Brush with Genius
The India Today Art Awards were a celebration of artists and enthusiasts who constantly push boundaries to create and curate path-breaking work, blending genres and generations
Veteran artist Satish Gujral sat next to his wife, Kiran Gujral, the two a picture of royalty. Those in attendance hovered—heads bowed and hands extended—around the winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award at the second edition of the India Today Art Awards held in New Delhi on February 5. Gujral graciously met all who came to see him, shaking hands and reciting shayari that was fitting for the occasion. The 91-year-old icon ruled the room, just as he does the world of art. Matching Gujral’s zest for both life and art was the ST+ART team, which has transformed public spaces in cities into art galleries—curating and creating artwork on the walls of Delhi’s Lodhi Colony, and a hard-to-miss mural of Dadasaheb Phalke in Mumbai, among other feats. ST+ART was honoured with the Street Art Initiative of the Year Award.
In the room that resounded with questions on art, abstract in nature as well as pointed
“Like news, art is a conversation of the times we live in” Aroon Purie Chairman and editor-in-chief, India Today
in intent, was Nada Raza, who had curated a retrospective of the late artist Bhupen Khakhar, at Tate Modern in London last year. For Khakhar, known for his provocative figurations and ever-relevant representation of homosexuality, mortality and the struggle with disease through art, the Retrospective Exhibition of the Year Award was an apt tribute.
The ceremony saw a mingling of generations, genres and elements of the art world. Designers Arjun Saluja and Samant Chauhan were present, as were Rajan Anandan, vice-president of Google in Southeast Asia and India, and wife Radhika Chopra Anandan, philanthropist, art patron, entrepreneur, and also member of the India Today Art Awards jury. The other jury members included Aroon Purie, india today chairman and editor-in-chief; Rekha Purie, chairperson, Vasant Valley School and art collector; Aman Nath, hotelier and writer, Amin Jaffer, international director of Asian Art at Christie’s, and Hugo Weihe, CEO, Saffronart.
Contemporary artist Subodh Gupta, who is working
on an ambitious 70-ft installation of a flying dragon in Bengaluru, expressed satisfaction with the jury’s pick of the awardees. He was seconded by Veer Munshi, artist from Kashmir. Munshi and others lauded the jury for recognising the path-finding work at the acclaimed, ongoing Kochi Muziris Biennale 2016 through the Artist of the Year Award bestowed upon Sudarshan Shetty. “What does it mean to be contemporary? What does it mean to be together in time?” asked Shetty, as he accepted the honour, showing no sign of his supposed fear of public speaking.
Shetty’s questions found answers in the session ‘When Art Meets Technology’ by Simon Rein, programme manager at the Google Cultural Institute, London. Rein began with a journey back in time, revealing on screen a female figurine more than 230,000 years old, describing it as “one of the first artworks ever made”. He spoke about how technology today can help discover, preserve and create art. From mobile apps that enable fact-finding through photo recognition to the use of virtual reality devices (Google Cardboard) to educate students about modern history, from creating high resolution images of artworks through image stitching to the creation of 3D art using virtual reality and “transforming the internet into a more cultural space”, Rein had the audience intrigued and hopeful in the journey of the two significantly diverse worlds.
Among the other awardees were Himmat Shah, a man of few words and several accomplished works. Shah won Solo Exhibition of the Year Award, for Hammer on the Square at the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, Delhi. Artist Neha Choksi, who daringly keeps pushing the envelope—her repertoire includes works for which she has lost consciousness, fallen silent for 10 days and submerged herself in a lake—received the New Media Artist of the Year Award. Choksi was in Los Angeles and unable to attend. Also absent but making their presence felt were curator Natasha Ginwala, who won the award for Emerging Curator of the Year, and Ashish Anand who was chosen the Collector of the Year.
The second edition of the India Today Art Awards reflected the growing accessibility of the arts, as they emerge out of traditional spaces and proliferate—on the streets, through mobile apps and in numerous other forms. In his address, Aroon Purie sought to distinguish art from the world of news business, terming the former as “timeless, the best for which has no expiry date” and the other as “timely”. “Like news, art is a conversation of the times we live in; what makes it ageless is a quality we are celebrating today,” said Purie. “When society starts taking interest in the world of art, that for me is a sign of great progress.”
MANY COLOURS OF SUCCESS Recipients of the India Today Art Awards with chairman and editor-in-chief Aroon Purie and Rekha Purie
Yuriko Lochan. Ramesh Sharma and Uma Gajapathi Raju and Aryanish Patel Ambar Pariddi Sahai and Samant Chauhan Raj Chengappa and Neha Kirpal Sudarshan Shetty, Himmat Shah and Nada Raza Rekha Purie and Sudarshan Shetty
SIMON REIN CALLED FOR “TRANSFORMING THE INTERNET INTO A MORE CULTURAL SPACE”