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India makes space for art among its 1.4 billion people

India is making room – both physically and mentally – for art like that from Anish Kapoor, which is large and untraditional.

By Aarti BetigeriContributor / January 28, 2011

Sculptor Anish Kapoor posed with a stainless steel installation in Mumbai (Bombay) at a contemporary art show marking the first time his massive works are being shown in his native India.

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When Anish Kapoor, the artist behind Chicago’s Millennium Park’s mammoth, reflective sculpture “Cloudgate,” first considered mounting an exhibition of his work in his Indian homeland, he knew it wouldn’t be easy. For starters, in a country where 1.4 billion people jostle for room, just where would adequate space be found to display his gargantuan works? And even if space were found, would the Indian viewing public be accepting of work that strays so far from the country’s rich indigenous art forms?

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The Indian-born Briton finally got his wish, and concurrent shows featuring his works were launched in Mumbai (Bombay) and Delhi in late November. Since then, there’s been a steady stream of art lovers through the doors to view works such as “Sky Mirror,” a massive concave mirror that reflects the sky, and the giant red wax orb “Past, Present and Future.” Possibly the highlight, however, is “Shooting Into the Corner,” in the Mumbai exhibit, which is a cannon that at intervals shoots red wax into a corner of the room, creating a random buildup of the bright splatters; it’s performance art and abstract installation all at once.

“There’s no reason why the Indian public should be any different from the public elsewhere; they are as sophisticated or unsophisticated as other audiences,” Mr. Kapoor has said.

The exhibitions indicate that India’s contemporary art scene is maturing, particularly now that there are such massive viewing spaces available.

“Now, with Kapoor’s first major show in India, it is clear that both the government and private art galleries are aiming at acquiring larger spaces,” says Delhi-based arts journalist and curator Sahar Zaman.

The Kapoor show is at Delhi’s National Gallery of Modern Art until Feb. 27; the Mumbai show at Bollywood film studio Mehboob Studios closed Jan. 16. The shows were planned to coincide with the India Art Summit in January in Delhi, the third time the contemporary art fair has been held.

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