Sunday, February 2, 2014

Looking East with a rising India in art space steers discourse at India Art Fair 2014

India-Art Fair  

New Delhi, January 2014
The morning mist and a spell of biting chill could not deter the crowd from flocking to the India Art Fair 2014 from Jan 30-Feb 2 at the NSIC Ground in Okhla- an industrial neighbourhood in the capital.  
The dominant themes under focus were the art market - and aesthetic movements. 
The discourse was powered by the vigorous and procative art market in India which is consolidating at a pace that has lent the country legitimacy in claiming global status as an arts destination on par with Asian hubs like Dubai, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea and Beijing — Asian power points that have become major art exhibition and transaction centres. The India Art Fair — which opened as the country’s lone official trade and exhibition platform for contemporary arts in 2008 — has been the catalyst in pushing the nation's nearly $ 250 million art market to frontiers that could not be imagined even 10 years ago despite the fact that it makes barely 1 per cent of the global colopur pie. 
The fair over the last five years has drawn the best of international art houses, trade stakeholders and practitioners to make contemporary arts awareness and business more relevant to the growing tribe of Indian art lovers and entrepreneurs, who are eyeing art as a viable soft power and profitable trade option. Not to mention the formidable footfall that the organisers put at 400,000.  
The fair serves as an acquisition counter for international institutions as well— which are looking increasingly at Indian collections to add teeth to their contemporary archives in terms of diversity, richness and affordability. The sixth edition of the India Art Fair Jan 30-Feb 2, 2014 brought 30 international galleries and 47 national galleries across 90 booths at the NSIC Ground in the national capital — to exhibit the best of the international contemporary art across multi-disciplines including conventional arts, sculptures, digital arts, projects, performances and speakers’ forum.
The India Art Fair has acted on the lines of the market aggregator bringing artists and collectors on to a single platform, says founding director of the fair and (co-owner) Neha Kirpal. “Through the fair, we have been able to give the contemporary art market in India significant exposure to the international community and more importantly, increase in both awareness and the number of collectors within the country. Over the last five years, the fair with 400,000 visitors attending, we have seen a tremendous amount of engagement with art — more than there has been over the last two decades. We have also been able to contribute significantly to the intellectual conversation on the art market with over 150 world class speakers,” Kirpal said.
This year’s international galleries represented a mix — from returning European galleries to a number of cutting edge new-comers who all share the common goal to “explore the Indian art market”— forge key relationships and meet new collectors from India. Galleries like the 1X1 Art Gallery (Dubai), Aicon Gallery (New York), Die Gallery (Frankfurt), Gallery Lelong (Paris), Grosvenor Gallery (UK) and Indigo Blue Art (Singapore) have returned to India on the strength of the response of buyers from India— and the rising level of interest in art. The first-timers from Spain, Germany and several emerging contemporary art houses from France tested the market to a positive and enlightened response. Unlike previous years, big names like White Cube and Hauser & Wirth, Lisson were missing from the roster.
In addition to gallery collections, an extensive Arts Project across outdoor and indoor fair space tried to open dialogue between the viewers, practitioners and artworks. One of the highlights of this section was "Listen Up! " — the first public sound arts project launched in India. Curated by Tim Goossens and Diana Campbell Betancourt and supported by 1after320 arts project, it was a citywide installation to make sound art publicly accessible through cell phones. Artist Dayanita Singh presented excerpts from her critically acclaimed “File Room” series which was shown this year at the Venice Biennale. Two important collateral exhibitions — INSERT2014 — featuring 20 leading international and Indian artists curated by Raqs Media Collective at the Indira Gandhi Centre for Arts; and “Word, Sound, Power” — a collaborative exhibition by Khoj International Artists’ Association and Tate Modern (London) at the Khoj Studio — provided new perspectives to the fair. For the first, the fair hosted hosting three museum showcases — the Himalayas Art Museum from Shanghai, the Kiran Nader Museum of Art and the Mark Rothko Art Centre in Latvia.
The Speakers’ forum was a scholarly exposition with cultural theorist Homi Bhabha from Harvard University, Chris Decon, director of Tate Modern in London, artists Bharti Kher and Jitish Kallat from Mumbai, photographer Dayanita Singh, art entrepreneur Budhi Tek and Phillip Dodd, Chairman of the cultural liaison company Made in China. The education sessions revolved around “art and public”. Curator and art writer Gayatri Sinha, who moderated and conceived several discussions, said the 2014 edition of the art fair expanded further on the “core constituency of art — public”. In the previous editions, the forum had drawn on Asia’s expanding role, institutions and critique of the post colonial, market dynamics and changing aesthetic values. “The umbrella subject of discussion of the speakers’ forum was the Public and its Arts. Drawing us out of the narrow reading of locations, borders and boundaries, nations and communities — the purpose was to understand how the very definitions of the public was changing before our eyes”.
The reading of the public in the last decade has been radically transformed, Sinha said.
“When there is an aggregate of people they may mark a visible public much like the agora of ancient Greece, however, there are publics which are not visible, who defy the idea of an aggregate, who work across different latitudes and political systems. Yet through networks of mobility, they may form national or global opinion, effect policy, topple governments, guide diplomacy and signal mass taste,” Sinha said. As emphasis shifts to networks rather than communities — space becomes a curatorium, “affecting our understanding of the public and its art”. “More than ever before, through its vocal response, physical participation, monetary support and occasion, its hands of destruction, the public confers on art, archives and material history the reading of our future, but also of the past,” Sinha said. The participants at the forum “have all transformed the way in which art is received”, she said.

India Art Fair Optimistic at Curtain Call 

New Delhi, Feb 2 2014  
The sixth edition of the India Art Fair 2014 which ended February 2, 2014 after three days of frenzied arts activity, to an enthusiastic response and brisk business brought to the Indian national capital the best of the international and national contemporary — across genres of paintings, new media, sculptural installations, performances and conceptual projects — with 3000 art works by at least 1,000 artists from over a dozen countries in 90 booths at the sprawling NSIC Grounds in Okhla — an industrial neighbourhood in the capital. The focus was on the new waves in Indian contemporary art movements and its role in the global contexts as viable aesthetic and business proposition in an art market valued at nearly 250 million dollar. The showcase, accompanied by education sessions, discourses, book launches, trade conclaves and cultural understanding initiatives drew 30 eminent speakers from spheres of art and culture, delegations from China – which has been looking at Indian art - collectors, artists and representatives from the premier international art museums to acquire art works from country that has seen steady enhancement in quality and business in the last 10 decade. The success of the fair brought on board a host of corporate sponsors – including leading sponsor Yes Bank — in a new display of corporate-arts synergy, fusing business and core aesthetics.
Some snapshots from the India Art Fair 

Absolut Anish Kapoor  
Leading contemporary artist Anish Kapoor, known for avant garde and futuristic sculptural and installation art unveiled his an exclusive artwork, “Absolut Kapoor”   - an abstract rendering of the bottle of the Absolute Vodka, a leading liquor brand that uses art as its brand positioning in the international market. The work is being shown for the first time. The dramatic work that makes plays on the colour red in a light landscape, experiments with space and illusion through two impressions of the bottle. He brings elements of light, structure and negative-positive space notions to define the relationship between the viewer and art. In one of the installations, the bottle appears upside down and in the other head up.”Absolut has a long history of artists from Andy Warhol to many of my great colleagues. The idea was to encapsulate whatever it one does in a single moment… It is a strange notion, but one I felt I could go in pursuit of,” Kapoor said.
The artist said art as a visual expression was “all about transformation”.”It is about taking a piece of metal or a lump of clay, a bit of cement or whatever else and turning it into something that isn’t. That fundamental transformation is indeed mysterious…Something that is in way wondrous. And I feel that intimacy with the viewer is something we have to hold on to,” Kapoor said.                       
An ethnic spread                    
Contemporary art means many things to viewers at an international art fair- especially if the country happens to be India. It can include aboriginal art as well because nearly 8 per cent of the country's population is amde of ethnic communities. Gallery Ganesha, a New Delhi-based art house connected art lovers to the country's aesthetic roots with a booth of tribal art hosting works by well-known tribal artist  Jangarh Singh Shyam, from Madhya Pradesh who died under tragic circumstances in Japan. The gallery has been working with him since the early 1990s. Shyam, one of the most popular faces of ethnic art in the country, has inspired generations of ethnic artists to bring their work to the mainstream. He combined an aborginal art practise and traditional iconography with contemporary story-telling. Shyam was one of the pioneer artists who switched to paper, arcylic pigments and brushes as new medium from the mud walls and natural colours.     
The gallery presented works by artists, who are inspired by the folk tradition, like Neelkant Choudhary from Madhubani, Bihar and Uma Shankar Shah from Nepal. Shobha Bhatia, director of Gallerie Ganesha said, "A strong heritage can influence descendants for generations. Tradition, which is always old, is at the same time ever new because it is always reviving... being born again in each generation. As no man is an island unto himself, the work of an artist in any era is essentially an amalgamation of his ancestors and predecessors and his own experiences. Our focus largely is on folk and the tribal tradition.”

Sotheby's global gesture 
Leading British auction-house Sotheby’s, which is in New Delhi to coincide with the India Art Fair 2014 unveiled for the first time in India works by Andy Warhol, Gerhard Richter and David Hockney— a selected panorama of works from is forthcoming London sale of contemporary arts — alongside leading Indian modern masterpieces, the highlights of its New York sale of its modern and contemporary South Asian art. The collection was opened to the public at the heritage Imperial Hotel in the national capital for Asian collectors, media and institutions – who have flocked to India for the India Art Fair.  The preview opened with a lecture on global art market by Lord Poltimore, deputy chairman, Sotheby’s Europe, James Sevier, senior specialist, contemporary art.  The contemporary highlights at the Hotel Imperial include a rare and recently rediscovered early David Hockney portrait (estimated £150,000-200,000), an iconic Andy Warhol Dollar Sign from the collection of Jade Jagger (Estimated £180,000-250,000), and a captivating work by leading Chinese artist Zao Wou-Ki (estimated £300,000-400,000). The highlights on view from the modern and contemporary South Asian Art sale have come from a number of distinguished American and European private collections. They include Buffalo Among Flower Bed, an important landscape by Bhupen Khakhar (Estimated $150,000-200,000), Maqbool Fida Husain’s dynamic canvas Untitled (Three Horses) (Est. $100,000-150,000), and Ram Kumar’s early abstract Untitled (Est. $80-120,000). The Andy Warhol Dollar Sign is one of his most iconic images. That is immediately recognizable. The Dollar Signs serve as a playful reminder that famous works of art are also valuable commodities – something of which Warhol was very aware. By 1981, Warhol had become as famous as many of the celebrities he painted. Mick Jagger (of Rolling Stones fame) and his wife Bianca were regular guests at the Factory where Warhol worked. The artist recalled Jade with great fondness. His work, dedicated to Jade on the reverse, is an affectionate gift from the father of pop art to the daughter of a pop star. Sotheby’s currently holds the record for an Andy Warhol work having achieved $105,445,000 (for his Silver Car Crash) in New York, November 2013.
Yamini Mehta, Senior Director, Sotheby’s International Head of Modern and Contemporary South Asian Art, London and New York said the auction house was thrilled to bring a variety of artworks to India which it felt would cause “real excitement in the market place”. “We believe there is real hunger among Indian collectors to experience well-known international contemporary artists and so we are delighted to be showing important works by David Hockney, andy Warhol and Chinese master Zao Wou ki for the first time. Along the contemporary pieces, we will be showcasing prime examples of Indian Modernism that are new to the market”.    

A Fraser legacy
Olivia Fraser, an Indian artist of British origin, is more Indian in sensibilities than many Britons — she uses skills she has honed among folk artists of Jaipur to reproduce iconographic patterns from Indian mythology, nature and spiritual oeuvres. At the India Art Fair, 2013, where Olivia Fraser, a descandant of East India Company painter James B. Fraser (who documented India in his art), was represented by the Grosvenor Gallery, UK, presented "Jain cosmological paintings of the Chakra, sun, moon and the holy cow on handmande Sanganer paper using stone pigments. The Sanganer paper resembles the sorface of textiles — (block printed textiles) for which the ancient town in the outskirts of Jaipur is known. Fraser is inspired by the miniature art traditions of Rajasthan — that of the 19th century Man Singh period. Her new work occurs in repetitive clusters set in geometric patterns on brightly coloured surfaces on a meditative note.                       

Brother Souza in making? 
Lancelot Ribeiro worked in Mumbai and Goa around the same time as F.N. Souza, but it took the artist from Goa nearly 40 years to move to limelight.The India Art Fair 2014 brought of Ribiero's townscapes and landscapes, which the artist painted in London, on paper with wayer colours and ink.  RIbeiro, who was born in Bombay in 1933 to a Catholic family in Goa, went to study accountancy in Britain in 1950. But he abandoned his academic career midway to study art between 1950-1953 at St Martin's. He eventually returned to Mumbai to work in insurance 1960. Rebeiro gave up insurance for art when his first solo exhibition at the Bombay Art Salon was sold out in 1960. The success  of the exhibition fetched him a commission to paint a 12-feet mural for Tata Iron & Steel and a lifetime's patron — nuclear scientist Homi Bhabha, who bought several paintings from Robeiro (as commissioned works). In 1962, Rebeiro moved to London and and lived there with his half brother Francis Newton Souza - as his studio assisstant. Rebeiro began with oils (in New York expressionist genre), but in the Sixties, he gave up oils for synthetic pigments. In 1972, he lectured on Indian Art at the Commonwealth Institute and in 1976, he founded the multi-cultural Rainbow Art Group. In 1978, he founded the Indian Artists United Kingdom Group.    

Business brisk 
Business was one of the key highlights of the India Art Fair with works priced between Rs 40,000 to Rs 200,000 steering the trends in sales at the close of the third day of the fair, gallerists observed. The fair saw new individual collectors filling up the space vacated by corporate investors - still grappling to recover from the 2008 meltdown and its residual slumps in economic growth. The new collectors were "savvy, educated and astute about quality and money's worth" looking for new works that were of substance and style rather than big names. The association of the Indian Chamber of Commerce posted interesting pointers - in the context of the India Art Fair — about the arts market and awareness in India.             
The chamber said India’s Fine as played a significant role in shaping the country's socio-cultural identity. Apart from the plethora of relics sprinkled across our historical and heritage sites, India’s museums and galleries have always held a unique appeal and draw for global audiences. 
Art as an Asset Class: Historically, Art has proven to perform better than other asset classes, especially during downturns. Studies by Barclays Capital and The Economist have shown that art outperformed both equities and property over both short and long periods of time.
Scope for Massive Growth: India's art market - approximately INR 700 Crores - is still less than 1 per cent of the global art market which is currently worth 43 billion Euros. With demand for Indian Art growing globally, India’s share will definitely get a boost.
Interest from global auction houses: Christie’s from the UK, currently the world’s largest fine-arts auction house, made their debut in the Indian art market last year. It partnered this year’s India Art Fair, showing international interest in the Indian art market.
Private Sector Support for Art: Art in India has seen a surge of various private and non-profit organizations as well as corporate foundations promoting Indian art with a view to democratising art and enriching the social and cultural equity of India

Performance and Projects 
Two of the major spotlights at the India Art Fair are Performance and Projects- both on the site and as collateral events around the city— in an example of how is moving from the confines of institutional space into living venues among people and opening direct dramatic dialogues with viewers. The inaugural day of the fair began with a special performance by Anindita Dutta, “Everything Ends and Everything” Matters, presented by Gallery Latitude 28.  In her performance, Dutta begins to smear mud on the walls and surfaces on which her drawings and patterns would be inscribed in a spiral manner. Once the surfaces are layered with mud, she etches an original set of drawings on them. Once the inner surfaces are covered with mud and the original drawings are inscribed, Dutta begins performance with a group of National School of Drama Graduates - who interact against the mud spirals on the surface in an exuberant manner to symbolize the flow of energy and the aura we radiate in our daily lives. The performance leave new imprints on the mud – overwriting the original drawings to state that nothing in his world is static- events and things are constantly morphing, fluxing— and exchanging energies in a confined walls of our existence. Dutta, who is based United States, combines her extensive training in sculpture with performances. The major projects at the fair include Riyas Komu’s Collectors’ Room ( set of boxed images by three photographers), Path Finder by L.N. Tallur, Listen Up by Diana Cambell Betancourt and Tim Goossens, Aura by Subodh Gupta and File Rooms by Dayanita Singh. A project based contemporary art intervention INSERT 14 at the Indira Gandhi Centre for Arts will address the impact of cutting edge contemporary art practices on the country’s art and culture space.
 -Madhusree Chatterjee                            

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