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Astha Butail

Astha Butail Named BMW Art Journey Award Winner

Art Basel and BMW have announced that Indian artist Astha Butail has been selected as the next BMW Art Journey Award winner. Butail was recognized for her project “In the Absence of Writing,” which she describes as “an homage to the intangible oral traditions that are still alive today.” The short-listed artists from the Discoveries section for emerging artists at the 2017 Art Basel show in Hong Kong were the Berlin-based Julian Charrière and the Beijing-based Lin Ke.

For her BMW Art Journey, Butail plans to investigate the Zoroastrian Avesta, Jewish oral Torah, and Indian Veda traditions by experiencing and recording their different memory techniques as well as interviewing scholars and practitioners of each tradition. She will travel to the cities of Yazd, Iran; Jerusalem; London; and Varanasi, Pune, New Delhi, and Mumbai, in India.

The jury consisted of Claire Hsu, director of the Asia Art Archive in Hong Kong; Bose Krishnamachari, president of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale; Matthias Mühling, director of the Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus and Kunstbau in Munich; Alexandra Munroe, senior curator of Asian art and senior advisor of global arts at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York; and Pauline J. Yao, curator of visual art at M+ in Hong Kong.

Commenting on Butail’s Art Journey proposal, the jury said, “We were struck by its sensitivity and range, and how it expands upon the artist’s prior practice of investigating her own history and identity. The journey brings together ethnography, spirituality, and sociology. We were especially taken by Ms. Butail’s interest in tracking down endangered oral traditions, which she will document with the tools of an artist and through interactions with scholars and spiritual leaders. In a digital age, when knowledge is fragmented, meaning is evanescent, and face-to-face contacts are fleeting, this project reconnects us to a slower world, where ideas were shared through deep and sustained personal interactions. Last but not least, we are excited that this Art Journey will bring the artist to regions that previous artists in the series have not yet visited.”

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