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India Art Fair: a visitor’s primer

Here are a few things that should be on your radar at this year's India Art Fair

‘Untitled’ (nails, aluminium,copper, paint on burnt wood) by Piraji Sagara. Photo courtesy: Akara Art
‘Untitled’ (nails, aluminium,copper, paint on burnt wood) by Piraji Sagara. Photo courtesy: Akara Art

For nearly a decade now, the four-day India Art Fair, which opened on 9 February, has kick-started the capital’s cultural calendar. It’s now into its 10th edition, and the question on everyone’s mind is, “What’s different this year?" For one, it has a new director in Jagdip Jagpal. This has led to a rejuvenated programme, with an exciting mix of rare works, talks, live events, walks, even a special children’s zone. And while seventy-eight galleries from across the globe are presenting their best works, here are a few of the things that you cannot miss:

The New Art projects

Look out for the brand-new Art Projects space which features a series of large-scale installations. It’s quite likely to become one of the fair’s most visited and “Instagrammed" sites. Keep a look out for Verso-Recto-Recto-Verso, an installation by Reena Saini Kallat which presents preambles of the constitutions of India and Pakistan on fabric scrolls, using a tie-and-dye process. Shilpa Gupta’s interactive video projection, Shadow 3, has been evolving since 2007 and explores the artist’s effort to create a dynamic space between art and a wider audience. G. Ravinder Reddy extends his inquiry of the human form with the series Objects Of Desire. The sculptures prompt the viewer to question set notions of beauty, morality and propriety. Then there’s Madhvi Subrahmanian’s installation Germination, which features handmade stoneware cones. In it, Subrahmanian explores distance markers through history—from old milestones to the plastic safety cones that direct vehicular traffic today.

spotlight on Asia

The fair aims to present a snapshot of the best in global contemporary art today, with a spotlight on South Asian galleries. Apart from this, watch out for works from other parts of the continent. One work to watch out for is 1000 Attempts At A Reconciliation, at the projects space, by South Korean artist Timothy Hyunsoo Lee—it is being brought to the fair by the Sabrina Amrani Gallery from Madrid. In this work, the artist has transferred 1,000 sheets of 24-carat gold leaf on to a blue surface to symbolize a story from his childhood—that folding a thousand paper cranes allows an individual to realize one’s wish. Art Space Pool, a Seoul-based non-profit, will introduce a selection of Korean women artists like Bomin Kim and Jang Pa. They use traditional mediums such as Oriental painting, oils and sculpture to talk about feminist issues and social biases. One could also attend a special walk through the fair between February 10-12. Titled Contemporary Icons, this walk will take viewers through key figures in the recent art history of the subcontinent and their impact on the global art world.

A Rare Amrita Sher-gil sculpture

One of the most exciting works at the fair is the rare relief sculpture, painted in black and realistically modelled, by Amrita Sher-Gil depicting plaster-of-Paris tigers. This is being shown by DAG as part of its curated exhibition, Navratna: Nine Gems. According to Kishore Singh, head (publications and exhibitions) at the gallery, this work is from the private collection of Sher-Gil’s paternal family and has never been shown to the public before. It is believed that Sher-Gil created just two relief sculptures during her life—of a tiger and an elephant—and there’s no information about the whereabouts of the latter.

A sculpture by Thota Vaikuntam.

The great gallery party

Apart from the events at the NSIC Exhibition Grounds in Okhla, the India Art Fair also ties up with galleries to host a series of collateral art events at venues across the Capital. Don’t miss the Lado Sarai Art Night, where contemporary galleries located within the medieval urban village are curating unique art soirees. The highlight here is the exhibition at the Latitude 28 art gallery, featuring works by Kerala- based artist C. Bhagyanath who depicts different aspects of the changing urban environment and Kolkata-born artist Piyali Ghosh’s surreal paintings.

The Vadehra Art Gallery is hosting a series of exhibitions at its two gallery spaces as well as other venues (like Bikaner House), including Riyas Komu’s solo exhibit, Holy Shiver, which is a response to a state in deliberate conflict with its founding principles and Anju Dodiya’s The Air Is A Mill Of Hooks, in which she experiments with paintings rendered on shaped mattresses, fabric combines and unbleached cotton. Then there is New York-based artist Zarina Hashmi’s Weaving Darkness And Silence at Gallery Espace, in which she addresses themes of home, displacement, borders and memory.

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