I spent a marathon Sunday at India Art Fair 2018, which was held at the NSIC grounds in Okhla, New Delhi from 9th to 12th February. I was impressed by the quality that most of the galleries exhibited, not only in terms of the art itself, but also the thoughtful display and presentation of the art. It was wonderful to see a healthy gender balance under the vision of new director boss woman Jagdip Jagpal, and also to read that all the international work exhibited at the fair this year HAD to be new so that Indian buyers aren't shortchanged. Mumbai-based gallery TARQ (run by another boss woman Hena Kapadia) boasted of an all-women artist booth which is so so amazing!
Most of the booths were mindful of space and not crowded with work. Sanchit Art's booth was a great example: a spacious solo exhibit of 15 small works by Jogen Chowdhury. In general, it was nice to be able to browse booths without bumping into ten shoulders and eleven tote bags. In fact, I saw a visitor in a wheelchair navigating pretty easily with her helper. Accessibility aside, ease-of-instagramming was also a serious consideration for exhibitors.
Concepualized by Pollinator, a collective formed by Jiten Thukral, Sumir Tagra, and Prayas Abhinav, The Collection Bureau was an interactive project as part of the Forum at India Art Fair this year. The project served as a wonderful critique of the generation of value and validation of a work of art by the usual authorities: art history and preference of collectors. It aimed to make the process of value creation, which usually seems arbitrary, elitist, and difficult to understand or question, much more transparent and open to dialogue.
Images of works submitted via an open call were shortlisted with no bias towards any medium or subject matter. The selected artists were then invited to a face-to-face interview session at the fair itself. Artists answered a set of multiple choice questions based on an introspection of what they themselves consider to be valid, ethical, and valuable artistic work and practices. Then, following a discussion with the panel, the work was awarded 'Inherent Value Points' and, if agreed upon, acquired by The Collection Bureau as part of a growing archive and knowledge-base.
Through the course of the fair, one could see artists being interviewed at a long black table in a very aesthetically pleasing pale pink booth with a grid of empty frames lining the walls behind. As works were acquired through this new and inclusive process, the frames kept filling up. An image of my work got acquired too! Just like they did last year with the Memoir Bar, Thukral and Tagra once again provided an ecosystem to engage with questions relevant to contemporary art discourse in their signature aesthetic.
2. galleryske and photoink
GALLERYSKE and Photoink co-existed in an exceptional space littered with furniture by Bangalore-based Phantomhands, and a beautiful brass mirror by London-based Tiipoi. Their crew wore garments by Raw Mango and Rashmi Verma, showcasing different drapes of India from Border&Fall's amazing project called The Sari Series. This collaboration between art, design, and fashion was wonderful in a this-totally-makes-sense kind of way!
The highlight from GALLERYSKE was a long table of everyday objects rendered in reclaimed wood by Sudarshan Shetty. The painstakingly crafted objects included a telephone, torch, typewriter, sewing maching, lantern, camera, gas burner, iron etc. ; my favourite being the tortoise-shaped kaddukas i.e grater. There was something about imitation in a completely different material, which highlighted the form and components of these objects even more for me. Their object-ness was amplified even though their bodies were now monochromatic and devoid of function.
Astha Butail's wall-mounted brass sculpture (GALLERYSKE) and Vivan Sundaram's beautiful and personal digital photomontages of Amrita Sher-Gil and her father Umrao Singh Sher-Gil (Photoink) were my favourite wall-mounted works.
3. princess pea
Anonymous artist Princess Pea has swiftly become one of my favourite Indian artists, especially after her exceptional collaborative fashion show Born of Fire with Lovebirds Clothing at Lakme Fashion Week SS18. As a continuation of her ongoing practice of commenting on gender/beauty standards/life as a female person, she presented her performance Rehearsing in Acts at the India Art Fair. In multiple acts she performed as proxies of her self, which may be embryonic, infantile, or unborn even. In between acts, one could simply explore the nursery-like space she had created for herself. Also displayed were her photo series telling real hard-hitting stories of various Indian women wearing the sculptural head, and her turned wooden doll-like objects from the Infinite Series. I love her work because she has perfected the art of using a playful and curious aesthetic to present an innocent portrayal of struggle.
I spent a lot of time at the Experimenter booth from Kolkata. They had such a tight, well-curated, and clean display. Dividing their booth into sections allowed for a very pleasant navigating experience. I really enjoyed Sohrab Hura's eerie black-and-white photographs from his series Midnight Studies. A strong architectural and spatial conversation took place across Ayesha Sultana's drawings of abstract structural forms, Sahil Naik's diorama of a traumatized house (100 points for the pedestal), and Rathin Barman's paper works and freestanding gate-like metal sculpture. They all had a very strong graphic quality about them as well, which again was a complement to the on-point curation.
5. jhaveri contemporary
Jhaveri Contemporary had a strong crew of female artists as well. I could spend hours in front of Monika Correa's amazing tapestries. Architectural references continued in ceramic artist Lubna Chowdhary's colourful tile objects and her table full of monochromatic models of buildings. Her work is just beautiful. I noticed how the candy-like glazes and very accessible table height with toy-sized objects were so tempting, that a shockingly large number of visitors didn't hesitate to touch the work !!
Connections (2012-2013) by Monika Correa at Jhaveri Contemporary booth, India Art Fair 2018.
To conclude, here is a series of very selfish people looking at the art with their eyes and getting in the way of my camera *rolls eyes*