In ‘Sculpture’ on the Beach, this year’s newly introduced section at Art Dubai, Delhi-based Vibha Galhotra presented a sculpture that talked of a borderless world

It is a windy day today. Vibha Galhotra is concerned about her sculpture installed at the beach in Madinat Jumeirah, Dubai. It is going to rain today but her sculpture is covered and it will be safe, the staff tells her and the artist heaves a sigh of relief.

Delhi-based artist Vibha Galhotra’s sculpture ‘Orbis Unum’ was shown as part of Sculpture on the Beach, a newly curated section at this year’s edition of Art Dubai, which concluded on March 23rd. The sculpture was presented by Exhibit 320 art gallery of Delhi.

While Vibha’s works have shown at this forum earlier, it is the first time the artist went to the fair. And she is rather impressed. “I think I want to go back because one, it was organised very well. Then there were good discussions. One could also go and see the Sharjah Biennale...there was so much happening around,” says the artist.

Preoccupied with ecology, Vibha took her discourse forward with the sculptural installation at Art Dubai. The wooden panels affixed to the wall bore a series of de-coloured flags of every nation in the world. In a corner lay three mounds of earth from Italy, India and Dubai. The flags had the national symbol embroidered on them. “The work was done during a residency in Italy so I worked with a designer of Robert Cavalli fashion house on the fabric, but the embroidery was done in India. So it was very interesting how things came together,” she says.

The artist is dealing with the idea of one world without any boundaries in this piece. “I was going to New York from Italy and it was just before hurricane Sandy. Disasters don’t see any boundaries. If nature decides to alter something somewhere it will, and we can’t do anything about it. So, the responsibility of changing ecology lies with everybody — not just with developing or the developed nations. We all as human beings are responsible for what’s happening to the earth.”

By taking the colour out of the flags, Vibha seeks to blur the boundaries and depict everybody as one. “Colours are for the military, but I am talking about the boundary-less world. With these mounds of earth I am trying to reinforce that. Be it Italy, India or Dubai, the colour might vary, the quality may vary, but the function remains the same. It is after all the same earth everywhere. And I know it is illegal to bring it (earth from a foreign country), but my Horlicks bottles came to the rescue,” she chuckles.

Vibha exhibits a lot outside the country and Art Dubai, according to her, is a good platform. “No doubt there is more of middle-eastern art here but it has lot of interesting aspects. The Abraaj Foundation Award was quite wonderful. And I saw lot of conceptual art. People who were here last year too told me that there is less blingy art this year.”

Indian presence at the fair

While last year galleries like Chemould Presscott Road of Mumbai, Experimenter Kolkata, Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke of Mumbai, Seven Art Limited of New Delhi and Grosvenor Vadehra London/New Delhi participated, Tasveer of Bangalore, Exhibit 320 of Delhi, Experimenter of Kolkata, and Grosvenor Vadehra were the participants this year. Among foreign galleries showing Indian artists were Aicon gallery of London and New York and Galerie Krinzinger which showed Mumbai-based contemporary artist Shilpa Gupta and Bangalore-based Sudershan Shetty respectively.

Art historian Savita Apte, one of the directors of Art Dubai, says Indian art represented this year was more mature. “With every passing year the involvement with India is only going deeper. I am an Indian and I have been associated with the fair right from the beginning so there is a sort of Indian DNA to the fair. We got an Indian sponsor, Avid Learning, to sponsor the Hatch, a space for film screenings and artists’ talks. Even the new section ‘Sculpture on the Beach’ has Vibha Galhotra’s work. And I like the way it creates a dialogue with the African artist Amahiguéré Dolo’s work.”