India Art Fair gets off to a rousing start

 Chitra Narayanan        Last Updated: January 30, 2015  | 18:21 IST
Artist Dhruvi Acharya
Artist Dhruvi Acharya

Art, they say, forces you to confront reality. At the seventh edition of India Art Fair, a young breed of contemporary artists with its brand of hyperrealism forces you to stop in your tracks and appreciate its take on the follies and foibles of today's urban society. Some of the art works are quirky and amusing whereas others are melancholic and shocking. For instance, 'Virar Local', a sculpture by Nagpur-born Valay Shende, shows men hanging on to the compartment of a Mumbai local train. The train, in real life, is Mumbai's own metaphor for a place that is jam-packed.

Several art works at the fair had a take on the modern human's obsession with cellphones. An image of a young lady with her cellphone, a work of Barcelona-based artist Marc Figueras showcased by Barnadas Huang, a Singapore-based contemporary fine art gallery, stands out. So did Revati Sharma Singh's striking orange installation called Misconnections, in which tiles with hash tags join together to tell the story of our disconnected society in a hyper-connected world.

Maneka Gandhi, minister of women and child development, at the India Art Fair
Maneka Gandhi, minister of women and child development, at the India Art Fair
At the fair, 85 exhibiting galleries spread over 90 booths are showcasing a veritable treasure of art in myriad forms - paintings, new media, sculpture, installation and performance art. From the classical works of masters to the modern and the contemporary, from regional galleries to global ones, including one from Russia, there is a lot to imbibe. "There is something for everyone," says Neha Kirpal, the young founding director of the fair.

Girish Shahane with Anoli Perera
Girish Shahane with Anoli Perera
It was fascinating to see two artists - Chitra Ganesh and Dhruvi Acharya - move in tandem with brush, paint and collages to create a collaborative painting. "As the exhibition progresses, you will see the empty canvas become a piece of art, thus giving an insight into the processes contemporary artists use in their work," says Girish Shahane, artistic director of the fair who has curated the special projects on display here.

In a first, the annual fair that began in 2008 has a curated section (booth labelled P) that evokes a fair bit of curiosity. For instance, Sri Lankan artist Anoli Perera's Red Elastic Dress, a flowing creation made of elastic bands occupying every corner of her booth, made you stop and take a second look. Perera's description that the dress represented her view of a woman's body, expanding and contracting, ever adapting, taking in so much brings a whole new perspective to the blood red, striking dress.

Clarita Brinkerhoff's crystal peacocks with Stephen Knapp's light paintings
Clarita Brinkerhoff's crystal peacocks with Stephen Knapp's light paintings
While the India Art Fair 2015 has much to see and appreciate for the art lover, one could see it was a good opening day for buyers and sellers. Florida-based Jorge Brinkerhoff was simply exhilarated by the crowd swarming at his gallery's booth showcasing Stephen Knapp's light paintings that were an explosion of colour, and Clarita Brinkerhoff's stunning crystal peacocks. The peacocks are already sold as is one of the light paintings - bought by an architect developer, said Brinkerhoff, describing how he had been warned against coming to India due to the hard taxation laws on art deals.

Prateek Raja, co-director, Experimenter Gallery, also reported excellent sales. "What has been interesting is a significant number of new collectors in the mid-range," he said. Even as the works of old masters were priced beyond the reach of many, there were several contemporary art works that were moderately priced. Vinita Dasgupta's stunning works in new media were in the range of a few lakhs, while Barnadas Huang had priced its artists' works between Rs 5 lakh and Rs 8 lakh.  For buyers, there were affordable prints of the masters at some of the galleries.

Guggenheim Bilbao delegation with Artistic Director Girish Shahane
Guggenheim Bilbao delegation with Artistic Director Girish Shahane
This year the corporate patronage of the Art Fair has also grown manifold, with Yes Bank sponsoring the event, Absolut on board as Associate Partner and BMW as mobility partner. Several companies, including Google and HCL, have bought tickets for their employees. Tickets this year have been priced at Rs 400 for adults and Rs 250 for students. Looks like the fair could break all records (last year it got one lakh footfalls) in terms of footfalls and revenues as this time Delhi's top cafes and delicatessens (Elma's, Monkey Bar, Zambar, Brown Sugar) have put up stalls in the sun-soaked open spaces and CAARA offering hand-crafted cigars and single malts experiences.  

The fair is on at the NSIC grounds till February 1.

(Images: India Art Fair 2015)

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