Alive to the arts

Georgina Maddox | Updated on March 10, 2018 Published on January 30, 2015

Eye-catching: Atul Bhalla’s limited-edition photographs and Tayeba Begum Lipi’s sewing machine made from stainless steel razor blades are some of the highlights of the India Art Fair

Eye-catching: Atul Bhalla’s limited-edition photographs and Tayeba Begum Lipi’s sewing machine made from stainless steel razor blades are some of the highlights of the India Art Fair

The ongoing India Art Fair goes beyond buying and selling to showcase offbeat live acts

It is a busy time of the year for art aficionados, what with the India Art Fair following close on the heels of the Kochi Biennale, but no one is complaining.

Now in its seventh edition, the India Art Fair has on view over 90 art booths from 85 galleries. An especially exciting section this year is the Art Projects showcasing several creative, eccentric and provocative performance art and live acts curated by Girish Shahane, the event’s artistic director.

“The India Art Fair is no doubt a commercial venue for selling art… However, this year we want to push the envelope with a concentrated focus on performance art,” says Neha Kirpal, founding director.

So there’s the Gallery Maskara artist Priyanka Chaudhury’s live performance that includes munching on citrus plants. Her performance titled ‘How to become the Lemon Butterfly’ (the butterfly of Death) sees her mimicking this extremely beautiful insect that destroys citrus plants. The idea is to push the boundaries of human endurance and question notions of beauty.

Diaspora artists Chitra Ganesh and Dhruvi Acharya tap into popular comics such as Amar Chitra Katha by painting live on a joint canvas. The anonymous graffiti artist Daku’s 100-meter-long stencilled mural on asphalt captures the mood on the street.

Meanwhile, Latitude 28’s Muhammad Zeeshan has created an ephemeral painting that self-destructs over three days. SKE Gallery’s Sudarshan Shetty has documented mundane chores in a theatrical manner to provoke thoughts and responses about the unpredictability of life, while Nandita Kumar’s letter-writing project harks back to the days of handwritten epistles.

Equally thought-provoking is the installation by Veer Munshi — the 20x12x12-feet ‘Serenity of Desolation’ depicting a traditional Kashmiri house felled by floodwaters. Made of wood and with intricate carvings, the house’s interior is festooned with Munshi’s watercolours of one hundred local faces — a memorial of sorts to the Kashmiris who suffered during the recent floods.

Explaining the vision behind Art Projects, Shahane says, “The India Art Fair is already a very successful, professionally run event, so there is no need really to do anything radically different. I hope my involvement has improved the Special Projects section and the layout. Additionally, we have a conference, and a new series of short, focused talks called the Spotlight Series.”

The line-up of speakers includes Adam Szymczyk, the artistic director of Documenta — the famed art symposium in Kassel, Germany; Dr Venu Vasudevan, director of the National Museum in Delhi; Jeremy Deller, artist and curator of the British Pavilion at the Venice Biennale; Julian Stallabrass, professor at The Courtauld Institute London; and Sheikha Hoor al Qasimi, director of the Sharjah Biennale. The focus, clearly, is on the business of organising and curating Biennales.

With booths and booths to choose from, the buzz this time has centred around Shrine Empire’s showcasing of Tayeba Begum Lipi’s sewing machine installation made of stainless steel razor blades, Atul Bhalla’s limited-edition photographs at the Vadehra Art Gallery booth, and Volte Gallery’s ‘Based Upon’, a shiny metallic map of India created by a group of artists.

International works attracting attention include the humorous sculpture by Israeli artist David Gerstine, showcased by the Bruno Art Group; Latvian artist Anita Arbidane’s stunning oil-on-canvas, which transports viewers to another dimension; and the light installation artist Stephen Knapp, showcased by Brinkerhoff Fine Art.

Alongside this sumptuous creative spread, Delhi Art Gallery is hosting a large and comprehensive exhibition on the history of India’s modern and contemporary art. Here you get an overview of the art movements and artists who were central to the country’s emergence as an important centre of culture and art. The Yes Bank Art Lounge hosts varied talks by artists and collectors.

The visual feast of artworks is punctuated by book launches by artists Arpita Singh, Kiran Nadar and Sushma Bahl. Not to forget the culinary treats at the many varied stalls and the auditory feast from a live band. And, in case you’re wondering, there is glamour and tinsel in the mix too. “We have targeted architects and designers who will be catering to celebrity clients like Hrithik Roshan and Gauri Khan, who will visit to shop for art to liven up their new apartments and homes,” says Kirpal.

(The India Art Fair runs till February 1, at the NSIC Exhibition Grounds, Delhi)

( Georgina Maddox is a Delhi-based arts writer)

Published on January 30, 2015
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