Art of the Matter

As one walks into the NSIC Exhibition Ground, Okhla, the exhibition space is dolled up with over 100 galleries from India and across the globe. Right near the entrance, Reena Saini Kallat's Podium/Cube, a wooden sculpture of 20 cubes, stands unobstructed. On the other side, Replacement by Bangladeshi artist Mahbubur Rahman poses a striking picture, an Ambassador swathed in leather from used army boots, its boot overflowing with army shoes. We walk in and see Neha Kirpal, founder-director, India Art Fair, greeting visitors. Walking down the labyrinthine aisles is Amin Jaffer, international director of Asian art, Christie's, directing a horde of people to each artwork. India's biggest commercial art platform, the fifth edition of India Art Fair, is now open to public.

While one saw regulars in Indian galleries such as Delhi Art Gallery, Vadehra Art Gallery, Dhoomimal Gallery and Volte Gallery, and international ones like Aicon (New York), DIE Galerie (Frankfurt), Frida Fine Arts Gallery (Moscow), Grosvenor Gallery (London) and Jack Shainman Gallery (New York), a few fresh faces were seen from countries such as Israel, Turkey and Singapore.

Bringing works of two artists from Istanbul and Armenia, first-timer Yesim Turanli of Pi Artworks from Istanbul, confesses to have been affected by the recent gang rape case, which reflects in Armenian artist Jean Paul Guiragossian's works at the fair. "He looks at women's issues, and how they affect everything around them and the world," says Turanli. She hopes she makes good contacts here. Artist Guiragossian, who is present there, says, "I have looked around. Some works are interesting and some are banal. But after my experience at many art fairs, this by far is the most welcoming and sophisticated."

For Dhaka's Rajeeb Samdani, founder of Samdani Art Foundation and Dhaka Art Summit, the fair is an opportunity to network with collectors, curators, gallerists and museum representatives from around the world. "It has emerged as the biggest platform for art in South Asia and a place that is perfect for catching up with people and see the best in the subcontinent. The works in his booth come from his private collection and are not on sale. "We are just here to share art from Bangladesh," he states. On display is Tayeba Begum Lipi's My Daughter's Cot and Ayesha Sultana's work in wood, Tabula Rasa.

Meanwhile, Laetitia Dufour, gallerist of LTD Gallery, Paris, talks about contemporary French artists Guillaume Guerin and Katrin Fridriks. "We are very excited, this is our first time. There are already queries about our artists' works," says Dufour.

If Damein Hirst's butterflies are missing this year, David Gerstein has painted the species in his metal three-layered works. "Motion is an integral part of his artwork," says Deve Rayos, art consultant with Bruno Gallery that has branches in Singapore and Israel. His first year at the fair has a selection of work by Israeli artists. "We have numerous Indian collectors who are constantly in touch with our Singapore office. We believe that the Indian market is ready to experiment," he says, introducing Gerstein as "one of the most prominent artists in Israel at present." His booth also has works of Marcel Janco, co-inventor of Dadaism. "He is in the same league as Pablo Picasso. The only mistake he made was returning to Israel," notes Rayos.

Others who were spotted at the opening included some prominent names from the art world (Madhvi and Manu Parekh, Rameshwar Broota and wife Vasundhara Devi, Sakti Burman, Rashid Rana, Anita Dube, Jitish Kallat, Vivan Sundaram, Paresh Maity and Bangladeshi artist Mahbubur Rahman.

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