In 2009, a year after returning to their native Kolkata, Prateek and Priyanka Raja became arguably the most influential young couple in the South Asian art scene by transforming a classic 1930s Gariahat house into one of the subcontinent’s most expressive blank canvases. Since then, Experimenter artists have shown in most of the world’s most important institutions and events for contemporary art, from LACMA to MoMA, from Venice to Basel by way of the Tate Modern. Having started the space with the desire to challenge conventional boundaries, Experimenter’s rather audacious and conceptually charged programme showcases artists like Hajra Waheed, CAMP and Bani Abidi. For the past few years, the gallery has been committed to introducing emerging and mid-career artists that work with experimental practices and a range of mediums. This year the gallery won the well merited title of the Best Contemporary Art Gallery at the Forbes India Art Awards. I caught up with Prateek and Priyanka to talk about how they got started and the projects they’ve undertaken for the coming year.
Tell us about Experimenter, how did you get started?
We started Experimenter in 2009 with a very clear focus. At the time we felt that contemporary practice with a strong curatorial focus was being under-represented in the country. We wanted to show contemporary art that challenged the audiences and us as gallerists intellectually. We felt that capturing the moment and the politics of it, by showing the work of artists who dealt with contemporaneity in a particular way, made the viewer re-evaluate one’s pre-determined notions. And that was important.
What kind of work does your gallery show? Does art from the gallery usually spill into your home?
Yes it does... Of course the work we show spills into our homes!
We show emerging and mid-career contemporary artists. We started with a South Asian focus but now we’re moving towards showing international artists as well. Our artists, work with film, video, still image, sculptural installations, sound, site specific installations and interventions.
How do you find artist you represent?
It’s a mutual migration towards each other. We do a lot of studio visits and see a lot of exhibitions all over the world. When we find ourselves attracted towards a particular artist’s practice, we write to them and a conversation begins. It’s usually like a courtship towards a relationship where both are interested in each other and there is mutual respect.
Would you ever consider representing a designer/architect?
Yes, of course. We would love to include the work of an architect because architecture is a key interest/passion to us. We are currently researching for an architecture based show about the 1950’s in South Asia.
What’s your current show? What are some of the highlights from your 2014 programme?
We open a fantastic group exhibition at Experimenter titled Waiting For The Wind where the artists reflect on warlike situations that prevail in several pockets all around the world, despite which promises are made and love songs are sung, where children laugh and dream are dreamt, nevertheless under situations that are at times inhuman. Waiting For The Wind is a very sensitive show that refers to the collective and individual memories that are built in war, the insertions between the slippages that take place and signposts a possible future.
Maison et Object now in Singapore
Maison et Object is now just a hop, skip and jump away. The organisers of the Paris-based interiors trade fair have decided to set up an Asian edition of the show in Singapore. Starting tomorrow, the three-day long exhibition will showcase over 270 brands from across the globe, from some of the most recognised names to new and emerging talent from Asia. So if you’re around Singapore make sure to have a look.