Zehra Jumabhoy

  • Left: Artes Mundi director Karen MacKinnon. Right: Curator and writer Matthew Hearn and International Print Biennale director Anna Wilkinson. (All photos: Alex Thomas)
    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, Bullet Shot in the Stomach, 2001, oil on canvas, 7 1/2 × 11 5/8".

    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

  • Left: Tate Modern director Frances Morris. Right: Collector Nadia Samdani, Nada Raza of Tate Modern, and collector Rajeeb Samdani.
    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, Barber’s Shop, 1973, oil on canvas, 40 3/4 × 40 3/4". © Estate of Bhupen Khakhar/Kanwaldeep and Devinder Sahney.

    “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

  • Ivor Davies, Disintegrating, ca. 1956, oil, eggshell, and metal on board, 36 × 48".

    “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, Love Letter 2, 1969, oil on canvas, 36 1/2 × 36 3/4".

    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

  • Left: Dhaka Art Summit artistic director Diana Campbell Betancourt and Samdani Art Foundation cofounder Nadia Samdani. Right: Adam Szymczyk, artistic director of Documenta 14. (Except where noted, all photos: Alex Thomas)
    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

  • Left: Sandy Angus, cofounder of Art15. Right: Conor Macklin of Grosvenor Gallery and Nour Aslam of Art15. (All photos: Zehra Jumabhoy)
    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

  • Left: India Art Fair owners Sandy Angus and Neha Kirpal. (Photo: Manoj Kesharwani) Right: Artists Thukral and Tagra. (Except where noted, all photos: Zehra Jumabhoy)
    diary February 17, 2015

    Seven Year Itch

    NOW IN ITS SEVENTH YEAR, this year’s India Art Fair recalled a debutante at the end of the season, i.e., a wee bit weary. The preview to the four-day affair boasted less zest than prior iterations. Of course, familiar faces could still be spied, even through the alcoholic blur of opening night: Multimedia artist Mithu Sen, with the obligatory dusky-pink rose pinned to her kurta, floated gaily by (she’d just won the Prudential Eye Awards for “Drawing” in Singapore). Did I see the Delhi-based husband-and-wife team Bharti Kher and Subodh Gupta? Thukral and his artistic twin, the beaming Tagra,

  • Imran Qureshi, And they still seek traces of blood, 2013–14, lithoprints on paper. Installation view.

    Imran Qureshi

    Ikon Gallery evoked the scene of a crime. Red stains spattered the floor and appeared to trickle down walls. Was this the aftermath of a murder, a riot, a war? Yet as visitors stepped gingerly over what looked like pools of dried blood, we were in for a small surprise: Treading on gore, we found ourselves tiptoeing alongside flowers. For while the splotches of paint may have resembled congealed blood from a distance, up close they revealed little crimson blossoms.

    These bloody-beautiful blooms were Imran Qureshi’s site-specific offering I want you to stay with me, 2014, part of the Pakistani

  • Bhupen Khakhar, Janata Watch Repairing, 1972, oil on canvas, 36 1/4 x 36 1/4".

    Bhupen Khakhar

    OVER THE PAST DECADE, the late Indian painter Bhupen Khakhar (1934–2003) has been alternately celebrated as the “king of kitsch” and the father of Indian pop art. He famously appeared as a visionary artist in Salman Rushdie’s 1995 novel The Moor’s Last Sigh, and his affable specter still looms large over the Indian art world—as when his bespectacled, toothy visage featured in the installation of his friend and sometime acolyte Atul Dodiya, Celebration in the Laboratory, at the first Kochi-Muziris Biennale in 2012. This past year, Khakhar’s wide cross-disciplinary appeal and larger-than-life