Despite a dull market and controversies, India Art Fair carves a niche in art world

The fifth India Art Fair, which concluded on February 3, has not been free from controversies. The media has not been particularly kind, but for an event of this magnitude, one can hardly expect all reviews to be flattering. There was news about many people not being to enter due to lack of information on the cut-off time for entry.

Also, it appeared that there were fewer installations this year, but instead, the organisers compensated for this by more space for traditional art and hence a larger number of works by India’s best-known painters were on show.

Among the more serious comments were made against the organisers for misleading the public about art sales during previous art fairs. However, counteracting this was a report that announced a ‘healthy growth’ of almost 30 per cent in art sales.

In this context, I would like to say that all those involved with the business of art, are aware of the state of the art market across the globe. The organisers have once again managed to attract many galleries and seasoned as well as new art collectors among the 130,000 visitors, who visited the India Art Fair.

It is through such fairs that the public gets to see the works of Indian artists and new buyers emerge, in an otherwise dull market.

Among the better-known and renowned painters, whose works were exhibited were Ganesh Pyne and Somnath Hore, presented by Kolkata’s CIMA Gallery. Delhi Art Gallery presented some of the best works by MF Husain and Ramkumar. Some of Husain’s early works were also presented by Singapore’s Indigo Blue Gallery and a portrait of the Keehn family by the artist painted in 1959 was quite a scene stealer. It was priced at $150.

It has also been said that there was more focus on Husain this year since there were fewer works by ‘international masters’. As a genuine Husain fan, I certainly enjoyed hearing this.

There was also a complaint that the few installations that were showed are much smaller than usual. Subodh Gupta, among the most popular Indian artists in India and abroad, is known for his dramatically large works. His glass installation, Mirror Stage, made out of steel glasses, bowls and cutlery juxtaposed vertically over a flat mirror is considerably smaller than his usual pieces. Gupta’s work was presented by Italian art gallery, Galleria Continua. The installation was priced at ¤275,000, while his two smaller oils were ¤50,000 each. In addition, the capital’s Nature Morte gallery was also selling two of his classic works, Still Life and Family Portraits.

Other installations included Paresh Maiti’s depiction of Delhi’s seven-fold history, ‘Covering Letter’ by Jitish Kallat, which included a lit transparent installation of a letter from Mahatma Gandhi to Hitler. Also interesting was Krishna Murari’s Mom, created out of leather.

Indian art lovers wait eagerly for art fairs to give them the opportunity of seeing the works of international artists.

The India Art Fair brought us the works by some of the greatest 20th century artists, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Joan Miro, Francis Bacon and Marc Chagall — a real treat within specially designed surroundings.

(The writer is a winner of many advertising design

awards and a painter of repute)

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