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Pretty as a picture: India Art Fair 2015

With a stellar roster of artists, live performances, post-colonial deconstructions and photographic memoirs, the India Art Fair 2015 has as diverse a programme as one could hope for. Payel Majumdar lists the events and exhibits you can’t afford to miss.

Payel Majumdar  24th Jan 2015

The seventh edition of the India Art Fair next week (29 Jan - 1 Feb), at the NSIC Exhibition Grounds, Okhla (New Delhi), will involve 400 artists and over 4,000 artworks, and 85 participating galleries. Art fairs are as much about art as they are about money. While the art market goes into a tizzy about all the art that the India Art Fair has to offer, here is what an art lover's eyes can feast on at the fair.

Krystian 'Truth' Czaplicki's 'Fungus'

Polish artist Krystian "Truth" Czaplicki's untitled "fungus" installations are celebrated in the art world and on the internet for their urban character and their spatial presence bang in the middle of everyday life. Czaplicki rejects the label of "street artist", but his work has nevertheless appeared on the streets of Warsaw, London, Manchester, Bordeaux, Rome and Moscow, differing subtly from site to site. What Czaplicki has in store for Indian art-lovers remains to be seen, but it's likely to grow on you.

Francesco Clemente's 'Taking Refuge'

When Italian artist Francesco Clemente first visited India in 1973, he was, like so many young people of his generation, disillusioned with life. He wanted "to step out of history and into geography", as he later said in a Financial Times interview. He returned to India after travelling the world, and the country has been a huge influence on his work, including his penchant for painting Mughal-style tents. The 65-year-old artist has been painting canvas tents all over the world for over 40 years now, and one of these will be displayed at the India Art Fair. The artwork in question is titled Taking Refuge. This tent has its interiors painted with Buddha figures in dark shades of blue and grey. Animal heads — cats, mice — surround the Buddhas, evoking the cycle of life and death. The exterior, by way of contrast, consists of colourful appliqué work with gold embroidery, upon which the Buddhist Vajrayana vow has been block-printed all over.

Homai Vyarawalla's uncovered photographs

One of the Art Fair's collateral events will see Homai Vyarawalla's previously unexhibited photographs on display (31 January, Alkazi Foundation of Arts). The exhibition has been curated by documentary filmmaker Sabeena Gadihoke, who has written the book India in Focus: Camera Chronicles of Homai Vyarawalla and made a documentary on the pioneering photojournalist's story. In her curatorial note, Gadihoke explains, "This show has emerged out of my 13-year journey with Homai Vyarwalla. In this retrospective, I have sought to map the significant moments of her repertoire by including photographs that have circulated widely along with those that have not. My attempt was to frame the photographs within a larger cultural history and draw attention to their circulation in public and private domains. On the one hand she shot political moments as they unfolded and on the other, she chronicled the lives of people like herself. The former found a permanent place in collective memory while the latter lie scattered in the personal archives of those who had the privilege of being photographed by her."

Faig Ahmed: Shapeless 

Faig Ahmed's work caught our eye when he was part of the group art show Past Traditions at Exhibit 320 last year, so it's exciting that we get to see more of him this year. The Azerbaijan artist uses the recurring motif of the Persian carpet and deconstructs its various elements it in his artwork. The Afghan carpet moves into contemporary spaces with Ahmed's complex canvases, distorted or metamorphosed with contemporary elements or juxtaposed and moulded into contemporary objects to show the disconnect between past and present that change brings about.

Dayanita Singh's Museum of chance

Photographer Dayanita Singh's Museum of Chance is an exhibition that doubles up as a book: 88 unique editions with 88 different covers that span Singh's career as a photographer and artist. Museum of Chance is a commentary on the sequence of life, how people record and edit their life, simulated in the life of a book as a metaphor.

Veer Munshi's Serenity of Desolation

Serenity of Desolation draws on Kashmiri artist Veer Munshi's memories of home after the recent floods in J&K and the destruction they caused. His installation is an archetypal Kashmiri house that has toppled over. It has portraits of familiar poets and ordinary faces, a reminder of the natural disaster that affected everybody connected to Kashmir. A video installation in the model house spells out the region's narrative of loss, meditating on its history of suffering.

Manuel João Vieira

Manuel João Viera's work at the fair will encapsulate both facets of his life as an artist: his work as musician and a painter. The Portuguese artist will take part in a live art performance with two video installations playing simultaneously. The masked Viera will alternately play music and paint, all the while keeping in sync with the rhythm of the video. His act will comment on the contrast between an artist working alone in his studio and a public performer interacting with his audience as well as his own work.

Daku

The street artist who goes by the pseudonym Daku has his graffiti all over the city. Known for his witty observations and poignant takes on socio-political issues, Daku's work at the India Art Fair will be a poem on the romance of working and the experience of interacting with the streets, done on a chalk-white wall. His presence at the Art Fair is a welcome nod to the popularity of graffiti and the growing acceptance of pop art in the contemporary Indian art canon.

Artsome's Curated Art walks

India Art Fair attracts large crowds, including members of Delhi's extensive student community. For the first time, the 2015 edition will have curated art walks all around the booths. There are five walks that visitors can sign up for (happily, they're all free). These will take place from 30 January to 1 February in three slots — 2.30 p.m., 4.30 p.m. and 6.30 p.m. each day. The walks are: The World Goes Pop!, Who Made Indian Art Modern, Contextualising Contemporary Art, Looking Beyond the Canvas and Exploring Art Projects.

Chitra and Dhruvi Acharya

Contemporary Indian artists and good friends Chitra Ganesh and Dhruvi Acharya will start with a blank canvas at the Art Fair and paint through the four days upon it — providing a live demonstration of the methods and processes behind filling a canvas with art. Ganesh and Acharya will be collaborating together for the second time, having attempted a canvas diptych earlier.

 
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