The biggest art fair in central Europe, the Prague Biennale, opened its fifth edition in May with a new addition: an India pavilion.
During the four-month festival, the pavilion will showcase 50 artworks by 22 Indian artists, all curated by Kanchi Mehta. The works include paintings, installations, drawings and performance art by senior artists such as Sudarshan Shetty, TV Santosh and Nikhil Chopra, and younger ones such as Shreyas Karle, Sarnath Banerjee and Monali Meher.
There's a method linking the apparently disparate choices, says the curator. "I have tried to give an overall view of India's next generation of artists," says Kanchi. "I wanted to represent how the Indian art scene is moving to a different level, accepting more contemporary culture."
Banerjee, for instance, is primarily a graphic novelist, his artwork reflecting the subversive spirit of the form. At Prague, his installation of pencil drawings, titled Middle-Class Hero, tells the story of Argentine Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara.
"The work addresses the hypocrisy of the Left liberal movement," says Banerjee, adding that Indian art lacks narratives and this work is an attempt to introduce that element.
Santosh's oil-on-canvas, meanwhile, juxtaposes images from the media with news articles about the recent pro-democracy movement in Egypt. Titled Another Story from a City Square, the work explores how the news media defines, to a large extent, the individual's relationship with the outside world.
"News reports act as our extended visions and eventually become part of our everyday experiences," he says.
Charmi Gada Shah has created a 4-ft-by-3-ft façade for the fair, titled Common Wall. The installation is, in fact, part of a wall that she chanced upon between two houses in Miraj, near Kolhapur. "I find it fascinating how much you can learn about a demolished house by the remains of its façade," she says. "It was very exciting to have had my work at Prague, , and to get positive feedback."
Also on display is Sakshi Gupta's donkey made of fibre-glass and sand, representing ‘one who has finally accepted the knowing that one does not know'. "The opportunity to showcase my art at Prague means a lot to me," she says. "It is like an extension of myself being there."
Indian artists want to be shown in Europe; and Europe seemingly can't have enough of Indian art at the moment. Did someone say chin-chin?