While I’m still marvelling at the sheer magnanimity of the India Art Fair this year (the amount you can take in gets smaller, as the affair itself gets bigger and bigger), the one thing I cannot get past is the Indian Modern Masters. In all honesty, I’ve never gotten past S.H. Raza’s bindu, M.F. Husain’s strokes, or V.S. Gaitonde’s abstractions. But at the same time every year, I give myself the chance to delve into the world of art, without bias, and discover at least one new artist who will step up my journey in art. This year I made up my mind to not spend time admiring the masters at all. Instead, I decided to spend two days soaking in all the artists and artworks my narrow mind refused to let in.
It started well. I saw many of Atul Dodiya, Bharti Kher, Subodh Gupta, Jitish Kallat all of whom I have grown fond of. I was even excited to see a work of Anupam Sud, an artist I hadn’t seen much of, but absolutely liked, until I chanced upon (accidently) a work of F.N. Souza, and I couldn’t look past it. I cruised around for longer, holding myself back from venturing into any gallery where I could see the masters.
The international galleries sure had an interesting mix, of more experimental art that is a unique sight at any time. Tassos Pavlopoulos caught my eye with her interesting use of coloured paper and texture to everyday sketches, and Robert Elfgen’s mixed media landscape was perhaps the most enthralling piece I saw the entire time. I almost made it to the end, proud to have stuck to what I had planned, until I realized Delhi Art Gallery was last, at the exit, and it had a tribute to the masters. I had to go in. The colour splashes of Husain invited me in, and the distorted toothy faces of Souza’s ‘Man and Woman Laughing’ guided me into the maze where I spent the next three hours looking at Jamini Roy, Souza, Raja Ravi Varma, Raza, and the rest.
I came out, reeling in the beauty that was created by these masters. I had almost forgotten everything that I had previously seen. The India Art Fair, by the end of it, is a game of sales and numbers, and an enterprising change that has been incorporated over the years is inviting new artists, artworks and galleries – perhaps even an invisible sign of ‘affordable art’ – but I suppose personally, I am unable to like anything other than the art that I can afford only in cheap prints. I am the proud owner of an Amrita Shergil, a Husain, and a K.G. Subramanyan. Although, I am likely to look up Elfgen again, for his sheer simplicity in the use of colour. Thank you India Art Fair 2017 for the addition.