In Pictures: The Shrinking India Art Fair
I hate to sound like Cassandra, the Greek prophetess of doom but as someone who religiously comes to the India Art Fair every year, right since it’s inception in 2008, I’ve been noticing a consistent shrinking of both scale of artworks and participation by art galleries. Given that it was a weekend, the number of visitors was disappointing. This year, there were 20 galleries lesser than last year’s total number. That’s surely not a good sign. But it’s understandable. The market is still not looking up and so the returns are few and far between. It must be a struggle for the organizers to pull it off every year, given the challenging times.
So for a seasoned eye such as mine, it’s a painful observation. IAF started with a bang, grew in a few years with the best international names coming in and has today shrunk to a mid-noon shadow.
The art too has fallen into a routine. There’s nothing that stands out of the box and demands your awe and admiration. It’s all too predictable. This year there was no real show-stopper or ‘selfie-stopper’, an artwork that people want to make part of their ‘I’ moments. But is that a fair assessment? Certainly NOT. For young students or first time visitors, the art fair is a much-needed window to the world of art. It’s an essential initiation where you get to see art, hear top artists speak in various forums and get to read the best coffee table books on art. All under one tented roof.
Speaking of young students, I decided to shift focus on my four-year-old son, to check what could be his best take away from the fair. And his observations weren’t very different from what the other youngsters got pulled towards. Installation art rules the day. He may graduate to appreciating the paintings of masters later, but making a start with the contemporary art stars isn’t bad at all.
He loved feeling the texture of Vibha Galhotra’s ghungroo work. K.S. Radhakrishnan’s bronze ramp up the Buddha head was exciting.
His jaw dropped when he saw Subodh Gupta’s kitchen pans pressed and squeezed into a large two-dimensional rectangular piece mounted on the wall.
He marveled at Arun Kumar H.G.’s iridescent blue cow.
And Ravinder Reddy’s gold head with big white eyes was spooky.
He couldn’t imagine other heads by Seema Kohli and Durga Kainthola could be painted in bright funky colours.
Or that elephants could look pretty with flowers and dots.
Collecting art postcards from Anjolie Ela Menon’s solo show was fun but getting to see a life size BMW painted by the great artist Cesar Manrique was the icing on the cake.
The greatest service to the visually challenged has been done by the team of Delhi Art Gallery. Apart from curating a special walk across one entire pavilion on the history of visual arts in India, they printed a separate 10-page booklet in Braille. Special reminders have been sent out to NGOs and schools catering to the visually challenged, to visit the visual world of arts.
This part was truly satisfying for the journalist in me: to see the art world open itself to a group of people usually cut off from it. So I finally ended my tour with something truly different and refreshing.
(Sahar Zaman is an arts journalist, designer, curator and founder of Hunar TV)
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