Zehra Jumabhoy

  • Amar Kanwar

    Beauty is interspersed with menace in “The Sovereign Forest + Other Stories,” New Delhi-based Amar Kanwar’s first major show in the UK. Nestled among the undulating hills of the Yorkshire Sculpture Park is the shadow-filled Underground Gallery. Here, visitors encounter Kanwar’s The Scene of Crime, 2011. Watching this forty-two-minute video with its mesmerizing sound track, one is initially has trouble imagining violence in such tranquil terrain: A fisherman casts his net, birds chirp sweetly, long grass sways, and a solitary tree shakes its leaves in a breeze. Slowly, we apprehend that we are

  • Idris Khan

    This season, black is the new black. Despite—or, possibly, because of—its racial connotations, it’s been the noncolor of choice for an unusual number of recent London exhibitions, among them Indian modernist F. N. Souza’s black-on-black figurative paintings from 1965 at Grosvenor Gallery; Korean sculptor Meekyoung Shin’s “Untitled (Black Series),” 2013—comprising exquisite vases made of soap manipulated to mimic coal-colored ceramics—at Sumarria Lunn Gallery; and the late English filmmaker Derek Jarman’s assemblaged “Black Paintings” from the 1980s and early ’90s at Wilkinson.

  • “Subodh Gupta: Everything is Inside”

    The rest of the world may have seen a lot of Subodh Gupta recently, but this mid- career survey is the most comprehensive to date in his hometown. Spread across two wings of the NGMA, Gupta’s solo will contain early works from the 1990s such as the cow-dung-smeared self-portrait Bihari, 1999; his more recent sculptures in brass and copper; and multiple site-specific installations. In Everything Is Inside, 2004, a black-and-yellow Ambassador taxi sinks under the burden of its bronze luggage—simulating the precious bundles carried by poor immigrants from India’s

  • Sheila Hicks

    Visiting Paris-based artist Sheila Hicks’s first solo show in the UK, “Pêcher dans la Rivière” (Fishing in the River), was like entering a seductive subterranean realm. In the titular installation, 1989–2013, some thirteen feet of creamy linen threads are wrapped together to resemble rippling waves. As one walked around the rectangular piece, its surface appeared to heave; shadows appeared and disappeared, as if cast by moving threads of sunlight on a sandy riverbed. When the fabric filaments caught the light filtering through the windows, they shimmered like schools of silver-scaled fish dancing

  • “Dayanita Singh: Go Away Closer”

    Dayanita Singh’s largest survey to date will feature a broad selection of the New Delhi–based photographer’s work, ranging from her 1989–2001 photo-essay about her friendship with a eunuch, Myself Mona Ahmed, to her balefully tinted “Blue Book” series, 2008, as well as seven wooden “portable museums” freshly fabricated for this show. In the last, Singh’s long association with archives—the decaying files and musty volumes that, like museums, acknowledge the irretrievability of the very past they preserve—has come full circle. These large works resemble

  • Raqib Shaw

    “So quick bright things come to confusion,” says Lysander in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The perplexed lover’s comment came to mind at the recent show of thirty-eight (old and new) paintings, works on paper, and sculptures by Calcutta-born, London-based Raqib Shaw—the artist’s largest exhibition to date. Here, shimmering surfaces often concealed sinister truths. At first, the rhinestone-studded painting Blue Moonbeam Gatherer, 2010, might suggest romance. Enfolded in a velvety indigo night, fir trees caked in sugar-white frost glimmer like diamonds; silvery deer prance under glittery stars.

  • the Kochi-Muziris Biennale

    “THE PAST IS A FOREIGN COUNTRY: they do things differently there.” This is the famous first line of L. P. Hartley’s novel The Go-Between, published in London in 1953, but it could have easily been a description of India’s first biennial, in 2012–13. Curated by Bose Krishnamachari and Riyas Komu, both Mumbai-based artists of Malayali descent (they grew up in Kerala), the Kochi-Muziris Biennale dredged up ideas of history, difference, and—that elusive concept—multiculturalism. Set throughout Kochi, the exhibition also paid homage to the ancient city of Muziris, once a thriving seaport,

  • diary February 18, 2013

    Material World

    THE FIFTH EDITION of the India Art Fair kicked off with a bang. Or should I say a smash? At the fair’s opening a couple weeks ago, dealer Lorenzo Fiaschi subbed in for artist Michelangelo Pistoletto—infamous in recent years for his performance Twenty-Two Less Two, in which he breaks giant gilded mirrors with a sledgehammer—and had a go at a piece of long, silvery looking-glass. CRACK! it went, shooting glittery shards all over Galleria Continua’s booth: The VIP preview had begun.

    Mingling with the shiny fragments of mirror that night were lots of bejeweled guests. Among the art-world glitterati

  • diary February 04, 2013

    Center Stage

    SOME CLAIM THAT THIRTEEN is a lucky number. Certainly Singapore’s art world would like to believe so. “Everyone struggled in 2012. But with a positive start like Art Stage, we all look forward to a prosperous 2013!” said Lorenzo Rudolf, the onetime Art Basel master and prosperous-looking founding director of Art Stage Singapore. The third edition of the fair was supposed to be the biggest yet. And in the tiny city-state of Singapore, size matters.

    Art Stage 2013 was located at the massive Marina Bay Sands Exhibition and Convention Center, its glass-encased building facing the Sky Bridge that

  • Bharti Kher

    Baubles, bangles, and bindis came out to play at New Delhiite Bharti Kher’s recent solo show. Waiting for visitors in the middle of the gallery was the work Kher has become more than a little famous for: The skin speaks a language not its own, 2006, a life-size white fiberglass elephant stretched out on the floor. Covered with velvety, sperm-shaped white bindis (the tiny dots that married Indian women wear on their foreheads as signs of fertility), it looked rather sad. Was the elephant asleep? Or dying? Its dramatic scale, and the ugly-beautiful delicacy of its “skin,” gave viewers pause—for

  • “The Sahmat Collective: Art And Activism In India Since 1989”

    This sprawling exhibition will mix street and high culture, thus challenging the predominantly showy reputation of contemporary Indian art.

    The Delhi-based Sahmat Collective, a forum for politically minded artists, writers, poets, musicians, and thespians, was formed in 1989, in the aftermath of the murder of Communist playwright Safdar Hashmi. Presenting roughly 170 items from the group’s two decades of activity—archival material, artworks, posters, and videos of performances—this sprawling exhibition will mix street and high culture (per the collective’s credo), thus challenging the predominantly showy reputation of contemporary Indian art, the markets for which tend to reward the

  • “Subodh Gupta: Spirit Eaters”

    “A focused selection of artworks old and new, ‘Spirit Eaters’ is New Delhi–based Subodh Gupta’s solo debut in Switzerland.”

    A focused selection of artworks old and new, “Spirit Eaters” is New Delhi–based Subodh Gupta’s solo debut in Switzerland. Sculptures, videos, and paintings provide a long-overdue chance to test the aesthetic mettle of India’s most famous “Man of Steel” and to trace the arc of his lauded career. Gupta’s semirural antecedents are often overlooked thanks to the glare cast by his shiny steel installations of kitchen utensils, pots, and pans—as the towering tiffin boxes of Faith Matters, 2007–2008, reminiscent of the soaring skyscrapers of Gurgaon (the posh suburb where

  • diary September 24, 2012

    War and Peace

    IT WAS RAINING by the time I arrived in Terminal 1 at Singapore’s Changi Airport. Not an unusual state of affairs for the self-proclaimed Garden City, where afternoon downpours are par for the course. But this “kinetic rain” had a somewhat unexpected quality: It was artificial. Produced by art+com, 608 metal droplets fell gently from the ceiling to the accompaniment of soothing Muzak. Stepping up to the check-in counter, it occurred to me that the silvery, liquidlike baubles offered a perfect metaphor for my experiences of the past few days: Even the apparently natural was actually cleverly

  • Zarina Bhimji

    The title of Zarina Bhimji’s latest film, Yellow Patch, 2011, gives away no secrets, and having watched it, viewers are none the wiser. We know it was shot in India; that Bhimji has been researching it for years; that it is about “the history of trade and migration between India and Africa.” The catalogue tells us so. And yet such explanations don’t dispel our transfixed bafflement as we imbibe its nearly thirty minutes’ worth of footage. We see the old Port Trust offices in Mumbai, with their piles of fraying paperwork and aimlessly whirring fans; gorgeously decaying mansions in Gujarat, with

  • picks May 25, 2012

    Lee Wen

    Lee Wen is no coward, though he is famous for being yellow. In his ongoing “Yellow Man” series, the Singaporean performance artist is seen in videos and photographs with canary-yellow poster paint smeared all over his body. The photograph Strange Fruit, 2003, for instance, shows his jaundiced frame on a beach. Since red Chinese lanterns dangle over his face in these works, Lee’s identity is further obscured. The whys and wherefores of his colorful goings-on—tongue-in-cheek riffs on stereotypical readings of Chineseness —are examined in “Lucid Dreams in the Reverie of the Real,” Lee’s current

  • Gyan Panchal

    There are circumstances when sticks and stones may break our bones, as the saying goes. Paris-based Gyan Panchal’s show in Mumbai was not one of them. Here, such sturdy materials appeared curiously fragile. In bndus (all works 2012), the aforementioned “sticks”—actually three white-painted bamboo poles—were perched rather forlornly near a window. In wedhneumi, the bark of a palm tree emerged from a piece of yellowish paper on a wall, its shell-pink contours recalling the ruffled skirts of a soiled petticoat. Panchal’s curious titles, by the way, are gleaned from his study of the

  • diary February 10, 2012

    High Art

    I BEGAN my preparatory fieldwork for Delhi’s India Art Fair early this year, sipping watermelon margaritas at Maker Maxity, the massive new I-banker hub in Mumbai. The fair was due to open a few days later, on January 25, but the sprawling “collateral events” had already begun: In this case, it was the launch of Maxity’s “public art project,” sponsored by property magnate Manish Maker. The swanky private preview gathered the great and good of the Mumbai art world: Artists Amar Kanwar (whose melancholic, meditative films were on view) and Reena Saini Kallat were there, as well as the elaborately

  • interviews December 20, 2011

    Vivan Sundaram

    For veteran installation artist Vivan Sundaram, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. His latest show, “GAGAWAKA: Making Strange” at Lalit Kala Akademi in Delhi, argues Sundaram’s case with forty-five elaborate “wearable sculptures” made in collaboration with designer Pratima Pandey. “GAGAWAKA” is on view December 21–27.

    THE PHRASE “MAKING STRANGE” is a quote from Bertolt Brecht, which alludes to distanciation and alienation in contemporary times. But I think my title works even if you don’t know that reference: I use ordinary, everyday materials––plastic cups, sanitary napkins, bras––to

  • picks December 19, 2011

    Nathalie Djurberg

    Nathalie Djurberg’s “A World of Glass” consists of two chilly rooms filled with translucent objects arranged on wooden tables. The strangely carved ornaments resemble frozen relics from a fabled land. Looking through them, other, more sinisterly beguiling realms come into view: Four looped videos play on either side of the faux-glass installations (they are actually polyurethane), set to haunting music that is interspersed with tinkling sounds, like the clinking of ice-filled goblets. Her videos are stop-motion animations of morphing clay figures: In Monster (all works cited, 2011), the proverbial

  • Atul Dodiya

    “It’s just like being back in school,” a gallery-goer muttered grumpily, upon entering Gujarati artist Atul Dodiya’s latest, much anticipated solo show, “Bako Exists. Imagine.” The syntax of the title simulated that of an exam question, with the imperative “imagine” standing in for “discuss,” while the gallery, with its set of nine wooden cabinets and what masqueraded as eleven blackboards crammed with chalky English script, also created the impression that we had entered a room in a provincial schoolhouse—much like the one that Dodiya must have attended when growing up in Ghatkopar, a