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A fair bit of art

Kalyani Prasher | Updated on April 17, 2014

Pieces that worked and those that didn’t at the recently concluded sixth India Art Fair

The sixth edition of the India Art Fair concluded in Delhi among the usual conversations of what an ugly celebration of money art has become apart from being overpriced, mediocre, a global-level scam and so on. All this is very boring. As if there was ever a time when art was not overpriced and as if money is not celebrated, with or without art. So when I entered the art fair, I set these lofty expectations aside and had only one: let there be some interesting art.

It was with a sinking feeling, then, that I stared at celebrated artist Anish Kapoor’s Absolut-sponsored piece. ‘Absolut Kapoor’ is a “dramatic work”, the plaque said, with Kapoor’s “signature interplay of form and vibrant colour”. For many long silent moments, I gaped. My understanding of art may be limited but I had in front of me: a couple of red bottles. This was not dramatic. Red can be loosely described as vibrant, I give you that. Perhaps, like Sonam Kapoor, I should’ve been in 10-inch heels so I could have a top view? My mind went to the poor sods at Absolut and how they must want their money back but, haha, how do you tell Anish Kapoor to go back home and work harder?

As I took two steps away from Sir Anish’s disappointment, I came upon Subodh Gupta’s ... heart shaped out of steel tassels. Now I’m a fan of this man — even though my middle class instinct always wants to offer him some old clothes in exchange of his shiny bartans (how does he keep them so sparkly clean?) — and I love his quirky installations, but I’d run a mile from anyone who’d put this furry steel gold heart up on their walls.

Within three minutes of entering the art fair, I found myself wondering if I had made good use of my Saturday. Things had begun with a jewellery stall, gone on to vodka-sponsored art and were seeming to take a decidedly downward route. It was VIP hours, before 2 pm, so of course all of Delhi was there. In the corridors, air kissing had been elevated to a form of art. At various galleries, you could overhear a lime green Birkin ask a black Chanel 2.55 if the horror in front of them, which cost several millions and an eyeball, would look good in their living room.

Why do people with money have terrible taste? If they wanted to buy Manjunath Kamath’s ‘Customised Kalpavruksha’, at Gallery Espace, one would understand. By far the best piece at the fair, one marvelled at the artist’s imagination of the wish-fulfilling tree. Some other galleries stood out: Minsky with Henrique Vaz Duarte’s scary girls; Bruno Art Group with Gerstein’s colourful butterflies; Mark Hachem that displayed Yves Hayat’s awesome Les Parfums De Revoltes; Akar Prakar for Bikash Bhattacharjee’s eerie works.

Atul Dodiya gave the poor children being dragged around by supermums, something to do. Their eyes, glazed with boredom thus far, lit up as they pressed the switches alongside ‘Highway Yogi’ and ‘Tsunami’, both of which had roller shutters, to make the shutters go up and down — clearly finding more joy in that than all the art around.

And who can blame them. Take Pascale Marthine Tayou’s plastic bags. Just a lot of plastic bags stuck on rectangular board. Some people just don’t bother, do they? You can fool the Romans, Tayou, but you can’t fool us. And then there was ‘Denture Venture’ by Siddharth Karawal, an arrangement of demented brushes that could swear you off experimental art forever. Let’s just say that I wouldn’t like to meet Karawal in a dark alley. This isn’t a stable mind.

Jean-Francois Rauzier’s hyperphotos were fascinating in the more conventional sense of the word, as were Israeli artist Nissim Ben Aderet’s black-and-whites, but each time you started to enjoy something, you’d come across something else to counter that.

I had grown art-weary walking around for four hours, when aiding my exit came the Casa Paradox display where Raseel Gujaral stood wearing the remains of a pink parrot, in an apparent effort to blend in with her loud furniture. Luckily, I found relief right next door, in Sachin Tekade’s Flower Season series — a beautiful, delicate spread of white paper flowers. Taking no further chances, I left the scene in a hurry.

At the exit gates, I ran into someone I know, hanging about, waiting to pass on his VIP pass to another friend. The ticket was ₹300. The VIP pass was meaningless after 2pm. The VIP lounge was packed to the brim (of course), so even those with a pass had to eat outside. But it’s a VIP pass. This is Delhi. And its love for bypassing queues and demanding free tickets is quite the work of art.

Kalyani Prasher who has worked at a media house for ten years is a recent covert to freelance writing

Published on February 07, 2014

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