In August 2012, when Saffronart conducted India’s first auction dedicated to folk and tribal art, it was a manifestation of the market trends. Perceived as subaltern to the modernists and the contemporaries in the white cube for years now, the traditional arts now are slowly entering the mainstream. The India Art Fair (IAF), too, records this headway through a section dedicated to the vernacular art. Curated by Annapurna Garimella, the segment titled “Vernacular In Flux” notably borrows from private collections, including the Devi Art Foundation, Ojas Art and Ethnic Arts Foundation. On display is a rather predictable group of artists — Jangarh Singh Shyam — the forefather of Gond art, its practitioners Bhajju Shyam and Dileep Shyam, and 2017 Padma Shri awardee Baua Devi’s Maithili paintings.
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At another end of the fair, Renu Modi, director of Gallery Espace, is introducing her foray into the segment with a booth featuring 200-year-old leather puppets from Karnataka. “It is an integral part of the Indian art practice and we will have exhibitions dedicated to it in the near future, including international projects,” says Modi, who has recently started adding works from the section to her existing collection dominated by modern and contemporary art.
For the Eye of the Beholder
Art has a way of appealing to certain aesthetic sensibilities, and at the IAF, one will stumble upon several instances that are conducive to eclectic tastes. These eye candies, for the want of a better word, are scattered across the NSIC grounds. At booth P3, presented by Galleryske, for instance, artist Avinash Veeraraghavan has managed to cover every inch of the wall with hundreds of stickers — comprising images, sketches, cartoons and symbols — along with three framed pieces depicting bizarre scenes such as dancing skeletons. Those images act as dreamscapes in a sea of images that form the real world, aptly titled Dwell in Possibility, giving the visitor something to think about. Other crowd-pullers can be seen in Pakistani-American artist Anila Quayyum Agha’s installations that play with light and shadow, especially the giant ornate cube at P2; Sudarshan Shetty’s solo project at P11,
Taj Mahal,which is made up of 250 miniature metallic replicas of the heritage structure; Venezuelan artist Alberto Echegaray Guevara’s Empty Illusion, which easily piques interest with the shredded demonetised Indian currency notes; and Rasheed Araeen’s giant, geometric wooden structures, placed either on the floor or the wall, at the Aicon Gallery booth. At the French gallery Baudoin Lebon’s booth is Korean artist Hur Kyung-Ae’s canvases, with its dramatic use of acrylic — a sea of vibrant but dried up shreds of paint that fall, crumble and merge on the plain canvas, reflecting the artist’s poetic and complex process. At Art District XIII booth, Kashmiri Delhi-based artist Veer Munshi’s fibreglass donkey rides with all its splendour, with fibreglass skeletons laden on its back.
While Glenfiddich used IAF as a platform to invite entries for its Emerging Artist of the Year Awards, the Capital also saw the launch of Asia Arts Awards this week. In its inaugural year, the awards honoured veteran modernist Krishen Khanna and
Vadodara-based artist Abir Karmarkar. Meanwhile, in Kolkata, Centre of International Modern Art (CIMA) has announced its awards. The winner Harendra Kumar Kushwaha will present his work along with the runners-ups at CIMA Gallery in Kolkata from February 5 onwards.