The last two decades have seen unprecedented seminal changes in the art scene in India. From being merely pan-Indian, the reach of our artists has become global. There are now virtually lakhs of artists, both young and old, and a proliferation of galleries, dealers, auctions and publications, all part of a burgeoning art scene, despite a temporary hiatus this year due to the recession. The last decade has seen the sad demise of many of the old guard—stalwarts who introduced modernism to Indian art. Among those we mourn are Vasudev S. Gaitonde, M.F. Husain, J. Sabavala, Tyeb Mehta, F.N. Souza, K.H. Ara and H.A. Gade, and the gallerist Kekoo Gandhy. Of this group—I call them Big Dads —Ram Kumar, Krishan Khanna, Akbar Padamsee, S.H. Raza and Satish Gujral continue to inspire us with their presence. Even from the next generation, we have lost so many—Bikash Bhattacharya, Bhupen Khakkar, Ganesh Pyne, Paritosh Sen and Manjit Bawa et al.
The influence of the Baroda school seems to have waned, the vacuum being rapidly filled by feisty youngsters led by the self-named Bombay Boys (though most of them are from Kerala). They are the bold and often brash young turks of the so-called cutting edge. Their work is cheeky, sometimes angry, very innovative, expensive and edgy. It’s also greatly reliant on technology and Photoshop. Subodh Gupta rides the crest of this wave with panache, while artists like Ranbir Kaleka and Manjunath Kamat shine in the prevailing genre which I have dubbed the ‘super-realist bizarre’. Personally, I take credit for trying to bridge the gap between high art and the ubiquitous art of calendars, film posters, or the circus, generally considered low art.