Even amidst times of financial austerity, India’s vibrant art scene has been thriving. Last month’s art fair, held in New Delhi, only confirmed this. bazaar brings you a complete lowdown on the many flavors of the India Art Fair, the largest art extravaganza in South Asia.
Propelling the art scene in New Delhi, India Art Fair, India’s premier modern and contemporary art fair, took place February 1-3. The three- day fair featured an international roster of over 103 exhibitors from 23 countries and confirmed the arrival of India as an international art hub.
From blue-chip artists Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Jamini Roy, and MF Husain to the art stars of today such as Damien Hirst, Paresh Maity, Subodh Gupta, and Youssef Nabil, the fair was a complete art experience with it’s diverse array of artworks, sculpture, photography and installations.
The fair has grown over the last four editions attracting some of the best galleries in the world, along with curators, collectors and critics from far and wide.
The mood was upbeat and the visitors to the fair were delighted to find prime examples of works by both legendary and newly discovered artists. A number of countries like Brazil, Israel, Korea, Turkey and Russia made their debut. The fair attracted big names from the international art scene, as well as buyers from around the world. A number of galleries brought high value works. Other museums like The Tate and The Guggenheim were also represented at the fair. However, major western galleries like White Cube, Lisson and Hauser, and Wirth were absent.
Most galleries participating in the fair reported strong sales and an overall positive experience. Among the early sales were works by Sri Lankan contemporary female artist, Anoli Perera represented by Shrine Gallery. Aicon Gallery New York City, sold a piece by Modernist S. H. Raza, for $200,000 to a private collector based in the U.S. on the preview day of the fair itself.
Works by Bharti Kher and her husband, Subodh Gupta, created quite a buzz. Subodh Gupta, represented by Nature Morte, New Delhi, as usual delighted the visitors with his signature stainless steel pots and pans installation titled Family Portrait. His works put him at the forefront of a new generation of artists in India.
Jaipur based Artchill gallery reported a good response, and sold more than 10 Contemporary 3D Art Books by artist Akash Choyal, which were critically and commercially well received.
Works of Indian artists, Jitish Kallat, and Atul Dodiya received a lot of appreciation from the visitors. Kallat’s installation of Covering Letter, a historic letter written by Mahatma Gandhi to Adolf Hitler in 1939, truly enlightened and entertained the fair goers.
Riding a popularity wave was Scream Gallery from London. Participating in the fair for the first time, it kicked off to a good start with Thai artist Pakpoom Silaphan, who creates intriguing pop art that uses many of its devices (consumerism, logos, etc.) but also adds elements of history.
Silaphan gleefully juxtaposes iconic figures like Gandhi to Frida Kahlo to Dali and Obama on old metal signs and wooden Pepsi and Coca-Cola crates. His work Triple Gandhi on Pepsi, mixed media on vintage metal signs was a one of the big hits at the fair. Scream Gallery is owned by Jamie Wood, an avid art collector and son of Ronnie Wood (of the Rolling Stones fame).
However, stealing the limelight was Frankfurt-based Die Galerie, which had on view the sublime works of modern masters like Pablo Picasso, Andre Masson, Sam Francis and Salvador Dali.
Meanwhile, gallery representative from New York-based Jack Shainman gallery said that they were very proud of the off beat works they were presenting, including African-American artist Radcliffe Bailey’s paintings on the history of migration, and works by Delhi-based artist Vibha Galhotra.
Some other highlights at the fair were work by Marina Abramovic, Extasy II, Diptych, fine art pigment (Galerie Krinzinger, Austria) and by Chinese artist Ye Hongxing (Scream Gallery, London). Beijing based Ye Hongxing, incorporates the religious symbols– Mandala or ‘circles’ in her work, with application of colorful stickers.
A central point of attraction was The Paul Stopper Gallery of London that brought the crowd pleasers Damien Hirst and fashion photographer David Bailey. Hirst’s familiar Magnificent Cold Gold Sunset Head, 2011, Household on gloss on plastic skull and The Souls Limited Edition Book, 2011– signed and numbered by Hirst were also on view.
The Middle East region was also quite well represented. Dubai’s 1×1 Art Gallery showcased Christiana De March, whose sculpture titled Inshallah, embroidery on fly swatters, drew a lot of curious visitors.
Pakistani artist Cyra Ali expanded the definition of art with her fabric, polyester filling and wire
Sculptures- Specimen (Ed of 6) of shapely legs entwined together and stitched to cloth pieces. According to the artist, her work engages the patriarchal notions of trying to tame a woman and the act of repressing her sexuality.
Some unconventional works by Pakistani artists Adeela Suleman and Rubi Chishti were well received at the fair. Adeela Suleiman’s Falling Down Under, 2012, steel and iron sculpture, where autobiographical elements are interwoven with symbols in her bas-relief.
Chishti, in her evocative piece titled Whole (Reinforced readymade coat, mixed-media on paper, 2012, Vadhera Gallery), debates the notions of permanence and change in society. She says in her artist statement, “I have my own history with this substance ‘fabric’, my work is rooted in common feminine craft and it is the fusion of instinct, ability and profound life experiences.”
Galerie Daniel Besseiche exhibited the works of up and coming Paris based Indian artist Shhiv Singh. His artwork and installations enthralled a number of visitors to the booth.
In a striking departure that seemed to both challenge and renew the definition of art, The Samdani Art Foundation from Bangladesh exhibited works by artists Tayeba Begum Lipi, Ayesha Sultana, Mohammad Wahiduzzaman. In addition to one of the commissioned art projects at the fair by Mahbubur Rahman entitled Replacement, which incorporated leather used from army boots, cow hide, wood, iron and car accessories.
My Daughter’s Cot, a baby crib made of stainless steel razor blades, by Tayeba Begum Lipi, drew in a lot of curious onlookers.
The Speakers Forum this year had a very strong line-up of art experts from around the world. Some top speakers included: Chus Martinez (Chief Curator, El Museo del Barrio, New York City), Akiko Miki (Senior curator, Palais de Tokyo, Paris), Amin Jaffer (International Director of Asian Art, Christie’s), Barbara London (Curator, Video and Performance Art, MoMA, New York), and Robert Storr (Dean, Yale School of Art).
“The focus of the art fair, given the present business environment particularly in the art sector, is on developing new audiences, and initiating new energy in the Indian art market,” said Neha Kirpal, Founding Director of India Art Fair.
Christie’s was the auction house partner for India Art Fair 2013. India Art Fair 2013 was indeed a testimony to India’s growing clout in the international arts arena.
Missed this fair? Don’t worry, book your tickets to New Delhi for next year. The India Art Fair is back with a bang in 2014. In the meantime, check out Art Basel to be held in Hong Kong from May 23 to 26.
Images courtesy of participating galleries.