An icon emerges
If the buzz in the previous editions of the India Art Fair (earlier called the India Art Summit) was about Husains and Hirsts, the fourth edition of the country's largest art gathering seems to have a new icon, sculptor Ravinder Reddy. At least half a dozen large galleries — Vadehra, Espace, Nature Morte, Sakshi and Arushi from India and 1x1 from Dubai — are showing the artist's unmissable polyester-and-fibre figures of gilded or gaudily coloured women. Such a vote of confidence makes Reddy perhaps the most exhibited artist at this year's Fair.
The special treatment does not flow from a sudden discovery of the 55-year-old Andhra artist's talent. Bhavna Kakkar, owner of Latitude 28, a gallery that isn't showing a Reddy, says, "It's probably because he's one of the most saleable artists now. His market is hot." True, Reddy's works have sold for crores at auctions last year. And the Fair, after all, is as much about the trading of art as its appreciation.
Among the artists who haven't shown earlier in Delhi are Marina Abramovic from the US, who calls herself ‘the grandmother of performance art', and Antony Gormley from the UK, one of whose best known public sculptures is the horizon-straddling ‘Angel of the North'.
Also look out for Siddhartha Karawal's ‘The Hangover Man', a representation of Sayajirao Gaekwad III's famous statue in Baroda. Only, this one is made up of white T-shirt material.
Earlier this month Art Fag City, a well-regarded New York-based art blog, had this to say about top-selling British artist Damien Hirst's series of soft-coloured spots on white canvases: "These spots reflect nothing about how we live, see, or think. They're just some weird meme for the impossibly rich that nobody knows how to stop." But sure enough, one of those ‘spot paintings' has made its way into the Art Fair, thanks to London's White Cube Gallery. More than the painting, the work that really glitters in the usual hollow Hirst-ian fashion — ‘White Lies', a gold-coloured steel cabinet of diamond-shaped zirconia — is on the other side of the wall.
There are a few Picassos, Mirós (shown at Galería La Aurora) and Anish Kapoors (at Sakshi and Galleria Continua) to be found. But among the ‘imports', we recommend the incredibly detailed works by Wim Delvoye from Belgium (at Arndt and Torre) and Waqas Khan from Pakistan (at Lakeeren).
One of the best ideas at this year's Fair is the solo booths where a number of artists' works — among them Bharti Kher's cup-balancing woman, Gigi Scaria's video dark-room and Gautam Bhatia's domino dolls — are being showcased individually. Rather than in a gallery collection, where several attractive works usually jostle for attention, a single artist's works get full play here. The artist to look out for in this section is Rashid Rana, hosted by the Chemould Prescott Road and Chatterjee & Lall galleries. For his limited edition print of the collage, 'Language IV', the Pakistani artist has used tiny photos of Urdu signages to make up a 68-inch-by-90-inch image of a screen gone wrong. The artist's unique style requires you to contemplate his works from up close and from a distance.
More than just visuals
If you feel daunted by the high art, you can join one of the free curated walks (at 2.30, 4 and 5.30 pm from the Information Desk) to get the best of the larger spread this year. There's reason to expect a better overall experience, too. Director Neha Kirpal, who started off by writing the initial business plan on an airline sickness bag, told HT: "We have put together a British production company (20-20, who do the London Frieze), German tents (need we say more?), and one of the best Indian set designers (Sumant Jayakrishnan)."
There's more than just visuals, too. There will be Maithili Parekh of Sotheby's talking on a new breed of not-so-rich collectors (Saturday, 4.30 pm), and celebrated art historian RoseLee Goldberg talking to Geeta Kapur on performance art (Sunday, 2.30 pm). The events at the Speakers' Forum will close on Sunday with the screening of MF Husain's 18-minute film, Through the Eyes of a Painter.
India Art Fair is being held at the NSIC Exhibition Grounds in Okhla, next to Govindpuri Metro station. Public hours: 1-8pm on Saturday (last entry at 7pm) and 11:30am to 6pm Sunday (last entry at 5pm). Details at indiaartfair.in
Watch the screening of From Pain to Paint, by Austrian artist Werner Dornik on February 3, 7pm. Austrian Cultural Forum, EP-13 Chandragupta Marg, Chanakyapuri. Call 24192700 for further details.