Director’s Desk: Dispatch from Berlin

While in Berlin to meet with an important collector, I had some time to explore in the city. Klein aber fein is how the Germans might describe this wonderful one-room exhibition (pictured below) of five massive lithographs shown at Buchmann Galerie, all by Richard Serra and done in Paris around 1990. The prints have such incredibly rich texture. It is hard to imagine the enormous litho stones he must have used to make these prints. This exquisite one-room show makes me reflect on the power of our intimate projects at the Phillips, of course.

Photos: Dorothy Kosinksi

Photos: Dorothy Kosinski

I visited galleries on Auguststrasse and discovered this elegant, sober, brick building from ca. 1930, designed by the Jewish architect Alexander Beer, an example of Neue Sachlichkeit architecture. It was built as a Jewish girls’ school. Beer died in 1944 at the Theresienstadt concentration camp in 1944. During the last several years the building was restituted to the Jewish community and is filled with art spaces and a lively cafe…like the neighboring structures in this former East Berlin area that is being totally revitalized.

Art in Calm and Chaos: My Week in New Delhi

(Left) Balasubramaniam (aka Bala), Stone Waves, Fiberglass and sandstones Dimensions Variable / 2010-2011. (Center) Vesela Sretenovic and Bala in front of his work, Nothing From My Hands. (Right) Balasubramaniam (aka Bala), Dead-line, Iron and jute 48 x 19 x 105” / 2011. Photos: Vesela Sretenovic

Recently I had the challenging pleasure to spend a week in New Delhi.  The occasion: artist A. Balasubramaniam (or as we  know him “Bala”) opened a solo exhibition at Talwar Gallery concurrent with the 4th edition of India Art Fair. My experience of the two places could not have been more different. Bala’s show was pristine, solemn, and inward, an oasis for quietude and reflection. The art fair, much like other art fairs, was hustle and bustle, only this time with unusual suspects (numerous non-western dealers and artists) and with intensified colors and scents unknown to New York, London, Paris, and Madrid. The untamed energy of New Delhi and the potential of art coming from the region was fascinating, perplexing, and the future will tell if this potential gets fully realized.

But to get back to Bala, I was thrilled to be able to see the follow up—and much, much more—of his artwork that we had on view last summer and still remains in our courtyard. See photos of the installation and de-installation of his sculptures at the Phillips.

Entitled Nothing From My Hands, Bala’s exhibition at Talwar (a gorgeous, four-story gallery in south New Delhi) features different bodies of the artist’s work spread through separate indoor spaces and an outside garden and roof. These works include sculptures emerging from walls (Nothing from my Hands, see photo above center); wooden, organic forms displayed on the floor (Stone Waves, see photo above left); an eight-foot thorny spiral made of rusting metal hung from the ceiling (Dead Line, see photo above right); a six-foot diameter sphere made of spokes from bicycle wheels, similar to the one that is currently at the Phillips (Embryo), and a large scale outdoor piece made of granite (Nothing from my Hands). In short, experiencing Bala’s work in the midst of a super-sensorial city was like a breeze of fresh air that brings you back to life, the inner life away from the street crowds and noise, continuous cars’ honking, and an overwhelming dust in the air.

I am still bewildered by the contradiction between the outward chaos and inward peace in people. As a friend of mine—who is originally from Delhi but spent almost 20 years in the United States—said upon returning to her hometown, the city’s chaos gave her a new sense of freedom. Although I can’t go that far, Bala’s exhibition did give me an opportunity to experience both the “outside” and the “inside,” which is what his work is about all about.

Vesela Sretenovic, Senior Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art