Nalini Malani wins St. Moritz Art Masters Lifetime Achievement Award
By Vanessa Woo
On August 24, at the seventh annual St. Mortiz Art Masters festival (8/22–31), held in Engadine, Switzerland, Nalini Malani took home the St. Moritz Art Masters Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of her outstanding accomplishments in the field of contemporary art. Created in 2008 by Cartier, the award celebrates new developments in contemporary art, and former recipients have included Ai Weiwei, Oscar Niemeyer, William Klein and Ilya and Emilia Kabakov. With the focus of this year’s St. Mortiz Art Masters on contemporary Indian art, the award could not have come at a better time for Malani. As part of winning the award, she was invited to showcase an exhibition during the festival.
Born in 1946 in Karachi, a year prior to the Partition of India, Malani was trained as a painter at the Sir Jamsetjee Jeejebhoy School of Art in Mumbai, where she received a diploma in fine arts in 1969. She then continued to study art in Paris, from 1970 to 1972, after securing a French government scholarship.
Known for her experimental art that addresses recurring themes of war, religious conflict, oppression of women and transnational politics surrounding the Indian subcontinent, Malani is one of the foremost artists from India who broke away from classical painting in the late 1980s and reached out to a larger audience with her multimedia projects—from installations and theatre to ephemeral wall drawings and film. Her works are largely influenced by her experiences as a refugee of the Partition, and often tackles the legacy of her country’s post-colonial history, which has divided India with Pakistan along religious lines. Malani often draws upon Hindu and Greek mythology, 19th-century fantasy literature and early 20th-century experimental theatre as inspirations for allegories in her works.
Over the last 40 years, Malani has broken through India’s male-dominant art community and gained an international reputation as the leading figure of video art in the country. In recognition of her achievements, she was previously presented with an Honorary Doctorate in Fine Arts from the San Francisco Art Institute in 2010, and also became the first Asian woman to receive the Fukuoka Prize for Art and Culture in 2013.