05 Aug

End of the “Social”

When I first embraced Mona Lisa as an icon for my “Death of an Icon” series in 2012 it was because her face was recognizable no matter where I placed her. And placed her I did or displaced her as the case may be when I dressed her in a chunni (transparent veil worn on the head) and gave her henna tattoos in the palm of her hands, in the pattern of Louis Vuitton prints and made her posture like Madhubala in the movie, “Mahal”.

It wasn’t until recently when I found her face slapped on a Louis Vuitton showroom on 5th av with those prints all over her.  Suppose the prints belonged to Louis Vuitton to begin with.  The oversize Mona looming over 5th av traffic commanded a presence larger than her original counterpart and stirred up a mini outrage in me however unfounded!  I thought of putting the two together first, no fair I thought in quiet desperation.

Death of an Icon, art, tania sen

Louis Vitton Showroom on 5th Avenue, NYC

It made me revisit a Facebook conversation that turned sour rather quickly with Todd Levine, a curator and art advisor in NYC.  In response to an article published on CNN, that quoted a Nigerian visual artist Victor Ehikhamenor saying, “For the thousands of viewers seeing this for the first time, they won’t think Ife, they won’t think Nigeria,” about Damien Hirst’s “Golden Heads” at the Venice Biennial.  The crux of the article being that people would more readily recognize Mr Hirst’s Bronz heads in Venice over their African originals.  And here’s  Mr. Levine’s (curator and art adviser based in NYC) explanation as to why the viewer might automatically draw a parallel with the original, despite not having any mention of the name of the specific artist:

Facebook Post, Tania Sen, Todd Levin, Damien Hirst


Fine arts is increasingly being used to advertise, the reason?



“Art is a sign of affluence; it belongs to the good life,” Berger wrote. “It is part of the furnishing which the world gives to the rich and the beautiful.” Berger also noted the “cultural authority” art brings to the product being advertised, with canonical works from history treated as floating with ethereal levity above capitalist materiality. Even as advertisements endeavor to sell you something, art provides “a form of dignity, even of wisdom, which is superior to any vulgar material interest.”  – Artsy



Death of an Icon

Mona Lisa sells shoe polish



Mona Lisa being among the “Portraits Completed” campaign that brought the award of the  “Gold Lion” to Ogilvy Chicago for concept and design.  The ad was for Kiwi shoe polish.  Now here’s the next part of the Facebook conversation:The reason for my sharing this instance is to make a point about the futility of the article not to mention my conversation with Mr. Todd Levin.

Facebook Post, Tania Sen, Todd Levin, Damien Hirst

The indisputable truth of the article in the end is quite futile given that, today’s art lover and audience is much more likely to respond to the multiplicity of the shiny mass produced Bronze heads by Mr. Hirst and may choose to remain oblivious about their African original.

It is no longer about the art!  In Mr. Levine’s own words, “the amount of money sloshing around in the market, and that’s due to an excessive amount of excess capital in the hands of a smaller group of people. They’re certainly not going to put it in a bank at 1%, they’re certainly not going to hide it in their mattress, so they need to find assets. Art has been a favored location to place a portion of one’s assets.”

There has been a strong interest lately in flipping.  Collectors buy extraordinary young art and then immediately put it up at auction, flipping that work for five, ten more times than the initially purchased price , from only six months, a year or two ago.” – E-flux

Art is no longer for keeping and cherishing, rather a commodity to be pimped out in the market for a quick turnaround.   The impact of the heads would last for as long as social media and the dealers scream about them, and then, they too will succumb to the eventuality of the silence of the masses, swallowed whole by the shadow of the “silent majority”.

“In a media society meaning has no meaning anymore: communication merely communicates itself.”

This ideological terrorism may just be the end of the “social” as pointed out by Jean Baudrillard.  Once again, in my conversation with Mr. Levine, I had mentioned how “Death of an Icon” addresses the democratization of social icon from the perspective of mechanical reproduction.  As an afterthought, I might go as far as to add that the culture of art “flipping” might in fact lead to the Death of Art itself!

30 Jul

Sailor Of No Country

“You can take a sailor out of the country not the country out of the sailor” –  the adage has undergone major overhaul in recent years.  Bringing Sistine Chapel to the newly constructed World trade center whoever’s bright idea it was is a standing example. If freshly baked baguettes could be flown in from Paris then why not Art being the
underlying idea?

When I heard one young individual greeting another, addressing as “Dude” in the streets of Seoul, during my recent visit, I realize that a jargon did not belong to any one location any longer, that I did not need to be in Southern California to hear that mode of address.  Back to my recent boundary unbinding sculpture pieces that are meant to incorporates its surroundings as visual elements turned out to be more of a pain to photograph than I had imagined.  Here are some of my attempts to photograph them in Time Square.


28 Jul

The Evolving Gardener

Since the making of art has always been about removing all obstacles between myself and the conceived notion I have never really addressed the process before this.  It could be that most of my art making skills were picked up outside a conventional art program. That is not to say that I have not had the good fortune of learning craft making from some of the most dedicated artists employed by top notch institutions.  My degree has been in TV/ print production and Business, perhaps that’s the reason that I have not broached the topic of art making in the past.


The Evolving Gardener, sculpture, etching

Elements – I

Converting a 2-D sketch to a sculpture  is about envisioning a visual element across two separate planes. These works – etched, inked and colorized on a flat surface, occupy a 3-D space easily because of their transparency. Unwilling to be bound in a square or rectangular surface, I moved to circular canvases when it came to painting. Eventually, that too started to feel confining so I moved to construction cones as they occupy a 3-D space yet do not conform to either a square or a circle or any other single specific shape…which makes it fun to play with! The transparency of my material allows for these sculptural pieces to occupy a 3-D space very easily, without occupying a large footprint.  These works easily embrace the environs it occupies, which is perfect since art is after all, supposed to imitate  life and vice versa! These works pick up bits and pieces of information while they go from venue to venue.

Meat eating plants are strange in a way. Delicate and colorful, these plants are unassuming and yet deadly for the prey that inadvertently steps into their territory. Inspired by Siddhartha Mukherjee’s “The Gene” these works are a tribute to the process of evolution. The graphic lines of tattoo art are incorporated into “Elements” such as water and fire to celebrate the imprint of life on this planet much like scraping off the outer layer of skin on one’s body to mark it with a statement about the self!

24 Jul

The Bliss of Anonymity

Review Death of an Icon

Review, Death of an Icon

Interpretation of content has always been the job of the consumer while it has been the job of the media to deliver. Getting some media coverage has, up until now been known to further your work. Demographics is a prized possession for advertisers on the web as we all know and content offers a place for the business shout outs to reside alongside.  A recent review of my works houses an ad for dog grooming and diamonds among others. Now what’s the common criterion between the two one might ask? My guess –  it could be homes with pets and women inclined towards conspicuous consumption. That brings up a second question – are those with the dispensable income more prone towards buying dog food, diamonds or art?


18 Jul

Coney Island Revisited

Coney Island in Brooklyn is an institution of its own.  Home of many traditions, starting with the Coney Island dog, the Mermaid parade, to the Polar Bear Club.  Hundreds of people crowd in to the Luna Park and NY Aquarium every day.  My Coney Island themed mural was first hashed for the brand new facility pool of Morris Union Jointure Commission with the proposal of painting tiles.  However, their immediate need was for four large canvases for their foyer.  The Coney Island drawings sat in my garage for a few months before the new facility of the Somerset Hills YMCA needed it for their nursery facing one of their large pools, and there it has been for the last 10 years!  When I stumbled upon the Coney Island Nathan’s image on the Met twitter page:

Coney Island Nathans, at the Mets

I took a second look at my own Coney Mural once again.


The MERMAID PARADE specifically was founded in 1983 with 3 goals: it brings mythology to life for local residents who live on streets named Mermaid and Neptune; it creates self-esteem in a district that is often disregarded as “entertainment”; and it lets artistic New Yorkers find self-expression in public – with ethnic, religious, or commercial aims.  The Coney Island Polar Bear Club swims every Sunday from November to April, but their first swim of the New Year, on New Year’s Day, is a special one!