February 01, 2012


The fourth edition of India Art Fair 2012 featured 98 exhibitors from 20 countries presenting 1,000 of the most modern and contemporary artists across a 12,000 square metre custom built space created for the art fair. MOA’s Managing Editor Sarmistha Maiti takes a closer look at the fair.


“Why this Kolaveri di…” this Tanglish (Tamil-English) song has almost turned into a myth within no time after it hit the net. Among many interpretations of the word ‘kolaveri’ , I came across a very interesting synonym while working on a documentary film in one of the oldest red light districts of Kolkata in the beginning of January this year. A girl (11), daughter of a sex-worker popped up with a single word synonym for ‘kolaveri’ as ‘ashanti’ (in Bengali) or ‘hungama’ (in Hindi) meaning ‘fuss/unrest’ in English. It immediately intrigued me. And with no bias at all, the feeling of the meaning all of a sudden came back to me when I visited the India Art Fair 2012 (earlier known as India Art Summit) at NSIC Exhibition Grounds, Okhla Industrial Estate , New Delhi. An obvious question does come up, why?

An inexhaustible expedition into art with anything and everything included in the name of contemporary and cutting-edge conformed the space as a ‘fair’ more-so “mela” in its true spirit, where your visit is much-like window shopping in today’s mall culture. Or it could be accounted as a moment of fun and festival to meet both friends and foes on the same fair ground and spent some time once in a year – a great rendezvous to hang-out and breathe art paying an entry price of 200 INR. Till here the story sounds good. But there are twists and turns at different levels as the narrative unfolds – in this case of course the hype and hoopla of the India Art Fair, which has been almost transcended to myth in the ‘kolaveri’ style.  Nonsense rhymes/soup song in the form of ‘kolaveri di’ and art finding its relief in craft in a profuse attempt to amalgamate, appropriate and associate any object with an artistic concept, more so dealing with an idea to generate a bigger idea and relate it to one’s time and space and contextualize it in the microscopic reality that automatically becomes a part of the macroscopic reality in the global paranoia. And that is why the language of art has become more subjective, stripping off the attire of individuality which has remained the crisis of creative minds a century ago. The journey of post-modern to contemporary has remained more towards the originality of thought-process catered by collective consciousness and becoming a part of the bigger whole. The vagueness of individual ego has in fact diminished in the present times and thus artists have learnt more to deal with the dichotomies, binaries and conflicts and discover a resolution instead of suffering from superfluous alienation and isolation.  The India Art Fair 2012 was quite emblematic to showcase this trend.

The fourth edition of this fair featured 98 exhibitors from 20 countries presenting 1,000 of the most modern and contemporary artists across a 12,000 square metre custom built space created for the art fair. “The organisers of IndiaArtFair 2012 confirm that the total value of art work that is being displayed at the 4th Edition of IndiaArtFair from 25-29 January 2012 at NSIC Exhibition Grounds, Okhla, New Delhi, is in the region of Rs 50- 70 crore,” was another remarkable statement made and circulated in media by the organisers. Neha Kirpal, the Founder and Director of India Art Fair said, “This year’s highlights include many new works displayed for the first time, an impressive line-up of Indian and European modern masters and contemporaries, promising debuts by emerging artists, and solo projects showcasing contemporary artists of International repute.” The diverse contingent of galleries that participated this year included 57 percent galleries from Asia (including 48 Indian galleries), 26 percent from Europe and the remaining 14 percent from North and south America, the Middle East, Africa and Australia. Blue-chip international galleries that participated for the first time included Hauser and Wirth (UK/Switzerland), Galleria continua (Italy) and White Cube (UK). Lisson Gallery (UK) participated for the third time. This edition also went for a partnership of directors and founders – Sandy Angus (Chairman of leading global exhibitions company Montgomery Worldwide) and will Ramsay (Founder of Affordable Art Fair and Pulse Art Fair).


Significant representations of European modern art included Marc Chagall, Salvador Dali, Jean Miro and Pablo Picasso. World renowned contemporary artists showcased by different galleries included Marina Abramovic, Antony Gormley, Mona Hatoum, Damien Hirst, Anish Kapoor and many more. The Indian masters from M.F. Husain, F.N. Souza, Tyeb Mehta, Laxma Goud, Pradosh Dasgupta, Dharmanarayan Dasgupta and many more were put together from the personal collection of Delhi Art Gallery.

‘Bindis’ and ‘bartans’ (utensils) of Bharti Kher and Subodh Gupta took the forefront of this fair grandeur. Ravinder Reddy’s painted polyester resin fiber glass sculptures of the same model sometimes in golden shade and sometimes in blue almost was another obsession of the art fair. Every corner of the tent had at least one Reddy on sight.

Sudarshan Setty’s “The Flying Bus”, Robert Bowman Modern Art Gallery’s “The Trojan Horse” made of junk and scrap, Sam Jinks “Women & Child” in mixed media showcased by Karen Woodbury Gallery, Australia, Rashid Rana’s “Desperately Seeking Paradise II” in stainless steel and UV print on aluminium and Gigi Scaria’s “Elevator from the subcontinent” – installation and projection were among the major attractive pieces for every visitor of the fair. And for photo-sessions on cell phones everyone at least for once gave a pose in front of “Hangover Man III” by Siddhartha Kararwal, an independent project supported by Latitude 28 and Creative India Foundation and also in front of Harley Davidson Bikes “The Big Twins – Fat Boy”. These two bikes attracted every visitor to take at least one snap of it mostly without understanding its relevance on the fair ground. But it doesn’t matter just like ‘Kolaveri di’!


Yoko Ono’s projects co-organised by Vadehra Art Gallery and Japan Foundation which she has specifically chosen for projection in the India Art Fairare ‘smile’, touch’, ‘dream’ and ‘our beautiful daughters’. Samar Jodha’s “Discord” and “Belong” supported by the Creative India Foundation were Jodha’s two decade work he has been executing in China. Born out of twin concern that of belonging and abandonment in a world marked by large-scale migrations the work “Belong” was inspired from the perennial migrant worker and his meager belongings. Placed all over the India Art Fair venue, Jodha’s concrete-cast works were close to their real-life counterparts.  “Lavaris Vastu” (Unattended Objects) by Asim Waqtif supported by Seven Art Ltd., and Creative India Foundation somehow remained unattended at one corner of the fair ground in the public art display area.


The Speakers’ Forum became an important dais to generate discourses and this time due to its being entry free, people got courage and curiosity to peep inside and at least try to gulp on ‘serious talks’ on issues of art and culture and relate it to one’s own personal cumulative common understating. Renowned international speakers such as Mark Quinn (artist), RoseLee Goldberg (art Historian, Critic and Curator), Budi Tek (Indonesian Entrepreneur), Claire Hsu (Co-Founder and Executive director, Asia art archive, Hong Kong), Jan Dalley (Financial Times Arts Editor, UK) gave their opinions on this forum on topics like “Postcolonial and the Curatoria”, “Platforms of Regional Engagement: creativity, politics and emergent curatorial frameworks”, “European Reception of Contemporary Indian art”, Performance art – the medium of 21st century”, “Has contemporary come and gone?” and so on. With other speakers the academic partners of this forum were Asia Art Archive, Jawaharlal Nehru University and Asia Society.


The grandeur of the India Art Fair in the fourth edition canbe considered unprecedented. And the organizers have every reason to take pride in the fact that it has been capable to make that turnover to continue this platform of art expedition in much, much bigger range in the years to come. A brilliant ground to set networking and deals have also been accomplished by most. But with the steepening recession in the art market when most galleries doubt their own survival as Siddhartha Tagore of Art Konsult stated, “It’s time we gallery owners get used to this recession and the situation doesn’t look really hopeful…”, Tapas Sarkar, a sculptor from Kolkata whose latest works of remaking the Kalighat Pata-painting images into sculptures that were being showcased by the Indigo art Gallery, Singapore got all seven works sold out from the fair itself on the other hand marked a facelift for Bengal artists and galleries who didn’t even dared to participate or get represented in this fair.

When Ravi Sundaram, Senior Fellow, Centre for the Study of developing Societies, Delhi spoke on the topic “Has the Moment of Contemporary come and gone?” that Contemporary is nothing but an attitude and it is more like heading towards non-conclusiveness…, the closing topic of the Speakers’ Forum again brought me back to square one and reminded me of that  girl’s interpretation of “Kolaveri” sitting in the dark lanes of the red light district who dreams to become a dancer one day. Tall claims, big talks, attitude and art – all did comprise this edition of India Art Fair and as a common visitor walked out of the fair-ground exhausted with the inexhaustible journey of art, wearing a fatigue smile with unrest in soul, heaving a deep sigh “I should also have been an artist…ismein kya badi baat hai (what big deal is it?)” , the fuss and the frenzy in the name of art and fair is most comprehensible in the “Koaveri di” style… “Yo boys, I’m singing song…soup song…flop song….”

Photographs by Anoop Kamath

Bharati Kher's sculpture at GallerySke booth

Artists Jagannath Panda admiring a work

L.N. Tallur's sculpture at Nature Morte booth

Paresh Maity posing in front of his installation, Fading Away

Peter Negy and designer Manish Malhotra in front of a ManilRohit work

Rashid Rana's work on display at Lisson Gallery booth

A scupture by Sunil Gawde at Sakshi Gallery booth

Artists Gigi Scaria, Surendran Nair and Ritu Kamath in converstion