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The India Art Fair

Fun of the fair

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POP GOES GANDHI: Thai artist Pakpoom Silaphan combines vintage ads and celebrity icons to examine consumerism. (Top) A neon work by Raqs

It is described as the Kumbh of art, and not without a reason. TOI-Crest takes a wander around the India Art Fair to check out some of the more interesting displays.

There is plenty to look at the India Art Fair, and it's not just the art. During Thursday's vernissage (VIP preview to you and me. The term comes from the French word for varnish and harks back to the days when artists varnished works the day before the show), the Jimmy Choos and LVs tried hard to distract from the Picassos and the Razas. But if you could drag your eyes from the page 3 regulars and fashionistas, then there was plenty of good art to soak in.

In its fifth edition, the India Art Fair - being likened to the Kumbh of art - has bulked up quite a bit. Over 100 galleries from 24 countries have brought their stars and their next big things. Big names from abroad range from Marina Abramovic to LouiseBourgeois, and from Kiki Smith to Salvador Dali. There is booth after booth of art, enough to make your eyes pop and your wallet lighten. How about a shiny Subodh Gupta bartan work? Or Somnath Hore's delicate paper works on the Bengal famine? Or, a magnet-sized work from Aussie dealer Peter Burke's suitcase full of art? Burke, who has tied up with Nature Morte gallery, even has works tucked into his socks that he whips out if you show the slightest interest.

Over the last few editions, the mood has been quite subdued with galleries and artists stressed about a sales downturn. It's too early to tell whether this year the warmth of commerce will ignite Delhi's frigid air. As art professionals scoped out the wares, we snuck in to take a look....

GANDHI: WITH FIZZ & FOG


One of the highlights of the fair was a light-projection of a historic letter written by Gandhi to Hitler in 1939, urging him to reconsider his violent means. The work by Mumbai-based artist Jitish Kallat at the Nature Morte booth appeared like a flat illuminated document at the end of a tunnel. Viewers go through the fogladen tunnel with their bodies touching Gandhi's words.
While on the subject of the Mahatma, Thai artist Pakpoom Silaphan's Gandhi on Coke buttons gathered quite a crowd. His pop aesthetic stretched to Dali and Picasso as well. Showing his work was London's Scream gallery which made its debut this year (art fair regular Lisson chose to skip the event). The gallery brought quite a few hangable works that would look good in your penthouse apartment or corporate office. The red dots went up beside Chinese artist Ye Hongxing's mandala paintings made with kiddie stickers.

REMEMBERING NIRBHAYA


Atul Dodiya's rolling shutters which have been narrating vivid stories of India for many years now tell the tale of Nirbhaya, the 23-year-old whose gangrape in a moving bus sparked nationwide outrage. The shutter on which Gandhi is painted lifts to reveal a crying eye, a nod to Roy Lichtenstein's distressed Crying Girl. Dodiya's girl is surrounded by sharks and the date of her death - 29/12/2012 - is emblazoned at the bottom. Vidya Shivdas, curator at Vadehra Gallery, said Dodiya had used the image of a young Gandhi to show the contrast between then and now.

MIRROR CRACKED


The art fair - it's more a celebratory bazaar where the interested woman or man on the street can experience the buzz that crackles through the usually rarefied echelons of the art world - started off with quite a bang, literally. The director of Gallery Continua showcased the mirror works of famous Italian artist Michelangelo Pistoletto by literally taking a hammer to one of his installations. The glass shattered into hundreds of pieces. "That felt good, " exclaimed a viewer watching the drama.

THE ART OF HUMOUR


Art fairs aren't just about buying and gulping the complimentary wine, they can also elicit smiles, albeit the wry variety. Delhi architect Gautam Bhatia's work at Apparao Gallery showed disinterested netas seated on Parliament benches. Another, a more biting display, showed potbellied politicians inside a commode. At the Project 88 booth, a work by Raqs media collective which had the words 'Sold Out' in neon seemed to be a commentary on how commerce overwhelms art these days.


The India Art Fair is on till Feb 3 at the NSIC Exhibition Grounds in Okhla, Delhi

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