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Preview: India Art Fair 2017

From pieces by icons of modern Indian art to a new curated space for 'vernacular' art traditions, there's something for everyone

F.N. Souza’s ‘Man And Woman Laughing’ (left); and Tayeba Begum Lipi’s ‘The Swing’.
F.N. Souza’s ‘Man And Woman Laughing’ (left); and Tayeba Begum Lipi’s ‘The Swing’.

The four-day India Art Fair starting 2 February in Delhi will be the fair’s ninth iteration and will see the return of Platform, the segment focused on art from South Asian countries. This means that you will be able to view work from the galleries of neighbouring countries, like the Britto Arts Trust from Dhaka, the Nepal Art Council from Kathmandu, and the Theertha International Artists’ Collective from Colombo.

Some of these galleries will also be exhibiting in the main gallery space. For instance, the Britto Arts Trust will bring to the fair a community art project from 2014 called No Man’s Land, on which it had collaborated with the West Bengal-based non-governmental organization, Shelter Promotion Council. As part of this, villagers from Bholaganj in India and Puran Bholaganj in Bangladesh could meet one another in the stretch of No Man’s Land, without the sanction of visas or passports. The idea was to shape and strengthen the historical and socio-cultural contexts that govern both countries. A documentation of this project’s execution, including video and sound art, will be shown in an indoor booth of the fair’s main gallery.

A new space, curated by Annapurna Garimella, will be titled Vernacular In Flux. It will showcase Gond and Madhubani artists, and Mysore and Guruvayur painters and sculptors who have emerged with highly original works of art, practising within these traditions. Notable artists in this space include Jangarh Singh Shyam and Bhajju Shyam.

A piece from Sanjay Bhattacharya’s series ‘In Search Of Peace’ .

Art on Film, the film programme section introduced last year, will explore the intersection between visual art and film-making from the 1960s to the present day. This section will open with a 21-minute short, Events In A Cloud Chamber, one of India’s first experimental films, made in 1969 by Indian modern art pioneer Akbar Padamsee. It was lost, and there was no duplicate copy, so what will be screened is a remake by director Ashim Ahluwalia, in collaboration with the now 89-year-old Padamsee.

In the main gallery space, a work you shouldn’t miss is by another doyen of modern art, F.N. Souza’s Man And Woman Laughing, which went for Rs16.84 crore at a Saffronart auction in 2015. There’s also Joo Jae-Whan’s What Colour Is God’s Shit, an interesting mixed media collage of glass, wooden frame, paper and acrylic paint and Tayeba Begum Lipi’s The Swing. The artist’s trademark use of razor blades and stainless steel has a strong link to her growing-up years, when a child’s umbilical cord was cut with a razor blade. In contrast, Sanjay Bhattacharya’s series of oil paintings, In Search Of Peace, will showcase visuals that evoke a feeling of calm. In short, there is something for everyone.

Since the fair’s first iteration in 2008, the number of visitors rose from 10,000 then to up to 100,000 visitors in 2016. This time, the fair will have 72 exhibitor booths from countries in South Asia, West Asia and Europe, as well as the US.

The fair will also host Speakers’ Forum sessions where you can hear academic debates and valuable insight from art curators, professionals and artists. The list of speakers includes Richard Armstrong, the director of the Solomon R Guggenheim Museum in New York; Shireen Gandhy, the director of Chemould Prescott Road; Manuel Rabaté, the director of the Louvre Abu Dhabi; Roshini Vadehra, Vadehra Art Gallery director; Simon Rein, the program manager of Google Arts & Culture; Mark Rappolt, the editor-in-chief of ArtReview; and artists Bhajju Shyam and Bani Abidi.

The India Art Fair will be held from 2-5 February at the NSIC Grounds, Okhla, Delhi. For more details and the full schedule, visit For tickets, visit

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