Goan art is ready to explode on the national stage, reports Vivek Menezes.
The past 18 months have been a breakthrough period for Goan artists. Starting from minimal national attention and a largely nonexistent collector base in the state, the Goan scene has moved determinedly towards the fast lane of the Indian art world. Partly as a result, several new art-centred institutions have been planned, including a huge set of galleries at the old Adil Shah Palace on the Panjim waterfront, a museum dedicated to the works of Angelo Fonseca at the Xavier Centre of Historical Research, and another Panjim-based arts centre by Ambani brother-in-law Dattaraj Salgaonkar in a sprawling old house on the Altinho hill of Panjim.
“There is suddenly a real lifeline for the artists, especially the young artists of Goa,” said Rudi Kammermeier, whose Art Chamber was one of the first galleries in the state when it opened in 1997. “There is enthusiasm now, a lot of visibility in the Indian marketplace. The whole situation is much different from before.”
Previously, Goa’s artists have always had to leave their home state in order to succeed. Many passed through the Sir J J School of Art in Mumbai, especially between 1898-1925 when their compatriot Antonio Xavier Trindade was on the faculty. School of painting.
Another important early modernist is the mystifyingly overlooked Angelo Fonseca, who dropped out of Grant Medical College to study art with the Tagores at Shantiniketan. Upon his return to Goa, he commenced painting Konkani Madonnas and a beguilingly beautiful Indian Christian iconography which so revulsed the colonial authorities that he was hounded from Goa and the Catholic Church itself. Fonseca took refuge at the Christa Seva Sangh in Pune.
But history does seem to have turned a page for the artists of Goa. Viraj Naik, the brilliant Goan student of Laxma Gaud, recently had a sell-out exhibition in Hong Kong, which drew acclaim from critics who do not usually notice contemporary Indian art. Similarly, a senior international curator, Isabel Carlos of Portugal, who has curated the Sydney Bienalle and served as judge for the prestigious Artes Mundi Prize, will curate a solo exhibition of photos and installations by Dr Subodh Kerkar. The restless, talented showman is the first Goan to maintain a mature international career in art without having to leave home.
A series of landmark group shows have created momentum for Goan artists. Vismaya at the Mahua Art Gallery in Bengaluru last September showcased more than a dozen artists. Bhasha at Gallery Nvya in Delhi in May featured more than a hundred art works from 19 artists and photographers.
Also significant was the huge group show curated by critic and Time Out Mumbai columnist Ranjit Hoskote in April 2007 in a heritage building on the Panjim waterfront. Aparanta: The Confluence of Contemporary Art in Goa (which this writer also helped organise) drew a flurry of national attention. By juxtaposing young Goan artists with masters of the past (Souza, Gaitonde, Laxman Pai), and exhibiting these alongside Goa-inspired works by Dayanita Singh, Baiju Parthan and Vidya Kamat, Hoskote created a compelling narrative of what he called “an invisible river…that has fed into the wider flow of Indian art but has not always been recognised as so doing”.
Since Aparanta, Hoskote has expanded on this point. Most recently, in an analysis of the cartoonist and illustrator Mario de Miranda’s work, Hoskote nailed down why Indian art history seems to consistently exclude the art and artists of Goa. He says Mario’s work “alerts us to an alternative trajectory in the development of modern South Asia.
Since the history of colonial and post-colonial India is always told from the viewpoint of the British Empire and the nationalist struggle against it…(other perspectives) have been cavalierly erased from the record. Other discourses…have been consigned to invisibility.”
Where to see Goan art
Galeria de Bellas Artes
Gauravaddo, Calangute (0832-2277144, www.goa-art.com). Mon-Sat 10am-6pm.
F36/40 Alfran Plaza, near Don Bosco School, Panjim (0832-242-0929, www.galleryattic.com). Mon-Sat 10am-7pm.
Kerkar Art Gallery
Gauravaddo, Calangute (0832-227-6017, www.subodhkerkar.com). Daily 9am-6pm.
Casa del Sol, Miramar, Panjim (0832-246-4004, www.ruchikasart.com). Mon-Sat 10am-6pm.