India evokes curiosity at Venice Biennale art exhibition

New Delhi: India has started to make Venice curious. A small number of visitors are trickling into the India pavilion at the 54th edition of the prestigious art exhibition Venice Biennale, which opened to the public June 4.

The exhibition, ‘Everyone Agrees: It`s About to Explode’, showcasing works by four artists, has been sponsored by the government in a first-of-its kind initiative to put Indian contemporary art in the international mainstream at the 116-year-old Venice Biennale.

The exhibition has been curated by Mumbai-based art writer and curator Ranjit Hoskote. India has been allotted 250 square metres space in Arsenale, one of the most important venues of the Venice Biennale.

Arsenale is an art display space tooled from a maze of old government shipyards and armouries that once was the hub of the Venetian naval power between 11th and 16th centuries.

"It is miniscule, but at least we have made a beginning. I have counted 20 odd people visitors - may be there have been more," a source from the ministry of external affairs, who will document the India`s performance at the biennale for a portfolio, told reporters over phone.

He said the visitors evinced interest. "But the biennale has just begun. It will end Nov 27. The curiosity could build up next month or later," the source said.

The India exhibition includes new-age installations, video art and paintings by New York-based Zarina Hashmi, Gigi Scaria of Delhi, Amsterdam-based Praneet Soi and Guwahati-based Desire Collective Machine (DMC) - a multi-disciplinary art collaboration between two young artists, Sonal Jain and Mrigankya Madhukaillya.

However, the scene at the Biennale has been dominated by the US and Europe, the source said.

"American contemporary artist Christian Marclay was declared the best artist in a competitive segment on the first day for his montage, `The Clock`, 24-hour clips from movies and television that depict particular minutes in a day," the source said.

Visitors were sprawled on couches strewn across the mammoth Arsenale to see the movie on screens, the source said.

The main exhibition of the Biennale, ‘ILLUMination’ featuring 82 international artists, is themed on the play of light in art. It has been curated by Bice Curiger, director of the 54th Venice Biennale.

The Biennale is bigger this year with 89 countries, 12 more than in 2009, the source added.


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