Scandalous Art and the “Global” Factor

by Sunanda K Sanyal

One often hears these days that Indian art has “gone global”. Indeed, for those of us who were adults in India during the 1970s and 1980s, living with dead telephones, state-run television and neighborhood mom-and-pop stores is now all but a hazy memory. In that era, a young artist having an exhibition in another part of the country made news; and someone able to score a show abroad became no less than a myth. Terms like “installation” and “postmodernism” were alien to most; and art criticism, at its best, was a few marginal columns in newspapers and literary magazines. Much of that system has undergone a stunning facelift since the 1990s. There is today at least a dozen art periodicals published nationwide, covering both Indian and international art; intercontinental galleries actively operate in the Indian art market; youngsters barely out of training casually discuss plans to participate in biennales and art summits abroad; visitors at openings of new media installations socialize over hors d’œuvres and bubbling champagne; relatively unknown artists often sell in the domestic market at prices that would be inconceivable thirty years ago, even including the inflation factor. When I arrived in the United States in the late 1980s as a graduate student, hardly anyone there knew or cared about contemporary South Asian art. Even the most renowned artists were unknown in American academe, and more so in the art community. All of that is reasonably different now. They not only get a fair amount of recognition, but some are even familiar names in the American auction houses. What is more, American universities now graduate scholars specializing in contemporary South Asian art. These are indeed evidence of a new era of Indian art— the era of globalism.  [Read more..]

(Published: Art News & Views, 3(6), February, 2011: 55-7)

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