AS YOU enter the ongoing India Art Fair (IAF) complex in south Delhi, the first thing that catches your attention is a car, a BMW to be precise, housed in a glass enclosure. Painted in a happy mix of colours, shapes and patterns, it looks more like a butterfly and less a car. The German luxury auto major calls it an ‘art car’ or a ‘rolling sculpture’. Only 17 such art cars have been created thus far, and the one on display (for the first time ever in India) is a BMW 730i designed by Spanish artist Cesar Manrique in 1990.
“The BMW ‘art car’ project was introduced by French race car driver and auctioneer Herve Poulain in 1975, when he invited an artist to create a canvas on an automobile. Since then, a total of 17 BMW art cars, based on both racing and regular production vehicles, have been created,” explains Philipp von Sahr, head of BMW India. Poulain’s art car was the tenth one to be created.
Inside the twin halls, where over 70 galleries have set up shop this year, you can’t miss the work by Italian artist Michelangelo Pistoletto, hosted by Galleria Continua. From a distance, the artwork, titled Terzo Paradise or the Third Paradise, merely looks like a huge ‘infinity’ sign drawn on the ground. Move closer, and you’ll see that the shape has been acquired by placing several glass bowls containing a medley of grains, spices and cereals. “It signifies the two big polarities of today—nature and humanity. While nature is in the grains and spices, the glass bowls are man-made,” says a representative of the gallery.
Move to the far end of the exhibition halls, and you’ll notice a special booth dedicated to the visually impaired. In a bid to make art accessible to everyone, while “also sensitising the sighted to an alternate sensory experience of art”, Delhi Art Gallery (DAG) Modern is hosting special sessions this year. These consist of a gallery walk, both for the sighted and visually impaired, and a 30-minute talk about the challenges and successes of the process of development of the gallery work. So don’t be surprised if you see SH Raza’s Jala Bindu accompanied by a specially-created 3D miniature model of the artwork, which one can touch and feel, besides some details in Braille.
If you’ve landed at the NSIC grounds, the venue for the fair, in the evening, chances are that you will also get to watch a “film” at the ‘Atrium’ —a new designated space that is focusing on films as a form of art for the first time in the fair’s history. The film programme, called ‘Moving Image Art’ is screening cutting-edge films and video art from Asia and elsewhere. It has been curated by Shai Heredia, founder of Experimenta, an international festival for moving-image art in India.
This year, the India Art Fair—now into its eighth edition—is going beyond traditional artworks, absorbing a variety of media and platforms, as it attempts to tap newer audiences. “One of the ideas behind the fair is to reach out to newer people and attempt some kind of cross-pollination. One of the approaches this year has been to look more inter-disciplinary in terms of programming, by bringing in a film programme or a literary event or music—that’s like an integration through which people with other interests are also getting more and more engaged,” says Neha Kirpal, founding director of the IAF.
Visitors are definitely getting engaged in more ways than one. One of Kiran Nadar Museum of Art’s displays, for instance, occupies a separate space in the middle of the twin halls. The large site-specific project by Belgian neo-conceptual artist Wim Delvoye, called Chapel, has been made from laser-cut steel and by adding subversive elements such as human X-ray images — combining the majestic with the macabre.
Another sculptural installation, titled Shunya Buddha, has two identical and iconic Buddha heads, one with a golden sheen and the other with dark patina finish. “It guides the viewer to enter into a dialogue with the universal symbolism of Buddha head as the embodiment of perfection and enlightenment,” is how artist KS Radhakrishnan describes his artwork.
The interdisciplinary approach is also evident as the IAF taps into theatre, literature, music and food. Former National School of Drama director Ebrahim Alkazi was given a special tribute, acknowledging his immense contribution to the making, dissemination and reception of modern Indian art on Saturday. On Sunday, the ‘Spotlight’ section will host a debate on whether the e-commerce industry can help grow the art market in India.
Speakers will include artist Subodh Gupta and GallerySKE founder Sunitha Kumar Emmart. The Speakers’ Forum also looked at the convergence between literature and art in conversation between lyricist Javed Akhtar and painter-writer-critic Gulam Mohammed Sheikh.