The Great Art Mart 2.0

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Everyone who’s anyone in the art frat is heading to Delhi for the second edition of the India Art Summit. International galleries, seminars, art walks, even an autorickshaw symphony, it’s all happening here

It’s been hard to miss the India Art Summit this year, even if you’re a bleary-eyed passenger on a cheerless early-morning flight back to work. With 50 per cent of the exhibited works sold out and considerable press coverage, the inaugural India Art Summit created quite a buzz last year. And this time it’s back, bigger, brighter, and hopefully, better. t’s expanded literally, from a space of 1,500 sq ft to a whopping 4,500 sq ft. And while just three of the top names of international art participated last year, this time 17 international galleries from Europe (including Latvia), Asia and the US are in the fray, and international auction house Sotheby’s has signed up as a supporting partner to the event.

“The idea was to try and cater to the appetite of the Indian art scene to know about Indian art. The Art Summit therefore is meant to encourage access to art, encourage access to the knowledge of art, and pave the way for a bigger market for Indian art,” says Neha Kirpal, associate director of the India Art Summit.

The four-day-long event from 19 to 22 August has also drawn up an exciting programme of collateral events at the Lalit Kala Akademi, the Devi Art Foundation, the British Council and the National Gallery of Modern Art, among others. And the most anticipated of these is a show of LN Tallur’s works by the Devi Art Foundation. Tallur is somewhat of an enigma, going straight from Bangalore to global stardom. There are also a couple of experimental sound art projects: a composition of autorickshaw horns called Yokomono Pro by Geert Jan-Hobjin and Hawkers ki Jagah, a sound installation by Rashmi Kaleka.

A distinct demarcation from the usual haphazard mela environment is the inclusion of a number of seminars. With a formidable panel of speakers drawn from a selection of art authorities worldwide, as well as a sizeable contingent from India, the meet becomes ‘a catalyst to strengthen the art eco-system’, according to the organisers. But it’s not only about the big artists and established curators. The organisers have also lined up curated tours by students of the School of Arts And Aesthetics in JNU.

The ‘bridge’ factor of the summit is further enhanced with the inclusion of lesser-known forms of art display in India, such as the video lounge, performance lectures and the sculpture park, providing a gateway for people to interact with contemporary art on their own terms.

While emerging markets such as India, Brazil, Russia and the Middle East are changing the contours of the global art map, an interesting focus of the sessions is their look at the effects of globalisation on art and its material impact in this country. The speaker is to take listeners from a journey of Indian art interactions right from the days of the Silk Route trade to that of the current trend of the world art market as it impacts India, creating a window view to a wider art circle for a public hungry for art interaction beyond one’s own shores.

What such discussions indicate is that global interest in Indian art is an established fact; what is less manifest is the growing Indian interest in international art. “The Art Summit is therefore a platform for India to access art from various centres of the world,” says Kirpal. “Of course, this is just a small beginning, but indications are that this interest is slated to grow exponentially in India. Judging from the fact that in a depressed economic situation, the Art Summit has become so much larger this year, it is evident that India is at the threshold of a quantum leap into international art,” she points out.

Even as rosy predictions are foretold, the emerging scenario is bogged down by the reality of the price phenomenon that oscillates from the modest to the astronomical. Thus, an analysis of this situation is a timely inclusion in the seminars, scheduled for the first day itself. Naturally, such a discussion is also an opportunity to analyse the role played by Indian galleries as a mediator between the artist, public, and art fair. Specifics that throw up possibilities of the restitution for art, at the level of community and nation, are examined in terms of the placement of art, as space confers meaning upon a work, and value gets manipulated in terms of placement. Beyond physical positioning, the summit discusses intermediary spaces, ranging from galleries to auction houses, funds, critics’ comments, collectors’ displays and museums, as relationships in the artistic setting.

The conclave always offers a window of sorts to Asian art, with the participation of Filipino, Japanese, Myanmarese, Chinese, Pakistani and Afghan artists. That apart, there is also an exhibition of the works of four celebrated Sri Lankan artists titled the One Year Drawing Project and a solo show of eminent Bangladeshi artist Mahbabur Rahman at the Devi Art Foundation. And fittingly, the topic for the very first session of the speakers’ forum is ‘The Rise of the Rest—The View from Asia’. Is there for instance, an distinct pattern to Asian art—themes and ideas peculiar to artists from the region?

Asia yes, but the summit also brings a bit of Africa to New Delhi with the works of Ghanian artist El Anatsui. He has been variously described as the Subodh Gupta of Africa and the foremost sculptor in the continent. Anatsui’s shimmering ‘clothscapes’ made of copper wire and aluminium seals from liquor bottles will be displayed at Sakshi Gallery’s stall.

And of course, there’s all the art gossip to catch up on. Will four days be enough?