The 11th edition of India Art Fair, an international gathering of artists, gallerists and curators, opened earlier this week in the national capital. Bhumika Popli writes about the event and its spin-off exhibitions being hosted at venues across the city.


February can easily be considered a season for the arts in Delhi. With the India Art Fair (IAF) and a number of other exhibitions hosted in the national capital this month, the city positively bustles with creativity.

The eleventh edition the IAF, on view till 3 February, offers a stellar line-up of artworks from 75 exhibitors from around the world. Jagdip Jaspal, director, IAF, said, “Modern and contemporary South Asian art remains the focus of the fair, with 70% of the floor space dedicated to Indian galleries, and some incredible artists never before seen by Indian audiences are being exhibited by international galleries at IAF. We are committed to making artists central to the discussion and debate, and are delighted to have included a programme of world-renowned South Asian performance artists for the first time.”

Performance arts have been a central feature of South Asia’s cultural scenario for many years now. These artists are known for addressing social and political issues that need immediate attention. For instance, Amol Patil’s performance, entitled Take the City, is an attack on caste and class divides in society. Helping him in his act at the IAF were sweepers from the local community.

Similarly, in another performance piece, entitled 100 Silent Ways, by Mithu Sen, we see the artist “performing” a lecture on the stage. Sen’s lecture, delivered in a garbled language, questions the very idea of a staged conversation.

Besides, this year’s IAF hosted several interesting panel discussions. One was “I Know What You Did Last Summer”, in which artists from Bangladesh, Britain and India exchanged views on contemporary art.

Artist Hardeep Pandhal spoke about his life while growing up as a British-Sikh man in the UK and how this particular background influenced his multimedia work, which is both playful and dark.

International representation at this year’s IAF was quite impressive. Two works by the revolutionary Chinese artist Ai Weiwei are on display at the venue. Weiwei has been quite vocal on various issues related to human-rights violations.

His works are represented by the Berlin-based gallery neugerriemschneider. According to a statement released by the gallery, “We present Ai Weiwei’s Iron Root (2015), which captures the ornate structures of a large wooden root in the industrial materials of iron and car paint. The work itself originates from a major piece, Rooted Upon (2009), in which a group of uprooted tree trunks stood as a monument for change and progressive thinking. We also present Ai Weiwei’s Porcelain Vase (Journey) (2017), which takes the millennia-old material of porcelain to depict the migrants’ journey, painted around a vase in the coveted Ming dynasty blue-and-white style.”

Top Indian galleries are also showcasing their best exhibits at the fair. Delhi-based DAG has displayed a total of 21 artworks by Indian modernists they represent.

This time, Delhi’s Art Alive Gallery has brought tapestries to the fair. The exhibits are the result of a collaborative effort between Sneha Sheth and weavers from various Indian states. The motifs in these silk tapestries are inspired by pichwai and miniature paintings, as well as from inlay works in marble.

At the Delhi-based Sumukha Gallery’s booth, one can view works in multiple mediums by three contemporary artists. Ravinder Reddy is exhibiting two fibreglass heads, entitled Muthyalu, each coated with copper and gold leaf. (Reddy’s work is also on display at the Vadehra Art Gallery booth here.) Ravikumar Kashi, another contemporary artist, has worked with handmade paper and presented a series called White Residue on handmade paper. Shanthamani Muddaiah’s installation is called Fire Script, made with wood charcoal and inspired by urban dwellings that rise vertically and go deep into the earth.

One of the major highlights of IAF 2019 is the collaboration between Indian publisher Roli Books with its international counterpart Taschen. Here one could browse through large-sized, limited edition books featuring paintings by the renowned English artist David Hockney and the celebrated American portrait photographer Annie Leibovitz.

Galleries across India are also hosting their separate show, under the banner of “IAF Parallel”. Lining an Archive: Sunil Padwal is on view at Delhi’s GallerySke till 22 February. The show features Padwal’s drawings, photographs and installations whose subject is drawn from the artist’s memories of Mumbai past and present.

Experimenter gallery in Kolkata has also organised an exhibition, entitled To a New Form: Krishna Reddy, in memory of the master printmaker and sculptor Krishna Reddy, who passed away last year. In this retrospective, on view till 31 March, one can see rare drawings, prints, as well as zinc and copper etchings plates by Reddy.

India Art Fair is on at NSIC Exhibition Grounds, Okhla until 3 February


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