Research Log | Contemporary Art Fair and Art Museum Openings in India

The month: August. The place: India’s capital. The occasion: two events that left their indelible mark on the consciousness of art lovers and aficionados in this ancient, culturally vibrant capital city. Their names: ‘Indian Art Summit 2008’ — India’s Modern and Contemporary Art Fair — and Devi Art Foundation’s inaugural exhibition, the pioneering ‘Still Moving Images’.

‘Indian Art Summit 2008’, India’s Modern and Contemporary Art Fair

'Indian Art Summit will certainly enhance the appreciation and access of art in our country. With hundreds of years in art history, it is time for India to offer an art fair to the world and earn its rightful place in the global art circuit. The ministry extends full support and recognition to this initiative and we are confident that it will go a long way in promoting the cause of Indian art and artists globally.'

Ambika Soni, Minister of Culture and Tourism, India.

Today, Indian art is being celebrated the world over. International interest in India in general and Indian art in particular, has grown in leaps and bounds. Commerce, needless to say, has followed suit. Thus it was that on 22 August 2008, India's first industry platform for modern and contemporary art commenced with a lamp-lighting ceremony by the honourable minister, Ms Ambika Soni. This landmark event titled ‘India Art Summit 2008’ was organized by Hanmer MS & L, a multi-disciplinary communications firm, and was authorized by Ministry of Culture and Sotheby's as India's ‘Art Fair’. The objective — to create a podium for the world to access and appreciate the diversity of Indian art, to serve as a window for international collectors to get first hand access to the best in Indian art, and finally to expose the growing tribe of Indian collectors to a wide range of global art.

The art fair, for three days from the 22 to 24 August, brought together thirty-five top galleries from India and overseas at New Delhi’s Pragati Maidan, where they showcased works from their respective collections [1].
The highlight of the summit was the display of works brought in by Hanmer MS & L especially for the occasion, including famous installations like Collidonthus by Jitish Kallat, Spinning Wheel by Kriti Arora, and other sculptures by celebrated artists such as Yusuf Arakkal, Paresh Maity, Arzan Khambatta and K.S. Radhkrishnan.

While the glittering inaugural ceremony was well attended by the who’s who of the art scene in India, the summit included a special ‘Collectors’ Preview’, attended by art collectors from India, Dubai, Singapore, Shanghai, New York and London. This preview, which generated considerable interest among international art enthusiasts, buyers and collectors, was seen as India's initiative in the world art fair path. However, the most eagerly awaited event was the well-attended seminar on day two, titled ‘Art Forum’. This seminar integrated nineteen acclaimed speakers, who shared their views with a diverse gathering of more than two hundred delegates which included students, art institutes, galleries, artists, academics, historians, curators, auction houses, collectors, entrepreneurs and art enthusiasts from India and overseas.

The forum got off to a rousing start with the opening speech titled ‘An Artist’s Perspective’ by a respected senior artist, Anjolie Ela Menon, followed by the keynote addresses, ‘The Rise of the Rest — Euphoria and Anxiety in Contemporary Art’ by art critic and curator Gayatri Sinha, and ‘The Relationships between Art Fairs and Biennales — Changing Focus of the Art World’ by the Dean of Yale School of Art, Dr Robert Storr. These were followed by three consecutive sessions of panel discussions.

The topic for the involving first session was ‘Showing its True Colours — Themes and Issues in Indian Art’, with panelists Dr Deborah Swallow, Director of Courtauld Institute of Art, Märit Rausing, art historian and critic Deepak Ananth, art critic and curator Geeta Kapur, artist Jitish Kallat and Prof. Rajeev Lochan, Director of National Gallery of Modern Art. A brief session titled ‘On the Edge — Experimental Art in India’ was presented by Pooja Sood, Art Curator and the Director of Khoj, followed by an informative, elaborately researched and impeccably documented presentation by Philip Hoffman Chief Executive of The Fine Art Fund, titled ‘Best Practices —The Art of Making Money’.

The second session, ‘The Commerce of Art’, included Arun Vadehra, Director of Vadehra Art Gallery; Dr. Hugo Weihe, the Head of Indian and Southeast Asian Art Christie's; Henry Howard-Sneyd, Deputy Chairman of Sotheby's; Peter Nagy, the Director of Nature Morte Gallery; and Philip Hoffman, Chief Executive of The Fine Art Fund. The third interactive session, ‘In Conversation with the Artist’, was attended by artist speakers Krishen Khanna, Jitish Kallat, Chintan Upadhyay and Manisha Parekh.

The Indian Art Summit 2008, the first of its kind in the country, attracted a good response. The numbers speak for themselves.  In just 3 days, participating galleries sold over 280 artworks worth over 10,00,00,000 INR. The total value of the 550 artworks on display being approximately 20,00,00,000 INR. This overwhelming response has encouraged the organizers of the India Art Summit 2008 to plan ahead for the coming year. As a result, the dates for 2009 have already been finalized as 19 to 22 August. 

‘Still Moving Images’, Devi Art Foundation Inaugural Exhibition

‘It just took over my life. I had to throw out most of my furniture. It became an obsession.’
Anupam Poddar, Director, Devi Art Foundation

Anupam Poddar has arguably created one of the most beguiling collections of art in contemporary times, cutting edge and innovative, experimental and exceptional, in his farmhouse on the outskirts of Delhi. What amazed me is the way his taste for art is displayed in the space he actually lives in. The idea of installing these artworks in a living space, itself an aesthetic innovation, means it resembles a museum. As you have probably guessed, I had the fortune to view it, but for those who couldn’t, there’s hope — in fact, there’s more than hope. Devi Art Foundation represents the birth of India’s first contemporary art museum, an extraordinary example of one individual’s private passion being transformed into an establishment that is unmatched in scale, spirit and space.

A not-for-profit art centre, the Devi Art Foundation was inaugurated with an exhibition titled ‘Still Moving Image’, curated by Deeksha Nath. The opening took place on 30 August 2008 in Gurgaon, in the grounds of corporate offices spread over two sprawling floors covering an area of 7500 square feet, and offered the viewers a glimpse of the immaculate taste of Mr Poddar. The exhibition essentially showcased video art and photography by contemporary Indian artists including Aastha Chauhan, Atul Bhalla, Avinash Veeraraghavan, Baptist Coelho, Bharti Kher, Kiran Subbaiah, Mithu Sen, Nalini Malani, Navin Thomas, N. Pushpamala, Ram Rahman, Rameshwar Broota, Ranbir Kaleka, Ravi Agarwal, Sheba Chhachhi, Shilpa Gupta, Sonia Khurana, Sudarshan Shetty, Surekha, Susanta Mandal, Tejal Shah, Tushar Joag, Valay Shende, Varsha Nair and Vivan Sundaram.

‘Still Moving Images’ deals with the existential questions related to art and its social context and this selection attempts to find answers to these primordial conundrums that have hypnotized artists and their ilk from time immemorial. It is these ideas that spring cathartically from the depths of aesthetic innovations made by visionary artists struggling to delve beneath the layers of society for answers to socio-political problems, and failing to be satisfied, looking to find the answers within themselves. This assorted collection, without any visible leitmotif, could be interpreted as an exploration of the identity of the self in confrontation with the smorgasbord of sensory experiences that constitute those infallible ideas of life in neo-industrialized, unerringly digitized new India.

1. Aakriti Art Gallery, Kolkata, Anant Gallery, New Delhi, Apparao Galleries, Chennai, Archer Art Gallery, Ahmedabad, Art 18/21, UK, Art Alive, New Delhi, Art Folio, Chandigarh, Art Indus, New Delhi, Ashok Art Gallery, New Delhi, Cymroza Art Gallery, Mumbai, Delhi Art Gallery, New Delhi, Dhoomimal Art Gallery, New Delhi, Emami Chisel Art, Kolkata, Emerging World Art, UK, Empire Art Gallery & Shrine Art Gallery, New Delhi, Gallerie Alternatives, New Delhi, Gallery Espace, New Delhi, Genesis Art Gallery, Kolkata, Janus Art Gallery, Kolkata, Karma Art Gallery, Ahmedabad, Limited Edition, New Delhi, Moti Picture House, New Delhi, Nature Morte, New Delhi, Palette Art Gallery, New Delhi, Polka Art Gallery, New Delhi, Rob Dean Art, UK, Sanskriti Art Gallery, Kolkata, Tao Art Gallery, Mumbai, Tasveer, Bangalore, The Fine Art Company, Mumbai, The Mint Gallery, New Delhi, Triveda Fine Art, New Delhi, Vadehra Art Gallery Book Store, VIART, New Delhi and Wonderwall, New Delhi.



Nabodita SARKAR

Wed, 1 Oct 2008

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