Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s plastic brick work recreates a Monet painting. (Photo: Tarun Rawat)
1. ART YOU CAN SIT ON?
No, we don’t really recommend plonking on one of the displayed pieces but IAF’s new design section lets you discover how functional art objects like coffee tables, chairs and console tables have become collectibles with both investment and aesthetic appeal. On display are Gunjan Gupta’s head-turning chairs which have found a seat in many international museums. One of her creations that is in a German museum is the Boriwala Bicycle Throne inspired by a sight one often sees on Indian streets — cycle vendors transporting goods in jute sacks. Recycled mudhas form the back of another chair. Gupta, who trained in furniture design at Saint Martin’s College of Art & Design in London, says she wanted to question the typology of the chair in India. “Chairs are vestiges of India’s colonial past. Before that, most people sat on the floor. The Europeans brought them, and they are now synonymous with power,” she says. If Gupta’s kursis have found a place at the high table of art, Delhi-based designer Vikram Goyal’s works show a mastery of metal. A console table can transport you to the Thar desert landscape, a bench can transform into a Cubist masterpiece and a mirror frame into a mangrove forest.
Sajid Wajid Shaikh’s ‘Walls have ears too.’ (Photo: Tarun Rawat)
2. MASTERPIECE IN LEGO
You may not think of Legos as a typical artistic medium, but Ai Weiwei, famed Chinese dissident and artist, has frequently used the plastic bricks for some of his greatest works, including portraits of political prisoners. It’s not very often that his work comes to India but this time one of his plastic brick works is on display at IAF by Berlin-based gallery neugerriemschneider. The work titled ‘Water Lilies’, spanning more than 13 m, recreates Claude Monet’s masterpiece using Woma blocks, a Chinese brand of plastic toys like Lego. A void represents the door to the subterranean home that the young artist and his poet-father, Ai Qing, lived in the 1960s after he was driven into exile.
Vikram Goyal’s mangrove-inspired mirror. (Photo: Tarun Rawat)
3. MANDELA MATH
Jitish Kallat’s immersive installation, Antumbra, is inspired by former South African President Nelson Mandela’s long imprisonment. Presented by Foundation of Indian Contemporary Art and JSW Foundation, it maps the life and imprisonment of Mandela through his desk calendars from 1976 to 1989. The installation includes a numerical autobiography that captures his complex life in stark figures. Each sum signifies key milestones: years in prison, his age at initial detention, and his age upon release. Alongside this is a video of Mandela’s blood pressure readings, carefully noted in his prison calendars. These inscriptions denote cardiac time within the perpetual flow of calendar time.
MudaWala Throne by Gunjan Gupta. (Photo: Tarun Rawat)
4. BIG BROTHER IS LISTENING
Heard of the Hindi idiom ‘deeware ke bhi kaan hote hain’? Mumbai-based artist Sajid Wajid Shaikh has turned into an outdoor installation at the fair. Titled ‘Walls have ears too’, Shaikh has crafted a human ear that follows people around. “I wanted to explore the anxieties around growing surveillance,” says the winner of the first-ever MTArt Agency x India Art Fair Artist Prize.
India Art Fair is on at the NSIC grounds, Okhla from Feb 1 to 4