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Indian art gaining worldwide recognition

Indian art
Vasudeo Gaitonde 29 crore painting Image source:


New Delhi: For some time now, Indian art and its unique cultural identity had been garnering interest in the avant-garde world circles celebrating art and aesthetics. But this past December when a masterpiece by late Indian abstract artist Vasudeo Gaitonde sold at the prestigious Christies auction in Mumbai, India, for an unprecedented $4.4 million dollars (Rs 29 crore approx), the highest ever for an Indian artwork, it compelled the connoisseurs to actually sit up and take real notice of the extremely engaging art stories originating from the Indian subcontinent.

Untitled oil on board by Avinash Chandra exhibited at the Delhi Art Galley.

Untitled oil on board by Avinash Chandra exhibited at the Delhi Art Galley. 
The fact that Gaitonde’s abstract work beat the $4.1 million (Rs 26 crore approx) benchmark set in New York just a few months earlier by late Francis Newton Souza’s 1955 oil-on-board, “Birth,” is evidence that Indian modern art has finally arrived on the global stage.

For any keen observer of art, it is intriguing that both of these greatest Indian modern artists revered now around the world, reflected very Goan artistic sensibilities, the place of their origin in their works. According to aficionados and avid art collectors, this trait of picking unfathomable stories from their homeland, to create a compelling riddle, is what gives Indian art a certain sui generis across continents and through chronologies.

From Syed Haider Raza’s famous Bindu series that so closely resonated India and his references to his village Barbaria in Madhya Pradesh to Souza’s and Gaitonde’s constant glimpses of Bardez, a Goan town in their works, MF Husain’s drawings from epic texts, such as Ramayana, Mahahbharata to the days of the Raj, to contemporary artist Subodh Gupta’s sculptures depicting milk pails, tiffin boxes, so intrinsically utilitarian to Indian middle class, Indian artists have been able to weave the tales of their land often in relative isolation from their place of origin.

Art critics note that a reference to their past or their home soil becomes more profound in the works of artists who have migrated to distant lands, almost as a beautiful tribute. And ironically, as in the case of both Souza and Gaitonde, whose works were exhibited at some prestigious forums as New York’s Museum of Modern Art and London’s Tate Gallery respectively, the Indian acclaim for the artists followed only after recognition from the Western world.

Untitled oil on masonite by Avinash Chandra exhibited at the Delhi Art Galley.

Untitled oil on masonite by Avinash Chandra exhibited at the Delhi Art Galley. 
Sunaina Anand, director, Art Alive Gallery, one of the leading art galleries in Delhi, says, “This cannot be more true in case of Indian artists. Many artists migrated from India as early as in the 1950s and later in 1970s, mostly to art hubs such as Paris, London and New York. While the atmosphere for art appreciation was more conducive in these lands, interestingly the artists kept on returning to their origins and displayed it splendidly in their works.”

So is this phenomenon a rhetorical reaction or a subconscious expression of their fondness for the country they left. Says Anand: “It’s a natural phenomenon. Memories get further imbued if you are away.”

The focus on imagery of their root is more pronounced among artists originating from developing societies. Social observers attribute this to the fact that these artists are able to appreciate and acknowledge the contrast they see and are able to blend the two worlds. Anand says: “And perhaps that’s why you may notice that while an Indian or a Chinese artist will allude to cultural or political problems owing to the chaos they may have experienced, an artist from, say Australia, will focus more on nature, almost resonating the calmness in the society.”

An ethnological approach is always appreciated in art, which explains why non-western art is getting a newfound interest in the chi-chi circuits celebrating the form. Projects such as The Guggenheim UBS MAP Global Art Initiative is a cross cultural collaboration supporting art and talent focusing on regions such as South and South East Asia, Latin America, Middle East and North Africa.

Exploring Extant Issues

The works of old maestros working abroad carried references to Indian legends and symbolism that introduced the world to the country’s gargantuan history. The works of newer, contemporary and often emerging artists is drawing renewed attention because of their radical and honest advertence to the problems of their homeland. Artist Anindita Dutta, originally from Bengal, India, now based in Montana US, says, “I came to USA to do my masters in painting and sculpture, and stayed back since then. But even today my ideas lean heavily on my formative years spent studying art in Shantiniketan (A small university town near Kolkata, India, established by Rabindranath Tagore).”

Born in Nature by Anindita Dutta.

Born in Nature by Anindita Dutta.
For most artists while the happy memories resurface every now and then, grim realities also find expression. Dutta, a performance artist who works with clay, cites an example of a performance photo documentation she did in India at Shantiniketan in 2004. The artist trapped herself in a brick coffin for the show as she was disturbed by a story she heard about a young girl who was raped by some men in the jungles of Bengal and was dumped there to die.

Dutta says: “Sitting far away in the US I was shaken by the fact that women can be used and left to die so brutally. It made me question the gory apathy towards our state. My artwork was meant to be a rude wake up call for everyone who oversees this defect in the society.”

An urge to beckon their roots many artists think is important for honest art. Indian-born Dubai-based artist Owais Husain’s project titled “House of Cards” at Lasalle College of the Arts in Singapore, late last year, had the artist lead a series of workshops encouraging students to portray their own identity through photography of their home.

Indian origin artist Sujata Tibrewala, who has made California her home, talks about eco feminism through the medium of her paintings. She says she draws heavily from Indian myths and fables and compares and contrasts them with present times. In a series of works she exhibited in Chicago in 2011, she showcased powerful women from Indian mythology and goddesses. Tibrewala says she was puzzled by the ironical treatment meted out to women in our society from times immemorial.

She recalls her own example: “While as a child I was always encouraged to be active and participate in games, once I attained puberty, my grandmother sat me down and told me not to indulge in strenuous games as it would hamper my ‘femininity.’ While it took me a few more years to realize that she meant to protect my hymen, the symbol of my chastity, I was quite upset by this suppressive upbringing. Hence every time I stumble upon such topics to reiterate that women are meant to be equally powerful.”

And this poignancy with which artists are able to create a compelling story between the past and the present, the good and the bad, to shake the conscience of a viewer is what makes Indian art a unique nurturing form on its own.

 Unmistakeably Indian

Besides tracing the journey of impoverishment pain, the work of these artists reflects happiness and prosperity too. Portrait artist Rishabh Sud, who recently held his first exhibition in India, after advancing his skills in classic realism at the Angel Academy of Arts, Florence Italy says, “I want to start an art realism movement in India by bringing about the best from our history and mythology.”

Sud who is inspired by Raja Ravi Varma, one of the greatest Indian painters, says, that many stories need to be revived and retold from the past. He points to his portrait of Maharaja Hira Singh of Nabha (one of the princely states in the pre-independence India) commissioned by the maharaja’s grandson.

Sud says: “In re-doing the portrait and studying the history, I learnt that Maharaja Hira Singh had back in the 1800s abolished taxes and dowry from his estate. He also made a rule that a groom’s wedding procession to the girl’s side would exceed no more than 11 people, so as not to overburden the girl’s family. There is so much to be learnt from these tales.”

Anindita Dutta, says, “There is a lot of positivity that emerges from seeing people overcome hardships.”

She adds, “I had a very simple childhood, where we travelled with my dad to some of the smaller towns in Bihar and

Portrait of Maharaja Hira Singh
Jharkhand. I saw womenfolk contributing as much hard work as men by building up entire houses on their own using clay

and smearing cow dung all over their houses as a traditional practice. The patterns of smears represented their creativity and their synergies. Somewhere the idea of working with clay and using it as a medium of expression got etched in my mind from there only.”

Kishore Singh, head exhibition at Delhi Art Gallery, which houses the largest collection of Indian modern art, says: “The society an artist has grown up in is an automatic part of his DNA. It has to subconsciously come through in the strokes of brush.”

In contemporary circles today, Paris based artist Sakti Burman’s work is appreciated because he constantly draws from his place of origin — Bengal, the land of Gods and Goddesses are dominant in his works.

Sunaina Anand of Art Alive adds, “We recently took the work of artist Thota Vaikuntam, to Grosvenor Gallery London, and the response to his work depicting simple village life in Telangana, was so stupendous amongst the Western art experts, mainly because his work was about a region he so intrinsically belonged to.”

Identity Issues

Some art critics question whether the artists roots are sometimes imposed upon their work. Delhi Art Gallery’s Kishore Singh says, “While an artists origin is always an entry point to approach his work, a good critic will look for other clues as well.”

Delhi Art Gallery, which opened in New York earlier this year, recently held a retrospective of artist Avinash Chandra. Chandra who left India for Britain and then New York in the 1950s, died in 1991, unmistakably represented Tantra in his work.

Portrait of Maharaja Bhagwan Singh.

Portrait of Maharaja Bhagwan Singh.
Singh says, “Chandra’s work began as landscapes depicting Shimla and Delhi where he spent his childhood. When he moved to London his works change into a ballooning form and then takes shape of human bodies. The West began looking at India in his work, they saw patterns close to Hindu temples and the artist starts seeing himself holding a seminal Indian position.”

Tibrewala says, “While it’s rewarding to see your country being noticed in your work, sometimes it becomes overwhelming. In my work titled Goddess I have depicted Goddesses not only from Indian, but even Greek and Roman mythology. But because of the usage of colors such as red, orange, everyone chooses to see only India in it.”

She adds: “When I talk of women issues in my work, the immediate response in the Western world is that there is a huge gender inequality in India. But I think the problem is not just exclusive to India. Even the West is grappling with huge problems like the body image issue. Isn’t that a form of gender inequality.”

Artist Risabh Sud.

Artist Rishabh Sud sees it as a happy co-incidence nonetheless: “While it’s impossible to pull India out of an Indian artists’ work, it is also impossible for anyone to overlook Indian elements that are so vivid, so diverse so strong.”

He says fondly, “After spending months in dreary, cold, grey European weather, when I go back to India it’s not just the colors but an indomitable spirit of people that makes them smile even in harsh conditions, that warms me up.”

Celebrated artist Naresh Kapuria, philosophically concludes by saying, “It’s the life experiences that form an artist and often these lessons are found on the dusty footpaths, that one has travelled in his formative years.”

(The article was originally published in

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5 Events Of November Which Are Ideal For Family Vacations

Events in November which will give you a vacation mood.
Events in November which will give you a vacation mood. Wikimedia.

As we approach the year’s end, Indians not just bid adieu to their summer outfits but also welcome the festival seasons. October and November are two months in India which are full of cultural events and festivals, which make these months, the ideal time for going on family vacations.

Below are the events of November 2017 which you will regret missing. They are worth the try for family vacations:

1.  Dev Deepavali, Varanasi

family vacations
Representational Image. The ghat of holy city Varanasi. 

Varanasi, the holiest city of India, celebrated Dev Deepavali on Kartik Poornima every year. The festival is celebrated with joy. The ghats of Varanasi are lit with beautiful diyas (earthen lamps). God is believed to have descended to the banks of Ganges, to take a holy dip. The festival will take place on November 3, 2017.

 2. Dharamsala International Film Festival

Filmmaker, cinema buffs or all those people interested in the art of films come together of Dharamsala International Film Festival (DIFF). This film festival will witness filmmakers coming from different regions to show films on various issues- socially relevant, contemporary etc. DIFF will take place from November 2 to November 5. If you are a movie buff, then you should immediately pack your bags and seal a date for attending the festival.

3. Pushkar Camel Fair, Rajasthan

Family vacations
Representational Image. Camel Fair is celebrated in Pushkar. Pixabay

Pushkar Camel fair, a cattle fair, in Pushkar which truly defines the real meaning of culture. The Pushkar Camel Fair has been in tradition for a very long time. The fair attracts a huge crowd every year. One of the most ideal and happy places for family vacations. It will take place between 23rd October to 4th November.

Also Read: 7 Beautiful Places To Visit In North East India

4. NH7 Weekender

The five seasons old Indian multi-city music festival has indeed garnered a lot of attention and love from the musically inclined youngsters across the country. It is a combination of national and international studies coming together. In Meghalaya, the event will take place from October 27 to October 28.

5. Guru Purab

family vacations
Sikhs celebrating Guru Purab. Wikimedia.

Guru Purab, one of the most important festivals for Sikhs. The golden temple celebrates it with a lot of joy. The celebration which Amritsar witnesses at this time are unbelievable. It will take place on November 2017. Golden temple is indeed one of the best places for family vacations.

-by Megha Acharya of NewsGram.  She can be reached at @ImMeghaacharya.

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India Demands Data on UN Staff Misconduct, Use of Immunity

United nations
India has demanded the secretariat disclose information about misconduct by UN staff. Flickr

United Nations, Oct 7: In an attempt to break the wall of silence around the crimes and UN staff misconduct and those on its assignments, India has demanded the secretariat disclose information about such cases and the immunity invoked against prosecutions.

Yedla Umasankar, the legal advisor in India’s UN Mission, touched a raw nerve here by criticising the UN on Friday for not vigorously following up allegations of serious wrongdoing by its employees who enjoy the equivalent of diplomatic immunity, a prized possession of its staff.

“It appears that the UN system itself may be reluctant to waive immunity even for serious misconduct carried out by its personnel while serving on its missions, so that such cases can be prosecuted by the host governments,” he told the General Assembly’s committee on legal affairs.

“Even a few of such instances or allegations of crimes committed by UN personnel is highly damaging for the image and credibility of the United Nations system and its work around the world,” he added.

His statement also touched on the practice of some countries that protect their wrongdoers at the UN.

Umasankar demanded that secretariat disclose how many cases of serious misconduct by UN personnel were registered and the number of cases where the UN refused to waive immunity to allow their prosecution.

He also wanted to know in how many cases the host country wanted the immunity waived so it can prosecute those accused; the number of times the UN asked the host country or the country that sent them to prosecute them; how many times it consulted countries before waiver of the immunity of their personnel and how many of them refused UN’s request to waive their citizens’ immunity.

The information he wanted does not cover the diplomats sent by member countries to represent them at UN bodies and enjoy diplomatic immunity with the nations hosting the UN facilities.

After scores of serious allegations of sexual misconduct by peacekeepers, especially exploitation of children, the UN vowed to uphold a policy of zero tolerance and began publishing data on such cases in peacekeeping operations including how they were dealt with.

Starting with the year 2015, it began identifying the nationalities of those accused.

However, it has not made public a roster detailing all the allegations and proven cases of serious misconduct across the entire UN.

While the focus has been on sexual exploitation and abuse reported on peacekeeping operations, Umasankar said that “at a broader level, the issue of accountability has remained elusive in some cases”.

He attributed it to “the complexities of legal aspects relating to sovereignty and jurisdiction”, the immunity or privileges that may be necessary for UN operations, and the capability or willingness of countries to investigate and prosecute the accused.

He noted that the UN itself cannot make criminal prosecutions.

While Indian laws has provisions for dealing with crimes committed abroad by its citizens, not all countries have them, he said.

Those countries should be encouraged and helped to implement such measures, he added. (IANS)

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Indo-Pak Peace Talks Futile Unless Islamabad Sheds Links with Terrorism, says Study

A Study by a U.S. think tank calls India and Pakistan talks futile, until Pakistan changes its approach.

India and Pakistan
India and Pakistan. Wikimedia.

A Top United States of America (U.S.) think tank, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace called the relations between India and Pakistan futile, unless Islamabad changes its approach and sheds its links with Jihadi terrorism.

A report “Are India and Pakistan Peace Talks Worth a Damn”, authored by Ashley J Tellis stated that such a move supported by foreign countries would be counterproductive and misguided.

The report suggests that International community’s call for the India and Pakistan talks don’t recognize that the tension between the two countries is not actually due to the sharp differences between them, but due to the long rooted ideological, territorial and power-political hatred. The report states that these antagonisms are fueled by Pakistani army’s desire to subvert India’s powerful global position.

Tellis writes that Pakistan’s hatred is driven by its aim to be considered and treated equal to India, despite the vast differences in their achievements and capabilities.

Also ReadMilitant Groups in Pakistan Emerge as Political Parties : Can Violent Extremism and Politics Co-exist? 

New Delhi, however, has kept their stance clear and mentioned that India and Pakistan talks cannot be conducted, until, the latter stops supporting terrorism, and the people conducting destructive activities in India.

The report further suggests that Pakistan sees India as a genuine threat and continuously uses Jihadi terrorism as a source to weaken India. The report extends its support to India’s position and asks other international powers, including the U.S., to extend their support to New Delhi.

Earlier in September, Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) slammed Pakistan for its continuous terror activities. She attacked the country by saying that India has produced engineers, doctors, and scholars; Pakistan has produced terrorists.

Sushma Swaraj further said that when India is being recognised in the world for its IT and achievements in the space, Pakistan is producing Terrorist Organisations like Lashkar-e-Taiba. She said that Pakistan is the world’s greatest exporter of havoc, death and inhumanity.

-by Megha Acharya  of NewsGram. Megha can be reached at @ImMeghaacharya.