Rare photographs from the life of Mahatma Gandhi, works of art from a dangerous border in the mountains and conversations involving museum directors and well-known private collectors – that is what is in store at the India Art Fair in New Delhi from 2 to 5 February 2017, when the leading galleries and artists from South Asia will be exhibiting their works. We present a selection of highlights from the fair, which has belonged to the MCH Group's Regional Art Fairs since 2016.
1. Art Projects 2017: Rare photographs of Mahatma Gandhi and 15 other curated projects
Mahatma Gandhi laid down three conditions for his nephew, Kanu Gandhi, when the latter asked to be allowed to take photographs of him: he was never allowed to use a flash, he was not to ask Mahatma to assume a particular pose and that the Ashram, a meditation centre comparable with a monastery, would not fund his photography. Kanu accepted the deal and managed to record extraordinarily rare and intimate insights into the life of the famous resistance fighter. PHOTOINK Gallery is exhibiting a selection of the painstakingly restored photographs (see image below; Photograph courtesy Kanu Gandhi and PHOTOINK) at the India Art Fair.
The exhibition of the Gandhi photographs is part of the "Art Projects". Sixteen curated art projects by well-known Indian and international artists are spread over the indoor and outdoor parts of the fair. For the first time, it is going to be possible for people in India to see "All the Flowers are for Me" by the Pakistani-American artist Anila Quayyum Agha (photo below). The sculptural installation exhibited by the Aicon Gallery takes up the theme of the beauty, identity and femininity of Agha's mother. One further highlight is the "Taj Mahal" installation, assembled out of more than 250 miniature versions of the famous mausoleum.
2. Platform: A lonely king and an art project from a dangerous border
Fences several metres high and armed soldiers: the border between India and Bangladesh in the Khasi Mountains is regarded as one of the most dangerous in the world. The Britto Arts Trust from Bangladesh and the Indian Shelter Promotion Council went into the border region to arrange the joint artistic action of "No Man's Land". On both sides of the border the artists worked with materials that they found on the spot. And the highlight: a brief meeting of participants from the two countries watched over by the border guards. The artists staged this action in 2014 with the aim of drawing attention to the region and of showing that the wall not only separates human beings from one another but dissects entire habitats as well, while only being seen as a physical object. Britto Arts Trust and Shelter Promotion Council are presenting the project at the India Art Fair 2017, including videos and a number of works of art.
The exhibition is part of the "Platform" section, in which the best established and aspiring galleries, artists and artists' collectives from South Asia present their works. Other participants are the Blueprint 12 gallery from New Delhi (the photograph depicts the sculpture "The Lonely King" by artist Mahbubur Rahman), the Nepal Art Council from Kathmandu and the Theerta International Artists' Collective from Colombo, Sri Lanka.
3. Speakers' Forum: globalisation, digitisation and insights from private collectors
What impact are social media having on the cultural dialogue in the 21st century and how has the art world developed in a universe that is becoming ever more digital? How are well-known private collectors setting about building up their art collection? What does the future hold in store for museums in a globalised world?
At the Speakers' Forum, held as part of the India Art Fair, artists, curators, patrons and other individuals from the art scene will participate in a total of ten panels to discuss topical issues. The participants include Richard Armstrong (Director Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation), Sheena Wagstaff (Leonard A. Lauder Chairman of Modern and Contemporary Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art), Dr. Thomas Girst (Head of Cultural Engagement BMW Group), Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi (President and Director of the Sharjah Art Foundation), Simon Rein (Project Manager Google Cultural Institute), JaiJai Fei (Digital Director Jewish Museum New York) and Moenen Erbuer (Head Design & User Experience, MCH Group).
4. Art on Film: works of art crossing genres
It is the story of a family and lost love but it is also about superstitions, relationships and crises that hold people together in the Indian chawls, which are similar to tenement blocks in our part of the world. The fable "Watermelon, Fish and Half Ghost", which is based on a story by the famous Indian painter Bhupen Khakhar, looks into the concept of infinite time and the life cycle of the people in a chawl in old Bombay. The work is part of the "Art on Film" programme, which is being staged once again after its successful premiere last year.
"Art on Film" explores the intersection of film-making and the visual arts in India since the 1960s and shows how filmmakers and artists work together across disciplinary boundaries. Further highlights are "Events in a Cloud Chamber", which is at one and the same time the opening film and the premiere of a remake of a film from 1969, and also the films "Atul" and "The Colour Blue: Are you there Krishna?" about Atul Dodiya and Arpita Singh, both of whom are important artists at the India Art Fair.