Mumbai at the Olympics of the Art World

More than $2 (US) million worth of artworks are being showcased at one of the biggest art shows of the world right now. Often referred to as ‘Olympics of the Art World’, the Art Basel show that starts today and will go on till June 16, lures the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio and Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich to see the biggest assemblage of exciting artworks from the US, Latin America, Asia, Africa and Europe. Shireen Gandhi, the owner of Chemould Prescott Road gallery gives the city, a reason to be proud for the fourth time, as it is one of the few galleries to be selected from India.

Shakuntala Kulkarni’s sculpture from Of Bodies, armour and cages

Big in Basel
Hema Upadhyay, Rashid Rana, Jitish Kallat, Shilpa Gupta, Shezad Dawood, Shakuntala Kulkarni and LN Tallur (in collaboration with Delhi gallery, Nature Morte) will be presented to a myriad global audience at the event. The show has eight sectors to it among which Gandhi has already been featured in four. She shares, “The Art Basel is a special event that I had been trying to get through for some time. It was only after four to five trials that we made it to the Basel”. In retrospect, she comments, “Art Statement and Art Feature are great platforms for young galleries or new entrances. The selection makes you concise with your project”. Both sectors – Feature and Statements, focus on new artists who are emerging and hold much promise. Talking about the pressure one faces in the selection process, Gandhi grows more emphatic with the gallery’s mark in their third year at the event: “This time, we were chosen in the Galleries’ sector which is driven by your own presence in the fair. Here, the programme is distinctly communicated and you can’t overfill the booth.”

Four in a row
In their fourth year, they finally arrived with the Unlimited sector that concentrates on pioneering work and has major emphasis on “unlimited and ambitious” works. She avers, “This is a challenging place to be as you have to take the risk and have to have the strength to promote your artist as your works are non-saleable but the kind of exposure you get is unprecedented.” The artworks range from micro-fragmented assortments of Rubens’ Rape of the Daughter of Leucippus; Gupta’s Mild Steel stars in a vitrine (glass cabinet) and an etched brass plate that speaks of geographical boundaries and notions of nations; to Upadhyay’s handmade birds that represent migration making the show multihued, which can be caught online as well.

A close-up of Tallur’s Hatha Yoga figurines placed on roof tiles

The India connect
In the Unlimited sector of the show, Shakuntala Kulkarni and LN Tallur will present their works with the likes of Ai Weiwei who designed the Chinese iconic structure, the Bird’s Nest auditorium. While Kulkarni’s cane sculptures talk about the onslaught of the city (August 28, 2012 edition/ Who-will-take-guard-under-this-armour?), Tallur’s works have a definitive Basel connect: Two centuries ago, missionaries from Basel had set up the Basel Mission Tiles Factory in a small town of Mangalore. The factory also started manufacturing Hatha Yogi figurines that Tallur has explored as an installation of the tile roofs.

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