Why this edition of the India Art Fair might be its most exciting yet
From the headlining artists, including the iconic Chinese artist-activist, Ai Weiwei, and Icelandic-Danish artist, Olafur Eliasson, to performance art interventions by Mithu Sen, Yasmin Jahan Nupur and the freshly-instituted “Young Collectors’ Programme”, there’s a lot that’s shaking up the India Art Fair 2019. A few themes spill over from last year too, like having 70 per cent of the space reserved for Indian galleries, and the rest for the ones from abroad. With quality trumping quantity, the list of exhibitors has witnessed a slight cut—from 78 in 2018 to 75 this year. One will also see a host of international galleries make their debut this year, including Neugerriemschneider from Berlin and the Sokyo Gallery, Kyoto. Here are six reasons why you cannot miss IAF 2019.
Idris Khan’s ‘Influenced by Everything’ will be on exhibit at Gallery Isa at IAF, among others
The artworks across the fair, whether from international or Indian artists, are all responding to the critical issues of the times in their own unique ways. For instance, Ai Weiwei’s work, ‘Porcelain Vase (Journey)’ is inspired by the global refugee crisis, while Idris Khan, represented at the fair by Galerie Isa, continues his interaction between the past, present and future. Then there is Shanthamani Muddaiah (represented by Gallery Sumukha), who uses burnt bamboo, cane and paint in ‘Carbon Wave’ to question the theme of environmental catastrophes. One will also see Thomas Ruff come to India for the first time at the David Zwirner booth, with brand new work created using photographic negatives. “2019 is going to be a stormer. One of the highlights this year is the strong presence of South Asian female artists across the fair, ranging from young Delhi gallery, Anant Art’s solo show of Aisha Khalid’s bold geometric works in the Focus section, to Rekha Rodwittya’s contemporary portrayal of women at the Mumbai-based Sakshi Gallery,” says Jagdip Jagpal, director, India Art Fair.
Mithu Sen will be performing ‘100 Silent Ways’, a short lecture performance at IAF 2019
Jagpal has also brought in a strong performance art segment with artists such as Sahej Rahal, Amol Patil and Mithu Sen, among others. Sen will present ‘100 Silent Ways’ in the Forum space in garbled language, questioning the idea of a staged conversation, while Patil will put together a group performance with sweepers and others who are considered ‘menial job’ workers. “I am inviting 10 to 15 of the locals, who will be performing with me by blowing bubbles in the art fair space,” says Patil. “The bubbles blown by them will move across the space, touching others—some may interact with them in a playful manner, others might dislike them.” For him, this is an important message to highlight—that art is not limited to one kind of audience, but is open to all. Another performance to look forward to is Yasmin Jahan Nupur’s six-hour-long thought-provoking piece, which challenges the invisible boundaries that regulate human interaction. She will play with notions of gaze and unspoken communication through engagement with passers-by.
This edition of the Indian Art Fair will shine the spotlight on digital art
The Shalini Passi Art Foundation will be presenting a dedicated video art booth on-site that is curated by Dr Arshiya Lokhandwala, and titled ‘Conundrums: Video Art from India’. This will showcase significant video work by eight Southeast Asian artists such as Anita Dube’s ‘Kissa-e-Noor Mohammed’, Jitish Kallat’s ‘Forensic Trail of the Grand Banquet’, Sen’s ‘Icarus’, Pushpmala N’s ‘Rahstriy Kheer & Desiy Salad’, Ranbir Kaleka’s ‘Man with Cockerel-2’, Raqs Media Collective’s ‘Strikes at Time’, Sonia Khurana’s ‘Head-hand’ and Surekha’s ‘Line of Control’. Incidentally, ‘Kissa-e-Noor Mohammed’ is the only video work that Dube has ever done. “Conundrums presents some of the seminal and acclaimed works made by these artists, which have been showcased in some of the most significant museums worldwide,” says Passi. It is also in sync with the foundation’s focus on innovative and experimental work—which is why it is also supporting the MASH FICA award to highlight exceptional work in new media. The finalist and the winner for the inaugural edition of the award will be announced on the last day of the fair.
Prateek Raja will give a talk on Krishna Reddy’s legacy, among other similar discussions
Digital art will also form the subject of a critical discussion around commissioning, displaying, collecting and archiving this new medium by curator Rose Lejeune, Anurag Khanna, an avid collector, and Jean-Baptiste Joly, director of Akademie Schloss Solitude, who conceptualised the first virtual artists’ residency on Schloss-post.com. Several such discussions will form part of the Forum segment, designed as a platform to encourage opportunities for the younger generation. These include memorial talks on Krishna Reddy by Prateek Raja of Experimenter, and on Priya Ravish Mehra by Tunty Chauhan of Gallery Threshold. There is also one on David Hockney, led by his friend and curator Edith Devaney.
Pakhi Sen’s work will be available at StoreSKE
In the newly instituted space, one will get to see 11 art projects ranging from immersive experiences to large-scale sculptures by artists such as Baaraan Ijlal, Manisha Gera Baswani, Pinakin Patel and more. There is a concept store by Gallery SKE, which seeks to create newer ways of engagement between established artists and an uninitiated audience. The first edition of the StoreSKE was held in 2009, and it is being revived ten years later to bring a new generation of audience into a space, which is otherwise considered intimidating. This year, it will witness participation by 11 artists such as Sudarshan Shetty, Dia Mehhta Bhupal, Tara Kelton, Pakhi Sen and Rashmi Varma, among others. Another interesting project is Fair-un-Fair, which is being presented by the Foundation for Indian Contemporary Art and has been conceptualised by Shetty—it is an imposition of a fair within a fair. Shetty, who is collaborating with two other artists, Aradhana Seth and Ruchi Bakshi Sharma, mentions in a note, “While Aradhana will set up a photo booth with a scenography of a popular tourist place for people to get themselves photographed, Ruchi will run workshops for children to make toys with paper. I will set up a booth with small sculptures, which can be won by the fair visitors by throwing a ring over them.” A bookstore is also on the anvil, with CMYK and art book publishers Taschen exhibiting a curated set of books on visual arts, with signed and limited editions on offer as well. Keep an eye out for Thomas Laird’s Murals of Tibet—this art publication is on every collectors’ lust list.
New collectors will get to interact directly with the art and artists at IAF
The focus this year is also on giving people the opportunity to learn about art from the region, which is why the fair is launching the “Young Collectors’ Programme” specifically for people who are just getting interested in collecting art. The central element of the programme is a series of collecting masterclasses, in which established collectors and experts from various parts of the art world demystify buying and owning art. “We are always looking at ways to develop new audiences. We are holding events ranging from introductory talks on collecting to guided visits to the city’s best-loved cultural institutions and galleries. This programme will continue throughout the year,” says Umah Jacob, director, external relations and outreach, India Art Fair. An intensive programme, the schedule promotes direct engagement through workshops, walk-throughs, studio visits, a curated list of must-visit exhibits across the city and of course, the most exclusive parties.
The India Art Fair is on from the January 31 to February 3 at NSIC Grounds, Okhla, New Delhi. Indiaartfair.in
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Author: Avantika Bhuyan