Thursday, July 18 2019


Beyond Borders

Farah Siddiqui
Curator, consultant, specialist in contemporary artistry and a nominator of a prestigious photography award, Farah Siddiqui’s keen eye for creativity assists her in exploring the world of art and artists. Shaily Bhusri decodes her passion for the arts and her work.
She is the consultant and curator for Farah Siddiqui Contemporary Art, a Mumbai-based consultancy fi rm, which showcases some of the world’s fi nest contemporary paintings, sculpture and photography by formidable names in the Indian art world, like MF Husain, SH Raza, FN Souza, VS Gaitonde, Ram Kumar and J Swaminathan. Farah Siddiqui, who was born in New Delhi, delved into her career path from a very early age. Born to a Muslim father from Uttar Pradesh and a Hindu Sindhi mother, Siddiqui grew up in intellectual environs. Her mother was the editor of a magazine called Daily, now published with a different name, and ensured that Siddiqui had tremendous exposure to art and artists. “I used to visit a lot of art galleries with my mother and spent most of my time at Kamani auditorium. I inherited the instinct for creativity at a very early age; I even learnt painting professionally in my teens,” she recalls.
After fi nishing her schooling from DPS RK Puram in New Delhi, she fl ew to Mumbai to enrol in business management course at Sydhenam. For a very brief period, she worked in the luxury segment. She has been consulting since 2004; she initially started off with only Indian art and later dealt with works from all over Southeast Asia. Whilst still chasing her career path, she got married in 2007.
In her avocation, she is always on the lookout for new talent around her. A few years ago, at the Dubai Art fair, she had the opportunity to study and analyse the works of Pakistani artists and decided to showcase these creations to India and rest of the world. Thus materialised a gallery in Mumbai exclusively showcasing these works. “Every artist has their own set of ideas and language but it’s a fact that both India and Pakistan share a history – the National College of Art in Lahore, Pakistan, and Art College in India were established at the same time by the British. So both the countries have that old colonial background when it comes to art school. Pakistani art is more grounded and rooted regionally till today. I was so fascinated by Pakistani art that I wanted to explore this in depth and bring it in focus to the world,” says Siddiqui.
The unfortunate terror attack of 26/11 forced her to shut her gallery. “It did affect me but I went back to art consultancy, which I have always been doing. As an art custodian, your focus would be on representing those particular artists that you’re keen on bringing to the world, while as a consultant you get to work with collectors and their vision,” she adds.
Asked what should be the focal point while buying a work of art, she says, “Buyers should be aware that art is a cash-fl ow negative; it does not pay dividends and usually costs a lot to preserve and insure. While consulting with my clients, I encourage them to fi rst truly appreciate the work of art they are about to acquire and understand the sensibilities of the artist. Whether a young emerging artist or a modern master, the work should be of good quality and provenance.” Coming to the mood of collectors, she expounds: “Collectors are getting more adventurous with their tastes and even collecting non traditional mediums like installations, video and photographs.”
“The more exposure that Indian collectors get, the more open they are to different types of artists, whether they are from Pakistan or Bangladesh or Iran, Europe or Central Asia. It’s fantastic that you can see some important galleries like Lisson gallery also showing interest in Indian artists and in collecting art from Pakistan,” she says.
“Contemporary art is the art of our times. It refl ects who we are individually and as a society,” adds Siddiqui. “From the time the artist conceives the idea in their heads right down to the fi nal outcome, the whole process is a sensory journey. Art also infl uences how a person responds to the environment around them.” When it comes to her favourites, she lists Sudershan Shetty, Shilpa Gupta, Sakshi Gupta, Subodh Gupta, Avinash Veeraraghavan, Mithusen, Tracy Emin, Marina Abramovic, Richard Serra and Gilbert & George.
Siddique recently curated an exhibition called ‘Transcendental Alchemy’. She was also responsible for commissioning intentional artist Shilpa Gupta to design a unique trophy to present to business tycoons Ratan Tata, Narayan Murthy and Vinita Bali amongst others in the Forbes India Leadership Awards 2011.
Besides having her feet fi rmly grounded in art, she is an active member of Young Indians (YI), the youth wing of Confederation of India Industry (CII). Siddiqui is also the Asian nominator for the prestigious Swiss Pirx Pictet Awards in photography. “The whole process is very exciting as I have to select artists from Asia. It works on a theme basis and this year it is ‘power’. I love this phase as I get to see a lot of art in the process. Last year, the theme was ‘Earth’ and the American photographer Mitch Epstein bagged the Prix Pictet award,” she recalls.
Farah Siddiqui
An art work by contemporary artist Jitish Kallat
A creation by Tyeb Mehta

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