Venice Biennale titled ‘Foreigners Everywhere’ gives voice to outsiders

Outsider, queer and Indigenous artists are getting an overdue platform at the 60th Venice Biennale contemporary art exhibition that opened Saturday.

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Brazilian curator Adriano Pedrosa’s main show, which accompanies 88 national pavilions for the seven-month run, is strong on figurative painting, with fewer installations than recent editions. A preponderance of artists are from the Global South, long overlooked by the mainstream art world circuits. Many are dead. Frida Kahlo, for example, is making her first appearance at the Venice Biennale. Her 1949 painting “Diego and I” hangs alongside one by her husband and fellow artist, Diego Rivera.

Despite their lower numbers, living artists have “a much stronger physical presence in the exhibition,” Pedrosa said, with each either showing one large-scale work, or a collection of smaller works. The vast majority are making their Venice Biennale debut.

Visitors to the two main venues, the Giardini and the Arsenale, will be greeted by a neon sign by the conceptual art cooperative Claire Fontaine with the exhibition’s title: “Stranieri Ovunque — Foreigners Everywhere.” A total of 60 in different languages hang throughout the venues.

When taken in the context of global conflicts and hardening borders, the title seems a provocation against intransigent governments — at the very least a prod to consider our shared humanity. Through artists with underrepresented perspectives, the exhibition address themes of migration and the nature of diaspora as well as indigeneity and the role of craft.

“Foreigners everywhere, the expression has many meanings,’’ Pedrosa said. “One could say that wherever you go, wherever you are, you are always surrounded by foreigners. … And then in a more personal, perhaps psychoanalytic subjective dimension, wherever you go, you are also a foreigner, deep down inside.”

“Refugee, the foreigner, the queer, the outsider and the Indigenous, these are the … subjects of interest in the exhibition,” he said.

Some highlights from the Venice Biennale, which runs through Nov. 26:

GEOPOLITICS AT THE BIENNALE

Facing the threat of protests, the Israel Pavilion stayed closed after the artist and curators refused to open until there is a cease-fire in Gaza and the Israeli hostages taken by Hamas -led militants are released.

Ukraine is making its second Biennale art appearance as a country under invasion; soft diplomacy aimed at keeping the world focused on the war. Russia has not appeared at the Biennale since the Ukraine invasion began, but this time its historic 110-year-old building in the Giardini is on loan to Bolivia.

For a short time during this week’s previews, a printed sign hung on the Accademia Bridge labelling Iran a “murderous terrorist regime,” declaring “the Iranian people want freedom & peace.” The venue for the Iranian pavilion was nearby, but there was no sign of activity. The Biennale said it would open Sunday — two days after the departure from Italy of Group of Seven foreign ministers who warned Iran of sanctions for escalating violence against Israel.

GOLDEN LIONS

The Golden Lion for best national pavilion went to Australia for Archie Moore’s installation “kith and kin,” tracing his own Aboriginal relations over 65,000 years. It’s written in chalk on the pavilion’s dark walls and ceiling and took months to complete. The Mataaho Collective from New Zealand won the Golden Lion for the best participant in Pedrosa’s main show, for their installation inspired by Maori weaving that crisscrosses the gallery space, casting a pattern of shadows and interrogating interconnectedness.

LGBTQ+ ARTISTS

As a queer artist born in South Korea and working in Los Angeles, Kang Seung Lee said he identified with Pedrosa’s “invitation to look at our lives as foreigners, but also visitors to this world.”

His installation, “Untitled (Constellations),” which considers the artists who died in the AIDS epidemic through a collection of objects, is in dialogue with spare paper-on-canvas works by British artist Romany Eveleigh, who died in 2020. “The works speak to each other, an intergenerational conversation, of course,’’ said Lee, 45, whose works have been shown in international exhibitions, including Documenta 15. This is his first Venice Biennale.

Nearby, transsexual Brazilian artist Manauara Clandestina presented her video “Migranta,” which speaks about her family’s story of migration. “It’s so strong, because I can hear my daddy’s voice,’’ she said. Clandestina, who hails from the Amazon city of Manaus, embraced Pedrosa during a press preview marking her Venice debut. She said she continues to work in Brazil despite discrimination and violence against transgender people.

NEWER NATIONAL PARTICIPANTS

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The Giardini hosts 29 national pavilions representing some of the oldest participating nations, like the United States, Germany, France and Britain. More recent additions show either in the nearby Arsenale, or choose a venue farther afield, like Nigeria did this year in Venice’s Dorsoduro district.

The Nigerian Pavilion, in a long-disused building with raw brick walls that exude potential, houses an exhibition that spans mediums — including figurative art, installation, sculpture, sound art, film art and augmented reality — by artists living in the diaspora and in their homeland.

“These different relationships to the country allow for a very unique and different perspectives of Nigeria,’’ said curator Aindrea Emelife. “I think that it’s quite interesting to consider how leaving a space creates a nostalgia for what hasn’t been and allows an artist to imagine an alternative continuation to that. The exhibition is about nostalgia, but it’s also about criticality.”

The eight-artist Biennale exhibition “Nigeria Imaginary” will travel to the Museum of West African Art in Benin City, Nigeria, where Emelife is curator, which will give it “a new context and a new sense of relevancy,’’ she said.

BREAKTHROUGHS

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Ghana-born British artist John Akomfrah created eight multimedia film- and sound-based works for the British Pavilion that looks at what it is to be “living as a figure of difference” in the U.K. Images of water are a connecting device, representing memory.

“In the main, I’m trying to tease out something about collective memory, the things that have informed a culture, British culture let’s say, over the last 50 years,’’ Akomfrah told The Associated Press. “As you go further in, you realize we’re going further back. We end up going to the 16th century. So it’s an interrogation of 500 years of British life.”

Considering the question of equity in the art world, Akomfrah indicated the adjacent French Pavilion — where French-Caribbean artist Julien Creuzet created an immersive exhibition — and the Canadian Pavilion on the other side, featuring an exhibition examining the historic importance of seed beads by Kapwani Kiwanga, who is in Paris.

“I mean, this feels like a very significant moment for artists of color,’’ said Akomfrah, who participated in the Ghana Pavilion in 2019. “Because I’m in the British Pavilion. Next to me is the French one, with an artist, Julien, who I love a lot, of African origin. And then next to me is a Canadian pavilion that has a biracial artist, again, with African heritage.

“So that’s certainly not happened before, that three major pavilions have artists of color inhabiting, occupied, making work in them. And that feels like a breakthrough,” he said.

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UKRAINE

The Ukrainian Pavilion engaged ordinary Ukrainians to collaborate with artists on work that documents how they are experiencing, and in some ways adapting to the Russian invasion.

The artistic projects include silent video portraits of European actors styled by Ukrainians displaced by the war to represent an “ideal” refugee. In another, neurodiverse young adults show their linguistic flexibility in incorporating a new reality where niceties like “quiet night” have a whole new meaning. And a film installation has become a sort of archive, taken from social media channels that once chronicled pre-invasion pastimes but that turned their attention to documenting the war.

Co-curator Max Gorbatskyi said it was important for Ukraine to be present at the Biennale to assert its distinctiveness from Russian culture, but also to use the venue to keep the wider world’s attention.

“We wanted to look at stories of real people,’’ he said. “There was no way we were going to show some abstract paintings, maybe beautiful and interesting, but which only pose questions in the art discourse. Instead, we wanted to bring real people together with artists in a non-hierarchical way to tell their stories.”

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COLLATERAL EVENTS

Greek American George Petrides’ installation “Hellenic Heads” outside of Venice’s Church of Saint George of the Greeks and the Museum of Icons is among the many collateral events that spill over into the city.

Petrides’ created six oversized busts, each inspired by a significant period of Greek history, using family members as models. His mother, in turquoise blue, is in the classical style and his daughter represents the future in a golden hue. To withstand the weather, Petrides recreated an earlier series but this time from recycled plastic, using a digital sculpting software and a 3D printer, reworking details from hand.

“This space is unique. We have the Museum of Icons here, which is one of the most spectacular collections of icons in the world. We have a church started while Michelangelo was still alive, which any sculptor finds interesting. But further, this particular quarter is the Greek quarter,’’ he said, noting an influx after Constantinople fell to the Ottomans in 1453.

Across the city, at the base of the Accademia Bridge, the Qatar Museum’s installation “Your Ghosts Are Mine” presents clips of feature films and video art from the Middle East, Africa and Southeast Asia organized thematically and exploring issues such as migration, conflict and exile. Films will be screened in their entirety four days a week.

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“These different thematics tell a story about all the congruences and the parallels that exist among filmmakers that may have never met or are from different parts of the global south,’’ said assistant curator and filmmaker Majid Al-Remaihi. “Some films were the first from their countries to premiere in Cannes or make it to the O

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Tribal art forms across India to be showcased at the upcoming museum at Tajangi in Andhra Pradesh

Walking through the hills and valleys of Chintapalli and motoring up the winding dirt roads of the interior areas of the Agency of Alluri Sitharama Raju district makes one wonder about the travails of tribal revolutionaries who had revolted against the British with crude weapons.

The Tribal Freedom Fighters Museum (TFFM) coming up at Tajangi, near Lambasingi in Chintapalli mandal, about 120 kilometres from Visakhapatnam city, plans to take visitors into the past by making them visualise the scenes as they walk through the artefacts, weapons and other materials used by the revolutionaries in their fight against the British. The TFFM is an offshoot of the vision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to celebrate the unsung tribal freedom fighters from various parts of the country.

A veil of fog covering the valleys at Lambasingi.
| Photo Credit:
KR Deepak

Lambasingi, which has earned the epithet Andhra Kashmir for registering sub-zero temperatures during the peak winter season, is poised to get the new tourist attraction soon. Being developed at a cost of ₹35 crore, the project is a joint venture of the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Government of India, and the Government of Andhra Pradesh.

Savara tribal art from Addakulaguda village in Seethampeta mandal of Parvathipuram Manyam district of Andhra Pradesh which will be showcased at the Tribal Freedom Fighters Museum coming up at Lambasingi in Chintapalli mandal, about 120 kilometres from Visakhapatnam city.

Savara tribal art from Addakulaguda village in Seethampeta mandal of Parvathipuram Manyam district of Andhra Pradesh which will be showcased at the Tribal Freedom Fighters Museum coming up at Lambasingi in Chintapalli mandal, about 120 kilometres from Visakhapatnam city.
| Photo Credit:
KR Deepak

Tribal artistes from various States in the country are presently engaged in the work of doing large paintings and art works, reflecting their culture at the Tribal Cultural Research and Training Mission (TCRTM) at Rushikonda in Visakhapatnam. These paintings would be displayed at the museum.

The work on construction of the museum at Tajangi, near Lambasingi village of Chintapalli mandal in ASR district, is progressing briskly. An extent of 21.67 acres of land was allotted for construction of the museum. The museum will have an entrance plaza, tribal haat with restaurant, and an amphitheatre.

“We had visited some of the tribes like Konda Dora, Sarika and others, who had migrated from Chintapalli region to Andhra and Pachipenta in Vizianagaram district. We had also visited Jeypore, which was then in Vizagapatam district, and presently in Odisha to get information on the objects, weapons and chains used by their ancestors. They gave us useful information and some artefacts for display,” says museum curator P Sankara Rao.

The hills and valleys at Chintapalli and surrounding areas, in combined Visakhapatnam district, are reminders of the historic Rampa Rebellion, one of the important tribal freedom movements against the British, led by the revolutionary freedom fighter Alluri Seetharama Raju.

“We have gathered information on lesser known freedom fighters from their ancestors living at Gondipakalu village of Chintapalli mandal. The Rutherford Guest House at Lambasingi, where Rutherford had visited in 1924 to catch Alluri Sitharama Raju, is located about four kilometres from the museum. Information pertaining to this guest house will be made available at the museum,” he says.

The storyline for making a 33-minute documentary covering the entire episode of the Rampa Rebellion has been developed, and information on various tribal freedom movements in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Chhattisgarh and Odisha has been gathered. “These documentaries would be screened in the 300-capacity amphitheatre being constructed at the museum complex,” says Sankara Rao.

“The museum complex will also have cafeterias on two floors, souvenir shops and replicas of tribal huts and articles reflecting their traditions and culture. Though the timeline for completion of the museum project is November 2023, heavy rain, non-availability of manpower and technical issues have resulted in delays. However, at present the work is progressing at a brisk pace, and we expect to complete the project by April, 2024,” he adds.

An ode to Savara tribal art

Members from the Savara tribes from Addakulaguda village in Seethampeta mandal of Parvathipuram Manyam district of Andhra Pradesh making their tribal art, as part of the Tribal Freedom Fighters Museum coming up at Lambasingi in Chintapalli mandal, about 120 kilometres from Visakhapatnam city.

Members from the Savara tribes from Addakulaguda village in Seethampeta mandal of Parvathipuram Manyam district of Andhra Pradesh making their tribal art, as part of the Tribal Freedom Fighters Museum coming up at Lambasingi in Chintapalli mandal, about 120 kilometres from Visakhapatnam city.
| Photo Credit:
KR Deepak

On a huge canvas spread across the wall of a room, Savara Raju paints a scene from a unique festival celebrated in his village to worship the forces of Nature, before the fresh harvest is taken home. Beside him are four others from his community who depict other village scenes through figurative art works in each corners of the canvas.

Raju belongs to the Savara tribes of the Addakulaguda village in Seethampeta mandal of Parvathipuram Manyam district in Andhra Pradesh. He is one of the handful of artists who still does the Savara art work, a remarkable form of tribal art that has its roots in the indigenous community of this region. These tribal designs are known as Ideesung or Edisinge, literally meaning ‘what is written in the house’.

Raju is currently at the Tribal Cultural Research and Training Mission (TCRTM) at Rushikonda in Visakhapatnam to complete a series art works showcasing the distinctive Savara paintings which will feature in the upcoming Tribal Freedom Fighters Museum.

Savara paintings are not merely decorative; they hold deep cultural and religious significance for the community and often depict themes related to Nature, spirituality, and the tribal way of life. Raju, 31, who learned the art from his father, says that these paintings once featured in every house of the community. “Now, there are just about 15 artists left who do these paintings,” he adds.

The Savara paintings incorporate elements such as animals, birds, trees and flowers into their artworks. The motifs are not only aesthetically pleasing, but also carry symbolic meanings that are often rooted in the tribe’s spiritual beliefs and folklore. One of the scenes depicted in the canvases is of the Aagam Panduga (a festival observed in memory of the departed souls and forefathers). “This is a unique festival celebrated once in a decade when the entire community comes together for a week-long celebration,” says Raju.

Members from the Savara tribes from Addakulaguda village in Seethampeta mandal of Parvathipuram Manyam district of Andhra Pradesh making their tribal art in Visakhapatnam as part of the Tribal Freedom Fighters Museum coming up at Lambasingi in Chintapalli mandal, about 120 kilometres from Visakhapatnam city.

Members from the Savara tribes from Addakulaguda village in Seethampeta mandal of Parvathipuram Manyam district of Andhra Pradesh making their tribal art in Visakhapatnam as part of the Tribal Freedom Fighters Museum coming up at Lambasingi in Chintapalli mandal, about 120 kilometres from Visakhapatnam city.
| Photo Credit:
KR Deepak

The tribe’s association with Nature and wildlife is reflected in the drawings on the mud walls of their houses by using vermilion, rice powder and charcoal. The canvas for the Savara artworks is typically prepared using natural materials such as leaves, tree bark, or cloth. The colours are sourced from minerals, stones and plants, creating a stunning palette of earthy tones.

The painting process itself is meticulous and time-consuming. The brushes used by artists are made from animal hair or bamboo to apply the pigments. Intricate dotting and line work techniques are used to create the fine details and patterns that are characteristic of Savara paintings.

Savara tribal art from Addakulaguda village in Seethampeta mandal of Parvathipuram Manyam district of Andhra Pradeshthat will be showcased at the Tribal Freedom Fighters Museum coming up at Lambasingi in Chintapalli mandal, about 120 kilometres from Visakhapatnam city.

Savara tribal art from Addakulaguda village in Seethampeta mandal of Parvathipuram Manyam district of Andhra Pradeshthat will be showcased at the Tribal Freedom Fighters Museum coming up at Lambasingi in Chintapalli mandal, about 120 kilometres from Visakhapatnam city.
| Photo Credit:
KR Deepak

Even as the ancient tribal art form is gradually vanishing with lifestyle changes of the community, Savara Raju along with his father strive to revive it through the Savara Art Society that was formed in 2011. Raju was also nominated by the State government for the YSR Lifetime Achievement Award in 2021.

Tribal artists from 11 States are being invited in batches to complete their works at the TCRTM before they are transported to the museum in Chintapalli. Next month, the Jatapu tribes will be coming down to Visakhapatnam from Parvathipuram Manyam district. 

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How heritage conservationists are preserving culturally and historically significant artefacts and monuments

A leopard skin lies on a table at Namita Jaspal’s lab, set on the second floor of her three-storeyed house in New Chandigarh, a township just outside the eponymous state capital of Punjab and Haryana. “It has come for restoration from a private collection,” says Namita, the chief conservator of Heritage Preservation Atelier, a company she started in 2011. .

There are old paintings in the lab too, but Namita’s work takes shape outside — in the wall paintings of the 16th Century Golden Temple in Amritsar, 18th and 19th Century temples built by Maharaja Ranjit Singh, and a nine-foot flag gifted by the Chinese to the British Indian Army in the 1800s. “In 2013, I conserved the wall paintings at one of the holiest, most-revered sites in Sikhism — Golden Temple. It took three-four years to complete the project as there was a lot of footfall and we could only work at night. We have also done frescos and wall paintings in temples from Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s time. In all of them, there was an amalgamation of faith. In a Krishna temple, there were paintings of all 10 Sikh gurus,” she says.

Hoshiarpur Temple_Before
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

Hoshiarpur Temple_After

Hoshiarpur Temple_After
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

Namita is among the people bridging the gap between art and history in India, work which includes wall paintings and murals spanning several centuries. Nilabh Sinha, principal director of Delhi-headquartered INTACH Conservation Institutes, has dabbled in much older wall paintings. He restored those on Ladakh’s 12th Century Mangyu temple complex. Nilabh, who also conserved nine oil paintings of the Rashtrapati Bhavan in 2008 and 2009, says it took three-four years to finish work on the paintings and the structure of the complex. “The original paintings at Ladakh had gold and natural pigments, but they had been overpainted garishly over the years by locals. The structure is made of mud, so the paintings and the structures had been damaged because of the roof leaking during heavy rain,” he says.

Ladakh’s 12th Century Mangyu temple complex

Ladakh’s 12th Century Mangyu temple complex
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

Detail of a painting before conservation of Mangyu temple

Detail of a painting before conservation of Mangyu temple
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

Detail of a painting after conservation of Mangyu temple

Detail of a painting after conservation of Mangyu temple
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

Nilabh’s team also repaired, conserved and restored the complex’s structure. He says they employed locals and trained them to continue preserving the monastery. “Local monks too were involved in our project,” says Nilabh, who has also restored the 19th Century, limestone Flora Fountain in Mumbai. He outlines the difference between material conservation and monument conservation stating that the former involes any material that constitutes an art form, ranging from textiles to paintings, while the latter is a more elaborate process requiring architects and engineers. “In both cases scientific investigations go into the restoration of heritage,” he says.

19th Century, limestone Flora Fountain in Mumbai before and after restoration

19th Century, limestone Flora Fountain in Mumbai before and after restoration
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

Sreekumar Menon, a freelance painting conservator, was involved in the conservation project of Sumda Chun in Ladakh, which was awarded for excellence by UNESCO Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation in 2011. “We started in 2006 and continued up to 2010,” he says.

Sreekumar working at the monastry

Sreekumar working at the monastry
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

In places like Ladakh, where temperature drops to -20°C, work is not possible in winter. “There is more rain in Ladakh now, so it gets tougher. In all, we could work for 10 months in a year,” adds Nilabh.

In both the projects in Ladakh, the biggest challenge was removing soot which had discoloured the paintings. For Sreekumar, work in Sumda Chun was the most enriching. “During the initial two-three months, there was no electricity. It was interesting to work without a mobile connection,” he says.

Sreekumar says the guiding principle for an art conservator is staying true to the art. “The main thing is how much can one preserve a work of art. For the project in Ladakh, we work with local agencies and the local community. We don’t know the artist, we only know the art school and dynasty that the art belongs to. The significance of the painting or the project is the main guiding factor; I pick up the ones that are at least 200-300 years old,” he adds.

Sumda Chun in Ladakh

Sumda Chun in Ladakh
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

Sreekumar has also worked on private collections. When asked about the price it could take to restore a painting or structure, he says it depends on the project. “You could need team members for some projects too. But, by an estimate, the price could go up to between ₹20 lakh and ₹1 crore for a month,” he says. “There are many variables — logistics, lodging for team, materials and many more. It is highly demanding to work on a site. Sumda Chun is among them: difficult, but rewarding.”

The temple was listed as one of the 100 most endangered sites in World Monument Funds 2006 Watch List, along with three other Indian sites — the 17th Century Dalhousie Square in Calcutta, the 15th Century Dhangkar Gompa in Himachal Pradesh, and the 19th Century Watson’s Hotel in Mumbai.

Drawing of Purasaiwalkam house in Madras Inked

Drawing of Purasaiwalkam house in Madras Inked
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

Sujatha Shankar, who specialises in architecture, planning, and restoration and conservation, is the convener of INTACH’s Chennai chapter. She is also on the governing council and executive committee of INTACH. She has restored a bungalow which was over 100 years old and had colonial vernacular architecture. “The structure had been leased out to Sri Krishna Sweets. We put back light fixtures and preserved the flooring,” she says.

The house, based in Purasaiwalkam, dates back to the early 1900s and is a vernacular idiom that evolves from Indo-Saracenic styles, says Sujatha. “The tenant, who occupied it, asked us to restore it. With regard to matching of materials, and skills employed, all of it is as close to the original as possible. The walls were in lime; the flooring, in some places, was replaced with handmade tiles compatible to the period. The only intervention was to install an elevator, which too was done without compromising on the architectural features. Other than working with lime and brick, much of the work had to be done in wood. We were able to replicate missing pieces. These were for the eaves of the monkey top,” she adds.

Purasaiwalkam house

Purasaiwalkam house
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

Sujatha has been practising for 39 years. She has mostly worked in Chennai, restoring and conserving structures dating to the British era. Challenges have also involved bringing modern utility to structures built over a century ago. “INTACH has been holding workshops on working with lime, timber and other materials to train labourers and masons to work in this area. As for research, it runs parallelly to the brief, condition assessment and photo documentation,” she shares.

Training the staff is one of the most challenging tasks when it comes to conservation, echoes Sreekumar. “We hire conservators who have, at least ideologically, an idea of conservation. But that is not always a possibility, so sometimes we train people on site under the supervision of two or three senior conservators,” he says.

Namita Jaspal at the Golden Temple in Amritsar

Namita Jaspal at the Golden Temple in Amritsar
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

Recently, Namita restored 17th Century Sikh warrior Banda Singh Bahadur’s angrakha, a piece of clothing. “We used needle and a transparent thread for it, and a weaker adhesive, so that it is removable. When it comes to materials, we’re meticulous in our selection. We source specialised materials that match the object’s composition and characteristics, often going beyond what’s readily available in stores. This allows us to ensure an accurate and authentic conservation process that effectively addresses ageing effects and maintains the object’s integrity,” she adds. 

A wall painting at the Golden Temple before conservation

A wall painting at the Golden Temple before conservation
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

A wall painting at the Golden Temple after conservation

A wall painting at the Golden Temple after conservation
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

For Namita, the commitment to upholding the originality of each object is paramount. “We understand the importance of striking a balance between conservation efforts and preserving the object’s inherent value. Through our diligent adherence to ethical guidelines and thorough research, we’re able to achieve conservation results that honor the object’s history without drawing any unwarranted criticism,” she shares.

Golden Temple, she says, was a huge learning experience. “I needed artists, but had to make it clear that they did not have to show their artistic skills, but just fill the gaps from where the paintings were chipped off. They could not use any material; we had to tell them what pigments they needed to work with,” she says. “You cannot make new art on something that has already been made; that’s one of the key points of restoration.”

In concurrence with Namita’s views, Sreekumar highlights the most significant responsibility of a conservator: “Respect the art of the creator.”

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Paris exhibits to see this autumn, from Bollywood to Chagall and Picasso

As Parisians return from their summer holidays and get back to work or school (a period known in France as “la rentrée”), the City of Lights is set for a rich cultural season. From Russian-French artist Marc Chagall to a retrospective on Indian cinema, FRANCE 24 has selected 10 of the top upcoming exhibits in Paris. 

The new cultural season in Paris is shaping up to be an extremely varied one, with exhibits dedicated to Vincent van Gogh at the Musée d’Orsay, Marc Chagall at the Centre Pompidou and Berthe Morisot – one of the leading female figures of French impressionism – at the Musée Marmottan Monet. Looking for immersive experiences and something off the beaten track? Check out the Aura Invalides, a multimedia light show under the dome at the monument where Napoleon is buried; the street art exhibit at the Grand Palais Immersif; and an exhibit on the Paris metro at the Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine. 

 

Gertrude Stein et Pablo Picasso – L’invention du langage (The invention of language)

To mark 50 years since Pablo Picasso’s death, the Luxembourg museum is putting on an exhibition centred around the extraordinary friendship between Cubist pioneers Pablo Picasso and American writer Gertrude Stein, two 20th-century icons of the Bohemian art scene in Paris. 

The aim of the exhibition is not only to shed light on Stein’s little-known poetic work in relation to Picasso’s paintings and sculptures, but also to highlight their influence on artists across Europe and the United States such as Andy Warhol, Marcel Duchamp and John Cage. 

Gertrude Stein et Pablo Picasso – L’invention du langage at the Musée du Luxembourg runs from September 13 – January 28, 2024. 

 

Mode et sport, d’un podium à l’autre (Fashion and sports: From one podium to another)

The poster for “Fashion and sport: From one podium to another”, an exhibit at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, features the Lacoste couture polo dress by designer Freaky Debbie. © David Hugonot Petit, Conception graphique: Coline Aguettaz & Brice Tourneux

Ahead of the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, the Musée des Arts Décoratifs (Museum of Decorative Arts) explores the evolution of sportswear and its influence on fashion, from ancient times to the present day. From the outfits worn by French tennis player Suzanne Lenglen to the jerseys worn by Les Bleus, the French national football team, the exhibit presents a wide selection of emblematic pieces. It also provides a perfect opportunity to reflect on the social and cultural crossover between these two seemingly distant worlds. 

Mode et sport, d’un podium à l’autre at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs runs from September 20 – April 7, 2024.

 

Aura Invalides  


 

A brand-new immersive experience is coming to Paris. From September 22, a light show will be projected onto the interior walls of the Invalides dome at dusk. Guided by music, visitors will explore the six chapels surrounding the crypt of Napoleon’s tomb and learn about the history of the 17th-century dome. This experience is an invitation to travel back in time and discover a whole new side of the Hôtel National des Invalides. 

Aura Invalides at the Hôtel National des Invalides runs from September 22. 

 

Bollywood Superstars – Histoire d’un cinéma indien (History of Indian cinema) 

The poster for the upcoming
The poster for the upcoming “Bollywood Superstars” exhibition at the Musée du Quai Branly – Jacques Chirac. © Gitanjali Rao

Previously shown at the Louvre Abu Dhabi, the Musée du Quai Branly is now putting India – the world’s largest film producer with over 1,500 films a year exported throughout Asia, the Middle East and Africa – front and centre in this exhibit. More than 200 works – including paintings, costumes and photographs – will be on display, allowing visitors a rare opportunity to discover the rich history of Indian cinema from the end of the 19th century to the present day.  

Bollywood Superstars – Histoire d’un cinéma indien at the Musée du Quai Branly Jacques Chirac runs from September 26 – January 14, 2024. 

 

Van Gogh à Auvers-sur-Oise – Les derniers mois (Van Gogh in Auvers-sur-Oise: The final months) 

“The church at Auvers” by Vincent Van Gogh was purchased with the help of Paul Gachet, son of Dr Paul Gachet, and an anonymous Canadian donation in 1952. © Hervé Lewandowski, RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d’Orsay)

The Musée d’Orsay will be putting on the first exhibition devoted solely to the works produced by Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh during the last two months of his life at Auvers-sur-Oise on the northwestern outskirts of Paris. Although he only spent a short period of time there, it marked a crucial final phase in his artistic development during which he produced some of his most notable works, including “The Church at Auvers”.

Known as “the city of Impressionists”, other artists such as Cezanne and Pissaro either lived or spent time in Auvers. After visiting the exhibit, consider making a trip to Auvers-sur-Oise itself, which offers a chance to visit the graves of Van Gogh and his brother Theodore; the Auberge Ravoux, where Van Gogh lived during his stay; and the Painters’ Pathway, a self-guided walk marked by panels exhibiting the Impressionist masterpieces that were painted in and around the town. 

Auvers-sur-Oise is very easy to reach by train. Take the Transilien H train from Paris Gare du Nord to the Pontoise train station and then take another Transilien H from Pontoise to Auvers-sur-Oise. The journey will take about one hour.  

Van Gogh à Auvers-sur-Oise – Les derniers mois at the Musée d’Orsay runs from October 3 – February 4, 2024.

 

Chagall à l’œuvre – Dessins, céramiques et sculptures 1945-1970 (Chagall at work: Drawings, ceramics and sculptures, 1945-1970)

Russian-born French painter Marc Chagall works in the Madoura studio in Vallauris, France on June 11, 1952.
Russian-born French painter Marc Chagall works in the Madoura studio in Vallauris, France on June 11, 1952. © Meunier, AFP

A major 20th-century artist who was nearly as famous as his friend Picasso, French-Russian artist Marc Chagall is now honoured at the Pompidou Centre. The exhibition brings together a selection of the artist’s greatest works, including the preparatory drawings for the costumes and stage curtains in Igor Stravinsky’s ballet “The Firebird”, sketches of the ceiling of Paris’s Opéra Garnier and a collection of ceramics, collages and sculptures. This exhibit is the perfect opportunity to (re)discover his work, which is rich in colour and symbolism and influenced by his Jewish heritage, his life in Russia and his career in France

Chagall à l’œuvre – Dessins, céramiques et sculptures 1945-1970 at the Centre Pompidou runs from October 4 – February 26, 2024. 

 

Dana Schutz – Le monde visible (Dana Schutz: The visible world)

The City of Paris Museum of Modern Art is hosting the first major French exhibition of works by US artist Dana Schutz. Born in Michigan in 1976, Schutz has had a major influence on contemporary art. A storyteller skilled with colour, she has explored contemporary themes over the years through complex, large-scale fictional settings. The exhibit explores themes such as the artist at work, the construction of self and society, and the tension that can be felt in large crowds.   

Dana Schutz – Le monde visible at the Musée d’Art Moderne runs from October 6 – February 11, 2024.

 

Berthe Morisot et l’art du XVIIIe siècle (Berthe Morisot and the art of the 18th century) 

“Apollo revealing his divinity to the shepherdess” by Berthe Morisot, based on a work by François Boucher, 1892. © Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris

The Musée Marmottan Monet has brought together 65 works from French and foreign museums as well as private collections for the first time to highlight the similarities between the work of Berthe Morisot and the lesser-known 18th-century French painters from whom she drew inspiration: Antoine Watteau, François Boucher, Jean-Honoré Fragonard and Jean-Baptiste Perronneau. 

Morisot established herself as the first female Impressionist and, alongside Monet, Renoir and Degas, was one of the leading members of the group. Due to social restrictions imposed on her class and gender, the most common subject for her paintings were domestic scenes. Many of these depict members of her own family, including her husband Eugène Manet, Édouard Manet’s brother, and their daughter Julie.  

Berthe Morisot et l’art du XVIIIe siècle at the Musée Marmottan Monet runs from October 18 – March 3, 2024. 

 

Métro ! Le Grand Paris en mouvement (Metro! Greater Paris on the move)

A commuter sits in a carriage at the Gare de l'Est metro station in Paris on March 7, 2023.
A commuter sits in a carriage at the Gare de l’Est metro station in Paris on March 7, 2023. © Christophe Archambault, AFP

As part of efforts to reduce traffic congestion and national emissions, the French government launched construction in 2016 on the Grand Paris Express, a group of new transit lines that will connect many areas of the suburbs without having to pass through Paris. As this project’s first stations near completion, the Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine is presenting a new exhibit about the history of the Paris metro and the urban transformations associated with it. 

Métro ! Le Grand Paris en mouvement at the Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine runs from November 8 – June 2, 2024.

 

L’art urbain à l’ère numérique (Street art in the digital age)

“L’homme oiseau” (Bird-man), a work by French artists Ella & Pitr in Cerrillos, Chile, in 2013. © Ella&Pitr

Street art takes centre stage at the Grand Palais Immersif, a new exhibition space set up within the walls of Paris’s Opéra Bastille in autumn 2022. The exhibit traces the history of this artistic movement, which appeared on city walls in the 20th century, and the impact of technology on the work of street artists. From New York subway stations to large-scale murals of the 2000s and paintings created using drones, visitors can witness the evolution of street art.   

L’art urbain à l’ère numérique at the Grand Palais Immersif runs from December 6 – July 21, 2024.

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Why aren’t more artist x artisan collaborations acknowledged?

Waswo X. Waswo’s solo booth at the 2023 India Art Fair caused a bit of a stir. His intricate paintings combined realism and elements of miniature with his brand of dry humour — from a gouache and gold on wasli paper depicting pages from a burning storybook, to a detailed five-piece suite of a train at a station. The subject matter was topical too, alluding to Godhra, M.F. Husain’s persecution, and Kalki and the Kal-Yug as metaphors for our chaotic times.

End of the Kala Yug

Last Ride in the Wild, Wild East

Last Ride in the Wild, Wild East

The Udaipur-based American and his collaborating team of local artisans walked in on the opening day wearing the signature white fedoras that the protagonist of his works usually dons. But, despite the display of camaraderie, there was change brewing behind the scenes. Shortly after the Art Fair, two of Waswo’s long-time collaborators left to pursue their own careers. (Their names have been withheld for legal reasons.) The catalogue featured two new names: Chirag Kumawat, a dab hand at realistic style painting, and Dalpat Jingar, a border artist and miniaturist.

Dalpat Jingar at work

Dalpat Jingar at work

“I am excited about the new collaborations, but, of course, doubtful too. What has been lost, and what has been gained?” ruminates the artist, who has exhibitions coming up in London this month, and plans in motion for a show in Mumbai next year. Incidentally, Waswo is one of the few artists who publicly validates the inputs of his artisan collaborators. The majority do not acknowledge them, treating them instead as fabricators and craftspeople.

Waswo X. Waswo

Waswo X. Waswo
| Photo Credit:
H. Vibhu

Maintaining the integrity

In the dictionary, an artist is defined as “a person who creates art [such as a painting, sculpture, music, or writing] using conscious skill and creative imagination” and an artisan as “a worker who practices a trade or handicraft”. This hierarchy has been starkly visible in the art world for many years.

“It becomes hard for artists to acknowledge their [artisans’] collaboration because of copyright issues and legal infrastructure. Also, the hierarchies are already entrenched in the art world,” explains gallerist Renu Modi, the director of Espace in New Delhi who represents Waswo X. Waswo. By and large, the copyright to a collaborative artwork is held by the artist because they contribute infrastructure, finance and are usually more skilled and confident in dealing with the legal side of the issue.

Renu Modi

Renu Modi

Artist Arjuna Kochhar, for instance, collaborates with Kangra artisans to render his raga-based paintings in the miniature style. He works with acrylic on linen, and has fused the Kangra with the Thangka style to render non-traditional imagery, including the Buddha meditating in forests of demons and wild animals.

“When the Kangra artists mentioned that the works were getting a tremendous response, and that they were being requested to make large canvases, much like the ones that they were assisting me with, I realised that intellectual property issues need to be addressed formally, or else there would be imitation,” he says. While his intent — to incorporate the traditional arts, which have become craft because of repetition without innovation, into contemporary art — is encouraging, “if the traditional artists begin imitating our innovations and supplying replicas of these paintings, then this approach becomes problematic and non-viable”, shares Kochhar.

More dialogue on the issue is needed, where the integrity of both is held in a respectful and empowering position.

“In contemporary times, artists who are working in a collaborative set up do recognise the input of the artisans and their craftsmanship, but the recognition is undermined because of restrictions of institutional frameworks and legal systems and of course, the status quo.”Bhavna KakarDirector, Latitude 28

‘The artist is the decision maker’

Things seem to be shifting now, with artisans pushing the envelope for better recognition, treatment and pay. I recall Ranjita Dhal, who worked with artist Shivani Aggarwal on the Barbil Art Project in Odisha a little over a year ago, not being shy in coming forward with her ideas and inputs to create the on-site installation in sabai grass. Bijay Parida, the award-winning Pattachitra artist, also weighed in during his collaboration with Anindita Bhattacharya. The biannual workshop was conceptualised by Jagannath Panda and organised by the Utsha and Arya Foundation

Shivani Aggarwal and Ranjita Dhal (far left) at the Barbil Art Project in Odisha

Shivani Aggarwal and Ranjita Dhal (far left) at the Barbil Art Project in Odisha

Shivani Aggarwal with Ranjita Dhal

Shivani Aggarwal with Ranjita Dhal

.“There are multiple models that exist around this — from contemporary artists employing artisans, giving creative input [or not], to recognising artisans as equal collaborators and sharing credit and splitting the sales equally. Each model has its inherent challenges, but eventually the artist is the decision maker,” says Anubhav Nath, the curatorial director of Ojas Arts, which is known for presenting contemporary art works of both artists and artisans.

Recently, I was drawn into a discussion about the art-craft union while interacting with U.K.-based artist Keith Khan, who showed his new media artworks, Sugar Cane Cutter Legs, at Nature Morte last month. He shared that “art is a process with many inputs and influences, but where actual collaboration has taken place I have always acknowledged and given credits”. Besides his upcoming projects, such as a project with British fashion house Burberry to create textiles for the Leeds Festival in August, he is contemplating dipping into Indian art and culture, and taking on a collaborator.

Preserving craft

The importance of preserving the arts of the craftspeople/artisans cannot be emphasised enough, given that their traditional methods are passed on orally and manually from one generation to another, and many of their practices are dying. Panda, of the Barbil Art Project, recalls visiting Bellaguntha in Odisha seven years ago to study the brass fish (a craft that dates back to 9 AD). It’s still a main attraction of the city, but he found that the craftspeople were not getting any patronage. “Without support, they were losing interest and love for their own craft,” he says. This led him to create BAP, and its events have since encouraged many artisans such as Ranjita Dhal to collaborate with artists on national and international projects.

Is change in the offing?

Over the years, many artists, including Gulam Mohammed Sheikh and K.G. Subramanyan (1924-2016), and younger contemporaries such as Anindita Bhattacharya, Gopa Trivedi, and Saira Wasim have drawn on the miniature tradition. Other regional art practices such as the Kalighat Pats — popularised by the likes of Jamini Roy — and warli painting, pattachitra and gond art have also been approached by artists. The late Jagdish Swaminathan (1928-1994) was a key figure in bringing forward Gond-Pardhan artist Jangarh Singh Shyam and Bhil artist Bhuri Bai.

Purusottam Mohapatra

Purusottam Mohapatra

But for every artisan acknowledged for their work or who’ve had independent showings, there are more instances of people who’ve been unacknowledged. And a few do not want to deal with the legalities required for an equitable sharing of intellectual as well as monetary space. “We often find it more comfortable to stick to what we know and earn from it,” says Chandrasena Majhi, a paddy craft artisan. Purusottam Mohapatra, a papier-mâché artist, adds, “Often, we just work with artists like contractors and, as long as we get paid, we haven’t cared about ‘acknowledgement’. But it would be nice to see that change.” Mohapatra is one of the last in his family to follow the traditional craft.

The writer is a critic-curator by day, and a visual artist by night.

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All roads to Milan

The Salone del Mobile.Milano, started by 13 Italian entrepreneurs in 1961 to showcase furniture from Italy annually, is a much sought-after and awaited celebration of furnishings and accessories. Italy has always been home to pathbreaking design, attracting designers from across the world.

This year, in its 61st edition from April 18-23 in the Fiera Milano district in Rho, the exhibits are conveniently spread across a single level for ease of exploration. Euroluce, the lighting design event returns after four years. Salone Satellite features young designers under 35, and facilitates relationships with businesses. Wandering through cathedrals, galleries and piazzas, the backdrop of Milan is enriching, where modern blends with ancient and hi-tech with antiquity, providing seamless experiences in an environment of bespoke heritage. Sustainability is the go-word, with new technology leading the fray, emphasising the need to conserve resources, protect human rights and reduce environmental impact. Here are some designs that caught  Property Plus’ eye at the Mobile:

1. Icons of design collab

Cobra lamp by Martinelli Luce
| Photo Credit:
martinelliluce.com

Italy has always revered its individual masters of the arts right from polymaths as Da Vinci and Michelangelo to modern day Versace. Iconic brands shape design movements by creating a strong sense of look and feel. Highsnobiety Magazine’s collab showcases furniture pieces by renowned designers by designers since the 1920s, from Anna Maria Ferrieri to Jonathan de Pas and others. These head-turners are eye-openers for their early innovative use of plastic and distilled simplicity. Our pick is the Cobra lamp by Martinelli Luce, which speaks volumes of how mundane, everyday objects can inspire enduring forms that go on to become classics.

2. A circular twist

Doorknob by Atelier Landon of Morocco

Doorknob by Atelier Landon of Morocco
| Photo Credit:
maison-objet.com

I’m a big fan of clever single material use. This gorgeous doorknob by Atelier Landon of Morocco brings mystic Eastern symbolism to blend with modern technology and skill in a single spin. Reminiscent of Indian Bidri-ware and surely inspired by craft, the knob is deceptively simple and made of brass wire. The beauty of this 10cm high knob of 8 cm diameter lies in its ability to turn wire into a spherical shape, one that resonates with nature as in the sun, moon, planets and stars. A bit like those famous lines by Blake — ‘To see a World in a Grain of Sand….Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand.’

3. Beyond the bath

Introverso washbasin by designer Paolo Lupian

Introverso washbasin by designer Paolo Lupian
| Photo Credit:
antoniolupi.it

Once functional spaces, bathrooms have notably become sanctuaries where you can pamper yourself and spend dedicated time in wellness. With 172 exhibitors covering an area of 17,000 square metres, the 8th edition’s focus is on sustainability. The Introverso washbasin by designer Paolo Lupian for antoniolupi uses sliced layers of Carrara marble, which you can literally break to create a jagged form. The transparency of the stone and the sculptural shapes are further enhanced by the possibilities of other dimensions — sound and touch. When you slide your fingers along the marble, you can hear natural music.

4. Bend it like bamboo

From the Jacqueline Collection

From the Jacqueline Collection
| Photo Credit:
special arrangement

Gessi’s ‘Haute Culture’ explores intimate spaces of living with new collections launching at Milan Design Week. Inspired by nature, the bathroom fittings bring nuanced interactions that explore the regenerative element of water. Bamboo, a never before used material in bathrooms, makes its debut in faucet designs of the Jacqueline Collection. Hollow bamboo roots are handpicked, ensuring a smooth adaptation to the design, fulfilling a sense of natural well-being and harmony.

5. Sparks of inspiration

Euroluce 

Euroluce 
| Photo Credit:
special arrangement

The Salone’s special International Lighting Exhibition known to bridge technology and poetry, architecture and design. Based on the theme of City of Lights, the centrestage for the 31st edition of the biennale titled Euroluce is set at Aurore plaza. The strong interdisciplinary nature of the event reveals itself in architectural photography by Hélène Binet titled Nature, Time and Architecture. Seven major exhibits take place in ‘intermezzos’ or modular structures of recyclable wood, which allow spaces to pause and reflect.

6. Peel apart and sit

Draga & Aurel’s Beba chair

Draga & Aurel’s Beba chair
| Photo Credit:
draga-aurel.com

Draga & Aurel’s Beba chair could be a take-off from Eero Saarinen’s Tulip Chair with their clear referencing of a blooming flower. Yet, there’s something very cocoon-like about these sculpted forms that allude to haute couture corsets. From the onset of modernism, ergonomics and comfort went hand in hand with the whole ‘form and function’ adage, the two inevitably clashing either when a designer submitted to the beauty of form or when function became overly prioritised. Especially in chair design, providing comfort for the body and taking its contours to give support has become essential. In painted resin fiber frames, the Beba almost resembles an unzipped handbag, comfy to sit and sink into.

7. Where stones speak

Cristián Mohaded’s creation

Cristián Mohaded’s creation
| Photo Credit:
@cristian.mohaded

Furniture has always given designers the license to tell stories. Beyond the obvious function of sitting, eating, storing and so on, a piece of furniture becomes a canvas of expression. Commissioned by Loro Piana, designer Cristián Mohaded brings the Andes tradition of stacking rocks — a familiar practice by the Inukshuks of Canada as well — in his ‘Apacheta’. This concept of sacred offerings inspires his generation of enigmatic forms in his organic furniture which is sparse modern yet spiritual. Mohaded uses earth colours to evoke the sky, earth and stone with discarded fabric of Loro Piana.

8. Light weavers

The ‘Evolutionary Specimen of Fabrics’ by Kawashima Selkon Textiles

The ‘Evolutionary Specimen of Fabrics’ by Kawashima Selkon Textiles
| Photo Credit:
kawashimaselkon.co.jp

Whether the Shoji screen room dividers or Tatami mats, Japanese traditional craft brings the exquisite art of weaving to the creation of admirably consistent surfaces in interior spaces. The resulting minimalistic designs contribute to making spaces tranquil and meditative. The ‘Evolutionary Specimen of Fabrics’ by Kawashima Selkon Textiles is one more step in this direction, taking forward the traditional Japanese way of mediating spaces by layers of translucency. The manipulation of light is admirably achieved by the exploration of traditional Nishjin techniques, incorporating modern technology and innovations to achieve a tremendous finesse.

The writer is a brand strategist with a background in design from SAIC and NID.

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War in Ukraine: ‘De-Russification’ on the rise in Odesa

From our special correspondent in Odesa – Russia’s offensive in Ukraine has accelerated a campaign of “de-Russification” in the major port city of Odesa. It’s a delicate process in a city that has long been influenced by Russian language and culture. From changing street names to dismantling statues and removing Russian literature from library shelves, the war has removed previous resistance to the idea.

On December 28, 2022, in the middle of the night, municipal employees quietly dismantled a monument of Catherine the Great, Empress of all Russia.

For Artak Hryhoryan, a young IT engineer from Odesa speaking in early February, it was high time for city authorities to remove a statue which “for years had been a regular rallying point for pro-Russians with Russian flags and slogans repeating Moscow’s propaganda” from the public space.

The statue of the empress who snatched southern Ukraine from the domination of the Ottoman Empire at the end of the 18th century has long been a source of discord in Odesa. Originally erected in 1900, the bronze statue aimed to make the empress a “mother” and founder of the city. In 1920, the Bolsheviks dismantled it for the first time and replaced it with a statue of Karl Marx and later with another honouring the mutineers of the Russian battleship Potemkin.

The monument dedicated to the founders of the city of Odesa in 2010. © Wikimedia commons

The city council restored the statue in 2007, reinstalling it on its marble throne overlooking the famous Potemkin steps leading to the city’s port. A little over 15 years later, with Odesa living under threat of Russian missile fire, this symbol of Russian empire became unbearable to Artak. The 26-year-old became convinced that the statue should return to the museum.

Catherine II and the symbols of the Russian world

“Last September, I came here and threw red paint on the statue. A few days earlier, a young girl had vandalised the statue, too. She wrote ‘Catherine = Putin’. The police became involved and wanted to fine her. With the war, the police should not do that. The girl made a gesture for Ukraine. If the police were against her, they must be pro-Russian. I wanted to support her by vandalising the statue myself. If all the citizens of Odesa start protesting against the presence of this statue, the police will not be able to do anything. It is not a question of destroying the statue but rather of saying that it cannot stay here indefinitely. It’s just not possible [in the middle of this war] to keep Russian symbols in Odesa.”

Artak and his friends eventually achieved their aim. On November 30, the city council unanimously voted to remove the statue again. 

Artak Hryhoryan, a young IT engineer from Odesa who campaigned for the statue of Catherine II to be removed from public space. Odesa, February 4, 2023.
Artak Hryhoryan, a young IT engineer from Odesa who campaigned for the statue of Catherine II to be removed from public space. Odesa, February 4, 2023. © David Gormezano, FRANCE 24

“Catherine II oppressed many groups of people: the Poles, the Ukrainians and the Armenians”, explains Artak. “She is one of history’s most harmful characters. She committed the same horrors as Putin but 200 or 300 years ago. Given what is happening now, can we imagine seeing statues of Putin in 200 years? It’s impossible… We do not want any more monuments to the glory of dictators in our cities and streets; we want to be a democracy with statues dedicated to the glory of our heroes, not to that of Putin, Catherine or Stalin.”

No cancel culture in Odesa

The statue of Catherine the Great has been resting in a wooden box in front of the Odesa National Fine Arts Museum for a little over a month. The director of the museum pays it little attention. Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, the necessity of dismantling the Empress’s statue became obvious to both previously pro- and anti-Russian Odesans, because the conflict managed to unite almost all Ukrainians against the new imperial war led by Moscow.

“We aren’t erasing anything, we are just putting the statue in a museum,” said Kyrilo Lipatov. “This monument was left here in the Fine Arts Museum. Now the Ukrainian Institute will decide what to do with it. For the moment, five artists are to be selected to propose projects that will allow for the public to consider this monument from a postcolonial perspective, and thus create something new”, he explained.

Kyrilo Lipatov, Director of the Odesa Fine Arts Museum, February 4, 2023.
Kyrilo Lipatov, Director of the Odesa Fine Arts Museum, February 4, 2023. © David Gormezano, FRANCE 24

Museums have been in turmoil almost everywhere in Ukraine since the outbreak of the Russian offensive. Kyrilo Lipatov and his team sent part of the museum’s collections away for safekeeping, including works by Russian artists. “In other museums in southern Ukraine and Crimea, the works could not be evacuated, and the Russians seized them,” said Lipatov.

In 2021, Lipatov had already began to pull Soviet art from the museum’s space in order to redirect its focus towards contemporary pieces signed by Ukrainian artists. It was a first step in “de-communising” and “Ukrainising” the collection before adding new works inspired by Ukrainian resistance to the Russian invasion the following year.

A guided tour of the Odesa National Fine Arts Museum, February 4, 2023.
A guided tour of the Odesa National Fine Arts Museum, February 4, 2023. © David Gormezano, FRANCE 24

When asked if the Fine Arts Museum was in the process of “de-Russifying” itself, denounced by some as a “cancel culture” operation, the director said, “It is Russia which practices ‘cancel culture’ [by denying the existence of the Ukrainian nation]. The Fine Arts Museum in Odesa is fighting to preserve works of art during this war, even works by Russian artists linked to Russian imperialism or official Soviet art, which have nothing neutral about them.”

Farewell to Russian culture or to Russian imperialism?

In the libraries of Odesa, the war has also led to an accelerated “de-Russification” of the bookshelves. “No one is going to ban reading Tolstoy, Lermontov, Pushkin or Dostoyevsky. It is Russia that discourages Ukrainians from reading these authors because they represent the culture of the aggressor,” said Iryna Biriukova, director of the Odesa National Scientific Library. “We studied these authors a lot in school. Today we want to discover other authors. People must know the riches of world literature. It is a question of balance. We are not prohibiting anything; we simply want to change people’s mentalities.”

Iryna Biriukova, Director of the Odesa National Scientific Library on February 3, 2023.
Iryna Biriukova, Director of the Odesa National Scientific Library on February 3, 2023. © David Gormezano, FRANCE 24

Like many historic buildings in Odesa, the library, built by wealthy patrons in the early 20th century, barricaded itself at the start of the Russian offensive a year ago. The reading rooms are now deserted and visitors come to borrow books and also to recharge their smartphones. For Biriukova, the electricity shortage affecting Odesa for the past two months favours the reading of books in paper format. Suggesting visitors read works by Ukrainian authors and from authors from around world is an obvious step for her.

“De-communisation started in the 90s when certain streets were renamed. We are a city with a multicultural past but covered with ideological markers linked to Russia. The French, the Germans, the Jews, the Greeks, the Italians, the Moldavians and dozens of other nationalities built Odesa; this memory is under-represented. Russian imperial culture is largely over-represented. We have to find a balance; this is what has to change.”

Since 2014, the war between Ukraine and Russia has intensified. In parallel with the military confrontation, the conflict has extended to the cultural sphere. Residents of Odesa who are not fighting on the battlefields in Donbas or elsewhere now contend with questions of political and cultural figures and literature. For Artak,  removing Catherine the Great’s statue is a victory because “Putin refers to it in speeches”. He and others now want to take on the statues of Soviet generals which exist all over the city.

For the director of the Fine Arts Museum, it is urgent for “the monuments which have been created for propaganda purposes to be removed from the public space and brought into the museums, which will give them another life”. His colleague from the Odesa National Scientific Library has the same project, so that the vestiges of totalitarianism and imperialism have no other place than in the archives. “We cannot promote the culture of a nation that murders, loots and rapes our country. Look at the influence of certain books in Russia – is that what we want for our children?”

 

Ukraine, one year on
Ukraine, one year on © Studio graphique France Médias Monde

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#War #Ukraine #DeRussification #rise #Odesa

From Ancient Egypt to Gainsbourg and Picasso: The Paris exhibits to see in 2023

Issued on:

Paris is gearing up for a new year of must-see exhibits, from a rare chance to view the sarcophagus of Pharaoh Ramesses II to a Harry Potter “experience” or a deep dive into rival Impressionists Edouard Manet and Edgar Degas.

The Pablo Picasso museum will mark 50 years since the artist’s death while the Centre Pompidou will explore the literary influences that inspired Serge Gainsbourg’s music. Many of the exhibits this year are immersive experiences, as venues look for new and creative ways to approach the classics.

Serge Gainsbourg – Le mot exact (The perfect word)

 

French singer and composer Serge Gainsbourg and his English companion Jane Birkin, taken on January 21, 1969. AFP

 

The legendary French songwriter’s relationship to literature is explored in this exhibition at the Pompidou Centre’s public library. For the first time, manuscripts from Gainsbourg’s home on rue de Verneuil in Paris will be shown alongside books from his personal collection. Gainsbourg, who wrote more than 500 songs throughout his career, is considered one of France’s great wordsmiths and melodists, with lyrics that were deeply influenced by literature and poetry.

Serge Gainsbourg – Le mot exact at the Centre Pompidou runs from January 25 – May 8.

Zanele Muholi

A photgraph by South African artist Zanele Muholi, named Bester V, Mayotte, provided by the Maison Européenne de la Photographie press pack.
A photgraph by South African artist Zanele Muholi, named Bester V, Mayotte, provided by the Maison Européenne de la Photographie press pack. © Zanele Muholi

More than 200 photographs, videos, installations and archive materials will go on display in the first-ever French retrospective on internationally recognised South African photographer Zanele Muholi. Many of Muholi’s subjects have experienced discrimination, and the artist’s work is inseparable from their activism for the Black LGBTQIA+ community. Muholi emphasises individuality, beauty and humour in striking portraits that challenge stereotypes.

Zanele Muholi at the Maison Européenne de la Photographie runs from February 1 – May 21.

Chagall, Paris – New York

Marc Chagall’s paintings are set to come to life in this digital exhibition that blends projections, animation, music and narration. The immersive experience will explore the Russian artist’s relationship with two cities that profoundly influenced his life and art: Paris, the city where he chose to live, and New York, where the Russian Jewish artist spent seven years in exile from occupied France during World War II.

Chagall, Paris – New York at the Atelier des Lumières runs from February 17 – January 7, 2024.

Picasso Celebration, the collection takes on colour

 

Spanish artist Pablo Picasso is pictured at his home and studio in Mougins, southern France, on October 13, 1971.
Spanish artist Pablo Picasso is pictured at his home and studio in Mougins, southern France, on October 13, 1971. © Ralph Gatti, AFT

 

To mark 50 years since Pablo Picasso’s death, his namesake museum in Paris has invited British designer Paul Smith to oversee a unique exhibition showcasing the museum’s permanent collection in a new light. With a focus on colour, visitors can expect to see a fresh take on well-known masterpieces from one of the 20th century’s most daring and prolific artists.

Picasso Celebration, the collection takes on colour at the Musée National Picasso-Paris runs from March 7 – August 27.

Eternel Mucha

An artwork by Czech artist Alphonse Mucha who is known for pioneering the art nouveau style in the late 1800s.
An artwork by Czech artist Alphonse Mucha who is known for pioneering the art nouveau style in the late 1800s. © Grand Palais Immersif Press Pack

The stylised illustrations of Alphonse Mucha have come to define Art Nouveau and Paris’s Belle Époque period. The Czech artist was living in the French capital working as a poster desiger as he developed his signature style, celebrating natural forms and female beauty. This immersive exhibition will cover Mucha’s own story, his best-known works and his enduring influence.

Eternel Mucha at the Grand Palais Immersif runs from March 22 – November 5.

Manet / Degas

 

People wait outside Paris's Musée d'Orsay on Wednesday December 2,  2009.
People wait outside Paris’s Musée d’Orsay on Wednesday December 2, 2009. © Remy de la Mauviniere, AP

 

Contemporaries, friends and rivals Edouard Manet and Edgar Degas revolutionised painting in the late 1860s to 1880s by depicting daily life at cafes, theatres and racecourses. Although they had much in common, including an undeniable influence on the Impressionist movement, this exhibition explores how their differences in temperament and style impacted their creative work and careers.

Manet / Degas at the Musée d’Orsay runs from March 28 – July 23.

Basquait x Warhol, A quatre mains (With four hands)

Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat sit together in front of a painting.
Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat sit together in front of a painting. © Fondation Louis Vuitton Press Pack

Following on from its 2018 solo exhibition dedicated to American painter Jean-Michel Basquiat, the Louis Vuitton Foundation has dedicated a second exhibition to his collaboration with pop artist Andy Warhol. The pair worked on 160 canvasses together in the 1980s, marrying their disparate artistic styles and creative perspectives. Individual works by each artist will also be on display alongside others representing the downtown New York art scene of the era, including Keith Haring, Jenny Holzer and Michael Halsband.

Basquait x Warhol, A quatre mains at the Fondation Louis Vuitton runs from April 5 – August 28.

Ramsès et l’or des pharons (Ramesses and the Pharoahs’ gold)

The star attraction of this exhibition at Parc de la Villette is the chance to see the sarcophagus of Ramesses II himself, loaned to France by the Egyptian government. Often regarded as the greatest pharaoh of his era, Egyptian art and culture flourished under his rule as he dedicated his reign to building cities, temples and monuments, many of which are still standing. Ancient Egyptian jewellery, masks and artefacts from inside tombs dating back more than 3,000 years will also be on display.

Ramsès et l’or des pharons at the Grand Halle de la Villette runs from April 7 – September 6.

Harry Potter, L’Exposition

Visitors explore a movie set inside Harry Potter: The Exhibition.
Visitors explore a movie set inside Harry Potter: The Exhibition. © S. Ramones, Harry Potter The Exhibition

Harry Potter: The Exhibition will open its doors in Paris this April after showing in the United States and Asia. The immersive experience is set to bring the Potterverse to life with the chance to explore stunning sets from the movies, get sorted into a Hogwarts house, and see famous props and costumes up close. A must for fans of the books and movies.

Harry Potter, L’Exposition at Paris Exo Porte de Versailles runs from April 21.

Treasures of Notre-Dame at the Louvre

 

Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, France.
Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, France. © FRANCE 24

 

In autumn the Louvre will host some of the invaluable treasures that survived the 2019 Notre-Dame fire. Currently closed to the public while under reconstruction, this exhibition is a unique opportunity to see artefacts including paintings, manuscripts and engravings that reveal the history of the famous cathedral.

Le Trésor de Notre-Dame at the Musée du Louvre runs from October 19 – February 19, 2024. (Note: No official link yet available

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Artwork rescued from Ukaine war displayed in Paris

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‘The Facets of Freedom’ exhibition at the Ukrainian Cultural Centre in Paris is an ode to liberty consisting of works evacuated to France from Ukraine in extremis following the Russian invasion.

The Ukrainian Cultural Centre in Paris recently opened its doors to visitors for a preview of ‘The Facets of Freedom’ exhibition (open to the public from January 19 to March 3). The works displayed “are a manifestation of freedom, whether it be creative, physical, intellectual, sexual or emotional”, said Viktoria Gulenko, the centre’s director.

As the velvety notes of Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight Sonata’ accompanying a video display drifted in from an upstairs alcove, visitors peered at the works from the private collection of Tetiana and Boris Grynyov. But while the individual pieces evoked notions of liberty, the collection itself was a piece of a larger picture — that of the mad dash of cultural workers across Ukraine to evacuate artwork after Russia‘s invasion in February of last year.


The opening of the exhibition “Facets of Freedom” in Paris, January 19, 2023. © Grynyov Art Foundation

 “The challenge for us was transporting the collections. It was our personal responsibility to save everything possible. We represent different regions and we had different experiences during the war depending on whether we were in Kyiv, Odesa or Kharkiv,” said Oksana Barshynova, deputy director of the National Art Museum of Ukraine, during a round table discussion with several other art curators and collectors.

For the deputy director, the war in Ukraine did not start in 2022. It began in 2014 when Russia seized Crimea. After Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula, Interpol, the international police organisation, announced it was searching for 52 paintings by Ukrainian artists that Russians illegally transferred to the Simferopol Art Museum in March 2014.

 “Ukrainians began thinking about how to rescue art as early as 2014 but we faced numerous difficulties,” said Barshynova. Ukraine, with its 3,500 museums overseen by local, regional or national entities, has a disparate system. Many museums lacked online inventories of their collections. With the government on a war footing, many arts professionals had to act on their own initiative to protect the country’s valuable art.

‘There was never enough scotch tape’

For Maryna Konieva, art historian and a conservator of the Grynyov Art Collection in Kharkiv, finding packing materials for the art was a challenge. There was never enough scotch tape because it was used to cover shattered windows. Personnel was hard to find because “we needed to find people willing to work under constant fire”, she said. Konieva also remembered wrapping up an exhibition dating from the Soviet era in carpets, “because that is all we had”.


In Kharkiv, volunteers move works from the Grynyov Art Foundation to a safe place. © Grynyov Art Foundation

Barshynova recalled the evacuation of icons from the National Art Museum of Ukraine: “Thankfully we had packing material” and “because of our cooperation with the ministry of culture, we had access to a bulletproof train on the Ukrainian National Railway,” she said. Russians fired shots on the train during the nerve-wracking 12-hour long journey but the train’s armour saved the collection.

Dressed in a black and yellow vyshyvanka, a traditional Ukrainian embroidered shirt, art collector Tetyana Hrynyova had her own particular experience with her collection. “It was the Russian bombing and aerial attacks that incited us to leave Kharkiv,” she said. She went on to explain that her collections were stored in ordinary buildings. After a nearby building was bombed and her windows were shattered, she knew it was time to evacuate.

 “We did not have an armored vehicle but we managed to evacuate our collection because we left discretely,” said Hrynyova. “I am part of a club of private collectors and we have been discussing what we would do in the worst-case scenario since 2014. Private collectors are always ready to save their collections but no one ever knows how they will react when faced with this kind of situation.”

Maria, or “Masha”, Tseloieva, an art commissioner from Odesa, remembered “being mobilized” on February 24 and 25 to evacuate pieces from the Odesa National Fine Arts Museum. She had recently ended her contract after being an employee since 2018 but the museum urgently needed specialists to pack the pieces.

 She joked with her colleagues about “there being no such thing as an ex-museum employee because they could all be deployed at any time in the name of culture”. Everyone was cheerful as they packed the pieces; Masha attributed this to the fact that the inhabitants of Odesa are typically joyful. 

Successful scramble

In the airy, high-ceiling room at the Ukrainian Cultural Centre, the pieces from the Grynyov family collection were a testament to the scramble to save Ukrainian art. Calm and seemingly possessed with an eternal patience, Tetiana Hyrnyova walked from piece to piece, explaining its meaning and answering questions.


A work by Evgeniy Pavlov, one of the founders of the Kharkiv School of Photography. © Grynyov Art Foundation

In a work by Evgeniy Pavlov dated 1970-1990, a black and white photo of a nude male flying in the sky was superimposed above a coloured photo of a crowd carrying Soviet Union flags during an International Workers’ Day parade. “This can be interpreted as a manifestation of sexual freedom,” said Hrynyova. The photo taken in 1970 was not printed until 1990 because of its subversive nature under the Soviet Union.

In another piece, titled “Killed Dream” by Kyrylo Protsenko, a black object dripping a trail of blood, covered with a white sheet, brings to mind all the tragic loss of life that has taken place since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. The painting dates back to 1991, giving the viewer an eerie sensation of what the painter foreshadowed.  

A photograph of the painting “Killed Dream” by Kyrylo Protsenko. © Sonya Ciesnik

“For them [the Russians], Russian culture is the only culture that exists. This is why they prohibit our language,” said Hrynyova, measuring out her words. “They think we draw strength from our cultural heritage, and of course we do”.

Hrynyova’s gaze becomes soft as she turns back to the paintings. Her aim, she said, is to “put an end to the false principle that Ukrainian art is of lesser importance”. 

As Ukraine continues its grim existential battle, observers can expect to see the country’s vibrant culture continue to thrive.



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