There is a tiny window in the Capital’s calendar before the heat of the summer ends and its hectic wedding / festive season begins. That window has been effectively taken over by the art fraternity. This year, the ‘art season’ opened with the Delhi Art Week on August 24 and was quickly followed by the Delhi Contemporary Art Week which took place from September 1-7. Unrelated art events also thrived simultaneously, and there is lots more to look forward to in the month of September. As budding art enthusiasts, we are caught up in the revelry, unapologetically making time in our busy schedules to visit exhibit launches, parties, walkthroughs and workshops one after the other. In case you missed it, here’s everything you need to know about Delhi’s Art Weeks.
Currently, in its second edition, the Delhi Art Week (DAW), is organised by Tariq Allana, Associate Director of Art Heritage, Sunaina Anand, Director of Art Alive Gallery and Reena Lath, Director of Akar Prakar. In a concerted post-pandemic effort, this trio of gallerists came together to bolster the floundering art fraternity. They realised that their collective growth was possible only if they worked together rather than in isolation. This time, they also tied up with New York-based Artsy, which is the largest global online marketplace for discovering, buying, and selling fine art by leading artists. Artsy connects over 4,000 galleries, auction houses, art fairs, and institutions from around the world with millions of global art collectors and art lovers across 190 countries.
Musings on Delhis Art Weeks
Addressing the reason for DAW being a hybrid event this year, the founders explained, “This edition of DAW takes into account the accepted reality of a pandemic world and the monumental changes and shifts that have taken place in the global arts business – that physical events must be complemented by a presence online.” With shows taking place at individual galleries, the city was divided into four art zones or clusters of galleries and institutions, allowing one to make a day (or many!) of art.
Always at the forefront of the Capital’s art offerings, the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art (KNMA) kicked off the week with their preview of the Anupam Sud Retrospective (Between Vows & Words: Five Decades of Art Practice) at their Saket branch. Over cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, the art fraternity browsed through 215 of the artist’s works. Sud is a printmaker of much renown but has also successfully adopted the mediums of watercolours and sculptures to put forth her poignant message on the existential predicaments of the human form.
The next day, which was officially the first one of DAW, we did the Lado Sarai gallery stretch, beginning with Mumbai-based artist Jahangir Asgar Jani’s solo showing at gallery Latitude 28. ‘Pareidolia: Songs of (Dis)belief’ displayed his recent watercolours which showed echoes of learnt behaviour during childhood. Exhibit 320 had an interesting group show titled ‘The Virtues of Landscape’, and true to its name, it played with mediums and texture to interesting effect. Art District XIII also had a quirky, bold and contemporary group show called ‘The Living Sculptures’.
Musings on Delhis Art Weeks
Next on the agenda, was a visit to Art Alive Gallery to meet the master artist Sakti Burman in person. Uma Nair, Art Critic and Curator, walked an engaged audience through Burman’s recent works called ‘Life is a Theatre’, displayed alongside his wife Maite Delteil’s ‘The Garden of My Soul’. Summarising the essence of Burman’s appeal, Nair shares, “Sakti Burman’s immense experience in life, along with his exposure to literature and cultural knowledge is extraordinary. This shows in the magnitude of his work.”
The next day took us to the Defence Colony stretch in Zone 2, where we began with Akar Prakar’s exhibit of C Douglas’ ‘Rose Red Rose Invisible, Visible in My Blood’. One of the last remaining modernists who still practices from the Cholamandala Artists’ Village, Douglas’ work is greatly inspired by poetic renditions, both in subject and form. Shrine Empire’s group showing of works known as ‘Forestial Flock’, which showed works made in or inspired by nature in its myriad forms, also made for interesting viewing. The thought-provoking paintings of Baaraan Ijlal, creative mixed media works of Priyanka D’Souza and clean lines of Arshi Ahmadzai particularly stood out.
Our selection of top exhibits rounded off with the DAG presentation of ‘Tipu Sultan: Image and Distance’ which showcased work commissioned by Britain in the 18th century to depict British glory over Tipu Sultan’s loss at Seringapatam, without the artists ever having set foot in India; Gallerie Nvya’s collection of mixed media work titled ‘Threadsuns’; and the collection of newcomers’ work displayed at Art Heritage gallery for its show ‘On the Threshold of Time: Immersion’, of which Jasmi Paladiya’s sculptures made a mark. Some promising exhibitions that we haven’t yet been able to see include Galleryskye’s ‘Is the Water Chavdar?’, and the ‘Pichvai Tradition and Beyond’.
Other interesting exhibits deserving of mention, even though they were not officially part of DAW, included Vadehra Art Gallery’s collection of photographs by Sunil Gupta titled ‘Cruising’, for its quirky concept and interesting narrative capturing the gay community in 1980s Delhi. There was also Nature Morte’s show of Architect Martand Khosla’s ‘On the Brink’ whose larger-than-life, outré sculptures push the boundaries of art in many ways.
Just as it seemed that DAW’s initial frenzied days were finally wrapping up, the Delhi Contemporary Art Week (DCAW) opened to much fanfare. Though DCAW also works to bring the art fraternity closer for mutual progress, it differs from DAW in its execution. The DCAW is the initiative of seven female-run galleries, and it focusses entirely on promoting works of contemporary artists from India and the subcontinent. DCAW takes place in a single venue (Bikaner House) and lasts for exactly a week. After a glittering opening event where the drinks flowed, and Delhi’s dilettantes made their presence felt, the rest of the days were about promoting a love of art. TAKE on Art magazine organised a two-day symposium on writing critically for a changing nation, and multiple curated walkthroughs and workshops took place throughout the week.
The exhibits that stood apart from others included Kumaresan Selvaraj’s vibrant paper and resin sculptures; Divya Singh’s paintings depicting isolation through subtle tonality; Sangita Maity’s mixed media works made with real soil and 3D serigraphs; Aditi Anuj’s origami installation; Sumakshi Singh’s works made with delicate lace; and Waswo’s comic self-portraits, among others.
One wonders what the real purpose of these large-scale events is, as art enthusiasts and collectors find their way to good art without relying on organised experiences of this kind. The purchasing of art is also not restricted to a ‘season’. Perhaps these art weeks aim to introduce lesser-known artists to the community. Or, to make the concept of art more inclusive and interesting by making it social-media friendly and therefore more accessible. Their raison d’etre could also be to display the tight-knit nature of the art fraternity to the world, which it so proudly wears on its sleeve. Whatever the reason may be, we hope they are here to stay, so we can continue to enjoy the art and all the merriment that comes with it.
Noor Anand Chawla pens lifestyle articles for various publications and her blog
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