Indian art is going places

Indian art is becoming the focus of the global scene with India expanding its base as a platform and international art forums making space for our lost artists.

One of the first things Zain Masud, the 32-year-old International Director of the India Art Fair, fresh off her stint in Dubai, and travelling between Beijing, Moscow and London in her personal space, did on taking charge of the 2016 event, is to draw geographical boundaries for the platform it provides. For the first time, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka have acquired a legitimacy of influence and it has become possible for artists, galleries and collectors alike to trade in the common cultural currency of the region as they explore crossovers. Even as she reduces the number of participating galleries to 70, making it more selective, so also the expansion into areas such as cinematic influences in this year’s edition makes India Art Fair to be held from January 28, 2016, in Delhi a far more vibrant destination than it has been in the past. “My aim is to establish it as that which speaks for the region that it represents” Masud says.

The claimants to India’s identity on the global art plane are only rising. It’s as much about shaping an emerging influence as being at the forefront of establishing its supremacy. Priyanka Matthew, regional director of Sotheby’s in India, is looking towards establishing the Sotheby’s Institute in India which will offer certified courses in art by the end of 2016, and their auction practice by the end of 2017. “This is where there is a whole new crop of young collectors, returning to the country with foreign degrees or experience, and equipped with the knowledge and disposable income as well as the aesthetic inclination,” Matthew says.

Reclaiming critical discourse
2016 is the year when many realignments in critical art discourse come to fruition. With curators like Sandhini Poddar, adjunct curator at the Solomon R. Guggenheim museum, having dug deep into Indian Modern art, realigning the accepted narrative by reintroducing once-lost artists like VS. Gaitonde at the New York retrospective in October 2014-an amazing achievement given that Gaitonde broke records at the Christie’s India auction this year at Rs 29.30 crore, when five years ago it was still the Tyebs and the Razas hacking away at the record books. Essentially, even more than the prices, Poddar’s contribution was reintroducing Gaitonde’s abstract modernism, hitherto an ‘Indian’ artist, into the global discourse on the subject. It is what art patron Kiran Nadar achieved with Baroda abstractionist Nasreen Mohamedi-following the retrospective curated by Roobina Korade at the Kiran Nadar Museum in New Delhi in 2014, it went on to Reina Sofia in Spain where it is currently on till January 2016. Her long-time gallerist Deepak Talwar points out that Nasreen was the only Indian artist with the unique honour of inaugurating the Breuer building at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York when it opened on March 18, 2015; the single most significant highlight of India’s art year, if one had to pick one.

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