At first glance, the scene from a football match —five men vying to control a ball — could be mistaken for a photograph layered with newsprint. The men are covered from head to toe in newspapers in this work by Indonesian artist Budi Ubrux. A comment, the description reads, on the “suffocating” and “blinding” nature of “untruthful news coverage.”
As you move closer, you notice the folds, the creases and the blurry background. It’s a painting: oil on canvas. Painting “newspapers” in the shape of faceless people is typical of Ubrux’s work, says 27-year-old Sonali Batra, curator of an ongoing art exhibition in Delhi’s Saffronart gallery that includes the haunting newspaper-clad figures.
As its name suggests, ‘Around the world in 7 days’, is a week-long display of contemporary art from across the globe with an eye on young buyers and collectors. The collection is diverse — it features artists from 20 countries as far flung as Mexico and South Korea. And it’s affordable. Prices range from a Rs 90, 000 ceramic balloon reminiscent of childhood to a Rs 9 lakh realist oil painting. The average: under Rs 4 lakh.
“We felt there was a gap in the market,” says Batra. “There was no one exhibiting international art and targeting the younger generation.” By we, she means Great Banyan Art, an online gallery owned by Batra’s family. The gallery started off with auctions and private sales in 2004 before moving onto a permanent online catalogue. Purchases, however, are still made in person after a private viewing. This is Banyan’s third public show with art from the gallery’s permanent collection.
Like most Indian galleries, Batra says, Banyan too sells Indian masters and modernists, but decided to pay more attention to contemporary art given its potential for growth. Young clients seemed like a good bet because the unusual, edgy collection was likely to intrigue their sensibilities.
It’s not hard to see why. Alesso Bolognessi’s ‘Roy’ is strikingly similar to the work of legendary pop artist, Roy Lichtenstein. But Bolognessi uses a unique signature: ‘Sfiggy’, his “alter-ego” which resembles the cartoon beagle, Snoopy. Maria Aparici’s colourful yet disturbing portraits pay tribute to 90s celebrities, Sharon Stone and Michael Jackson. Alexander Ilichev’s paintings of faces in “spots of colour, lines and dots” are stunningly casual. Pascale Taura’s ‘French Shoes’ — stilettos painted in perfect symmetry by a former Miss France whose was disfigured in a car accident — is moving. Marcela Montemayor’s attempt to invoke taste through a plum-coloured can of cherry Coca-Cola and a cupcake is nearly successful. There’s something for everyone, from kitsch to realism to grunge.
“I want them to understand the work and I want it to be relatable,” says Batra. The goal, she adds, was to find art that was global, contemporary and yet resonated with Indians. A lot of these artists are successful in their home countries, she says, but it’s the first time they are exhibiting in India.
A day into the exhibition, three works have already sold. One of them — an almost photographic painting of brightly coloured balloons by South Korean artist Jinho Kee — was bought by a “serious collector,” says Batra, suggesting that a lot of these works are worth the investment.
Her favourite: ‘The girl who didn’t want to see the world’ by Valérie Andriantsiferana. A life-size young girl standing in a garden, covering her face with her hands: “the dilemma human beings face of being torn between their true inner self and external appearance,” the note next to the painting reads.
“I love the element of fashion and the colour and I love the size as well,” says Batra, looking at the girl’s trendy black dress, heels and the riot of colour around her in the garden. “I love bright works.”
What: Around the world in 7 days
When: 11 am to 7 pm, until March 28
Where: The Claridges, 12, APJ Abdul Kalam Road
Nearest metro station: Lok Kalyan Marg