New York-artist Ghiora Aharoni’s Genesis – The Hindu Series that explores intersections between faith and science (Amit Mehra)
Preceding the Contemporaries
The masters never fail to draw an audience, and at the India Art Fair (IAF) there are several works. DAG’s ‘100 years of Indian Art’ has Raja Ravi Varma, Prabhakar Barwe, Bikash Bhattacharjee, MF Husain and SH Raza. At another booth are sculptures in bronze — from Krishen Khanna’s famous bandwallahs to Thota Vaikuntam’s Ganesha and Jogen Chowdhury’s men and women. Emami Art has brought in early works of Chowdhury and Gallery Espace has a section dedicated to pen and paper sketches by Somnath Hore.
Gallery Veda too returns to the Bengal masters, with the likes of KG Subramanyan and Hore, and Aakriti Gallery’s booth has Ganesh Pyne’s pen and ink drawings. While KNMA has Mrinalini Mukherjee’s hemp and bronze works (pictured above), artist and former director of the NGMA Rajeev Lochan has curated the Swaraj Art Archive booth, with works from the 19th century. Stop by at the Gallery Nvya booth for KS Radhakrishnan’s solo “Mapping With Figures”, and Chawla Art Gallery to view Manjit Bawa. If price is a concern, Archer Art Gallery has serigraphs of the masters in under a lakh.
While Bharti Kher’s standing figure with an animal head on top, titled Mother, saw curious visitors at the Nature Morte booth, so did Shilo Shiv Suleman’s metallic wings and embroidered watercolours at Art Musings. Origami expert Ankon Mitra (pictured above) also appears to be a favourite of shutterbugs, as he displays a mammoth wall piece called The Parting of Galaxies (Opus 3) showing galaxies, stars and planets. Graffiti artist and co-founder of St+Art India Foundation, Hanif Kureshi and professor Jyotindra Jain’s travelling photo studio, at the entrance of IAF, highlights how at one point in time, photography was a ‘special activity’. The handpainted studio, with a woman standing beside a tree, also has a cycle to pose with. Visitors are also posing with American pop artist Andy Warhol’s painted car.
Goan painter Subodh Kerkar sculpture, The Cross, at the Gallery Art Positive booth is a result of him submerging an iron cross at the bottom of the ocean for three and a half years, only to bring it back to the surface and see it covered by oyster shells. Galeria ISA compels viewers to look at German contemporary artist Gregor Hildebrandt’s plain black wall called Midnight Oil made entirely using his signature medium — cut vinyl records. 1X1 Art Gallery (Dubai, UAE) is displaying Chittrovanu Mazumdar’s untitled works that reveal how precious light is. Tiny light bulbs arranged in rows against a blood red background is a recollection of how the artist saw the importance of a single bulb in a Jharkhand village. At Apparao Galleries are Chennai-based Dhasan’s sublime paper on canvas works. New York-artist Ghiora Aharoni returns to the fair with Genesis — The Hindu Series. Hebrew, Hindi and Urdu texts have been written over glass beakers that rest alongside different religious motifs, including a Hindu temple flywhisk and Torah finials. These are his ways of highlighting conflict and the power of harmony.
Take Art Home
At the Bookshop and Cafe this time, there’s a memory game called Photoseva made from photographer Varun Gupta’s black-and-white photographs of Indians. Then, there’s Korean artist Chan-Hyo Bae’s portraits as a jigsaw puzzle. The artist collective Bombay Underground is showcasing their zines, with carry socially relevant messages.
Protest and Peace
Not far from Shaheen Bagh — the hotbed of anti-CAA protests — as select patrons walked their way to the IAF venue, they were welcomed with disclaimers on boards that said: “(We) have a zero-tolerance policy against banners or sloganeering at the fair”. The organisers clearly stated their intent. “We are aware of events taking place across Delhi NCR and the country. We recognise and support art as a means of expression. However, our license and permissions are restricted to the exhibition of art and related activities only.”
While that reservation was discussed at the fair venue in hushed voices, director of the fair, Jagdip Jagpal, emphasised: “The art sector is one of the largest groups that is actually amplifying some of the young voices, discussing the Constitution and various other things. In India, you need permissions for a peaceful protest, which we don’t have. We only have permission for an art event. People understand the impact it would have... I would have to shut the fair down... I would let the art speak for itself.”
And it did. Among the numerous works on display are also those that drew attention to politics and alienation, nation and ideology.
At the entrance is GallerySke, with artists referencing the much-discussed Constitution of India (pictured above). The project ideated by Sunitha Kumar Emmart, founder of GallerySke and curator-writer Skye Arundhati Thomas, includes, among others, a Pakhi Sen paperwork with several hands reaching out to the Constitution, and an Aradhana Seth work that has its title on a reflective surface. Maansi Jain writes the Preamble in distorted font.
While Abir Karmakar inverts the book that governs the Republic, Avinash Veeraraghavan has painstakingly embroidered the intricate gold pattern on its cover in his wall work. Cautious about the present times, speaking about the project, Emmart says, “We turn 70 years as a Republic and this project represents that. The Constitution is important and valid and needs to be upheld.”
Just a few steps ahead at the Anant Art booth, Kolkata-born artist Probir Gupta pays his tribute to the women in Shaheen Bagh, quoting them in the wall installation A Poem of Instruments, that comprises numerous elements, including an enlarged replica of a comb, microphone and typewriter (pictured left).
At the other end of the fair, meanwhile, is the booth of the Nepal Picture Library, with photographs of women protesting. Not in India, but Nepal. Not now, but over several decades. They, too, are expressing their political concerns.
While Magnum photographer Martin Parr is presenting a live photography project at the fair, next to his booth is David Zwirner gallery, where New York-based artist Marcel Dzama has painted an entire wall dedicated to late artist Jason Polan. His works share space with Stan Douglas and Carol Bove, participants at the recent Venice Biennale, and Oscar Murillo, winner of this year’s Turner Prize. Right opposite is the neugerriemschneider gallery booth, with Ai Weiwei’s Martin, and Olafur Eliasson’s large-scale wall-mounted sculpture composed of nearly 200 crystal spheres (pictured above). At Jhaveri Contemporary, there are two London-based artists: Lubna Chowdhry’s ceramic works, and Rana Begum’s vibrant wall work. Marc Straus has British artist Chris Jones’ patiently crafted works with books, magazines and digital images to form a composition. At Aicon Contemporary, Najmun Nahar Keya documents the dilapidated old buildings of Dhaka, and Korean Cultural Center has Lee Lee Nam’s animated digital works. While Sakshi Gallery has people turning to a Anish Kapoor wall work, Taschen has limited edition prints by David Hockney from the series My Window.