Delhi Art Week and Contemporary Art Week Delhi took place this year, offering the capital’s inhabitants a focused selection of the best of Indian art.
There is a small window in the capital’s calendar before the summer heat ends and the hectic wedding and party season begins. This window was actually supported by the artistic fraternity. This year’s “art season” opened with Delhi Art Week on August 24 and was quickly followed by Delhi Contemporary Art Week which ran from September 1-7. Indie arts events have also flourished simultaneously, and there’s plenty more to look forward to in September. As budding art enthusiasts, we get caught up in the revelry, unabashedly taking time out of our busy schedules to visit exhibition launches, parties, tours and workshops one after another. In case you missed it, here’s everything you need to know about Delhi Art Weeks.
Currently in its second edition, the Delhi Art Week (DAW), is organized by Tariq Allana, Associate Director of Art Heritage, Sunaina Anand, Director of Art Alive Gallery and Reena Lath, Director of Akar Prakar. In a concerted post-pandemic effort, this trio of gallerists have come together to strengthen the struggling artistic fraternity. They realized that their collective growth was only possible if they worked together rather than in isolation. This time, they’ve also partnered with New York-based Artsy, which is the world’s largest online marketplace for discovering, buying and selling art from top artists. Artsy connects over 4,000 galleries, auction houses, art fairs and institutions around the world with millions of art collectors and art lovers in 190 countries.
Addressing why DAW is a hybrid event this year, the Founders explained, “This edition of DAW takes into account the accepted reality of a pandemic world and the monumental shifts and changes that have taken place in the global arts sector. – that physical events must be complemented by an online presence. With exhibitions taking place in individual galleries, the city has been divided into four art zones or clusters of galleries and institutions, allowing for a day (or more!) of art.
Always at the forefront of the capital’s artistic offering, the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art (KNMA) kicked off the week with their preview of the retrospective Anupam Sud (Between Vows and Words: Five Decades of Artistic Practice ) in their Saket branch. Around cocktails and appetizers, the artistic fraternity browsed 215 works by the artist. Sud is a highly acclaimed printmaker, but she has also successfully embraced the mediums of watercolor and sculpture to convey her poignant message about the existential difficulties of the human form.
The next day, which was officially DAW’s first, we did the Lado Sarai Gallery stretch, starting with Mumbai-based artist Jahangir Asgar Jani’s solo show at Latitude 28 Gallery. ‘Pareidolia: Songs of (Dis)belief’ presented his recent watercolors which showed echoes of behaviors learned during childhood. Exhibit 320 had an interesting group exhibit titled “The Virtues of Landscape”, and true to its name, it played with mediums and texture to interesting effect. Art District XIII also curated an original, daring and contemporary group exhibition entitled “The Living Sculptures”.
Next on the agenda is a visit to the Art Alive gallery to meet master artist Sakti Burman in person. Uma Nair, art critic and curator, presented to an engaged audience Burman’s recent works titled ‘Life is a Theatre’, exhibited alongside ‘The Garden of My Soul’ by his wife Maite Delteil. Summarizing the essence of Burman’s appeal, Nair shares, “Sakti Burman’s immense experience in life, as well as her exposure to literature and cultural knowledge is extraordinary. This can be seen in the breadth of his work.
The next day we traveled to the Defense Colony stretch in Area 2, where we started with Akar Prakar’s exhibit of C Douglas’ ‘Rose Red Rose Invisible, Visible in My Blood’. One of the last remaining modernists still practicing from the artists’ village of Cholamandala, Douglas’ work is greatly inspired by poetic interpretations, both in subject and form. Also interesting to watch was the group from Shrine Empire featuring works known as “Forestial Flock”, which showed works made or inspired by nature in its many forms. Baaraan Ijlal’s thought-provoking paintings, Priyanka D’Souza’s creative mixed-media works and Arshi Ahmadzai’s clean lines stood out in particular.
Our selection of the best exhibitions ended with the DAG presentation of “Tipu Sultan: image and distance” which featured works commissioned by Great Britain at the 18e century to depict British glory after the loss of Tipu Sultan at Seringapatam, without the artists ever setting foot in India; the Nvya Gallery’s collection of multimedia works entitled “Threadsuns”; and the collection of works by newcomers presented at the Art Heritage gallery for its exhibition “On the Threshold of Time: Immersion”, whose sculptures by Jasmi Paladiya left their mark. Some promising exhibits we haven’t seen yet include “Is the Water Chavdar? by Galleryskye and “Pichvai Tradition and Beyond”.
Other interesting exhibits worth mentioning, although not officially part of DAW, included Sunil Gupta’s Vadehra Art Gallery photography collection titled “Cruising”, for its original concept and interesting narrative capturing the gay community in 1980s Delhi. There was also the Nature Morte exhibit on “On the Brink” by architect Martand Khosla, whose outrageously larger-than-life sculptures push the boundaries of art in so many ways.
Just as it seemed that DAW’s early frenzied days were finally coming to an end, Delhi Contemporary Art Week (DCAW) opened with great fanfare. Although DCAW also works to bring artistic brotherhood together for mutual progress, it differs from DAW in its execution. The DCAW is the initiative of seven women-led galleries and focuses entirely on promoting the works of contemporary artists from India and the subcontinent. DCAW takes place in one location (Bikaner House) and lasts exactly one week. After a sparkling opening event where the drinks flowed and Delhi dilettantes made their presence felt, the rest of the days were spent promoting a love of art. TAKE on Art magazine hosted a two-day symposium on critical writing for a changing nation, and multiple tours and organized workshops took place throughout the week.
Exhibits that stood out from the rest included Kumaresan Selvaraj’s vibrant paper and resin sculptures; Divya Singh’s paintings illustrating isolation through subtle tonality; Sangita Maity’s mixed media works made with real clay and 3D screen printing; Aditi Anuj’s origami installation; Sumakshi Singh’s works made with delicate lace; and the comic self-portraits of Waswo, among others.
One wonders what the real purpose of these large-scale events is, as art lovers and collectors find their way to good art without relying on organized experiences of this type. Buying art is also not limited to a “season”. Maybe these art weeks are about introducing lesser-known artists to the community. Or, to make concept art more inclusive and interesting by making it social media friendly and therefore more accessible. Their raison d’etre could also be to show the world the tight-knit nature of artistic fraternity, which she wears so proudly on her sleeve. Whatever the reason, we hope they’re here to stay, so we can continue to enjoy art and all the joy that comes with it.
Noor Anand Chawla writes lifestyle articles for various publications and his blog www.nooranandchawla.com.