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Skoda shortlist boost for young artists
PAWANPREET KAUR  29th Jan 2012

Visitors look at one of the nominated artworks

n exhibition showcasing the best of contemporary Indian artists who have been shortlisted for the ŠKODA Prize for Indian Contemporary Art opened at the Lalit Kala Akademi recently. Being held in Delhi for the first time, the annual art exhibition features the works of 20 artists who were selected from a list of 128 from across the country.

Unveiling a catalogue titled The SKODA Prize Top Twenty 2011-2012, eminent artist Anjali Ela Menon said, "These artworks represent the best of our younger artists. What they have achieved is commendable and I feel they have taken Indian art a great step further from where our generation left it."

The ŠKODA Prize, which is fast emerging as one of the most prestigious awards on the Indian visual arts scene, comes with a cash reward of Rs 10 lakh to the winner and residencies with the Swiss Arts Council for the two runners-up. Yet another award for the Breakthrough Artist Award is presented for the most promising debut solo exhibition. The three finalists shortlisted for the award include Jitish Kallat, Navin Thomas and L N Tallur.

Initiated by the Seventy Events Media Group (EMG), the ŠKODA Prize recognises artists under age 45 who show promise in vision and innovation, placing veterans alongside debutants. Martin da Costa, CEO of Seventy EMG and the brain behind the award, felt the ŠKODA Prize and the exhibition were important steps in the democratisation of Indian art. "Around the world, contemporary art awards and their tie-in exhibitions, like the Turner Prize in the UK, attract millions of visitors. Such a scenario is missing in India and, therefore, we need such interaction between artists, the public and awards. Through this prize, we want to create heroes for contemporary Indian art," he explained.

Costa also said that institutionalising art awards was important as they serve as important repositories of cultural history. "There are no permanent records of the art exhibitions being held in India. If, 20 years from now, a cultural historian wanted to understand what art in India was like in our time, he'd have no resources to fall back on," he said. Therefore, the group decided to catalogue artists and artworks, enabling them to live on public memory for posterity. "It is very important in terms of cultural history," he opined.

The jury, headed by Kiran Nadar, also comprised of Pooja Sood of KHOJ, Vivan Sundaram, Heike Munder and Martin Clark artistic director of Tate St Ives. Among the top 20 artists who missed out making it to the final list include Manjunath Kamath, Ashish Avikunthak, Reena Saini Kallat and Prashant Pandey. For one of the finalists, artist L N Tallur, the prize means a win-win situation. "It's not so much about winning an award. What's important is having so many people to see some of the finest art works in the country all under one roof," he said.

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