Its new director Jagdip Jagpal had described the 10th edition of the India Art Fair as a “work in progress”. What select invitees saw when the fair opened for them yesterday was much of the old with the new. The art fraternity was in full attendance. And in a market where selling works has been a challenge, we spotted more than a couple of red dots. Here is a glimpse of what the fair offers:
Paintings might dominate the floor but there is an attempt to push boundaries with photography at the fair. So, in a first, Dayanita Singh has experimented with enamel paint on digital photograph, in Ash Grey, on display at the Nature Morte booth. Apart from contemporary photographers, Wonderwall has photographs by S Paul and Prabuddha Dasgupta, who died in 2012. While Paul photographs camels with their master, Dasgupta’s monochrome shows the interiors of a residence. Stop at The Guild for archival photographs of fellow artists, such as Bhupen Khakhar and J Swaminathan, by Jyoti Bhatt. More photographs from the past are in the Art Projects section, where we see Umrao Singh Sher-Gil and his daughters, Indira and Amrita, and photos he has shared with his grandson Vivan.
Catering to a market considered bias to art by its own artists, the fair does offer works that we might not see in the white cube often. David Zwirner is showcasing canvases and an installation by Japanese avant-garde artist Yayoi Kusama. At Baudoin Lebon, there is Anish Kapoor’s 1991 etching Door, and Akara Art is showing a 2006 paperwork by Raqib Shaw — both internationally acclaimed, India-born, London-based artists. Aicon Gallery has brought an Anila Quayyum Agha installation for the second consecutive year, and Galeria Joan Gaspar too returns with Joan Miro and Salvador Dali, among others. There are also displays of artwork that are intriguing in their methodology. At Mo.J Gallery hangs Moment, the experimental mixed media panel, of Korean minimalism artist J Young, who is considered to be “an originator of Korea’s new generation of artists”.
The sculpture of a sword, with its body carved in calligraphy, allegorises the binaries of threat and peace that the weapon is known to symbolise at Studio Art. Created by Khalil Chishtee, a figurative sculptor from Lahore, This is Not My Religion addresses issues of inequality and contesting ideologies in modern-day Pakistan. Chemould Prescott Road presents artists who are raising contemporary concerns too. While Gigi Scaria depicts the struggles of the everyday and politics of citizenship with bronze humanoid forms pushed against the wall, Shilpa Gupta emphasises on the redundancy of borders, making a case for the communities whose history on a land surpasses that of the nation-state with 100 Hand Drawn Maps of India. Gupta asked Indians to draw the map of their country and no two maps matched.
A departure from the better known Modernists was part of the IAF mandate this year. Among the works of SH Raza, MF Hussain and FN Souza that adorn booths at the fair, oval-faced portraits created by Rabindranath Tagore emphasise his attention to ‘subjectivity’, exemplified by the despairing men and and women he painted. Doodles found in his manuscript pages that are said to have led to the first of Tagore’s art are also a part of the DAG display. A rare plaster of Paris sculpture by Amrita Sher-Gil bears impressions of her artistic quests. The description of the work reads: “The artist, who sought inspiration from iconic sites such as Ajanta and Ellora, always, ‘wanted to find out things for myself… I possess in my psychological make-up a peculiarity that resents the outside interference’.”
In a bid to critique the process through which art acquires value and to make the exchange “open, transparent and rational”, Jiten Thukral, Sumir Tagra and Prayas Abhinav have put together A Pollination Project. It started with an open call on their website, asking artists who “believe their work holds value” to apply. The selected artists will be invited to IAF to present their work. At the exhibit, the artists will be asked to reflect on a few questions and their responses will fetch them scores, which if above a certain threshold will be acquired and displayed at IAF.
A unique portfolio of prints by Atul Dodiya, Anita Dube, Shilpa Gupta, Jitish Kallat, Sudhir Patwardhan, Mithu Sen, Gulammohammed Sheikh and Arpita Singh, titled No Man Is An Island, carries a visual chain of letters between the artists. Conceptualised by Gupta, and presented by FICA, the drawings were passed on from one artist to the other like a relay and exists as a “homage to the ongoing dialogue that sustains contemporary practitioners today.”
Every year, the fair has some works that gathers crowds. So Gallery Ske has Sudarshan Shetty’s work, where the artist fills a table with everyday objects in wood, from an iron to a typewriter, a sewing machine and a stereo. Playing along is a classical symphony in Navin Thomas’s work. Also in wood is a TV Santhosh installation at The Guild, where the artist makes a comment on industrialisation and the unending desire for progress. Nature Morte brings Subodh Gupta to the fair once again, and the aisles also have Tayeba Begum Lipi’s trademark sculptures in metal and Ravindra Reddy’s voluptuous women. In Binitha Perciyal’s I Resist, Therefore I Exist, we see the artist experiment with organic materials such as cinnamon and lemongrass once again, and Sachin Bonde’s Sounds Good urges people to start listening to the needs of our planet. Sri Lankan artist Kingsley Gunatilake’s books at Blueprint 12 booth are tattered, with figurines jutting out. At Galerie Isa, Antonio Santin is making an impression with his hyper real paintings of human bodies hidden under carpets. Zoya Siddiqui presents an ‘illusion of a contained world’ in Loop, one of the art projects.