Walker chief curator Darsie Alexander is in New Delhi for the India Art Fair. Read her earlier dispatch, on her visit to the studios of Bharti Kher and Subodh Gupta.
The India Art Fair is now in day three, and the crowds have hardly subsided. While the clientele is not entirely what one might find at other global fairs like Frieze, there was a lively energy in the booths and passageways (there are three large tented sections to the fair). Of special note to me was the numbers of kids roaming the booths. Packs of teenagers (and younger) made their way in and out of the small exhibit spaces, often led by a teacher or guide. The fact that their education would include going to an art fair (and that there was clearly no anxiety over the supposedly challenging content of some contemporary art forms) was very heartening. It signaled to me that the fair was serving an important pedagogical function, and that kids were getting critical exposure to art and culture during their formative years. I remember noticing the same thing about the Gwangju Biennial last year in Korea — tons of kids prowling the halls and spaces, having their conversations, joking with one another, and being easy around the art.
Organizers of the India Art Fair have made an effort to contextualize the offerings with a lecture series, which has included some important writers, artists, and collectors. For people coming from distant locations, having strong collateral events — which could include performances, off-site events, and speakers’ forums — is good incentive to make the trip because art fairs are not always about buying. Often they are networking opportunities, moments to stimulate new ideas through dialogue with artists form the area, and needed time away from the daily routine of emails and meetings. Trips — be they for a specific event of an art fair or to support multiple projects under development — provide essential space for thinking, and being in a new place can heighten perception in ways that are ultimately productive for work. This has certainly been the case here in India, where customs and codes of behavior (not to mention driving habits!) are so very different from western models. The past three days have been a sensory overload, with all facets of perception in a state of high-alert, including but not limited to the visual experiences catalyzed through art.
But back to the fair. No doubt this one is difficult to summarize, but understanding that the casualness of “on the road” blogs inevitably promotes generalizations, a few things can be said of the India Art Fair 2012, which is now in its fourth edition. There is a lot of volume at this fair — not only of people but of packed booths filled with art awaiting an audience. Figural works had strong showing, particularly in the more historic booths (the fair was not exclusively contemporary), and paintings outnumbered other media to a significant degree. While some key European and American galleries were present, the Indian presence was strong and visible. In this post, I highlight a few projects that captured my attention, but they are by no means a representative selection of this year’s offerings.