If Amrita Sher-Gil is one of India’s most celebrated artists, Lebanese painter and sculptor Saloua Raouda Choucair popularised abstract art in the Arab world. Both of them led distinctly cosmopolitan lives, actively arbitrating between disparate cultural and geographical spaces. They found their calling in Paris and returned to their homelands to discover modernism. Last year, Shanay Jhaveri brought them back to the French capital in Companionable Silences, a show that exhibited the works of non-Western women artists, who lived and worked in Paris from early to mid-20th century. “Collectively, the works gesture at modernism’s cross-cultural past,” says Jhaveri.
The quest to discover the vagaries in “modernism” across the globe has come to define the practice of the under-30 graduate in art semiotics from Brown University, US. “Each programme is a mode of new learning and research. In my programmes, I try to formulate relationships between works that would never appear alongside one another, developing a constellation which asks questions instead of offering definitive statements,” says Jhaveri, who shuttles between the UK and Mumbai.
It was a 112-page guidebook to Mumbai that first brought him to the limelight. Published in 2007 by the magazine Wallpaper, it explored the city from a design perspective. Three years and several reviews later came to his first publication Outsider Films on India: 1950-1990 in which, through 10 films in four decades, he studied how European filmmakers responded to post-colonial India. The book led to a film programme at Tate, followed by a large three-site exhibition in the city of Brugge in Belgium, titled India: Visions from the Outside. He further explored this cross-fertilisation of ideas and influence in his much-acclaimed publication Western Artists and India: Creative Inspirations in Art and Design.
While his PhD supervisor at Brown University, Leslie Thornton, left a lasting impact on Jhaveri, he learnt his early lessons in fine art during his stint as assistant to the curator Hans Ulrich Obrist at the Serpentine Gallery, London. “There is a connection and back and forth between my writing and ‘curatorial’ work,” says the contributing editor for Frieze magazine. He is now in the process of organising an exhibition about various artistic responses to the city of Chandigarh.
With the absence of an active institutional infrastructure and very few private museums, curators in India, according to him, have to demonstrate agility and resourcefulness. “They have greater issues negotiating with the state and raising funds than their counterparts in the West,” says Jhaveri. For now, he intends to be the bridge, linking the two parts of the hemisphere.
Source: the Indian Express