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Art on a budget

As the India Art fair 2020 gets going, Lounge brings you a range of works, from paintings by modern masters to installations by emerging artists, that you can buy for under 2 lakhs

‘In Between The Densities’, double exposure
‘In Between The Densities’, double exposure

A forthcoming report by Artery India—an art intelligence and sales advisory firm—promises some interesting insights. There is now a growing appetite for affordable art, or “entry level assets" as they are called in the art market, priced at 1-2 lakh. “We are still a young collecting nation," says Arvind Vijaymohan, chief executive, Artery India

No wonder, then, that one is seeing a wave of new collectors—in their 30s, or even younger—who haven’t yet taken a position in their collecting style but aspire to follow on the path of their more evolved, artistically inclined collectors. “Their natural point of initiation to the art market lies in this bracket, upwards of 1 lakh, but usually not exceeding 5 lakh in the early run," says Vijaymohan. This is also a reflection of the manner in which the financial market is playing out. There is a sense of weariness, with traditional assets not doing very well. “So people are looking at other avenues, which allow them to take a chance but not burn their fingers," adds Vijaymohan.

Whether or not these new collectors continue in their exploration of the art market will define the trajectory of this segment in the years to come—but that is for another day. Meanwhile, Lounge takes a deep dive into this category to see the vibrant tapestry of artists and mediums populating it, the only caveat being that these practitioners should have at least had one gallery show in the recent past. On offer are hybrid drawings, kinetic installations, paper sculptures, new media, photographs and more. A lot of art in this category harks back to the Indian miniature tradition, where the everyday and the fantastical come together. This is not art for art’s sake; rather, these works are informed by issues of displacement, climate crisis, memory and other socio-political urgencies. According to Roshini Vadehra of Vadehra Art Gallery, many of the artists are now pushing themselves to explore these issues in different mediums. “There is a sense of urgency in their works," she adds.

Shailesh BR (Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi)

The artist decodes the functionality of everyday objects and rituals. His work is playful, while looking at the symbolic meanings of religious practices. “Shailesh is not afraid to explore other mediums of sculpture and kinetic installations. He is able to explore serious subjects in a playful manner—which makes his work appealing to younger audiences," says Roshini Vadehra of the Vadehra Art Gallery. Eclipse, water colour, ink, acrylic, pencil, collage on old paper (2019)

Utkarsh Makwana (Akara Art, Mumbai)

With his first solo held in August 2019, the artist’s practice draws reference from miniature traditions and everyday life. He creates layered narratives, depicting a fantastical story, which gradually reveals itself as the eye moves across the work. “The reason I use miniatures is because it allows me to put a larger scene in a small scale work. I try to create a paracosmic world—a detailed world which is a mixture of one’s imagination and daily life," he says. Untitled (set of four), watercolour, dry pigment, gouache and ink on paper (2018)

Amol Patil (Metta Contemporary, Navi Mumbai)

The artist’s works are heavily influenced by the writings of his grandfather, a poet in the colonial era, and his father, a playwright and civic labourer in Mumbai. “My father shifted to Mumbai and started working for the city’s municipality. At the same time, he scripted absurdist plays in Marathi about the migrant mill and sanitation workers in the city. Caste played a huge role in his writings," says Patil. The artist constantly refers to his father’s scripts for his performance art—at the India Art Fair last year, he invited 10-15 sweepers and those engaged in seemingly menial jobs to blow soap bubbles in the space. “The bubbles may touch others, some people might interact with them in a playful manner while others might dislike them. It addresses the ideas of untouchability and hierarchy," Patil had said last year. The artist also creates objects, drawings and kinetic sculptures, some of which he will be showing at the Yokohama Triennale in Japan in July. “For this project, I am looking at the labour housing society in Mumbai’s Mahul area, where the inhabitants are regularly exposed to harmful gases and chemicals, and develop skin ailments as a result of that," he adds. Gaze Under Your Skin, object


(Nine Fish Art Gallery, Mumbai)

The artist recently showcased an exhibition, Not Allowed, in Mumbai, which started from the idea of not being allowed to shoot in certain spaces. Husain, the grandson of M.F. Husain, started off with street photography and moved towards landscapes. “It made me realize that there are spaces which are not supposed to be open to urbanization. But it is happening anyway," he says. In his photographs, Husain wants to bring out the experience of the journey and not just the beauty of the landscape. “I veer towards expressionism, in that sense," says Husain, who assisted his grandfather on the set of the film Gaja Gamini. In some of his work, he creates images with double exposure and prints them on glass. “That gives depth to the visuals," he adds. ‘In Between The Densities’, double exposure

Adip Dutta tries to create an alternative viewing of sites of construction and tools of labour
Adip Dutta tries to create an alternative viewing of sites of construction and tools of labour


(Experimenter, Kolkata)

Using safety nets, iron rods and metal wires, Dutta tries to create an alternative viewing of sites of construction and tools of labour. In his ink works and sculptures, he turns everyday mundane objects into works of art. ‘Woven Shadows II’, ink and brush on paper (2019-20)


(Experimenter, Kolkata)

In his ongoing body of work, Where The Birds Never Sing, the photographer documents the Marichjhapi massacre, the forceful eviction of, and violence against, Bangladeshi refugees from the Marichjhapi island in the Sunderbans,West Bengal, in 1979. Like his previous work on the jatras, this series too finds Bose re-enacting memories of survivors, as little written record exists of the incident. ‘Where The Birds Never Sing’ (2017-20)

‘Sharmila Tagore’, (1969- 2012), inkjet print on archival paper
‘Sharmila Tagore’, (1969- 2012), inkjet print on archival paper


(DAG, Delhi, Mumbai and New York)

One might assume it is difficult to buy works by modern masters and veteran artists in this bracket, but much to the collector’s delight, that is not true. According to Kishore Singh, head (exhibitions and publications), DAG, there is a fair bit of art in this bandwidth, including sketches and drawings by F.N. Souza and M.F. Husain and small drawings and paintings by artists such as Gopal Ghose or Gogi Saroj Pal. One can also delve into the universe of printmakers, including Haren Das, or edition works by photographer Nemai Ghosh. ‘Sharmila Tagore’, (1969- 2012), inkjet print on archival paper


(Gallery Espace, Delhi)

His paintings are rooted in the simple visual grammar of line, colour, form and composition, with an interplay between positive and negative spaces.“The containers and cabinets in the frame become repositories of secrets, and each whisper a moment of history. And then, I vacate that history by removing the obvious references," says Samanta. In his new work, he glues pages of old tomes and layers them with rice paper. Samanta then excavates shapes out of that. “The final object is a book only in its covers, which, when opened, reveal another universe within them," he adds. ‘Polestar’, gouache on Nepalese handmade paper (2017)


(Independent photographer,

The Delhi-based photographer is a visual storyteller of communities and cultures. Twenty years ago, she shifted gear, focusing on her passion for photography and writing. She found herself in Bhutan, traversing its length and breadth for over five years, armed with a medium-format camera and black and white film. “I was drawn to the simplicity and strength of the semi-nomadic tribes in remote villages. I always carried my diaries along, and I had the opportunity to not only photograph their lives but also inhabit their minds," she says. In 2006, she met the Dalai Lama, who told her that she could help the Tibetan community in India as a photographer. That led to the Majnu Ka Tilla Diaries project. Chopra spent five years in close contact with the Tibetan community in a refugee colony in Delhi. “The members of the Tibetan community would write themselves in the diaries and I would then stick a Polaroid photo on the facing page," says Chopra, whose project was part of a group exhibition, Crossing Lines, Constructing Home: Displacement And Belonging In Contemporary Art, at the Harvard Art Museums in 2019-20.

‘Dashavtaar’, mixed media on canvas with 24k gold and silver leaf (2016)
‘Dashavtaar’, mixed media on canvas with 24k gold and silver leaf (2016)


(Tao Art Gallery, Mumbai)

For 35 years, the idea of the feminine has informed the artist’s practice. She recently did a show on Shakti and the 64 yoginis, in which she depicted the feminine as the purest form of energy, or the supreme consciousness. As her imagery changes form, she moves from acrylic on canvas to sculptures in bronze, wood and fibreglass. “I am working with the weavers of Panipat to render my narratives in thread," adds Kohli. ‘Dashavtaar’, mixed media on canvas with 24k gold and silver leaf (2016)

Primate Interactions’, watercolour, graphite, pencil colour, casein, collage on paper (2019)
Primate Interactions’, watercolour, graphite, pencil colour, casein, collage on paper (2019)


(Vadehra Art Gallery, Delhi)

Saha has a very unusual practice—she draws on myths and legends and renders her visuals in the Company style of paintings. The gallery’s director, Roshini Vadehra, has admired her work for years. “Her paintings, though pleasing in terms of colour and form, evoke a strange sense of awe when looked at closely. She is not afraid of working in large scale, even with her detailed and laborious style of working. She is definitely an artist to look out for," she says. ‘Primate Interactions’, watercolour, graphite, pencil colour, casein, collage on paper (2019)


(Emami Art, Kolkata Centre for Creativity, Kolkata)

The Kolkata-based artist’s work features delightful tableaux from everyday life. She is inspired by the Indian miniature tradition in the detailing and figuration. “My subjects hail from the lower middle class, and I tend to focus more on the female figure," she says. One particular work shows people clustered under an umbrella. “One day, it was raining heavily and I saw a lot of people clustered within one shack. For that moment, that grouping felt like family," she says. ‘Shelter’, gouache on Nepali paper (2018)

‘Market’, acrylic on canvas
‘Market’, acrylic on canvas


(KYNKYNY, Bengaluru)

The artist draws references from his immediate environment. This particular work is a collage of the various scenes from his local market. “It is a space I grew up observing. My childhood perception of the market was altered to a considerable degree as I matured as an artist," says Moitra. To him, the space has come to represent more than a place for trade; rather, he bases his narratives on the relationships within the community there. ‘Market’, acrylic on canvas


(Art & Soul gallery, Mumbai)

Born in Akola, Vidarbha, Deshmukh is a contemporary conceptual artist. In a span of 30 years, he has created works that are a cross between figuration and symbolic abstraction. He chooses to accentuate the lyrical and meditative elements of an object, often gravitating towards the line and simple colours. Untitled, mixed media on canvas (2011)


(Gallery Art Motif, Delhi)

The artist’s work is about decoding the characteristics of living situations. “Personal associations and identities become part of a larger narrative about the conflict and contradictions of urban living," says Mala Aneja of Gallery Art Motif. Vichitra draws imagery from aerial mapping, the urban sprawl, constructed spaces, maps and more. “She likes to construct-deconstruct, locate-dislocate, and peel layers in her work," adds Aneja. ‘A Space To Which We Belong’, high fire glaze on stoneware and porcelain


(CIMA, Kolkata)

Born in Jaipur in 1980, Soni works with a range of media, but the heritage of Rajasthan informs the core of his sensibility. “The influence of the miniature tradition is palpable in his style," says Rakhi Sarkar, director of the gallery, “though he combines it with a distinctly contemporary approach." Untitled, acrylic on canvas (2018)

‘A Piece Of Nothing—Some Lines With Life And Time’, Nepali paper(2017-19)
‘A Piece Of Nothing—Some Lines With Life And Time’, Nepali paper(2017-19)


(CIMA, Kolkata)

Coming from Arnaha, a village on the Bihar-Nepal border, Kushwaha’s artistic journey almost follows a textbook template: repeated failures in school, followed by an odd job, a series of fortuitous turns that took him to art college, finally won him the CIMA award, an initiative to recognize young emerging artists, in 2017. Invested in the tactility of media, his process is labour- and time-intensive, involving cutting strips of paper and weaving them to create three-dimensional textured objects. ‘A Piece Of NothingSome Lines With Life And Time’, Nepali paper(2017-19)


(Galerie 88, Kolkata)

Born in 1918, the late Paritosh Sen is among the masters of modern Indian art, especially in Bengal, where his illustrious contemporaries included Ramkinkar Baij and Prodosh Dasgupta. In 1949, he went to study in Europe and was profoundly influenced by the wave of avant-garde that was sweeping the art world. Like Pablo Picasso, he drew intimate, often acerbic, self-portraits, drawn from the people and life around him in his home in Kolkata. His eye for the tragic and absurd remained ever alert, even months before his death at the age of 90 in 2008. ‘The Wonderer’, acrylic on paper board (2006)


(Nature Morte, Delhi)

Sikka features among the most distinguished photographers in contemporary India. Starting as a fashion designer, he moved to fashion photography before reinventing himself as a conceptually rigorous practitioner of the form. In a body of work titled The Sapper, where this work comes from, he explores his relationship with his father, an army man who shaped his family’s dynamics. Straddling the private and the public while pushing aesthetic boundaries, Sikka creates a delicate montage. ‘Sapper 20’, Photo Rag 308 paper with wooden frame(2019)


(Nature Morte, Delhi)

Olivia Fraser’s relationship with India can be traced to her Scottish ancestors, the brothers William and James Fraser, connoisseurs of art who lived in India between 1801-35. But it was in the 1980s, when she travelled to the country to meet her future husband, the historian William Dalrymple, that the artist encountered a whole new style of painting. In spite of her initial training in the Western academic style, Fraser apprenticed herself to the atelier of a master-painter in Jaipur. She learnt the intricacies of miniature painting, including making brushes with squirrel hair and colours with natural substances. ‘Red Dawn’, screenprint on 410gsm Somerset tub-size paper(2012)


(Latitude 28, Delhi)

The Vadodara-based artist interrogates the realities of climate change and one of its most important outcomes—migration. Das is inspired by dakjee doll-making, which she learnt during a residency in Korea. She shifted from oil to paper sculptures to evoke the fragility of the condition of climate change refugees.

“In my hometown of Silchar in Assam, countless people are displaced after floods. They end up in temporary shelters. I have been in Baroda for the past eight years and the flood there last year evoked similar memories and anxiety," she says. She washes and dyes the paper, crumples it and uses it like cloth. Untitled, mixed media with Hanji paper (2019)

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