Artists, curators, viewers, and other members of the art community—both from India and across the world—flocked to attend South Asia’s leading art festival, India Art Fair (IAF) 2022, which returned after two years due to a COVID-induced hiatus, at the NSIC Grounds, Okhla, on Thursday. Organised in partnership with BMW India, 77 exhibitors from 16 cities, including 14 non-profit institutions, will be part of this event. Along with thousands of artworks on display, the space will also feature large-scale installations, workshops, and several talks and book launches, thus offering a platform to a number of artists. “This year, what we have tried to do is focus on building the future. There are a lot of digital initiatives; along with that we are trying to highlight young artists who have not had the opportunity to exhibit for the last two years. We have also been working with an unprecedented number of non-profits this year, almost 14. So, we have really tried to do the largest possible cross-section of art after two years,” shared Jaya Asokan, fair director, IAF. `
Changing the game with NFTs
This year, the Fair has broadened the conversation by carving out space for NFT artists and their artworks. Nehru Place-based Terrain.Art, which is a blockchain-powered online platform, is exhibiting ‘Memorising pf-nh’. This NFT presentation features works by seven artists, each of whom has tried to blur divides between “the digital and the physical, natural and synthetic, human and cyborg”. ‘Meeting Point’ is a set of five NFTs by Pakistani artist Muzzumil Ruheel. On scanning Ruheel’s works, the viewer is transported into an eerie landscape where they can interact with all “that silently inhabits this space”. Each NFT has been inspired from an everyday word, prompting the audiences to “look around and see the unseen”.
Art, tech, and everything in between
Bengaluru-based BeFantastic—the platform incorporates Tech-Art practices—has created a series of engaging installations by employing Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. Of the many art projects on display here, ‘Whale tales’ uses AI-generated imagery to interactively present stories about the role whales play in controlling climate change. Other works include ‘Radbots’, a collection of videobots through which one can have a conversation, and ‘Between. Today’, a digital immersive installation through which one can take a selfie with the late Dutch painter Van Gogh. Similarly, Delhi-based architects Kanchan Joneja and Sukriti Thukral along with software engineer Mayank Joneja have created ‘Suno’, a new media installation that explores the intersections of storytelling and sound. Their project allows the viewer to engage both “sensorially and symbolically”.
Emerging names get a seat at the table
When you enter the premises where IAF is being hosted, you will notice a white tent-like structure with phrases in several languages printed on the façade in yellow, green, and red. “We Bloom in Community”, it reads. Designed by 25-year-old Anushka Mahapatra, this aspect of the structure is crafted in celebration of the joys of life. Like Mahapatra, there are other emerging artists exhibiting their works here. The list includes Ghana Shyam Latua (28)—he is currently a student at Santiniketan, West Bengal—who is exhibiting his series ‘Khoai’; Mehrauli-based artist Purvai Rai with her series titled ‘Founding Roots’, Divya Singh presenting ‘Notes for Tomorrow’; among others.
Creativity in ‘the new normal’
What brings a number of artists together at IAF 2022 is how they have responded to the pandemic through their artworks. Delhi-based visual artist Vipeksha Gupta’s ‘the Fold Series’ was painted by her during the second wave of COVID-19. The work explores how pain is crucial in one’s life to grow. Origami artist Ankon Mitra (40) from Chhatarpur realised the importance of nature when he was recovering from the virus last year. His piece ‘In the Forest of Mind’ showcases intricate paper works that showcase various aspects of nature.