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Trump, Politics, Migration Dominates India Art Fair 2017

Bold installations depicting international politics and immigration took the centre stage at India Art Fair.  

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It's no surprise that satirical portraits of Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un are the centerpiece of the India Art Fair, the annual feast of visual arts where politics took center stage this year, including groundbreaking projects on migration and rapidly changing urban landscapes in South Asia.

Titled "Peace Owners," the work of Nepali artist Sunil Sigdel uses Buddhist motifs on the faces of the three global leaders.

Bold installations depicting international politics and immigration took the centre stage at India Art Fair.   
Art by Sunil Sigdel is displayed as spectators take photographs during the India Art Fair in New Delhi, on Thursday. (Photo: AP)

In a bold installation on migration, artist Reena Saini Kallat created a map of the world with electric wires showing migration routes.

Bold installations depicting international politics and immigration took the centre stage at India Art Fair.   
Reena Saini Kallat’s work on migration. (Photo: India Art fair)
“Artists are responding to the global political climate”, Dina Bangdel, curator of Nepal Art Council in New Delhi said.

The art fair brought hundreds of Indian and international artists, exhibitors and collectors from more than 20 countries. Like the previous editions of the fair that began in 2008, South Asia remains the region in focus.

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Bold installations depicting international politics and immigration took the centre stage at India Art Fair.   
A man walks near an art by Dillip Chobisa during India Art Fair in New Delhi on Thursday.

Illegal Immigration a Recurrent Theme

A community-based public art project called "No Man's Land," supported by Britto Arts Trust from Bangladesh and Shelter Promotion Council from India, explored the shared history, geography and culture of India and Bangladesh and interpreted it within the context of recurring border tensions and illegal immigration.

Bold installations depicting international politics and immigration took the centre stage at India Art Fair.   
‘No Man’s Land’ by Britto Arts Trust. (Photo: India Art Fair)

The cross-border collaborative project allowed Sayantan Maitra Boka , an art curator from India, to work with Bangladeshi artist Mahbubur Rahman. The two met in March 2014 in the physical space of "No Man's Land" as they shared their work and memories. Their installation comprises a montage of photographs and videos from the villages that lie on the either side of India-Bangladesh border.

“The idea was to explore what a fence could do to you, how claustrophobic a fence could be. And to walk into Bangladesh or rather the ‘No Man’s Land’ without a visa and passport. So it was a unique experience and it’s an ongoing work which we are continuing,” Sayantan Maitra Boka said.

Bapu, As Seen From the Lens

One of the most popular displays is a rare collection of archival photographs of one of the prominent leaders of India's struggle for independence, Mohandas K Gandhi which was sourced from his grandnephew Kanu Gandhi.

The painstakingly restored photos offer an intimate glimpse into Gandhi's life and his interactions with politicians and ordinary people during the freedom movement.

“It comes from an unschooled photographer, looking at his own granduncle, capturing private moments of a very, very public figure and that’s what makes this work stand out,” says Prashant Panjiar of Photoink photography gallery.
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A Brave, Digital World

The cultural discourse at the fair also looked at the role of digital technology in an ever-evolving world of art. Many post-internet artists are giving a virtual life to their physical art as digital technology makes art more accessible and brings global attention to artistic talent than was previously possible.

"The digital medium has opened up the global market and made it local," said Bangdel. "The digital world opens the borders — so in other words, we are really sort of traversing both geography as also time and space."

Videos and sound art, animations and interactive art forms that only exist online can also provide an alternative experience to those with no access to galleries, said Sayantan Maitra Boka, a curator from India.

“I just feel that maybe we don’t have the proper technology right now to transmit the experience of art to the digital life,” said Spanish gallery director Sabrina Amrani. “But we are building the bridges and we are crossing them — we just need maybe a new car for it.”

(With inputs from AP)

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