Flight of fancy Columns

Sanity and some art


Why a headstand a day is a necessity in November, when the art season goes into overdrive

“Everyone’s skin looks as good as it does on Instagram,” exclaimed Sujata Assomul, my Dubai-based friend, when I met her a few nights ago, at social swan Roohi Jaikishan’s home. It was true, people were glowing. Chalk it up to end-of-the-year giddiness (and in my case, lotions and potions, and a daily headstand). It was a Tuesday night, and we were at the annual benefit for the Mumbai Art Room, always a swish, fun-filled evening at Roohi’s gorgeous century-old beachfront home on Chowpatty.

As trustees, Roohi and I have the uphill task of fundraising for this little non-profit, which supports emerging curators and exhibition makers. Each year, a significant contemporary artist generously creates a limited-edition set of works for the benefit. Last year, it was Raqs Media Collective, and the year before it was Subodh Gupta. This year, the fiercely fabulous Shakuntala Kulkarni, whose distinctly feminist art was on display at the India Pavilion of the Venice Biennale, created head pieces. It was great fun to see normally staid socials don the helmets and pose for photos. Made of cane, the overtly feminine hair curls on one of them brought to mind the kind of effect I try to get from my blow dry — sadly to no avail.

Come November, after a monsoon (extended) lull, the art season is in overdrive. Every night this past week was one soiree after another. Monday night saw gallerists and collectors congregate at Jai Danani’s art filled home, for what is turning into an annual dinner for Sotheby’s auction house. From video art to an impressive installation of Shilpa Gupta’s Blame, the apartment was choc-a-bloc with great works.

Sanity and some art

I spotted my pal, gallerist Ashwin Thadani — the man who single-handedly persuaded a new generation of Indians to buy international contemporary art — who told me about the upcoming Abu Dhabi art fair, for which he curated the New Horizons India section. It features galleries like Delhi-based Vadhera, Espace and Nature Morte, as well as Grosvenor London and New York-based Aicon. “You’ve got quite a few heavy-hitting collectors coming, congratulations,” I told him. Kiran Nadar, Kavita Singh, Indira Burman and Akshay Chudasama were among those going. “You come, too,” he replied. Art in the day and dinners at Cipriani and Hakkasan at night; it is tempting.

Ashwin is also the man who introduced Madrid-born, New York-based artist Antonio Santin to India. Antonio paints extraordinarily beautiful canvases that depict carpets — they are so realistic that one feels one is looking at an actual carpet. Kumar Mangalam Birla loves his work so much that he presented Prime Minister Modi with his painting recently.

Wednesday was a Champagne reception (starting at 3 pm!) at the Taj Art Gallery for auction house Prinseps, where a brilliant lot was an 1888 photo album by Raja Deen Dayal, commissioned by the Nizam of Hyderabad. Further down, in the ballroom, was the Sotheby’s preview for their second big sale in India. VS Gaitonde’s Untitled was the highlight; actor Sabira Merchant had bought the work in 1975 and it had hung at her home ever since.

Thursday was yet another art-filled night. Citizens Archives of India, an oral history archive from pre and post 1947 had its first-ever show at Chemould Prescott Road. It was impressive.

In between all that, I managed to make it to the suburbs (no mean feat in Mumbai traffic) for a swanky high tea in a sprawling bungalow. It was in honour of a society high priestess’ 50th birthday. No wonder I need to stand on my head daily. It is the only way to keep sane!

This fortnightly column tracks the indulgent pursuits of the one-percenters.

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Printable version | Jan 26, 2020 7:55:15 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/columns/sanity-and-some-art/article29984077.ece

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