Delhi’s winter arts calendar a riot of colours, creativity

By Madhusree Chatterjee, IANS
Thursday, November 25, 2010

NEW DELHI - The country’s official art fair, an American dance troupe rappelling off a building, a retrospective by Anish Kapoor and at least a dozen more exciting arts showcases - Delhi’s winter arts calendar is a riot of colours and innovation.

The Delhi International Arts Festival and the South Asian Dance Festival also find place in it.

So what drives the winter calendar for art in the capital?

“Primarily the fact that it is much less colder than western countries and it marks the beginning of the holiday season in the capital,” a veteran art critic here told IANS.

“But the art scene has changed over the years. While a decade ago, the space was dominated by Indian art, the focus has widened to include foreign art as well,” the critic said.

According to Sanjeev Bhargava of culture promotion platform and NGO Seher who is presenting the Project Bandaloop, an aerial public dance performance at the LIC building in Connaught Place Friday, “traditionally, winter is believed to be the cultural season in the capital”.

“The season begins in October with the Ananya Dance Festival and ends in April with the Bhakti Utsav - a religious music festival. They are considered the two milestones of the cultural calendar,” Bhargava said.

Referring to American troupe Bandaloop’s project, which is more of a circus trapeze act, he said: “We believe in utilising outside spaces - which is more creative and challenging.”

“I think the weather matters too,” Bhargav added, as an afterthought.

On Nov 30, the six-day Delhi Ibsen Festival will open with opera, “The Mountain Bird”, by a leading Norwegian troupe at the Kamani Auditorium.

The venues of the cultural and arts fiestas are diverse and eclectic - from the elegant LIC building in the bustling Connaught Place to the Purana Quila, the old fort built by second Mughal emperor Humayun, the sprawling Nehru Park, Pragati Maidan and the National Gallery of Modern Art.

The 15-day Delhi International Arts Festival beginning in December will be spread across 35 venues, its director Pratibha Prahlad said.

The third edition of the India Art Summit Jan 21-23 will be spread across 8,000 metres of exhibition space in Pragati Maidan. The country’s official art fair usually held in August was postponed by six months to fit into the winter cultural calendar of the capital, a source said.

The statistics are mind-boggling: 84 exhibiting galleries from 20 countries showcasing works by 500 artists and eight arts project, including a sculpture park, video lounge and a South Asia arts store.

A group of 40 schoolchildren will intern with participating galleries and media partners at the Sculpture Park and Art Projects.

“With leading Indian galleries coming together again for the third year, the summit will continue to build on its position as the country’s premier art fair platform of modern and contemporary art,” India Art Summit director Neha Kirpal said.

While the focus is global with 34 leading foreign galleries like Aicon Gallery from New York, Beck & Eggling from Germany, Lisson Art Gallery Rob Dean Gallery from London taking part, the country’s contemporary art panorama will also be represented by almost all leading national galleries.

The panel of speakers like artist Anish Kapoor, co-director of the Serpentine Gallery Hans Ulrich Obrist and Harvard Humanities Centre director Homi Bhabha make it a high-profile affair.

The summit, partnered by Sotheby’s and Italian watch-maker Officine Panerai, expects to draw twice the number of footfalls compared to last year’s 40,000.

Anish Kapoor will Saturday unveil one of the biggest retrospectives of his art works at the National Gallery of Modern Art - the first of its kind outside his country of residence, Britain.

Featuring nearly 25 works, the exhibition will showcase some of his ground-breaking installations. One of the exhibits from the show is a cannon that fires large blocks of wax in a corner of the gallery - gradually producing a slaughterhouse scene in blood red splodges.

“The art works, including a public space installation, will be spread across the newly-constructed, temperature-controlled and pollution-free exhibition hall at the National Gallery of Modern Art and the Mehboob Film Studios in Bandra, Mumbai,” the art gallery’s director Rajeev Lochan said.

For the average Delhiite, the season is like a feast. “We find it difficult to choose from the bouquet on offer,” a senior bureaucrat said, refusing to be named.

“One need not get away from the capital during the Christmas. Stay and have a holiday here itself with the cultural showcases,” he added.

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