Serendipity Arles Grant 2020 announces the winner of the largest grant for lens-based practitioners in South Asia

SAG 2020 announces winner from 10 shortlisted lens-based practitioners – Photography | Video | New Media from South Asia

Serendipity Arles Grant (SAG) 2020 declares Purushothaman Sathish Kumar, from Kanchipuram, India as the winner of SAG 2020, South Asia’s largest grant for lens-based practitioners. Sathish will receive a grant of 12 lakh rupees (approximately 15,000 euros) to develop the project and show the final presentation at Rencontres d'Arles, France, in 2022. The jury initially had shortlisted 10 practitioners from hundreds of applications, across Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The open call was initiated in 2020 by Serendipity Arts Foundation and Les Rencontres d’Arles, supported by the French Institute in India.

The largest of its kind, the Serendipity Arles Grant was established 2020 with the aim of empowering artists from the region, as well as extending a spirit of regional cooperation and representation by promoting cultural practices in South Asia. The jury for SAG 2020 comprised esteemed artists, curators and cultural specialists: Christoph Wiesner (Director, Rencontres d’Arles); Dayanita Singh (Photographer and bookmaker); Devika Singh (Curator, International Art at Tate Modern); Ravi Agarwal (Artist and Founder-Director, Toxics Link); Smriti Rajgarhia (Director, Serendipity Arts Foundation) and Tanzim Wahab (Chief Curator, Bengal Foundation)

Congratulating the finalist and speaking about the collaboration, Ms. Smriti Rajgarhia, Director, Serendipity Arts Foundation & Festival, said, “We would like to congratulate Purushothaman Sathish Kumar on being declared the winner of SAG 2020-21. We look forward to seeing his work on a bigger scale and to showcase these at the next edition of the Serendipity Arts Festival. We are pleased to have such a crucial collaboration with Rencontres d’Arles, and build an association which helps to further our mandate of supporting artists from the South Asian region while promoting their work on a global platform.”

Highlighting the impact of this collaboration and congratulating the winner Mr. Christoph Wiesner, Director, Rencontres d’Arles, said, “The collaboration between our two festivals will be a great opportunity to reveal and support each year in Arles a new artist among the production of a great variety and quality of photographers from the South Asian regions. Congratulations to Purushothaman Sathish Kumar our 2020-21 SAG laureate whose work I am delighted to present in Arles in 2022.”

Welcoming the grant, H.E. Mr. Emmanuel Lenain, Ambassador of France to India, said, “Warmest congratulations to Mr Purushottam Sathish Kumar for clinching the SAG 2020 grant. France looks forward to welcoming him at Rencontres d’Arles, a platform known for the best of contemporary world photography, and with which India has a sustained association. France’s support to this programme – especially crucial given the pandemic’s deleterious impact – is a testimony of its commitment to the arts, to cultural dialogue, to the artistic community. I thank the Serendipity Arts leadership and team for spearheading this important grant for the image arts, which is so vital for creative expression. What better than photographs to communicate, share, come closer, and see the world around us ?”

Recognizing the excellence of the applications,  SAG extends a production grant to all ten shortlisted candidates who will also be given the opportunity to showcase their work at the next edition of the Serendipity Arts Festival.

All information about the grant and the complete biographies of the ten shortlisted grantees is available on the Serendipity Arts Foundation website.

About Serendipity Arts Foundation
Serendipity Arts Foundation, a Munjal initiative for creativity, is a not-for-profit arts and cultural development foundation that fosters cultural development and supports emerging artists across South Asia. The Foundation aims to promote new creative strategies, artistic interventions, and cultural partnerships that are responsive, addressing the social, cultural and environmental milieus of South Asia. The Foundation’s programmes are designed and initiated through innovative collaborations with partners across a multitude of fields, impacting education, promoting social growth via community development programmes, and exploring interdisciplinarity across the arts.

About Serendipity Arts Festival
The Foundation's primary initiative and largest project, Serendipity Arts Festival is a multi-disciplinary arts event held annually every December in Goa. Curated by a panel of eminent artists and institutional figures, the Festival is a long-term cultural project that hopes to instigate positive change across the arts in India on a large scale. Spanning the visual, performing and culinary arts, the Festival’s programming includes music, dance, visual arts, craft, photography, film and theatre. The Festival addresses pressing social issues such as arts education and pedagogy, cultural patronage, interdisciplinary discourse, and accessibility to the arts. Serendipity Arts Festival’s intensive programme of exhibitions and performances is energized by spaces for social and educational engagement. 

About Rencontres d’Arles
Founded in 1970, Les Rencontres d’Arles is the world’s first internationally renowned photography festival. Around 20 heritage sites in Arles host nearly 40 exhibitions throughout the summer.During opening week, the Théâtre Antique serves as a venue for evening slideshows. Various photography trends are compared and contrasted at panel discussions, lectures and portfolio reviews. Teaching activities in schools and workshops by famous photographers also take place year-round.
Every year, the festival reveals trends, breaks new ground, decrypts images, generates meaning and manufactures content. A centre of experimentation, it is a place where artists and visitors can ponder the state of the world and where photography is reinvented through hybridization, contamination and comparison. Interaction and interdisciplinary dialogue recall how very alive and well it is.  Photography’s ability to address not just artistic but also social, cultural, historical and other issues still surprises us. And the well-named Rencontres de la Photographie echoes and promotes historical as well as contemporary artistic practices.

About French Institute in India
The French Institute in India (IFI – Institut Français en Inde) is the education, science and culture cooperation service of the Embassy of France in India. It facilitates academic and scientific exchanges between Indian and French higher education institutions, enables student mobility and promotes French language and artistic and cultural partnerships. Cooperation between India and France takes place through a number of sectors: Arts & Culture, Books & Ideas, French Language & Education, Study in France programme, Academic Partnerships, Scientific cooperation and Research, as well as Innovation and Multimedia.

About the Jury Panel
Christoph Wiesner
In 1997 he joined the Esther Schipper gallery in Berlin as an employee. Then he became its director. In 2012 he returned to France to join the Yvon Lambert gallery in Paris as senior director. In  2015, he became artistic director of Paris Photo, where he canvasses new galleries and publishers and develops the opening up to emergence and film, which is framed each year by a renewed cultural program.
In 2020, he is appointed as the Rencontres d’Arles director.

Dayanita Singh’s art uses photography to reflect and expand on the ways in which we relate to photographic images. Her recent works, drawn from her extensive photographic oeuvre, are a series of mobile museums that allow her images to be endlessly edited, sequenced, archived and displayed. Stemming from Singh’s interest in the archive, the museums present her photographs as interconnected bodies of work that are replete with both poetic and narrative possibilities. Publishing is also a significant part of the artist’s practice: in her books, often published without text, Singh extends her experiments on alternate forms of producing and viewing photographs.

Devika Singh is curator, International Art at Tate Modern. Her writing has appeared widely in exhibition catalogues, magazines including frieze, Art Press and MARG and in the journals Art History, Modern Asian Studies, Journal of Art Historiography and Third Text. Singh was previously Smuts Research Fellow at the Centre of South Asian Studies of the University of Cambridge and a fellow at the Centre allemand d’histoire de l’art, Paris. She curated exhibitions including ‘Planetary Planning’ (Dhaka Art Summit, 2018) and ‘Homelands: Art from Bangladesh, India and Pakistan’ (Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge, 2019-20) and co-curated ‘Gedney in India’ (Jehangir Nicholson Art Foundation, CSMVS, Mumbai, 2017; Duke University, 2018).

Ravi Agarwal has an interdisciplinary practice as an artist, environmental campaigner, writer and curator. His work explores key contemporary questions of ecology, society, urban space and capital through photographs, videos and installations. He has shown widely including at the Biennials of Havana (2019) Yinchuan (2018), Kochi (2016), Sharjah (2013), Documenta XI (2002), etc. He co-curated the Yamuna-Elbe project, Indo-German twin city public art and ecology project (2011), Embrace our Rivers – an Indo- European project in Chennai (2018), and was the photography curator for the Serendipity Arts Festival 2018 and 2019. His work is in several private and public collections, and he has edited and authored several books and journals. Alongside Ravi is the founder director of the environmental NGO Toxics Link and recipient of the UN Award for Chemical Safety and the Ashoka Fellowship.

Smriti Rajgarhia is Director of the Serendipity Arts Foundation & Festival. Trained as an architect with a Masters in Design, Smriti began her career in the arts fourteen years ago working with a private archive in New Delhi, where she eventually created a museum space and archive for the collection. During this stint, her interest expanded into bringing art to the public, and contextualizing art within the region through arts education and awareness. Smriti has also curated exhibitions on subjects that reflect the history and relevance of archives. Currently, Smriti is leading the Foundation and working on the Serendipity Arts Festival to bring her passion for art and design to the forefront by creating unique opportunities for creative individuals. With these two platforms, she endeavours to explore newer forms of representation and re-contextualize the kind of programming institutions need to engage with to widen the demographic of the audience for the arts in India. Her personal interest also lies in adapting urban spaces to presentation of the arts, reclaiming the urban and questioning the impact of art and cultural interventions for a city/state/country.

Tanzim Wahab is a curator and teacher. He is the chief curator at Bengal Foundation, Dhaka and his practice has been focused on the correspondences between alternative education and contextual art across South Asia. He has headed several curatorial research projects and exhibitions, including Breaking Ground: Modern Art in Transition – featuring works of the contextual modernists of Bangladesh, and Subtext – a pseudo-reading room in white cube examining the symbiosis of text-based-art and art-based-text.  Tanzim was the vice-principal of Pathshala South Asian Media Institute and curator of Chobi Mela Photography Festival, Dhaka at the editions of 2013, 2015, 2017 and 2019. He has been a fellow of several programs, including Art for Social Change, USA and Art Think South Asia (ATSA), India among others. Tanzim is currently a lecturer at Pathshala South Asian Media Institute.

Sathish Kumar, born (1986) and brought up in Kanchipuram, India. A large part of my school vacations was spent at my uncle’s photo studio which became an inspiration for me to pursue photography. I got a point and shoot film camera from my uncle as a gift which I always carried around to school picnics, cricket grounds shooting my friends and everything around. With photography, I want to record my everyday existence, of all encounters and journeys to create an expression of myself, of my life, of the world around. Currently, I am working as a freelance photographer in Chennai, India.
Posted on 01.03.2021
  • Institutional partners

    • République Française
    • Région Provence Alpes Côté d'Azur
    • Département des Bouches du Rhône
    • Arles
    • Le Centre des monuments nationaux est heureux de soutenir les Rencontres de la Photographie d’Arles en accueillant des expositions dans l’abbaye de Montmajour
  • Main partners

    • Fondation LUMA
    • BMW
    • SNCF
    • Pernot Ricard
    • Kering
  • Media partners

    • Arte
    • Lci
    • Konbini
    • Le Point
    • Madame Figaro
    • France Culture