Chennai hosts Madras Art Weekend with over 100 artists, public art and interactive shows

Madras Art Weekend is back with its five-day long second edition that promises public art, panel discussions and sensorial displays

November 23, 2023 01:28 pm | Updated 03:47 pm IST

A view of the Broadlands Hotel in Triplicane

A view of the Broadlands Hotel in Triplicane | Photo Credit: special arrangement

Chennai is home to multiple art institutions, and a legacy that boasts of a regional Modernist movement that is unlike any in the country. Yet, conversation surrounding visual art is often restricted to the usual suspects: galleries, artists and patrons alike. Madras Art Weekend’s maiden edition last year attempted to break these shackles by kick-starting a dialogue. 

A year later, the annual weekend dedicated to art is back to be bigger, and reach a wider audience, with focus on building communities, and fostering empathy to celebrate Chennai for the art capital it could and should be. 

This year, the festival extends to more than just a weekend, on to five days of art showcases, panel discussions and sensorial displays with two international artists and their work in attendance. “The core of this year’s narrative is based around children, community and compassion,” says Upasana Asrani, curator of Madras Art Weekend. To that end, the festival kicks off with a site-specific installation by UK-based environmental artist Steven Massem at Shiv Nadar School. An auto rickshaw housing a giant, inflatable form with spikes covered in locally-known fabric that juts out of the vehicle would be fashioned within the school campus: “We wanted children to experience everyday objects in an extraordinary manner. And to re-imagine the everyday. This particular installation is something that we are really looking forward to having in the city,” says Upasana. This will be a permanent installation at the school.   

A Lexus art car that will arrive in Chennai for the festival

A Lexus art car that will arrive in Chennai for the festival | Photo Credit: special arrangement

Building blocks 

Says Upasana, “The love of people wanting to engage with art was overwhelming. Despite being a cultural capital, the city is starved of this kind of engagement. With the kind of response that we have seen last year, we are very hopeful,” says Upasana, “This time, there are so many avenues and players too.”  

To build community engagement, MAW along with Kai Rassi will showcase a collection of artworks by 14 artists with disabilities, apart from a live braille installation by UK-based artist Clarke Reynolds and a series of sculptures by students from the Mary Clubwala Jadhav School for the Deaf. Another partnership with NalandaWay Foundation has Art Vandi, a truck which travels around remote villages in Tamil Nadu, teaching art to children from marginalised communities. The work created by these children will be showcased at the Madras Literary Society. 

Narayan Lakshman’s untitled work

Narayan Lakshman’s untitled work | Photo Credit: special arrangement

This time around, the festival will bring some legacy galleries and museums from across the country. One such collaboration to look out for is with the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art that brings a four-week travelling show from their old masters series, and promising contemporary art of our times, curated by Roobina Karode. Textile revivalist Lavina Baldota along with artists Vipin Das and Prabhu Viswanathan, on the other hand, will spearhead Sutr Santati, an exhibition on the textile traditions of Tamil Nadu at Raw Mango.

Five galleries from across the country — Archer Art Gallery (Ahmedabad), Dhoomimal Art Gallery (Delhi), Palette Art Gallery (Delhi) and 108 Projects and Art Organics (Delhi) — come down to Chennai for an exclusive show at The Park hotel (November 30 to December 3). “We also have a digital artist from Mumbai, Nikunj Patel (mobius), whose work is going to be flashed across through projection mapping at The Park,” adds Upasana.    

Art for all

Chennai’s avid collectors like Raylsi Balhatchett and her husband and the British Deputy High Commissioner of Chennai Oliver Balhatchett will open up their home for Spotlight on the South that highlights both emerging and established artists from Chennai. “About 20 artists are part of this exhibit,” says Upasana.  

A host of parallel exhibitions also invites the city to the possibilities of different mediums. For instance, Sarala’s ArtWorld and Amethyst, on December 2 and 3, will present artworks by the late jeweller and artist Olaf Van Cleef known for his Swarovski-studded paintings. A heritage sketch walk with Madras Inherited throws light on the history of the iconic Broadlands Hotel in Triplicane.  The festival also hosts two panel discussions on November 30 — India Art Fair will helm a conversation titled Guardianship of Legacies with speakers such as Kiran Nadar (Chairperson of KNMA), HRH Radhikaraje Gaekwad (maharani of the erstwhile royal family of Baroda) and Lavina Baldota. There is also a conversation on interdisciplinary collaborations in art, design and fashion at the British Deputy High Commission which will feature Steve Messam, Clarke Reynolds, Vikram Phadke (interior design consultant) and Rochelle Pinto (editor of Vogue India). 

An artwork titled Women who Lift

An artwork titled Women who Lift | Photo Credit: special arrangement

Moving forward, Upasana hopes to see the festival growing in scale. The aim is to put the city on the global map as an art capital. “Madras Art Weekend is definitely a festival that keeps the community at its core. At the same time, it also has this beautiful city as its backdrop. People get a sense of the city, its culture, its people and lifestyle — we are lending them a slice of Chennai,” says Upasana. 

Madras Art Weekend is on from November 29 to December 3.

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