Galleries from India showcased a mixed bag of veteran and new artists at the 4th edition of Art Basel, Hong Kong with leading contemporaries like Ravinder Reddy, Atul and Anju Dodiya being represented alongside newer names of Faig Ahmed, Ayesha Sultana and Rathin Barman.
The four Indian galleries participating at the three-day-long fair that concluded on March 26 included Mumbai-based Chemould Prescott Road, Delhi-based Vadehra Art Gallery and Nature Morte and Kolkata-based Experimenter.
The extravagant fair which kicked off amid rainy weather and was attended among others by Oscar winning actor Leonardo DiCaprio, featured 239 galleries drawn from 35 countries. Vadehra Art Gallery (VAG) which had on display artworks symbolic of India’s rich history, particularly from the British era was visibly flooded by art connoiseurs and sold Atul Dodiya’s rendition of “The Garden Party – February 1925” which was organised by ruler of Rajkot in honour of Mahatma Gandhi, within hours of the show’s private opening on March 22.
Riyas Komu’s portrait of Mahatma Gandhi looking dapper in his black barrister uniform holding a plate with the date – 9/11/1906 – signifying the non-violence movement launched by British Indians in South Africa, was another immensely popular work at the gallery. “We have been coming with the same artists but with new works. I think the focus in this fair is more contemporary, so we bring all our star contemporary artists like Atul Dodiya, Anju Dodiya, Shilpa Gupta, Riyas Komu, Jagannath Panda,” Roshni Vadehra, Director, VAG said.
Other exhibits at VAG included a series of charcoal paintings titled “Penal Colony” by Kerala film maker KM Madhusudhanan, two of Odiya artist Jagannath Panda’s latest works – “The Gaze” and “Virtues of a Hero,” Ravinder Reddy’s iconic head sculpture of a woman along with two brand new sculptures of “Man” and “Nandi” by Arun Kumar H G among others.
The collection put out by Nature Morte at the Art Basel sattelite fair this year comprised of “younger artists” unlike previous editions, when the gallery showcased global artists like Subodh Gupta and Bharti Kher. Peter Nagy, gallery Director said, “The prices of Subodh Gupta and Bharti Kher are so high that we don’t sell it here. So, this time we have brought younger artists with lower prices, because we feel that’s what the markets are for here.”
Engravings by Pakistani artist Seher Shah, one of Suhasini Kejriwal’s “fake” paintings, Faig Ahmed’s carpet works were among the few works on display at the gallery booth. While Kolkata-based Kejriwal’s painting made of embroidery work superimposed with photographs to make a collage was a fresh work created for the fair, Ahmed’s carpet pieces were borrowed from an earlier set of works by the artist, Nagy said.
Chemould Prescott Road, owned by Shireen Gandhy, who has been on the selection committe at ABHK, exhibited Gigi Scaria’s “Shadow of the Ancestors,” a series of architectural sketches on cement sheets by Studio Mumbai’s Bijoy Jain and a pair of cane sculptures by Shakuntala Kulkarni among other artworks. The gallery also included works by Anju Dodiya.
Kolkata-based Experimenter, which has previously showcased foreign artists at the fair, this year represented Bengali artist Rathin Barman and Pakistani artist Ayesha Sultana.
The gallery was participating in the ‘Discoveries’ sector of the fair, which explains the choice of younger and newer artists. Barman’s indigenous sculptures and sketches recalled the plight of those who were displaced after the partition of Bengal, their struggle to “build homes overnight” and their over five-decade-long wait to be rehabilitated in West Bengal. His works at the fair comprised of three sets of work – a series of miniature house structures made out of concrete and iron-rods, a series of architectural sketches and a fibre-glass map of undivided Bengal.
“This project is about the migration from Bangladesh to India during partition. Most of the Hindu middle class from Bangladesh were forced to migrate,” Barman, who spent a few months living with the migrants in Shyamnagar, a small town in the outskirts of Kolkata, said.
Also, on display were a a few sketches of unmaterialised maps, that were orginally charted out by the then government to distribute land to the migrants for their rehabilitation. “I chose the colour rust because these plans never happened in realities,” the artist said.