Artistically 2020



By Sukant Deepak


New Delhi, January 6 (IANS) As Indian art and artists had a phenomenal 2019, receiving much national and international acclaim, we speak to some art makers who looked at things imaginatively last year and are bound to make 2020 even more interesting with their imagination.

1) Roobina Karode, Director & Chief Curator, Kiran Nadar Museum of Art: The year 2019 proved to be a decisive moment in Indian art with Kiran Nadar Museum of Modern Art (KNMA) collaborating with the Government of India, Ministry of Culture and CII for the India Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, one of the oldest biennales in the world. It was for the first time that such a public-private partnership in art was forged. Despite participation from across the world, the India Pavilion was adjudged among the top five by many major international publications, bringing extensive visibility to India.

Roobina Karode, the Chief curator of the museum and the curator of the Pavilion who selected artists and put things together, tells IANS, "The theme was 150 years of Gandhi and I didn't want it to be a ‘literal' representation of the Mahatma. For us at KNMA, it was important to bring forth his relevance in contemporary times."

As KNMA completes 10 years in the year 2020, Karode insists that there is a need to look at artists practicing for the past five decades and present their retrospectives. "The last 10 years have seen seven major retrospectives and many curated exhibitions In fact, we'll be presenting Zarina (Zarina Hasmi, but known professionally by her first name) retrospective this month." The year 2019 witnessed several major programmes at the museum including making short films on art awareness and sensitizing the larger public to engage art and art forms, go to museums and comprehend the importance of art in our lives besides six educational summits and conferences. "There has also been an effort to connect beyond our location and tie up with different institutions."

The coming year will also see the museum getting more involved in pubic space projects by collaborating with colleges and institutions to better their cities. Karode says that the tragedy is that many of art institutions tend to work in isolation. "It should not matter if a place is owned by the state or private, what is paramount is that it creates a dialogue and encourages people see more art."

Adding that a museum is not a place only for those who understand art, the chief curator adds that 2020 will also witness KNMA archiving its exhibitions and other activities which can be accessed by the public. "It is critical to build a relationship with the audiences."

2) Nikhil Chopra, painter and performance artist: Summing up Nikhil Chopra, India's best known performance artist can be tough considering his extraordinary range and body of work. Not to mention, the intensity, even during a conversation. Performing internationally since 2008, this Goa-based artist, who co-founded the HH Art Spaces which focuses on live art and performance had a brilliant 2019 when he was chosen as the artist-in-residence at the prestigious Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Adopting autobiographical elements and combining them with everyday life, his performances acquire the value of ritual. His ‘Indian Highway', his first major show travelled to six major art institutions and museums across Europe.

In an earlier interview to this correspondent, Chopra said that considering the fact that performance art is relatively new in India, generating a dialogue around it may be easy but not convincing funders. "We are interested in the dialogue, that is why we go through the effort of producing these performances. But I must add that performance art is becoming quite familiar know. Around 12 years ago, within the art community, it needed an explanation. Today, it doesn't need one in the art community. This has come to be recognised as a serious form of engagement with material and a highly aesthetic practice."

3) Mithu Sen: Delhi-based multi-disciplinary artist Mithu Sen spellbound audiences at the Venice Biennale with her performance (un) Mansplaining in 2019 that commented on the politics of myth-making to feed the market. She also performed her piece ‘Lunch is Cancelled' at Shalini Passi Art Foundation (SPAF) last year.

Sen, one of the best-known Indian contemporary artists whose video art was presented at KNMA in the first week of this month is doesn't really like talking about what can be expected next. And no, it's not because she wants to surprise. "Now I want to break this myth of expecting surprises too. What is important for me to achieve is the space of no expectations," she tells IANS.

4) Neelam Mansingh Chowdhary, theatre director: For this recipient of the Padma Shri honour, the play is born, not out of a bound script but continuous improvisation. The year 2019 may have brought about a personal tragedy, with Chowdhry losing her husband, but she produced the play ‘Gumm Hai' that was staged to a packed audience in New Delhi. This internationally-known director can be expected to produce another major production in 2020, considering the politically charged climate. "I work on a theme that affects me and then build it into a play. For me, space and body have the same significance as the spoken word."

5) Anuradha Kapur, former Director, National School of Drama: The year 2020 started with a bang for veteran theatre director and former Director of National School of Drama, Anuradha Kapur with ‘Daughters', an opera. This is the first time that she ventured into this space, something she calls, "exciting, enticing and anxiety producing." The production, which is a collaborative effort between artists from Australia, India and Chile and boast of live opera music and experimental electronic has been in the making for several years. "The team has been meeting for several years now to ensure that the series of texts and music blend together seamlessly and don't look stitched," she tells IANS. The opera, which was staged in the first week of January is expected to witness reruns in the coming months.

But this is not all. Kapur will also be presenting the durational readings of Krishna Sobti's ‘Dil-o-Danish' besides ‘Benaras Ka Thug' ,which she made in the later 2019. Summers will witness Kapur directing Mahesh Elkunchwar's play Sonata.

(Sukant Deepak can be contacted at