Zehra Jumabhoy

  • Lahore Biennale 02

    EMPEROR HUMAYUN was a keen astrologer. This most whimsical of the Great Mughals thought of his throne as the sun and of his courtiers as planets, and he chose his clothes according to his horoscope. So enamored with the heavens was he that one fine night in 1556, as he gazed at the stars from his observatory tower, he missed a step and tumbled to his death. Historians argue about the details of Humayun’s demise, but what is indisputable is this: For the Mughals, the planets exerted a powerful pull.

  • David Nash

    “Are you Welsh now?” I teased the British sculptor David Nash at the opening of his retrospective, where artworks made over fifty years (or two hundred seasons, as the catalogue poetically put it) congregated for the biggest exhibition dedicated to the artist in his adopted homeland. “My job is to make everyone else feel more Welsh,” was his enigmatic reply. Nash was born in 1945 in Esher, UK, but he has lived and worked in the town of Blaenau Ffestiniog, in North Wales, for more than five decades. A place of special significance to the artist is Capel Rhiw, a Methodist chapel that was built in


    ONE MORNING this past spring, a small volume arrived in my mailbox. At first I was mystified by the unexpected gift. The book isn’t a catalogue. It isn’t a memoir. It isn’t strictly prose. Nor is it wholly poetry. Across its ninety-seven pages, Directions to My House includes diaristic fragments, poems, family photographs, and reproductions of artworks. These scattered components, alternately deadpan and personal, add up to a provisional portrait of their elusive author: the “Indian” artist Zarina (surname: Hashmi—though she prefers to be known by her given name).

    Zarina’s book, written with

  • Zahoor ul Akhlaq

    We see a ghostly gray-white rendition of what looks like a page from a Mughal manuscript. The calligraphic script, a lighter shade of pale, is illegible. The mock-up of the manuscript is contained within a gray-edged white border, which is in turn framed by another gray-edged white margin. A frame within a frame, framed by another frame, the painting draws us in, only to perplex us further. Where does the work begin and its border end? Is this a finished painting or a primed canvas waiting to become one? Untitled, 1989, was one of the enigmatic canvases on view at “Persistence of Vision: Zahoor

  • N. S. Harsha

    In the room-filling Sky Gazers, 2010, a mass of multicolored faces greeted us from the floor: those of a brown-bearded man, a lady in a burka, a redheaded boy, and a blonde woman. These upturned visages, painted onto the floor, were also reflected in a mirror that had been fitted into the ceiling over our heads. So, as I gazed up at them, I saw myself reflected in their midst. Who was the viewer and who the viewed? N. S. Harsha’s looking-glass world contains many such curious conundrums.

    After all, the South Indian artist’s largest show in the UK to date was called “ᖷacing”—the reversed F

  • “All Too Human: Bacon, Freud and a Century of Painting Life”

    “John Minton committed suicide because ‘Matisse and Picasso had done everything there’s to be done in art.’ Unfortunately he had not heard of me,” boasted Indian artist F. N. Souza. At Tate Britain, curators Elena Crippa and Laura Castagnini corroborated Souza’s point—sort of. Spanning more than a hundred years, and featuring slightly fewer than a hundred paintings, their exhibition proclaimed the so-called School of London to be the natural heir to the figurative legacy of the “School of Paris.” Although Souza himself was not presented as London’s answer to Picasso—the show’s title

  • Rasheed Araeen

    “THIS IS A UNIQUE STORY. It is a story that has never been told,” wrote artist and pedagogue Rasheed Araeen in his catalogue essay for the 1989 exhibition “The Other Story: Afro-Asian Artists in Post-War Britain” at London’s Hayward Gallery. The exhibition, encompassing works by the Indian painter Francis Newton Souza, Filipino artist David Medalla, and Chinese photographer Li Yuan-chia, marked a watershed moment for Asian and African artists. Along with the Centre Pompidou’s “Magiciens de la terre” (Magicians of the World) of the same year, it facilitated the entry of non-Western artists into

  • Nalini Malani

    I walked into a womb-like interior—and panicked. Eight clear Mylar cylinders were suspended from the ceiling, each one painted on the inside and lit from within, and they were made to rotate, so that they projected shifting, sliding colored images on the walls as they spun around and around: a little girl on crutches, schools of fish gobbled up by a bigger fish, mutilated limbs and intestines swirling in the red glare, and . . . was that Lewis Carroll’s Alice suspended in a pool of blood? The sword-wielding Mad Meg, an apparition from Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s eponymously named 1562

  • “New North and South”

    Small white dots coalesce to depict a ghostly, incomplete circle on a jet-black background. What does the mysterious form represent? A cosmic egg disintegrating into nothingness? Souls floating off into heaven? Is it a symbol of hope or despair? This is My Small Dancing Particles, 2017, a diptych of ink on wasli (handmade) paper by Waqas Khan, a Pakistani artist trained in traditional miniature-painting techniques. Khan’s paper work is part of a solo show at the Manchester Art Gallery that is one of fifteen exhibitions in Manchester’s citywide extravaganza “New North and South.” A multi-artist,

  • Shezad Dawood

    In October I went to Kalimpong, a small town in West Bengal, India. I traversed the snowy peaks of the Himalayas, where I followed the hulking form of an abominable snowman until he dissolved into iridescent mist. I visited the venerable Himalayan Hotel, once owned by the British trade agent David Macdonald, with its multicultural decor, potted plants, and Tibetan scrolls. Here, I picked up an ancient manuscript and, with trepidation, approached a giant bony finger enclosed in a glass cabinet—the relic of a yeti? As I left the warm, protective atmosphere of the hotel, I entered a dark cave.

  • “N. S. Harsha: Charming Journey”

    In the painting Come Give Us a Speech, 2008, rows of pastel-clad figures sit waiting. Some gaze into space, others gossip, adjust their saris, scratch. Are they expecting the arrival of a sage, a superstar—or N. S. Harsha himself? Unlike his impatient painted folk, Harsha’s fans need tarry no more: They can visit the largest assembly of the Indian artist’s work to date. Organized by Mami Kataoka, the Mori Art Museum’s chief curator, the extravaganza boasts more than seventy-five artworks from the past two decades. Visitors will meet old favorites (such as Nations,

  • diary November 10, 2016

    Prize Possessions

    AS THE TRAIN TRUNDLED INTO NEWCASTLE, I had a vision: A vast figure rose out of the gray mist. Its wings outstretched, it threatened to engulf me in a steely embrace. I’d encountered The Angel of the North.

    The rust-red sculpture might look like the stuff of legend, but it’s rooted in gritty reality. In another age, the northeast was Britain’s industrial powerhouse. Built by Antony Gormley in 1998, The Angel reminds visitors that coal miners once sweat where it stands.

    Gormley’s statue warned me, but my guide, Newcastle-based art historian Matthew Hearn, made the message clear: I was entering a

  • Bhupen Khakhar

    Walking into “Bhupen Khakhar: You Can’t Please All” is like stepping into two worlds at once. The late Mumbai-born, Vadodara-based artist’s paintings provide glimpses of the Indian street, its burning-hot colors teeming with workaday characters. But they also suggest realms of pure whimsy. In Man Eating Jalebi, 1975, an ordinary gentleman sits at a table, enjoying the sticky orange sweetmeat that is a commonplace Gujarati dessert. Yet the turquoise sea behind him, on which bobs a toylike boat, resembles a stage set. Where does fact stop and fantasy begin?

    Curators Nada Raza and Chris Dercon

  • diary June 12, 2016

    Please and Thank You

    I MET BRITISH ARTIST ANDREW LOGAN at the VIP preview of ART16. “Everyone deserves a sunny smile,” beamed the founder of Britain’s Alternative Miss World, a dazzling sun-shaped broach pinned to his crimson kurta. I wondered if Logan was a harbinger of an Indian summer. He was. Or, as Sotheby’s Yamini Mehta put it, more inclusively, “Bombay, Delhi, Lahore, and a little bit of Dhaka were out to celebrate.”

    What were we toasting? In deference to the late Bhupen Khakhar—aka the “Father of Indian Pop”—Tate Modern is hosting a five-month exhibition. “A Bhupen retrospective gives credit to one of India’s

  • “Bhupen Khakhar: You Can’t Please All”

    In the 1981 self-portrait from which Bhupen Khakhar’s retrospective takes its title, we see the artist standing nude at a balcony and gazing out over a town in which various scenes from an Aesop fable are taking place. Shortly after its execution, the artist acknowledged that the work represented his coming out as gay. At this show, more than seventy of Khakhar’s paintings, ceramics, and works on paper will present honest appraisals of self and society: Portraits of down-at-heel tradesmen from the ’70s will jostle with the artist’s uncompromising representations

  • “Silent Explosion: Ivor Davies and Destruction in Art”

    “THIS IS NOT A RETROSPECTIVE,” warned Ivor Davies as I walked into the octogenarian’s mega-exhibition, up through March 20, at the National Museum Cardiff. An unsuspecting visitor to the show—dedicated to one of the Welsh art scene’s leading lights and crammed with paintings, sculptures, and archival materials—might be forgiven for wondering, “Why not?” Certainly, “Silent Explosion,” curated by the museum’s Nicholas Thornton and by scholar Judit Bodor, has all the makings of a good, long, reflective survey. The exhibition, described by the museum as “the first to consider the broad

  • Anwar Jalal Shemza

    As readers of The Arabian Nights know, carpets can transport us to lands far, far away. Anwar Jalal Shemza’s minute Magic Carpet, 1984, is no exception. Here, a piece of cloth with frayed edges is hand-dyed red, blue, and saffron. A painted geometric shape appears to hover at the center of the fabric. Is this tricolored textile about to fly?

    Shemza’s painting is part of a small solo presentation, curated by Leyla Fakhr and Carmen Juliá, dedicated to work the Pakistani artist made in Britain. Encompassing paintings, pyrography on wood, ceramics, and archival material, the display includes pieces

  • diary February 16, 2016

    Such Great Heights

    IF I HAD PAID more heed to the US government’s strident security alerts about Bangladesh, I might have been more concerned about the dead, decaying body lying at my feet. Thankfully, any fears proved unwarranted for travelers on the latest stop of the art-world’s global itinerary. In this case, the mutilated carcass, aka Lost and Found, 2012, was Pakistani artist Huma Mulji’s submission to the group show “Mining Warm Data,” a feature of the third biennial Dhaka Art Summit. Stitched together from decomposing animal hides, Mulji’s man invoked the brutalized bodies that are too-frequently discovered

  • “Nasreen Mohamedi: Waiting is Part of Intense Living”

    This retrospective follows on the heels of Nasreen Mohamedi’s exquisite solo show at Tate Liverpool in 2014. But Madrid’s contribution—which tracks the late artist’s minimalist images from the 1950s to the ’80s, concentrating on the ’70s—promises to be significantly more extensive. Curated by the Indian artist’s former student Karode, of Delhi’s Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, the homage boasts 220 artworks, offering Mohamedi’s signature line drawings of the ’70s—frail grids and geometric forms hovering on cream pages—as well as glimpses into her private

  • diary May 31, 2015

    Central London

    I BLINKED. Sitting in front of me was a blond Yeti. Stepping closer, I noticed that his “hair” consisted of rubber bands. “Oh, you’ve met our monster!” said a girl at the booth. “He has lots of admirers.” Admiration wasn’t quite the word I’d use, but no matter. Hummelman, as it turned out, was an artwork by Mette Sterre featured at the stand for University of Arts London—a student-run initiative that dominated the nonprofit section of Art15.

    As Hummelman indicated, Art15 was an unusual fair. Now in its third year, the self-styled “Global Art Fair” gathered galleries from forty-two countries with