Delhi gets solely artist-driven fair

New Delhi: Artists, mostly from small towns and cities of India and numbering over 600, are exhibiting artworks with strong contemporary themes at a new art fair that offers them space for independent display as well as opportunities to network.

The United Art Fair (UAF), which began last evening with a special media preview is providing space to emerging artists, both young and old, especially from smaller towns to showcase their work and interact with curators and other experts cutting off the middlemen galleries.

The expo follows in the footsteps of the India Art Fair, the country’s first commercial event, which began in the year 2008 and put India on the global art fair map.

“The fair in a first of its kind brings together works of numerous artists, who would otherwise find it difficult to market them, as collectors, gallerists, and buyers will all interact here. But, solely it is an artist-driven fair,” said Annurag Sharma, founder director, UAF.

“Young artists in India have a miserable life. And, the market forces kill the talent. So, what we say is that let us not judge an artist before. Let them go to the masses and try their luck,” Sharma told PTI.

Nearly 2,000 works of contemporary art are on display at the fair that will close on September 30.

On Day One, Manish Sharma, a visual artist from Bikaner had visitors lining up to see his art installation which he says is an artistic satire on the “loot of heritage in our country.”

“This fiber-made installation depicts the loot of heritage in my city. The vintage half in the front represents our past and the pick-up half at the back is our contemporary reality, in which I chose to depict the battered remains of our havelis and the heritage, being carried off, or rather looted away,” said Manish.

“I was born and raised in Bikaner and it was known as the city of 1,000 havelis but there are hardly 200 left now. They have all been systematically dismantled and sold off to foreign lands. I once saw a ‘jharoka’ of a Bikaneri haveli in London. And, therefore I wanted to tell this sad story through my work,” he added.

However, it wasn’t just Manish scripting his stories in metaphors. Another young artist prods viewers to “see history through the prism of today,” through his work that depicts Delhi’s medieval monuments like Purana Qila and Humanyun Tomb, reflected on and through wine glasses.

“The monuments represent our history and the wine glasses contemporary realties, the metropolitan, the concrete, the modern, removed from our past. And, the reflections of those monuments is to persuade the visitors to see our history through the prism of today and not neglect it,” said Tauseef Khan, a Delhi based artist.

It isn’t just grand monuments and havelis that capture an artist’s imagination here. Life, inexorably ticking away in shanties of Mumbai and the struggle, protests which marked the entire 2011 across the globe, find reflections at the fair.

A haunting collage of aerial shots of Mumbai slums interspersed with pink lotuses, and images of protest against the government in countries ranging from India to Egypt, drawn from the Internet, and arranged in a twin-panel collage, with rain drops shown, made visitors stop by.

“The first work titled ‘Hope Lotuses’ signifies hope, purity and spirituality that one still believes that we can fight our way out of poverty. While the other portrays the protest wave that swept last year, across the world and is titled ‘Precipitation of Bliss’. I believe the concept of nationhood is now replaced by a global village and we should have a global anthem now, instead of a national one,” said artist Parul Pattani

“The works at the fair include paintings, sculptures, photography, new media and print-making. A special section is earmarked to Raja Deen Dayal who pioneered photography in the country. His great granddaughter Priya Singhal has curated the section which has archival photographs drawn from the personal collection of Raja Deen Dayal Estate,” said chief curator Johny M L.

The exhibition is divided into six prominent sections and each section also has pathways named after eminent artists like Ramkinkar Baij Street, Binod Behari Mukherji Street, and FN Souza Street.

Other sections include ‘Mind the Gap Now’ which features established and senior artists of contemporary times.

Noted photographers Pablo Bartholomew and Ram Rahman?s works are also on display in this section.

A Masters’ Corner includes early prints as well as works by modern masters such as M F Husain, Ram Kumar, Akbar Padamsee, Anjolie Ela Menon, Kishan Khanna, J Swaminathan etc.

The works are priced between Rs 15,000 to Rs 1.5 crore and Best Work of Art award will attract a cash prize of Rs 1.51 lakh.

“Best hundred works at the end of exhibition will later travel through Mumbai, Calcutta and Bangalore and then on to Dubai, Hong Kong, London and New York after that before coming back to Delhi,” said Annurag Sharma.

The Fair is promoted by logistics firm United Artlogistics Pvt Ltd in collaboration with Culture Ministry and is supported by Lalit Kala Academy and the Swiss Arts Council.