Review: India Art Fair 2016 / Delhi Art Gallery (DAG) Has it All in the India Art Fair 2016/ Johny ML
‘Kutch nahin dekha toh Kuch nahin dekha’ says super star Amitabh Bacchan while he appears as the brand ambassador of Gujarat. In the India Art Fair (2016) one should say, ‘DAG nahin dekha to kuch nahin dekha’.
The hall number three is almost the Delhi Art Gallery show which has become famous for their immense collection of the moderns and pre-moderns. Delhi Art Gallery is now not limited to Delhi anymore. It has its multi storied space in Mumbai too. And wherever it goes, it seems to have only one motto: first in everything and second in nothing. In India Art Fair too, Delhi Art Gallery for the third consecutive year has proved its motto right.
Coming out of the spacious third hall which has been tastefully converted into a temporary museum, one of the visitors exclaims that Delhi Art Gallery has got all what Indian art has. A visit by a curious art lover will not prove disappointing either. Right from the pre-moderns to the moderns, from anonymous to the well known artists, Delhi Art Gallery has most of the rare gems and it does not shy away from flaunting it. Art dealers and consultants throng to the space and those who are not able to buy some from the collection look a little bit crestfallen. There is a special room made for the high end collectors to sit and negotiate with the gallery executives.
The reception desk itself is spectacular and one cannot miss the point: we mean business. The young smart male and female executives sporting headphones sit in front of a series of computers that and as in an online auction scenario, answer the queries from the live and the virtual clients. The reception desk at the other end has young girls ready to help and each important work of art and special enclosures are guarded by security men in dapper suits. They also smile politely at the visitor and move away from the works allowing the viewer to have enough privacy to enjoy the works.
There is a wall dedicated to the Kalighat paintings and on the other side you have a few rare Jamini Roys done on jute. I was happy to see some previously not seen or shown works of Viswanadhan, Rabin Mondal, K.C.S.Paniker and many others. Each artist is given a wonderful treatment in Delhi Art Gallery. Look at an old A.Ramachandran and go to the works of Ram Kumar. They are real vintage. The gallery has underplayed Souza this year but has given good space for M.F.Husain.
What makes Delhi Art Gallery all the more precious is their meticulous cataloguing of the works and heavy monographs on the living and dead artists. Though one could say these are done for commercial purpose, these books contribute a lot towards the building up of the cultural consciousness of our country. I would like to say that there is a danger in such kind of art history production because they are coming from the same stable with the same purpose so dissenting histories will not find a space in the art historical discourse of our country. Though Delhi Art Gallery cannot be blamed for what they are doing, we should be aware the monopolizing any kind of cultural production would eventually lead to cultural degeneration.
The onus on making parallel histories however is not on Delhi Art Gallery. Other galleries instead of behaving like hyenas that eat the left over food of lions, should come forward to produce parallel histories. They should not shoulder ride the history created by the Delhi Art Gallery. Anyway, as of now, DAG looks like the winner and their impressive performance claims applause from one and all.