Souza talking about his birth in Goa in 1924 and elsewhere, the artist describes himself as “a rickety child with a running nose and scared of everyone”. Winners of 2013 Special Jury National Award for their film I Am Micro, the filmmakers screened An Old Dog’s Diary at the Toronto International Film Festival in September this year. No more screenings are planned yet but the two hope the film leads to introspection. “It is sad to see the powerful legacy of the Progressive artists being challenged in today’s India. If we begin to constrain art and culture, either by default or deliberately, it is a great loss to a society. We must not forget that without art, the soul of a people dies,” say the filmmakers.