All art and soul

 

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A large canvas painted during the third art camp in 1998, representing the joint efforts of Manjit Bawa, Pritipal Ladi, Ranvinder Reddy, Surendran Nair, Nalini Malini, Dhruva Mistry, Paramjit Singh, Arpita Singh and Jayashree Chakravarty. 

Christie’s fourth consecutive India sale in Mumbai on December 18, promises to be an interesting one. Leading the auction is Bengaluru based Abhishek and Radhika Poddar’s collection of modern Indian art, painstakingly built over the past 30 years.

A total of 41 lots will be offered from this collection, including important works by Tyeb Mehta, Vasudeo S. Gaitonde, Ganesh Pyne, Meera Mukherjee, Bhupen Khakhar and several other modern Indian artists. According to Sonal Singh, Head of South Asian Modern and Contemporary Art, head of department, Christie’s, Mumbai, while outside of India there have been lager private collections offered for auction, for India, this is one of the most important collections from a living collector to come to auction.

As each work is either acquired directly from the artist or from leading gallerists, each lot comes with an immaculate provenance. At the heart of the collection are seven works by Manjit Bawa, whom Abhishek met way back in 1987. According to Singh, the auction estimate for any work of art is based on several factors, including recent prices achieved for similar works by the artist, the object’s rarity, and its overall condition. “Since most of these works have been acquired directly from the artists, they have not been exhibited, published or offered for sale before, increasing their rarity,” she says.

Its not easy deciding which works to put up on auction, especially since each work has a personal tale behind it. For Abhishek, it was tough deciding which works to put up for auction. The catalogue essay emphasises on the Poddars building one of India’s most comprehensive collections of modern and contemporary art, antiquities, folk and tribal art, and textiles. The collection also reflects their longstanding personal relationships with artists, gallerists and scholars, as well as their knowledge and connoisseurship which developed over the years. Their collecting has always been based on an innate respect for the arts, and a drive to learn about and document the country’s diverse cultural landscape. “When putting up your works in a public domain, the choice of works had to tie in with the essay,” says Abhishek. Now, the collection is growing indifferent directions.

The highest valued work from the collection is Tyeb Mehta’s Untitled Diagonal), 1975wabhishek3hich shows two human figures, from the artist’s diagonal series (Lot 111, estimate: INR10,00,00,000 – 15,00,00,000 / US$1.5 – 2.2 million). This was an important acquisition for the Poddars from the late Kekoo Gandhy’s Gallery Chemould in Mumbai. It was also at Chemould that the Poddars also acquired the Gaitonde in the sale, a 1973 abstract work (Lot 129 estimate: INR 9,00,00,000-12,00,00,000 / US$ 1.3-1.6 million).

Born and raised in a business family in Calcutta, Abhishek was familiarised with the basic notion of collecting and living with art at a young age. While studying at The Doon School, the legendary boarding school for boys in the Himalayan foothills of Dehradun, he established the school’s first art magazine. Akshat underlined Poddar’s early grasp of the various genres and geographies of the art world. After the magazine was launched, Abhishek made it a point to meet and thank all of the artists who contributed to the magazine, setting in motion several personal relationships, and further introductions that influenced the course of his collecting. Today, besides running the family business, Abhishek runs Tasveer, a gallery dedicated to photography. Radhika owns and manages the lifestyle store, Cinnamon.

The Poddar collection was formed in the 1980s and 1990s, before the market for modern

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Bhupen Khakhar (1934 – 2003) `Interior of a temple’. Estimate INR 10,000,000 – 15,000,000 ($147,553 – 221,330) Pics source: http://www.christies.com

and contemporary art in India took off. According to Christie’s Singh, it represents the best works of a wide range of Indian artists, showcasing the ways in which their styles and idioms developed over time. Rare early works by Arpita Singh, Bhupen Khakhar, Meera Mukherjee and Ganesh Pyne help understand the evolution of these artist’s bodies of work. The collection is thus important for connoisseurs, collectors and art historians, offering a glimpse into a vital period of modern Indian art that is yet to be completely documented.

So if you can still make it for the Mumbai preview on December 16 – 17 at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, it would be worth it.

A classic auction

 

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Vasudeo S. Gaitonde Untitled. Estimate $1, 800, 000 – $ 2, 200,000. Painted in 1970. Source: http://www.christies.com

Christie’s upcoming South Asian Modern + Contemporary Art auction in New York this week will be part of Asian Art Week in New York. It’s quite a classic sale. The auction presents paintings by leading modern Indian masters, such as Vasudeo S. Gaitonde, Syed Haider Raza, Francis Newton Souza, Maqbool Fida Husain and Jehangir Sabavala, alongside significant contemporary works by Bharti Kher, Subodh Gupta, Shilpa Gupta and Sheba Chhachhi. Also included are important works by South Asian modernists George Keyt, Abdur Rahman Chughtai, Rashid Choudhury and Sheikh Mohammed Sultan. The sale offers an overview of the past 100 years of Indian art making.

The catalogue is a nice collection of contemporary works. One of the noteworthy works is a 1970 work by Gaitonde Untitled. Featured on the cover of the catalogue, the work was painted when Gaitonde was recognised as being at the peak of his artistic powers. The painting, which displays a kind of non-objective chiaroscuro, is a meditative masterpiece and represents a cornerstone in Gaitonde’s oeuvre (estimate: $1,800,000-2,200,000). The consignor of the work, Dara Mehta, acquired the work at a public auction of antiques and collectibles from the estate of philanthropist Dr Jamshed Jehangir Bhabha, last April. It would be interesting to see what the Gaitonde goes for considering his 1975 canvas, Untitled  sold for a record $4,384,777, a world auction record not only for the artist, but for any modern Indian work of art at the South Asian Modern + Contemporary Art auction in May this year.

Other interesting works are that of Raza’s L’Orage and Zamine. L’Orage perfectly presents Raza’s longing for the Indian landscape so acutely felt and articulated in the 1970s. It is Raza’s exaltation of and homage to India, a place he revisited through every brushstroke, capturing the essence and colors of the country during his years away.

From the contemporary Indian artists, there are notable works by Shilpa Gupta, Bharti Kher and Hema Upadhyay. Then there is the Pakistani-American artist, Seher Shah’s first work, titled Jihad Pop ($8,000 – 12,000).

The entire proceeds from the sale of Lots 695 – 700D will be going towards The Germination Project. The Germination Project is a non-profit catalytic incubator under the aegis of the Pamela and Ajay Raju Foundaton in Philadelphia, USA. One of the initiatives of the Germination Project is IntXchange, a transnational art advocacy network, dedicated to forming a new art and culture exchange between the East and the West.

The revolution continues…

Riyaaz4Riyaaz Amlani is on a roll. Ever since he launched Social, the collaborative workspace concept in 2014, he has had no time for a breather. He has been launching one new Social every few months. Recently, he launched the fifth Social – Capital Social – in Mumbai, at the Bandra Kurla Complex, and the 10th in India. Designed as part bunker – part refuge, this launch speaks of the success of the format and the ideology – the bottomless appetite for the second space that mixes business with pleasure. “It’s an idea that has found resonance with people,” says Riyaaz Amlani, founder & CEO, Impresario Entertainment & Hospitality Pvt. Ltd.

The next three years will be all about Social. As for the other brands under the Impresario Entertainment & Hospitality umbrella, – Mocha, the coffee house the company started with in 2001 is now in 20 tier 2 cities. Smokehouse Deli, the fine dine restaurant is expanding, but slowly. There should be 15 of them nationwide by 2017. Then there is Saltwater Grill, Salt Water Café, The Tasting Room, and Stone Water Grill and Le Kebabiere in Pune.

With an aim to be in the top three restaurant chains in the country, Amlani has no plans of slowing down.

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What a beautiful Boardwalk!

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There is a little bit of Greece, just off the coast of Mumbai. As you sail into Madwa port, you can see the white sun
Boardwalk8umbrellas swaying in the breeze. Cross the jetty, and Boardwalk by Flamboyante, the new restaurant on the jetty is just what Mumbai needed. A get-away for the day, though close by, it is capable of transporting you miles away.

Boardwalk is the dream of Ashim Mongia, MD of Mumbai based West Coast Marine. A visit to Boardwalk in Dubai years ago, made him determined to build something similar in Mumbai. It’s a 20 year old dream, which came to fruition on his 20th wedding anniversary.

The idea is to make this a place that even people from Mumbai could go to. In 2014, Madwa Port LLp, a consortium of companies comprising West Coast Marine and a couple of others, won the tender put out by the Maharashtra Maritime Board to develop the facilities at Mandwa jetty. As part of this development programme, Kiki’s Cafe

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Partners all three: (L to R) Amrish Arora, Devika Sehgal, Ashim Mongia

Partners all three (L to R) Amrish Arora, Devika Sehgal, Ashim Mongia

and the MTDC were given space.

 

 

Teaming up with school friend Amrish Arora, MD of Flamboyante, a Mumbai based restaurant, for Boardwalk was a no-brainer. The Mumbai people in Alibaug know Arora because of his restaurant and cateBoardwalk6ring services he provided for the weekenders.”Besides the Elephanta Caves,Bombay doesn’t have any tourism. We need a showpiece. We are capitalising on the lovely coastline,” says Ashim Mongia.

Boardwalk is a full day restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and sun-downers. The idea is to get the jetty buzzing and it should work, as the rest of the jetty gets developed.

A fantasy fare

Mumbai based debut author, Farah Oomerbhoy, launched her book; The Last of the Firedrakes – The Avalonia Chronicles in India four months after the book’s US launch by Minnesota-based Wise Ink Creative Publishing. The book has done well since then. The Last of the Firedrakes has been honoured as a finalist in the USA Best Book Awards 2015, and placed in the Collector’s Dream category in the Watty Awards as one of the most added stories of 2015 on Wattpad. Seeing the book’s success in the US, Farah felt it was time to launch the book at home. Her book has taken many by surprise. “We didn’t even know you were writing,” friends have said to her.

Farah is from two business families. She is the daughter of Zinia Lawyer, who was director at the erstwhile Associated Breweries & Distilleries,

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Author Farah Oomerbhoy

brewers of the once famous London Pilsner brand of beer which was merged with Vijay Mallya’s United Brewery in the year 2000. She is married to Riyad Oomerbhoy, MD of RR Oomerbhoy (RRO) Pvt. Ltd. (RRO manufactures Primio branded edible oils (ground nut, sesame oil) and markets Barilla branded pastas and pasta sauces, Express Foods range of products and Boursin cheese.) With business in her blood, Farah did think of doing business with her mother. In fact, she went to Babson College, Boston, albeit, for a semester. “I realized that I just couldn’t do it. There was calculus and just stuff that I didn’t want to do. It wasn’t interesting for me,” she says. So she returned to Mumbai and graduated from St. Xavier’s College, and later completed her MA in English Literature from Mumbai University. “I always loved writing. I used to write a little and put it away and I never really finished anything. A little bit of poetry here and there. Then finally I started this book when I had the idea,” she says.

The Last of the Firedrakes is a fantastic adventure story set in Avalonia, a dangerous land ruled by powerful magicians and a cruel, selfish queen who will do anything to control all seven kingdoms – including killing anyone who stands in her way. Thrust headlong into this new, magical world, Aurora’s arrival sets plans in motion that threaten to destroy all she holds dear. With the help of a young fae, a magical Pegasus, and a handsome mage, Aurora, the protagonist, journeys across Avalonia to learn the truth about her past and unleash the power within her. Kingdoms collide as a complicated web of political intrigue and ancient magic lead Aurora to unravel a shocking secret that will change her life forever.

Growing up on a staple of Enid Blyton books which are distinctly set in England, and later Narnia’s adventures, imagining magic and magical worlds was not difficult. Farah has been creating a fantasy world for close to 10 years. Notebooks are filled with kingdoms mapped out, from the trade routes to which shops are in which town and which cities. A tapestry in her grandmother’s house depicting a forest and a castle was the doorway to the fantasy world of Avalonia. “Actually I thought of the world before. I never really thought of the story of how to get to that world or what to do with it. So I used to draw maps and write a little bit about this kingdom and that, then I would keep it away. It was fun for me; a hobby. Then one day I saw this tapestry and it just clicked that what if this tapestry was the way into the world,” says Farah.

Separate chapters were uploaded to Wattpad, a free e-reading site, to get a sense of reader feedback. Almost immediately she had a huge load of followers asking for the next chapter. Farah got 1 million reads on Wattpad. By March 2014, her chapters were on the top of Wattpad’s fantasy list.

Now that the first of the trilogy has been a success, expectations are high for the sequel. Farah’s Facebook page is inundated with queries for book two. So the stress is building up. “As people do like the book, the next book has to be as good or better,” she says.

With not many Indian writers catering to the fantasy adventure category for teens and young adults, Farah has put her foot in through that door with The Last of the Firedrakes – The Avalonia Chronicles.

Mumbai gets a new museum

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Piramal  Museum of Art

Recently, Mumbai got a new museum – the Piramal Museum of Art. Situated in the ground floor of the Peninsula Corporate Park, the Ajay Piramal group’s corporate headquarters, the 7,000 sq ft museum will showcase works of art from renowned modern and contemporary Indian artists from the family’s collection. It is open to the public free of charge. The art fraternity welcomes the new museum. Tasneem Mehta, managing trustee and honorary director of the Bhau Dadji Lad Museum, and S.P. Khened, director of the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) in Mumbai, are glad people are thinking of museums. “It’s great; the idea of a private museum. It creates interest in collecting,” she adds.

Piramal Museum of Art (PMA) is Mumbai’s first private museum for modern art. Mumbai has three active museums – the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA), the Chattrapathi Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahlay (previously known as the Prince of Wales Museum) and the Bhau Dadji Lad (BDL) Museum. The city has a strong art gallery network as well. However, all the activity around art is located in south Mumbai between Colaba and Kala Ghoda, an area which has got itself dubbed as the Art District. So do we need another museum in the city? “We have three museums in a city of 18 billion. That is nothing,” says Ashvin Rajagopalan, director, PMA. “We don’t have enough. Berlin has 175 museums and a much smaller population than Mumbai, yet it is displaying architecture and history over 10, 000 years. We need a museum for science, art, music. We have just celebrated 100 years of Bollywood, but where is the film museum. Where are the archives of Bollywood?” he adds.

Ajay & Dr. Swati Piramal

Ajay & Swati Piramal: Giving back to society

According to Mehta, little things are happening towards building the art community, this museum being one of them. While the BDL Museum and the CSVS are increasingly working towards building up their respective institutions, private museums are also a step in the right direction. Art has a glamorous aspect to it too, because of the money involved. Patronage is important. While previously patronage of the arts came from the royal families, in their absence, it came from the merchant classes. “It is important to look at our history and develop an understanding of the evolution of society; we would really have no resource to understand how we came to this point,” says Mehta.

In an attempt to document the works in the Piramal’s collection, the story of the collection has been said through Smriti, which acts as a catalogue and reference book created for a large cross-section of people. It all started with MF Husain’s works. Having collected a few of his works, it was noticed that the artist had painted differently throughout his career and not just the horses, which later became his more popular works. As another example, take the city of Benaras. There is something about Benaras that inspires artists. Looking at paintings of the city, a mosque on the banks of the river is depicted differently in each painting. While one painting depicts four minarets, others show the mosque through a period of change. In the paintings one can also see how the city has grown.

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Ashvin Rajagopalan: “We don’t have enough museums.”

“There is a story behind each painting that has been acquired, a story about the artist’s life. It is fascinating for the collector to know how and where something began, and where it has travelled to, whose lives it may have touched,” says Rajagopalan. The key focus behind this book was to preserve the stories behind each work and to look at the collection, not as one compiled of many parts, but as chapters in the story of Modern Indian art.

The thought of setting up a museum emerged a year ago. For the philanthropic family, this was their way of giving back to society. The museum showcases 40 to 50 artworks, which includes works from renowned artists such as Akbar Padamsee, Hemendranath Mazumdar, Gaganendranath Tagore, Jehangir Sabavala, Bikash Bhattacharjee, K.G.Subramanyan and many such artists. The museum’s maiden exhibition will showcase an array of artworks from renowned modern and contemporary Indian artists collected by the family. In addition to the painted artworks, exhibits of sculptures and installations will be on display at the museum showcasing the historical backdrop of Indian modern art.

Located at upper Worli or Lower Parel, Rajagopalan hopes to tap into the larger Diaspora of people, from both the south of the city, as well as the north. By not having an entrance fee, the PMA is trying to be inclusive. “We don’t want to screen people,” says Rajagopalan. With working hours from 3 pm to 8 pm on week days and 9 am to 5 pm on weekends, PMA is trying to attract the office crowd who would like to drop in to the museum after working hours.