Summit of experience

Summit of experience

Why artists in Delhi feel important this weekend.

The India Art Summit,the young annual art show being held in Delhi,is definitely an idea whose time had long come. Apart from offering artists of all hues,gallerists of different motivation levels,collectors of varied tastes and aficionados a platform to interact,it also puts something else on the table that has been sort of missing in action lately: healthy competition.

I qualify it as “healthy” because gallerists end up choosing their best collection of artists for a show such as this one — which,for obvious reasons,is attracting a lot of attention. While this one-of-its kind extravaganza puts the spotlight on a younger generation of artists,seniors also get to excel with their new works.

As with similar art shows worldwide,the India Art Summit is steadily becoming an occasion for artists to make an impact and be judged — by being part of the whole process of getting selected to show here — in an interesting,suitable way. What is special is that the event offers a healthier link for artists to the vast space known as the art market. It is a great give-and-take opportunity in that it facilitates a much-needed dialogue among all stakeholders in the world of art.

What is more striking is that while it had taken similar international shows several years of commission and omission before they started clicking well,there is a peculiar and admirable Indian-ness about this summit that makes it a hit,and very soon. Quite contrary to the famous Indian jugaad,this one has finesse to flaunt.


It is this “sophistication” that makes the confluence of art communities and allied parties important,and it comes at the right time: just as India needs to showcase its talent across segments,in line with the fast growth of its economy,and its functioning as an emerging superpower. I see it as a development — as part of a series of developments — on the other side of the spectrum where you see ideas such as “financial inclusion”.

It is the comprehensive makeover that this country is going through that this summit attempts to complement,in some measure,irrespective of how small or big it is in the entirety of efforts of a $1.3 trillion economy that serves 1.2 billion people.

Put simply,to ignore numerous odds and deficits in this country is an unpardonable crime,but not to highlight endeavours and pluses such as these is nothing short of sin.

To me,this event is also a reflection of the much talked-about era of convergence that is being played out in various forms right in front of us. There is,if nothing else,a sense of

being connected,of being wired,that is quite palpable here at the Summit.

One could argue about other ways an event that brings together the art community and others could be held. One could keep suggesting variations and variables — but this one definitely has style and substance. What needs work from now on is sustaining the momentum and absorbing positive ideas to ensure a far more stimulating set of experiences that can be shared among artists,intellectuals,social philosophers,political analysts and aficionados alike.

This year’s India Art Summit looks more resplendent also because of a parallel event that tends to complement this one in many ways. Swiss curator Hans Ulrich Obrist,arguably the most powerful person in the contemporary art world,will conduct one of his well-known longish sessions in India in a public event organised by Khoj International Artists Association in the national capital on Saturday. This “marathon” set of public interviews is the second one he is going to hold in Asia.

Well,being in Delhi now makes me really feel what Obrist said is true. Sometimes,in a temporary way,perhaps “artists are the most important people on the planet.” The idea is to savour the moment. In Delhi. Briefly.

The writer is a Mumbai-based artist