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HELLO! India Art Awards Jury Member Tasneem Z Mehta On Her Art Journey, India’s Art Landscape And Her Judging Criteria…

Salva Mubarak
Senior Features Writer

Noted art historian, curator, writer, and designer Tasneem Zakaria Mehta’s art journey began very early, “I’ve always been drawing and painting since I was a child. I wanted to be an artist but my parents thought I would become a hippie so I did design which was considered more useful,” she says.

One of the esteemed members of the jury panel for the first-ever HELLO! India Art Awards, Mehta has been one of the pioneers of the heritage restoration movement in the country, including the UNESCO award-winning restoration of the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum. She has been equally involved with the contemporary art movement in the country and has conceptualised and curated several exhibitions and programs at the Museum and at other venues like the World Economic Forum at Davos. She credits an encounter with one of the country’s most notable artists for laying the building blocks of her interest in art as a career. “The first artwork by a well-known artist that moved me was probably a (M.F) Hussain that was in my parents‘ house. It is a woman looking very somber. Hussain would come over and he was such an extraordinary personality, but I was a bit in awe of him at the time and so did not engage much. His daughter Raisa was a good friend. I was at JJ School of Art but unfortunately, the curriculum was pedantic at the time and stuck in a colonial frame. There was little exposure to artists’ practice. I began to engage seriously with modern and contemporary art when I went to New York for further studies.”

The iconic curator is very optimistic about the future of the art landscape in India, “The contemporary Indian art scene has really matured in the last decade. It’s no longer considered unacceptable by parents if you want to be an artist. There has been a huge increase in students registering for fine arts in both undergrad and graduate programs. This needs to be encouraged and more programs and more schools and colleges need to be established across the country. I think the Kochi Biennale has played an important role in ensuring that India is a part of the global conversation in contemporary art.”

In the same spirit, HELLO! India Art Awards seek to recognise and acknowledge the works of new artists, along with the established, and start conversations about art in every aspect of our culture through this medium. As a jury member, Mehta has some strict criteria of her own to identify the gems from the lot. “Expertise is gleaned over years,” she says, “Good art represents a deep engagement, thoughtfulness, perhaps playfulness, skill, and innovative practice. It is not merely decorative. It should move you in different ways.”

RPSG Group and HELLO! India are delighted to announce the first-ever HELLO! India Art Awards on April 25 in New Delhi. The awards will felicitate and appreciate the works of established artists, upcoming talent, new media, individual and group exhibitions, galleries that curate and showcase excellent artwork, various mediums of expression, and every domain of artistic excellence there is in India today.

Stay tuned and keep following @hellomagindia for more behind-the-scenes action, exclusive interviews, and much more!