A South Asian group exhibition opens the unusual Mayfair Gallery

“If 20 years ago you told me I would be doing another South Asian group show, I would be mortified,” says Shezad Dawood, the curator of Hawaiiana cross-generational group exhibition of British and South Asian artists currently on view in London.

Clearly, times have changed, and while at one time being grouped on the basis of ethnicity could be seen as little more than cultural ghettoization, a renewed interest in heritage and the identity makes this exhibit – a rarity despite the UK’s huge South Asian population – more relevant than reductive. “I can’t think of another major spectacle of this nature that has taken place in this century,” Dawood adds. “Movements like BLM and Decolonise This Place have started the necessary conversations, but the UK’s South Asian community has yet to properly tell its story.”

For the show, Dawood has assembled ten performers including himself, photographer Sunil Gupta and Chila Kumari Singh Burman, who shows off a car dressed in his signature neon adornments. Their works are displayed alongside those of less established names like Glasgow-born Jasleen Kaur and Harminder Judge, a recent graduate of the Royal Academy of Arts.

Paradise Row Projects in Mayfair, London. Photo: Mirko Boffelli

The exhibition inaugurates Paradise Row Projects, a year-long non-profit curatorial program in Mayfair, which revives the Paradise Row shopping gallery in East London which closed in 2016. Two-month sales exhibitions will be organized at the gallery, with all profits from sales going to various NGOs selected by the show’s curators and artists. “It’s about bringing the idea of ​​sustainability and trust into a system that has never been about these things,” says gallery co-director Nick Hackworth, who hopes to disrupt the world of commercial art. by offering the art market in the broad sense an “alternative model”.

The concept of trust is central not only to Paradise Row’s business model, but also to the show’s curatorial vision. Its title refers to the hawala money lending system, a decentralized, ledger-based form of value transfer prevalent in South Asia and throughout its expatriate communities, which involves extensive global networks of adhering money lenders an honor-based system. With its etymology deriving from Persian and its structure having shaped European banking practices across many centuries, Dawood says he finds hawala a rich vein to tap into when thinking about the artists of the South Asian diaspora and the long and solid heritage they have established in this country since the middle of the 20th century.

Installation view of Hawala at Paradise Row Projects. Photo: Mirko Boffelli

The importance of informal networks is also evident in the show’s list of performers. Gupta, for example, gave Dawood his first institutional exhibition at OVA in London, underscoring how much the UK’s South Asian artist community has relied on each other for generations.

A number of the young artists in the show, such as ceramicist Anousha Payne and painter Haroun Hayward, admit they have avoided South Asian group shows in the past for fear of being pigeonholed. But now, “it’s the perfect time for this show to happen,” says Payne, who expresses his desire to forge stronger bonds with older generations. Thematic threads between younger and older artists appear throughout the exhibition, such as contemporary twists on traditional myths found in both Payne’s glazed sandstone and rattan sculptures and automotive bling. -out of Burman. Meanwhile, Gupta’s photographs of gay subcultures resonate with Hayward’s paintings which take rave culture and Chicago House music as their primary inspiration.

The exhibition will also be sold as a unique NFT, created by Dawood, known as the Mangrove Institute of Contemporary Arts (MICA), which is hosted on the metaverse platform Somnium Space. Each artist on the show has had a piece of work digitally rendered for the NFT and the proceeds from their sale will be split equally between the artists and the charities Conservation Action Trust, India and WWF Pakistan.

• Hawala, Paradise Row Projects, until November 5

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