It’s an annual ritual, the visit to the India Art Fair. I’m interested in art, of course, but in a general manner. I’m not into buying or collecting, nor do I enthusiastically follow artists and their careers. It’s a nice event to go to to just soak in the trends, often quirky, the crowds and the experience of being surrounded by art. Even though art is not what you would call some of the stuff there!
This year, we took the kids along. We navigated the fair in two groups: Aadyaa, Amma and me in Group 1 and Udai, mum and mum’s friend Bashabi in Group 2. The Art Fair with Aadyaa was a whole different experience altogether! She’s very artistic herself, always drawing even on scraps of paper she finds lying around and it was interesting to see what she liked and what she found amusing. Bright colours, installations that you could interact with, audio-visual exhibits and sculpture were what really got her attention. And large canvases! Here are some pics to give you a better idea….
Of course, as an architect, my eye gets drawn to works of art that express themes that are urban in nature. But this time at the India Art Fair in New Delhi, there was no escaping the fact that artists are thinking of urban issues and concern, romancing the city, and expressing the nuances of urban life like never before. Not only does this mean that our urban identity as humans is now perhaps mainstreamed, at least for art appreciated by city folk, it also means an increased focus on urban issues that need urgent attention. Art contributed to enhancing awareness about these issues among a wider audience and we need all the help we can get to fix our cities if human life has to be sustainable for the future.
Here are a few glimpses of the fair.
The skyline and the streetscape were the most common representations of urbanism and featured in the work of many artists, even those who were prolific in the ’60s. However, new forms of expression that used mixed media, digital art, recycling of waste etc was interesting to see. Some of these works moved into the realm of activism and highlighted issues related to migration, urban identity, ecological concerns, etc. I was tickled to see that many of the artists exhibiting here were trained as architects.
Hema Upadhyay’s work ‘Mute Migration’ particularly impressed me. Firstly, migration is my area of research and I am passionate about the need to accomodate migrants into our cities. Her mural highlights that informal settlements are where migrants get absorbed, where the type of mixed-use lifestyle flourishes. Certainly, we need to learn from the amazing tenacity of these self-evolved informal settlements rather than constantly shun them in a bid to redevelop and relocate!
And on a humorous note, another architect Gautam Bhatia brought tears of laughter to my eyes through his sculptural commentary on the Indian politician. The text on his sculptures uses his classic tongue-in-cheek over-the-top style to push the point through. The Minister for Public Health has to leave for New York for a stool test after gas build up post a meal at Parliament Annexe. The Minister for Women’s Rights sells his wife to the private sect…you get the drift!
It’s always a fun experience to see this Fair. I have watched it grow and it’s great to see so much interest in India both as a nation that produces great art but also for its buying power. I watched many deals negotiated, haggling and also the satisfied smirk on some faces after buying a Chagall or a Raza in the original! As for me, I had no urge to buy. I was here for the visual treat…..perhaps some day……