Some hits, some misses

Visitors at Delhi Art Gallery booth. Photo: special arrangement   | Photo Credit: 05dmc fair1

India Art Fair (IAF), the event that transforms the Capital into an art hub in the freezing months of January and February came to a close on February 1st. In its seventh edition, the fair — one of the biggest art affairs in the country — featured 1,100 artists, 3500 works and 85 galleries in its four-day outing at NSIC Grounds in Okhla. Let’s get a sense of what clicked and what didn’t, this year.

Bizarre wasn’t in

Unlike earlier editions, the fair was clearly devoid of gimmicky and bizarre works. They were there but fewer in number. So, was the focus on quality this time? Can’t say. Some gallery booths with the kind of art they had displayed, were far from it.

The appointment of Girish Shahane as the artistic director is a well-meaning step in this direction and its results reflected in the Speakers’ Forum that boasted speakers like Hoor Al Qasimi, President and Director of the Sharjah Arts Foundation, British artist Jeremy Deller, Julian Stallabrass, writer, photographer, curator and professor of Art History at The Courtauld Institute of Art, London, Jitish Kallat, Artistic Director of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2014, Salima Hashmi, Dean, School of Visual Arts and Design, Beaconhouse National University, Lahore etc.

Absence of major international galleries

Though there were galleries from the UK, USA, France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, but major names like Lisson, Hauser and Wirth, White Cube haven’t made appearances for sometime now. Amongst the biggest galleries that were there were Gallery Continua of Italy and New York-based Aicon. But IAF would have you believe that there is nothing amiss as the focus is on the region. There was a stress on Pakistan with a panel dedicated to the art from the country. Gallery Art Chowk from Karachi had also set up a booth in the fair.

Outdoor projects

Among the few outdoor projects featured in this section were by Veer Munshi, Francesco Clemente and street artist Daku.

“Serenity of Desolation”, a life-size wooden replica of a typical Kashmiri house by Veer Munshi, lay toppled at the fair’s entrance reminding the visitors of the floods that ravaged Jammu and Kashmir last year, Clemente’s tent installation “Taking Refuge” had its interiors painted with Buddhist iconography whereas the exteriors bore colourful applique work with gold embroidery. In the space between the main parking and the exhibition area, Daku had etched onto about 100 metre of the road the repeated slogan “This is commissioned vandalism”.

Materials on display

Amongst such diversity it’s difficult to pick a couple but still Rahul Kumar’s installation “Circle Uncircled” –– comprising 101 ceramic plates of different sizes and colours –– shone through. Supported by Gallery Alternatives and India Foundation for the Arts, it was a 24x10 ft ceramic installation.

Azerbaijani artist Faig Ahmed’s carpets were also unique. Called “Shapeless”, Ahmed uses the traditional household object like carpet in his art, redefining the object and exploring the language.

Amongst the classics

Kolkata’s Akar Prakar had done a sort of mini-retrospective of Ganesh Haloi which stood out, so did the solo of Nilima Sheikh by Gallery Espace. In an interesting layout, Vadehra Art Gallery had created a little room filled with some works by master artist M.F. Husain. A cloth canvas work of Husain was stretched across the length and breadth of this room which also had a video showing some rare footage of the artist. Delhi Art Gallery’s booth evoked the ambience of a museum tracing the history of modern art. There were walk-throughs, audio-aids etc. Gallerie Ganesha had brought a rare untitled watercolour, almost 100-year-old, by artist M.K. Parandekar

Food court

In a bid to take the experiential aspect of the fair to a different level, this year the list of restaurants at the fair went on to include high-end spaces like Hungry Monkey, rooftop lounge bar, cigar lounge. While it was appreciated by some, a few were critical of the idea questioning the presence of so many restaurants in an art fair. They thought it brought on more chaos.

Visitors and sales

More than 80,000 visitors attended this edition of the fair and IAF claims sales 25 per cent stronger than the 2014 edition with six sell-out booths. The figures according to IAF indicate that the top two per cent of collectors spent over Rs.30 crores collectively.

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Printable version | Dec 1, 2021 10:44:51 AM |

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