Just got back from the Art Summit in Delhi and I am glad I made the trip over because it was an energized space with a spectrum of enough good work to validate one's solidarity and enthusiasm for the event. Kudos to the organisers who did a splendid job in keeping things well run, perhaps till the last day when cyclonic rains made a mockery of "protecting" the art works and ensuring their safety!
I chose to give the seminars a miss and so it would be unfair on my part to give an opinion about it, though I did not attend the sessions because I found the synopsis of most to be uninspiring and predictable. What was interesting to observe was that many Indian galleries positioned themselves as promoters of international art, and I am left wondering whether this avatar is really necessary as proof of our globalised status within the cultural world.
The works of AES+F and Dongwook Lee at Arario Gallery,Thukral & Tagra's Dominus Aeris - mirage II at Nature Morte, Anandjit Ray's water colours at Gallery Espace, Hema Upadhyay's untiltled work at Gallery Chemould Prescott Road, V. Ramesh's Man and the Mountain at Threshold Art Gallery, Phantoms and Photographs by Raqs Media Collective, Sakshi Gallery's African artist El Antusi's black river, a small and quiet set of black and white paintings by Kishore Shinde at Gallery Art Motif, and two purple wall projects - Natraj Sharma's massive grid of planes and the photographs of Richard Bartholomew are among the most poignantly memorable works from the Art Summit for me.
The book release at Akar Prakar was an embarrassment and such situations make one cringe despite being a complete outsider to it. The London based W.H Patterson Gallery's presentation brought back memories of the museum rooms one avoids in Europe that are filled with images of pretty still-lives that accompany notions of scones and crumpets and other such stereo typed Anglo Saxon mundanity! On a serious note, that M.F Husain's work was once again kept out of viewership with concocted excuses floated to appease the outrage of those who demanded explanations, only shows the great sham that democracy can become in India.
The Art Summit 2009 was a great meeting place with a buzz that generated a feeling of pride and achievement for many of us artists. From those early treks as a student in the 70's to visit the Triennial in Delhi to this collaboration of sharing at the summit is a long journey travelled by Indian art; and more importantly the role of the Gallery in India today is thankfully in its rightful place where it needs to belong. Ideas of patronage have drastically changed and it is this that is most obvious. My greatest sadness on this trip was visiting the gallery Art Heritage and observing the time warp that it has chosen to remain in. Especially heart breaking for me because of my own connection with Mr. & Mrs Alkazi and that my career started at this pioneering space which today now shows exquisitely bad art!