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Digital mat for Muslim prayers

He wanted to make flying mats, but then decided to work was something that was more functional. UK-based designer Soner Ozenc did not have to look too far. A devout Muslim, he designed a prayer mat that lights up when placed facing Mecca. It’s a prayer mat with compass – a digital one.

Traditionally, Muslims use prayer mat with compass to determine the direction of face Mecca (Makkah) for offering their prayers.

Muslims, and there are 1.6 billion of them, praying towards the same point (Qibla) is considered to symbolise their unity.

Soner’s prayer mat, called EL Sajjadah (EL is Electro Luminescent and Sajjadah is prayer mat), lights up when it is placed in the direction of Mecca.

With Muslims praying five times a day, this gadget, which is lightweight and durable, could come handy for millions of Muslims around the world.

“A prayer mat is the only product required during the 5-times-a-day prayers,” says the Turkey-born developer on a webpage set up on Kickstarter, to raise funds for to take the idea into commercial production.

“Its main function is to provide a clean and isolated platform for the prayer. With the unique patterns on its surface, it also aims to bring the atmosphere of a mosque wherever it’s taken.”

“The patterns on a prayer mat tell you the story of life. Green is the holy color of Islam. Black is the color of Kaaba.”

The digital mat can either be plugged into the wall or run on rechargeable batteries.

The digital mat, which marries traditional mat with digital features, has been six years in the making, and now at a stage where it can be produced.

Soner has chosen to raise funds using KickStarter website, an online all-or-nothing funding platform. “Which means that if we cannot reach our target goal of $100,000 until 14 August, EL Sajjadah will not be realised.”

Those providing funding support of $500 or more will be the first one to get EL Sajjadah (expected retail price $625).

While going to print with this article, the idea had received 80 backers and raised $34,000, about a third of its goal.

The mat was displayed in New York’s Museum of Modern Art as part of an exhibition in 2011, and the museum then bought a copy of it for permanent collection.

Art Editor recommends Lifestyle News

Photo competition with world’s biggest prize money

A grand prize of US$120,000 and overall prize money of US$389,000 has been announced for the Hamdan International Photography Award (HIPA) in Dubai.

The awards, established last year by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, to raise interest in photography, are open to submissions from around the world.

The second season of competition is titled “Beauty of Light” and will be looking to build on the success of the first season of competition which attracted competitors from 99 countries.

This year, the competition will receive entries in four categories – Beauty of Light, Emirates, Black and White, and general.

Beauty of Light

Light was adopted as a key element in this year’s award because of its importance in the art of photography, says Ali Khalifa bin Thalith, the secretary-general of the trust organising the awards.

The 2011 award-winning photograph by Pierre Gable from France

“Light can be the difference between a good picture and a wonderful image.

“Our understanding of light and our ability to capture it through a camera lens would not have been possible, had it not been for the efforts of the scholar Al Hassan Ibn Al Haytham.

“His findings and principles in the field of optics, a century ago, helped lay the foundations for modern day photography.

“To commemorate the anniversary of his contributions, the grand prize at this year’s HIPA award will be dedicated to the beauty of light in photography, which was greatly influenced by the findings of Ibn Al Haytham.”

There are no restrictions on what photographers may choose to submit for this category, so long as the influence of light is clearly demonstrated. The winner of the award will be the photographer who successfully illustrates an effective use of light in their submission.

The other category is Emirates. “This category was specifically designed for photographers to test their appreciation of the United Arab Emirates and its many icons through photography.

“From its unique desert dunes to the sky high towers of the sprawling business districts, photographers are challenged to capture the many wonders found in the United Arab Emirates.

“The challenge is also set for photographers to unearth previously undiscovered or unheard of locations and to tell the story of the UAE through the lenses of their cameras.

Black and White category

“Black and white photography creates an image of nostalgia that is sometimes unmatched by coloured photographs. A simple artistic expression in black and white format can set a tone, date and place in history with minimal effort.

“A photographer’s ability to deliver a strong and lasting message in black and white is a true testament to the expressive skills they possess.”

Submissions will not be solely judged on their effective use of the two colours but will be considered for other additional factors such as the use of lighting and effective application of shades in the photograph.

General category

This is for anyone with overall photography skills without any boundaries or restrictions.

“Competitors are open to submit any photograph they’ve captured which may not be eligible for any of the three other categories. Our hope is to generate interest and awareness by making it accessible to all, including the worlds very best photographers.”

This year’s awards will also uniquely try to recognise the contribution of researchers in the field of photography who may not be photographers themselves. An award of US$25,000 will go to a person with the most articulate research or scientific report regarding the field of photography.

Photographers can submit entries from 1 September 2012 until midnight on 31 December 2012 (UAE Time).

More details will be released on the soon-to-be-launched awards website.

Art Lifestyle News

British award for Auckland Art Gallery

Auckland Art Gallery Wins International AwarAuckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki has won the International Award for Architectural Excellence from The Royal Institute of British Architects – the first time a New Zealand building has won.

The awards are given to only 12 buildings a year and recognise some of the world’s most imaginative, dramatic and green buildings. Other winners in 2012 include the world’s tallest building, the Guangzhou Finance Centre.

From this round of winners, a visiting jury will select the winner of the prestigious Lubetkin Prize.

Art galleries in New Zealand

Gallery director Chris Saines said, “We set out to develop a world class gallery and FJMT+Archimedia’s elegant and considered design has been instrumental to achieving that goal.

Judged on the response of the near 600,000 visitors to date, this heritage restored and expanded building has become a flag-bearer for the city’s architectural and urban design future.”

The development of Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki was commissioned and project managed by Auckland Council and included a series of emblematic, sculpted tree-like canopies cut from massive Kauri trees that enclose the forecourt, atrium and gallery areas.

This international award comes within a month of the gallery also winning the supreme award, the New Zealand Architecture Medal, at the New Zealand Architecture Awards and the highest accolade as the country’s top commercial property development for 2012 at the annual Property Industry Awards.

The art gallery, opened in 1888, is New Zealand’s oldest established and largest public art gallery.

The Gallery holds more than 15,000 works of national and international art dating from the 12th century to the present day – including such figures as Goldie, Lindauer, Hodgkins, Angus and McCahon, together with Bruegel, Reni and Fuseli.

This makes it home to the country’s most extensive and highly regarded collection, particularly of New Zealand art.

The gallery was recently redeveloped at the cost of $121 million, paid by former Auckland City Council and the central government. Admission to the library is free.

Art Editor recommends Events Lifestyle News

The Queen: fund-raising event for women victims

A youth theatre group has put together a play which will also be a charity fund-raiser to support migrant and minority communities of New Zealand.

The Queen is a dance drama organised by a South East Asian youth group to raise funds for Shakti Ethnic Family Services for promoting the well-being of ethnic families.

“For over a decade Shakti has been striving to strengthen and enable safer, happier families,” says a spokesperson for the organisation.

“Many migrant families in New Zealand are unable to fully integrate and lead safe, healthy lives.

“Barriers associated with migration and other cultural, linguistic and societal barriers keep families disengaged and unsafe within their own homes.

“Such environments give rise to family violence, cross-cultural conflict and mental illness.

“Shakti has been tackling such issues.”

The fund-raising event features a montage of pieces with the central theme of the empowerment of women.
“The first half is highlighted by a short play that uses stylised physical theatre to showcase the female victim’s journey from oppression
to empowerment,” says the spokesperson.
‘The Queen’ is a dance ballet that combines western and classical Indian music and is choreographed in the ancient Indian classical dance form of Bharatha Natyam. Bharatha Natyam derives its name from Bhava (meaning expression ) Raga (meaning melody) and Thala (meaning rhythm).

“It is through these modes of expression that the dancers present a contemporary production with its roots in Indian mythology to tell the story of a strong, independent queen of yesteryear.”

The Queen

27 May, doors open at 5pm

Auckland Girls Grammar, Auckland

For tickets contact: 021 11 73 731, email:

Art Lifestyle News

New Zealand to send Maori delegation to India

A Maori organisation is preparing to send a delegation to India to study and share ancient traditions and culture.

The recently established Maori Research Institute will lead a Maori delegation to India to attend the Fourth International Conference of the Elders of Ancient Traditions and Cultures to be held from 3 March to 7 March 2012, at India’s holy town of Haridwar.

The conference, expected to attract delegates from 50 countries, is organised by the International Centre for Cultural Studies (ICCS) once in three years.  The theme of this fourth conference is “Nourishing the Balance of the Universe”.

“This is indeed an initiative that helps bring the wisdom of ancient peoples and cultures to the fore, and we would like to support such an international gathering of different cultures,” says Malcolm Short, Director of the Rotorua-based Maori Research Institute and the leader of the delegation from Aotearoa New Zealand.

Dr Guna Magesan (left) with Malcolm Short

Dr Guna Magesan, a senior scientist with the Maori Research Institute, will identify one Maori Elder who is very much respected in the Maori community and who has done good work for the revival of Maori tradition. The conference organisers aim to award a Maori Elder with an honorary degree from the Research Institute of World’s Ancient Traditions, Cultures and Heritage (RIWATCH University).

Dr Magesan feels that the Maori community should identify and nominate a Maori Elder for the honour.  Nominations (with their resume) need to reach

“We will send up to 5 selected resumes to the conference organisers and the final decision will be made by the conference organisers in India.”

The conference coordinator, Prof. Yashwant Pathak, says that the conference organisers will award an honorary degree to one well respected Elder from each continent. They have already identified elders from South America, Europe, and North America.

Prof Pathak said that the organisers are keen to recognise a Maori Elder from New Zealand, because the Maori community, in spite of many adversities, is socially, culturally and politically active; and at the world stage, Maori community is a role model for other ancient cultures that have struggled to maintain their identity.

Preparations for the Maori delegation going to the conference are going well, says the institute. In addition to the international conference, the delegation will also attend two business meetings in New Delhi and Mumbai. They will also visit places of tourist interest in New Delhi and Rajasthan, and the Taj Mahal in Agra. The delegation is made up of people from all walks of life – academics, kaumatuas, artists, business leaders, etc.

The Maori delegation will be supported by two Hindu community members, Dr Rajiv Chaturvedi and Dr Guna Magesan from New Zealand. This delegation is thus symbolising Hindu Maori whakawhanaungatanga (kinship).

“This is an opportunity for Maori business community to start linking with Indian business community at the grass root level,” Dr Magesan says. This is important in view of the Free Trade Agreement between New Zealand and India in pipeline.

Art Featured

Why is Indian art a sought-after investment

S H Raza art

On January 1, 2011, The Times of India published a survey of spending patterns among Indians which aimed at predicting projected net spendings on various sectors in the new year.

As expected, the greatest growth potential was observed in the telecom sector. But what was surprising was that a close third in the group was the luxury sector, recording a 20 per cent growth.

The luxury sector, according to market analysts is not a primary spending sector, and when it shows a growth potential only third to such basic necessities as telecom and housing in a developing country like India, it only points to one thing a solid growth in the secondary market and a spurt in surplus, which can only happen in a healthy GDP scenario.

S H Raza art

S H Raza, sold for $3,486,965 at Christie's London

And that is good news to the Indian art fraternity, since art investment, in India at least, is a top-of-the-order secondary market phenomenon.

Actually, Indian art has become one of the most sought after alternative investments in the world.

It is felt that compared to the stratospheric prices touched by western contemporary art, where Mark Rothko and Andy Warhol sells for astronomical prices, Indian art prices have a very long way to go to reach their peak. Research shows that, conservatively, Indian art is undervalued by five times and 10 to 15 times if compared to its western equivalents.

F N Souza

F N Souza, Birth, sold for $2,159,850 at Christie's

The highest price fetched by an Indian artist hovers around the $ 3.49 million, which was achieved last year by Sayed Haider Raza’s Saurashtra.

Compare that with prices fetched by Warhol on a regular basis, which has been around $63.35 million last year.

And to think that compared to Warhol’s factory style of working, Raza’s style will be nothing more than cottage industry, thus guaranteeing a greater chance of being unique.

It is therefore not out of place, when Rajiv Chaudhuri, a New-Yorker of Indian origin who has been a pioneer in setting up an Indian art fund abroad says, “If you look at Indian art from a purely financial perspective, I would say it’s cheap relative to Western or even Chinese art … [Mehta] is one of India’s finest painters of the 20th century. The reality is that average artists from the West routinely sell for $5 million to $7 million. And by the way, Mehta painted only 200 works in his entire life. Andy Warhol probably did 200 every six months…” This was way back in 2005.

Anish Kapoor, art

Anish Kapoor, Untitled, sold for $1,945,250

In perspective, the five best Indian artists in terms of global sales volume during the last decade have been Anish Kapoor, Tyeb Mehta, MF Husain, Souza and Raza. And collectively, their best years have been between 2006 and 2010.

Despite the global economic downturn, which took its toll between 2008 and 2009, these five have commanded a more or less fixed pricing, with a slight dent only in 2009, which between them, they collectively recovered in the very next year.

Out of the five, as has already been said, Raza is still now the highest priced, though it is Souza who had commanded the best price in terms of works sold and value generated in a given year which stands at an impressive (by Indian standards) $24,265,186.87 in 2006.

However, among the five, the first artists to have burst onto the International scene were Souza and Raza, who sold their works way back in 1990 followed closely by Kapoor whose first documented sale had been in the following year. But compared to those early days, when these Indian stalwarts went for anything between a few hundreds (Raza was priced at $706 in 1990) and few thousands (Souza was at $1635 in 1990 and Kapoor at $ 4867 in 1991) they have definitely come a long way.

In 2007 the Indian art market was $450 million, an increase of 29% on the previous year. Around 2009 the value of the global Indian art market was in the region of $2-3 billion and growing rapidly. Today, this represents a tiny fraction, approximately 6 to7 per cent of the $30 billion global art market.Hence the upside potential is impressive.

art M F Husain

M F Husain, Battle of Ganga and Jamuna, sold for $1,609,000 at Christie's New York

Arun Vadhera, Christie’s consultant in India and owner of Delhi’s Vadhera Art Gallery has been quoted by the media that he doesn’t think Indian art is anywhere near its peak.

On the contrary, it is at the same stage as technology was in the late eighties and early nineties. According to a research conducted recently, art experts are comparing the boom in Indian art to that of the similar boom in Chinese art which began in the 1980s, fuelled by a rising economy and a newly-rich Chinese community.

The rise in interest in Indian modern and contemporary art has been due to two reasons. On the one hand, there is a rapidly growing Indian (both NRI and Indigenous) collector base, as was evident from the prices Rabindranath Tagore’s sketches fetched in the Sotheby’s auction last year.

Art Tyeb Mehta

Tyeb, Mehta, Figure on Rikshaw, sold for $1,918,925 at Christie's London

On the other hand the artistic significance and commercial importance of Modern and Contemporary Indian Painting has now been discovered by the likes of the English billionaires Charles Saatchi and Frank Cohen, and the French luxury brand czars Francois Pinault and Bernard Arnault.

Francis Newton Souza, was collected and promoted, initially by Victor Musgrave at Gallery One (London) and by the American Harold Kovner.

From the 1960s to the 1990s, the Americans, Chester and Davida Herwitz travelled yearly to India to acquire new works of art for their collection of Indian contemporary art. They developed close friendships with many of India’s leading artists, particularly MF Husain, has been pointed out as they have done for Indian art what no Indian industrialist has been able to do.

And their aim was not to decorate offices, but to be involved in the Indian contemporary art movement.

Today, with the new breed of contemporary Indian artists, like Subodh Gupta, Raqib Shaw and Anish Kapoor, also comes the new breed of promoter and collector. This is already transporting the whole sphere of Contemporary and Modern Indian art to a new, higher level of international marketing and collecting.

Gupta is often referred to by the western and Indian art critic fraternity as the ‘Damien Hirst of India’. This in itself speaks volumes of a familiar attempt to equate to a modern counterpart phenomenon of the West. In Gupta’s case, one of his promoters, Delhi-based former New Yorker Peter Nagy, is part of the immediate cutting edge of Contemporary Indian painting.

It is thus not hard to comprehend the way the top five Indian artists have fared in the global market. (Graph 2) From a ‘jumpy’ start in the mid-nineties, they have soared to their highest limits (till today) in 2005-2006 and have then taken a fall. However, except for Mehta and Kapoor, all the rest have seen a sharp rise in 2010, once the market gained in confidence.

A comparison of the price graphics among Indian artists and their more well known global counterparts will show that their rise after recession has been sharper than the latter.

This is because of their price differential, as Indian artists, even after two decades in the world market (considering from 1990 till 2010) are still undervalued and hence more readily capable of overriding the hammer price by a larger margin. However, Kapoor’s and Mehta’s inability to ride the crest of 2010 is also significant.

Reasons, feel art market insiders are 1) Mehta’s inability to market himself. He started off late and he never really sought a promoter who would command the kind of international prices that suited his kind of creations and 2) Kapoor has been the most consistent on the scene for close to two decades and he had been the one to best capitalize on the market. However, his familiarity may have taken away the exoticism which he thrived on initially.

However, the same art-market insiders predict that the Indian art market value will cross that of the Chinese market in the next three to four years. In 2009, the average price of individual works of high-end Chinese contemporary art was in the range of $19 million, whereas top-of-the-chain Indian artists commanded around $5.5 million. Thus there is always an upside to be achieved still, with a burgeoning Indian domestic as well as NRI market the counterpart of which has given the Chinese their due.

The Indian art market has been showing the most evident signs of development. Subsequently, Indian artists have reasons to cheer up.

Image Courtesy : Sotheby’s, Christie’s and the Artists

*2010 values are as of October 29, 2010

*As per print media, internet, auction reports & artnet

(The original article was published by Art News and Views.)