The exhibition is a unique endeavour of Chemould Prescott Road, Mumbai and showcases the works of 29 Indian artists, all of whom have been associated with the gallery in the past.
Art Radar also talks to Shireen Gandhy, Director of Chemould, on the concept behind and the genesis of “Modus Operandi”.
Continuing to support Indian contemporary art since 1963
Chemould Prescott Road has played a crucial role in the narrative of contemporary art in India since its founding in 1963. As one of the oldest commercial galleries in the Indian subcontinent, it famously nurtured the first wave of modern artists in post-independence India. It has the distinction of having represented some of India’s most eminent artists, including M.F. Husain, Tyeb Mehta, S.H. Raza and Bhupen Khakhar during its early years. In more recent decades it has been focusing on contemporary artists who have an experimental and interdisciplinary approach to their practice, such as Atul Dodiya, Jitish Kallat and Shilpa Gupta. The gallery promotes the work of artists such as Nilima Sheikh, Desmond Lazaro and Lavanya Mani – who work with references to tradition and materiality – and also those involved in installation art and new media such as Vivan Sundaram and L.N. Tallur.
As Chemould embraces its 55th year, it has reflected on the most important stakeholders in its journey – its family of collectors, critics, writers and curators. This July, Chemould Prescott Road presents “Modus Operandi”, a show that brings together 29 Indian artists who have been associated with the gallery in the past. The title of the exhibition is borrowed from Latin, ‘modus’ meaning ‘manner, method’ and ‘operandī’ meaning ‘of working’ and it is this concept that forms the crux of this show. It showcases the participating artists’ modes, methods and processes of art making by presenting their works and their unique artistic language in dialogue with each other, through digital prints, pigment paint-based studies, photographs, videos, watercolours, textiles, scrolls, ink and much more.
While this comprehensive presentation bears an instructive introduction into contemporary art as it exists in India today, it has another unique purpose – to build, nurture and guide the next generation of art enthusiasts and collectors. All the artworks in the show have budgeted prices targeted at a younger buyer, who could either be a second or third generation collector, a new art enthusiast or a salaried professional making forays into the art world. With “Modus Operandi”, Chemould aims to create an ethos of approachable and accessible collecting habits in the younger generation. Interspersed with artist studio visits, collector mentoring and curated walks, the exhibition is an invitation for new entrants into the world of art to take their first steps towards a lifelong relationship with Indian contemporary art.
Art Radar spoke to Shireen Gandhy, Director of Chemould Prescott Road, about the genesis of “Modus Operandi” and her curatorial vision for the show.
“Modus Operandi” is a comprehensive collection of Indian artists showcasing the modes and methods that they use in their practice. What in your opinion would be some of the most significant innovations in the ‘MO’ of Indian artists over the past few decades? Are the artworks that are on display at “Modus Operandi” bespoke pieces that the artists created with the theme in mind?
The exhibition is less about “innovations” than it is about practice, process, studio experimentation, sometimes behind-the-scene drawings. Of course all of this is also part of innovation – but one can also be directed to think innovation as more majestic, high production value, etc. “Modus Operandi” is quite the opposite. In fact as we started to think about this show, the first thing was keeping the value modest, and for some of our artists that meant delving into their own archives, rummaging, looking at earlier studies, like Desmond, or NS Harsha. For others like Nilima Sheikh or Jitish Kallat, they worked specially making smaller studies towards larger works.
For others, this kind of experimentation of materiality is an ongoing process, so someone like Bijoy Jain has given us a variety of materials within the body of work we are showing – works that are made with lime, cowdung, karvy plant, etc. Our storage is also a treasure trove, so some artists existed within our storage – for example, 72 beautiful glass paintings by Shakuntala Kulkarni that form a large mural! The show has been exciting in how revealing it has been in terms of how the process of devising it has been as prevalent as the process-based work within the exhibits!
You have curated the work of artists who have been associated with Chemould in the past, most of whom are eminent names in the industry. Some have such a unique artistic language that it must have been challenging for you to seamlessly integrate their work into your curatorial vision for this show. How did you do so?
First of all, I prefer to use the word: devised to curate. Curating is a much bigger word, used loosely these days! However, to answer your question, it was important that we showcase most of our artists from the gallery stable. Many of them have illustrious careers, so we felt that it was important to give access to our younger collectors to be able to collect works like Atul Dodiya, Anju Dodiya or Jitish Kallat that fit within a price range of under INR200,000 [approx. USD2895]. These are not discounted prices, but works that fit within the range of prices that we set this show to be priced within.
It’s been an exciting few days of installation. While we were sure of the placement of a few and that was how we began, using those as anchors, the rest then began to have a natural synchronicity with the others. So one section is devoted to miniature, materiality, intimacy, another section to materiality and abstraction, another to figuration and the body, and a fourth section to colour and form. The gallery has four very distinct sections – and all the work seems to be fantastically “at home” within these sections! So while some were pre-decided, others become wonderful surprises!
At a time when the definition of what makes art is continuously evolving in the digital, multimedia world of today, what do you feel that art lovers can look forward to in the form of new media, methods and processes? And what are we seeing sadly fading away into oblivion?
One can certainly look forward to good old fashioned drawing; so many of our artists really stress on the importance of the line, colour. One can look forward to pure pigment – pure pigment as in the case of Desmond Lazaro, Varunika Saraf, Nilima Sheikh, Lavanya Mani. Perhaps what is missing, is good old fashioned oil painting. I don’t think that is fading into oblivion, as someone like Jitish Kallat sees himself returning to painting, Atul Dodiya never strayed away, but in an exhibition like ours, where scale is small, paper, becomes a more common medium that canvas.
From nurturing a nascent post-independence Indian art world in the mid-20th century, Chemould has taken on the mantle of nurturing the next generation of art collectors and enthusiasts. What are your personal hopes, aspirations and fears for this lot of ‘millenial’ collectors?
We have very few museums to nurture the aesthetic of contemporary art. One turns to galleries for that – and this was the moment that we felt that the young who are now travelling – whose peers are constantly Instagramming art from around the world – take pride in getting to know artists from their own backyard… learning and perhaps even taking the leap of owning! With 29 contemporary artists of a certain stature, this could be a good start perhaps? As gallerists we see ourselves as taste makers – just as much as an architect or a interior designer does. So for us to be able to help the younger generation imbibe what we would like to project, [we presented] a show that is not necessarily ambitious in scale, or awesome in stature, but one that has access through scale, concept and style.
With “Modus Operandi” Chemould is also playing the role of a mentor and guide by inviting these younger lovers of art to take a plunge into contemporary art collection. Being from one of the ‘first families’ of Indian art, if you were to give them three important tips to consider, as they test out these waters, what would they be?
The first tip is to continue to come to art exhibitions and train your eye to keep looking at art in order to focus on what direction you would like to take. The second is to start to collect what you like (of course), but with the view of living, owning, loving and not necessarily the view of selling (that can come down the years). Engaging with the artists, gallerists people around art makes one’s journey more interesting – it does not merely remain at the level of “trade” alone.
What is next on the anvil for Chemould Prescott Road? Are there any plans that you can share with Art Radar readers for them to look forward to in 2018-2019?
We have a fantastic line up coming up. Ritesh Meshram a young sculptor will be next – he is part of “Modus Operandi” with a most beautiful sculpture; the second is a more mature artist – conceptual, thoughtful and wonderful – Yardena Kurulkar, followed by Bijoy Jain and then Atul Dodiya. We have a packed but very exciting 6 months ahead!
“Modus Operandi” is on view from 12 to 28 July 2018 at Chemould Prescott Road, 3rd Floor, Queens Mansion, G Talwalkar Marg, Fort, Mumbai 400001.
- Contemporary Indian artists ponder over the politics of labour at Experimenter in Kolkata – in conversation – July 2018 – Art Radar spoke to the artists in a sort of panel discussion to shed more light on their group exhibition and their intentions
- 50 Years of Contemporary Art with Chemould Prescott Road – gallery director interview – July 2018 – a recently released comprehensive catalogue features a series of 5 landmark exhibitions organised at Chemould Prescott Road, Mumbai
- “Ray Trace”: Indian artist Baiju Parthan’s stereoscopic prints at Art Musings, Mumbai – in conversation – June 2018 – Baiju Parthan’s unique solo exhibition displays artworks that re-imagine our perception of reality
- “Beyond Transnationalism”: celebrating the legacy of post independent art from South Asia – curator interview – June 2018 – Dr Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum in collaboration with The Raza Foundation present an exhibition of 17 artists from South Asia
- 11 Indian artists explore personal and collective memory in “Lapses II” – interview – May 2018 – the second chapter of “Lapses” explores the impact of personal, political and cultural trauma on memory
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