Swedish art curators see huge interest in India in changing contemporary art world

“People are very curious about contemporary art of India. They want to know what it’s like, how it is different from or similar to Western art,” says Helene Larsson Pousette, art curator and head of Events Unit of the Swedish Institute.

Ms. Pousette is in Kochi with her husband Johan Pousette, also a curator and manager for contemporary art at the Swedish Exhibition Agency.

The couple have years of experience facilitating artistic exchange and curating exhibitions in various parts of the world. They arrived in India three weeks ago, Johan en route from the Singapore Biennale and Helene from a project in Vietnam. The Swedish duo are on a month-long trip around India to explore its art and culture. “We wanted to investigate the art here. Not just the work of Indian artists, but also how the culture of the country affects other artists,” says Ms. Pousette.

Johan Pousette feels that the art world is in the middle of paradigm shift from when art from the developing world was seen internationally as post-colonial to the ‘post post-colonial.’ The voice of the developing world was earlier represented by people born in these countries, but who were later educated in the West. The focus is slowly shifting towards finding authentic, local voices from the developing world. “India, China and South East Asia may be becoming the most important centres for art. The West has so much to learn from here. We have to promote international exchange for a better understanding of both sides. Art residency programmes are very important for this,” says Mr. Pousette, who founded the Baltic Art Centre, an artist-in-residency and exhibition programme. Artists taking part in the residency at the Art Centre are given the freedom to work on their art without constraints. “It works in an open-ended way. We make no demands of the artist. Sometimes the results are stunning when the artists don’t need to fit into a box,” says Mr. Pousette, who also curated the 2009 edition of the Goteborg Biennale.

The duo, who delivered a lecture in the city on Sunday evening as part of the Let’s Talk series organised by the Kochi Muziris Biennale Foundation in collaboration with the Orthic Creative Centre, also found time to visit Pepper House in Fort Kochi, which is hosting the Biennale Foundation’s international art residency programme. “It is really fantastic there. I think artists would be really happy to work there. The space, the surroundings, the library, the café are all beautiful. It’s a very interesting place,” says Ms. Pousette.

The couple hopes that there will be more cultural exchanges between India and Sweden in the future. What they gained from their visit to India, they say, is a strong desire to come back again.

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