Walk Like a Curator

Mirjam Varadinis confesses not to know much about Indian art or artists but at the India Art Fair she is mentoring four young curators who are guiding people through the corridors. "I am helping them focus on a particular aspect that is of interest and putting things together. They decide which works they want to talk about," says the art historian and curator at Kunsthaus Zürich, museum of fine arts, even as people queue up for the first walk. This one is led by Sania Galundia. Student of art history at the National Museum Institute, she has centered her walk on solo projects at the fair. "We'll talk on what inspired artists to create particular works and examine how various pressures like social, economic and emotional, influence and mould a human being," says Galundia.

Varadinis gives her approval. She visited the fair two years back, but this year the Swiss organisation Pro Helvetia invited her to guide students for the walk. She is also in the Capital in her capacity as a jury member for the Skoda Art Prize. "I had the advantage of not knowing anything about the politics involved, the histories behind the various relationships, and was judging the particular work in the competition and not the entire oeuvre of an artist," says Varadinis, who recently dressed the city of Ghent, Belgium with artwork across public spaces in a project titled "Track".

As she guides art students for the curatorial walk there is just one suggestion — not to meander. "People lose interest," she says.

Galundia keeps that in mind when she makes her first stop at Smriti Dixit's installation Trap. The spider web that uses plastic rings attached to price tags, "dwells on consumerism". The 21-year-old boldly faces questions from participants, but understandably falters with the details. With some background of the artists' work it might have sounded more comprehensive. So explaining TV Santhosh's Effigies of Turbulent Yesterdays, she notes that the headless solider on the fibreglass horse represents war soldiers, but the Mumbai-based artist's persistent employment with themes of war and terrorism are not delved into. At Gallery Sanskriti's booth featuring Nantu Behari Das's children at play in fiberglass and aluminum nails, the exhibitor comes to rescue. "The artist is trying bring out the child in us," he smiles.

The 45-minute walk ends 20 minutes earlier. The participants decide to log on to the internet for more, and Galundia returns with feedback. An art dealer suggests to let artist Hardik Dikshit know that "his sculpture of Gandhi has no resemblance with the political figure." Another wants more works to be included in the walk. Before the next walk, she hopes to meet some of the artists to know more about their work.

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