Can An Art Fair Ever Be Bad?

 Mareech by Vishal Dar

Shapeless by Faig Ahmed 
I walk into the 7th edition of the India Art Fair to check on what’s new, what’s exciting and is there really any progress made in the past seven years! From my trained eye’s point of view, it seems hackneyed. I’ve been going to this fair since it’s inception. I’ve seen a few good years, a few disasters and have maintained that the fair remains mediocre compared to other international art fairs, despite the gushing country wide reviews and the so-called profits made! I’ve seen how prestigious international art galleries participated for the first few years but decided never to return. I’ve also noticed how the size of the fair has reduced. And yes, I’ve had gallerists tell me that it’s been much too bleak with the buyers this time. 
 Pathway by Stephen Knapp
But I’ve decided NEVER to describe an art fair as bad! That’s because it’s an unfair sweeping statement to make. The variety of art that you get to see under one humungous roof is incredible. More importantly, the fair is not just meant for journalists and critics and artists, it is meant for the masses. And from what I noticed, the visitors were loving it!

.Happy New Year by Anant Joshi
My assessment here being that the visitor is more interested in works which are not on canvas. Paintings seemed to bore most people. Installation art is what holds the viewers attention. Be it video or multimedia. Vishal Dar’s ‘Mareech’, a seven foot tall figure of a human body with a deer head, sporting multiple head lights and tail lights of cars as wings and helmet for this creature, was certainly the favourite spot for selfies! A unique series called Shapeless by Faig Ahmed, an artist from Azarbaijan, was fresh to the eyes! It was a set of carpets and traditional embroidery designed to be woven out of shape, beyond the expected straight lines. 

Chausath Yogini by Seema Kohli
An entire corner dedicated to MF Husain
Stephen Knapp’s light paintings evoked the true ‘ahh’ effect. A simple light source sitting atop a stainless steel panel falling on various pieces of sandwiched glass to create a dreamy VIBGYOR effect! An art studio which goes by the name Humans Since 1982, had the visitors holding their breath in front of multiple tiny clocks placed to form one big circle. Each time their minute and hour hands moved, they formed kaleidoscopic patterns. But the only canvas works which had the visitors stop for minutes together was a corner dedicated to MF Husain, which also played out rare videos of the master in action, painting away to glory! Fortunately there were no protests or vandalisation this time….

Sahar Zaman is the founder of Hunar TV, Asia’s first webchannel on the arts


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