Shades of art

South Asian art will be a highlight of the 2016 India Art Fair


The 2015 IAF had over 80,000 visitors. Photo courtesy India Art Fair
The 2015 IAF had over 80,000 visitors. Photo courtesy India Art Fair

There’s more to art than just indulgence; it reflects the times we live in and the times we have left behind.

The 2016 India Art Fair (IAF), starting 28 January in the Capital, will showcase a select roster of galleries to focus on both quality and diversity. The list has been reduced from last year’s 85 to 70, and includes participants from 16 countries, including first-timers like Grey Noise (Dubai), Hafez Gallery (Saudi Arabia), Edel Assanti (UK) and Hosfelt Gallery (US).

The four-day fair, now into its eighth edition, will also have a series of firsts to its credit, including a showcase of traditional art forms and the works of art collectives from South Asian countries.

“The contemporary art scene has grown tremendously over the years owing to the regional biennials and triennials, and political and economic shifts. So it becomes all the more important that we bring to our audience new artists and offer the best of each region,” says IAF 2016’s international director Zain Masud.

The list of galleries also includes regulars like Tasveer (Bengaluru), Vadehra Art Gallery (Delhi) and Experimenter (Kolkata).

“The idea of an art fair, such as the IAF, is to make art accessible to people who would otherwise feel too intimidated to enter a private gallery. These fairs offer a wide range of works in various price brackets, ensuring that viewers don’t walk out empty-handed,” says Roshini Vadehra, director of the Vadehra Art Gallery. The gallery will have one of the biggest booths (135 sq. m) at the NSIC Grounds, spread over 20,000 sq. m, in Okhla and will include over 100 never-seen-before works by around 20 artists.

The fair will also, for the first time, feature traditional art forms like Pichwai paintings by the Delhi-based organization Pichvai—Tradition & Beyond, which is working to revive this craft.

Another first is the “Platform” section that will showcase the works of art collectives from South Asian countries, including the Nepal Art Council, Theertha Artists Collective (Sri Lanka), Taseer Art Gallery (Pakistan) and Swaraj Art Archive and Blueprint12 (both based in India). “Each fair has to identify itself. We are doing that by re-examining the focus on South Asian countries, which are not able to participate in the West because of their currency. The Platform will ensure that the West no longer remains oblivious to the richness of South Asian art,” says Masud.

Photo: Bandu Manamperi/Theertha International Artists Collective/IAF
Photo: Bandu Manamperi/Theertha International Artists Collective/IAF

Theertha International Artists Collective (Sri Lanka)

Jagath Weerasinghe, Anoli Perera, Bandu Manamperi and Pala Pothupitiya capture a portrait of a nation whose historical trajectory moves through colonial legacy, homeland claims and autocratic rule.

Manamperi’s portrait will be in the form of ‘Iron Man’, a performance art where he will undress and then iron his clothes. The 30-minute “absurd” act represents the acts of removing oneself from the past and erasing memories. Ironing out the “creases” implies the creation of a new history, believes Manamperi.

Swaraj Art Archive (Noida)

Swaraj is an archive of art collections from the Bengal, Lucknow and Bombay Schools from 1900-80. Its exhibition, ‘Company School: Indo-British Painting In Colonial India From The Swaraj Collection’, will comprise 80 paintings on mica, 115 watercolours, 40 postcards, 16 terracotta figurines, and some photographs. The subjects include trades, occupations, processions, architecture, natural history and Indian mythology. “Company School refers to a genre of paintings done by Indian artists, commissioned by British officers of the East India Company in the 18th and 19th centuries,” says Smriti Rajgarhia, director of the Swaraj Art Archive.

Photo: Farida Batool/Taseer Art Gallery/IAF
Photo: Farida Batool/Taseer Art Gallery/IAF

Taseer Art Gallery (Pakistan)

This Lahore-based gallery will present works that highlight the changing face of the city. “The artists will focus on the city’s traditional red bricks, the Walled City (one of Pakistan’s jewels, known for its historical importance) and its changing culture owing to modern influence,” says Sanam Taseer, the gallery’s director. The participating artists are Farida Batool, Saba Khan, Humaira Abid and Mohsin Shafi.

Photo: Hitman Gurung/Nepal Art Council/IAF
Photo: Hitman Gurung/Nepal Art Council/IAF

Nepal Art Council (Nepal)

Based in Kathmandu, the Nepal Art Council will present the work of seven artists—Asha Dangol, Bidhata K.C., Birendra P. Singh, Hitman Gurung, Manish Harijan, Samundra Man Singh Shrestha and Sheelasha Rajbhandari. “Each artist represents his/her own perspective of Nepal. While Dangol’s work is a social commentary on urbanization, Bidhata’s paintings move toward abstractions. Pratap’s works represent the responses of a post-earthquake Nepal,” says Dina Bangdel, curator of the Nepal Art Council booth. One of the more interesting works on display is by Gurung—pictures showing faceless forms holding their citizenship cards. “His works demonstrate the issues of identity, rights, gender inequality and citizenship,” says Bangdel.

Photo: Banoo Batliboi/Blueprint12/IAF
Photo: Banoo Batliboi/Blueprint12/IAF

Blueprint12 (New Delhi)

This gallery will present 20 works by artists from South Asian countries, including Banoo Batliboi (India), Madiha Sikander (Pakistan), Mahbubur Rahman (Bangladesh), Pala Pothupitiya (Sri Lanka) and Hitman Gurung and Youdhisthir Maharjan (both from Nepal). “Through various media, these artists engage with the political, social and cultural scenario that surrounds them,” says Blueprint12’s director Ridhi Bhalla. Paper artist Batliboi’s “book art”, for instance, shifts the focus, from the book as a medium of communication to its tactile and visual qualities, in a bid to create an alternative life—like the pages of an old atlas reflecting a new topography.

IAF 2016 will be held from 28-31 January, 11am-8pm, at the NSIC Grounds, Okhla. For details, visit www.indiaartfair.in

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