The India Art Fair, which ran from February 9-12, returned to New Delhi with a total of 65 galleries and 16 art institutions. These were the highlights.

This year's Indian Art Fair was led by the newly appointed fair director, Jagdip Jagpal, whose goals for the fair involve “inspiring visitors to discover the best of the local and regional art scene, from its fascinating history through to its modern-day icons and emerging talent.” 

While the majority of the booths housed prominent Indian galleries, the presence of up-and-coming, noted international galleries, along with various local art organizations, collectives, and councils certainly did not go unnoticed.

Through juxtaposing works by modern masters with those of celebrated contemporary names, and traditional craft-inspired pieces with the creations of young emerging artists, the fair aims to offer a broad scope of Indian art. 

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A focus on female artists 

Jhaveri Contemporary and Shrine Empire emphasised the female perspective, with Shrine Empire including nine women artists out of 10, hailing from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and India. Featured as part of the Projects section of the fair, Zoya Siddiqui’s Loop, a rather experimental video, investigates the dimensions of space and time in relationship to the viewer, who watches it played on a loop.

Also on view were Tayeba Begum Lipi’s compelling range of household items constructed from razor blades—commonplace domestic objects that convey feminist enquiries into the societal standards enforced upon women. In direct contrast, Samantha Batra Mehta’s subliminal compositions ponder the effect of memory, stirring up a sense of nostalgia. 

From Jhaveri Contemporary, the vibrant geometric ‘folds’ by the acclaimed Rana Begum play with the boundaries of painting and sculpture, and source inspiration from childhood memories in Bangladesh and London.

Monica Correa’s colourful tapestries draw upon the rich history of textiles in India while using techniques from weaving to induce 3-D optical illusions. Also expanding on the widening practices influencing and incorporated in art, are the architecturally-inspired spatial installations of Lubana Chowdhary.   

Indicative of medium driven trends, that tend to employ incision making techniques on found images, are the visual texts of Saubiya Chasmawala, showing with Mumbai-based TARQ gallery.  Although minimalist in aesthetic, the imagery is richly layered in content, ultimately questioning the meaning of self-identity in regards to gender and religion and expressing vulnerability.

Also on view were Ritika Merchant’s vivid gouache and ink (on paper) mosaics. Inspired by myths, each individual piece serves as a re-told allegory adapted to vocalize concerns for the present day world.  

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The new classics
From paper works to sculptural installations, a vast array of mediums were observed. Ubiquitous throughout the fair were the now considered classic, abstractions by the modern masters. In addition to these, the complex and layered paintings of Sanjay Barot, subtly challenging the conventional perceptions of the medium were found at Rukshaan Art. 

Evoking a sense of mystique and excitement through the act of discovery, Passage through the Veil conceals a great number of hidden details through complex layering. Upon close inspection, viewers find minuscule symbols and imageries serving as clues that eventually lead to a literal bigger picture, producing a captivating effect. 

Creating conversation through context

Mumbai's Chemould Prescott Gallery featured pieces that exposed audiences to a spectrum of mediums explored by eminent contemporary artists. Amongst them, Gigi Scaria’s bronze figurines appeared to be half embedded in the walls, displaying the diversity of Scaria’s practice and his fascination with exploring the human form and our false conception of control.

Also alluding to the unpredictability of existence were Reena Kallat’s meditative photo pieces, titled Saline Notations. Natural elements such as lime, cow dung, bamboo matting and, jute, were utilized by Bijoy Jain to create textural, sculpted canvases hinting at his architectural background.

Shilpa Gupta’s collaborative 100 Maps reimagines India in a hundred different ways, as100 people were tasked with drawing the map of India, resulting in different illustrations and conveying the uncertainty of borders.  

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Celebrating India's finest

New Delhi-based gallery Nature Mort showcased works by a selection of distinguished artists including Subodh Gupta, Tanya Goel, Imran Qureshi, Thukral & Tagra, Jitish Kallat, Asim Waqif, and LN Tallur while Kolkata-based gallery Experimenter featured pieces relevant to developing and cutting-edge artistic practices. Notably, Praneet Soi’s multi-media paintings and Ayesha Sultana’s graphic compositions. 

The commitment to presenting the highest quality Indian art in respect to country’s history, contemporaneity and future talent, is evident in this year’s India Art Fair.

Not to mention the increase in non-profit and public institutions that participated in this year's fair—which was higher than any year before—which continues to and form connections between the artistic community and the public, giving international visitors and those new to the world of Indian art a solid introduction.

Through representation from neighbouring South Asian Nations is slightly inadequate, Jagpal’s determination to use the fair as an “opportunity to explore and test ideas to shape the long-term future of India Art Fair, to ensure that it reflects the cultural diversity and distinct identity of the region,” shows promise of expanded regional focus in the future, bolstering the local and international presence of South Asian art. 

This article was originally published in The Artling

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