ON 17 AUGUST 2010, over a rambling champagne brunch at Daniell’s Tavern at The Imperial hotel in Delhi, “India’s answer to the Turner Prize” was announced.
Envisioned and realised by Martin da Costa, CEO of the Indian luxury events company Seventy EMG, the Skoda Prize for Indian Contemporary Art was born after close to ten years in incubation. Da Costa had attended the Turner Prize exhibition in 1999, featuring the contemporary artists shortlisted for that year’s award in London, and, drawn by the euphoria generated by the event that year—with nominee Tracey Emin’s exhibit My Bed rousing people awake—he’d begun to think about a similar initiative in India. “The Skoda Prize for Indian Contemporary Art was designed and developed as our deliberate attempt to create one of the world’s great art prizes,” da Costa said in his mission statement. “It is our ambition to have ‘The Skoda’ mentioned in the same breath as ‘The Turner’ one day.”
At Rs 1 million, the Skoda Prize offered just under half of Turner’s top prize of GBP 25,000, which, given the relative age of the Indian contemporary art market, was a substantial figure. For Skoda Auto India, there was “nothing but goodwill and the joy of art” behind their sponsorship, as Thomas Kuehl, the company’s director of sales and marketing, said at the launch. After 10 years of existence in the Indian auto market, they wanted to give back to Indian society.