Today I visited the 9th India Art Fair. It is first IAF after it has been taken over by the Basel Art Fair team. Hence, it is South East Asian wine in Indian bottle; Absolut. It is yet to be the South East Asian platform though there are galleries participating more visibly from the specified region than in the last edition. Or is it just my illusion? I do not know. Anyway, I do not have anything to tell anything more than this about India Art Fair. I am not joking. However, I want to write a small note about what I want to see and how I want to see. If you are reading it for knowing my blasphemous views on the art fair, then you will be disappointed. So it is better you leave the article here and do something worthwhile.
Art fatigue is a common feeling when you visit a museum with a huge collection. It is the same feeling when you visit an art fair. When you step out of your home, you know you are going to see some exciting works of art, a good ambience and some wonderful people. In fact all these three entities are there, however, I tell myself that it is not the place that I want to see art. Hence a decision has been taken; if I could, I should not visit any art fairs, biennales or large scale art melas. I cannot take this art fatigue because I do not understand what I am seeing. There are a number of interesting works that need a lot of patience to look at. There are number of pretentious works of art and pretentious people around it. And you have to pretend that you are enjoying it. Who asked you to go there? Nobody had. I volunteered myself. So be it. You suffer and it is nobody’s business. Thank you. I am not coming anymore.
(A work from the IAF. Courtesy: Indian Express)
Do I really want to see all those works of art done by familiar and unfamiliar artists, done in familiar and unfamiliar materials, done through familiar and unfamiliar technologies? I really do not want to see them. I do not even want to see Raja Ravi Varmas and Nandlal Boses. Let the people who really want to buy them come here and see all these works. Let them appreciate it, validate it, negotiate the prices and buy it. Let the gallerists, fair directors, biennale directors from all over the world do whatever they want to do with the works of art and artists who have been presented in this fair. But it is not for me. I am sure ; it is not for me. I do not want to see these works because I feel that it is like going into a book stall and trying to browse from detective sections to kids section. In between lies all those anthropologies, histories, biographies, autobiographies, spiritualism, healthcare, sports, cinema, cultural studies, games, chicken soup for feeble minds, self help books, cook books, game books, colouring books, holographic books, thrillers, audio books, video books and what not. One cannot do it. In a book stall (even in the airport bookstalls) I know where to look for what. Before I go to my regular bookstall, I have my list ready, my surveys done, reviews read and interesting areas marked out. When I reach the stall without asking the shop owner keeps all those books on the table upon seeing me. That’s how I do my book purchase. I want my art viewing in the same way. I stopped visiting book fairs long back. It is high time I stop visiting art fairs.
Then how do I want to look at a work of art? I am not a fanatic; so I could go to a gallery, I could go to an artist’s studio, I could check them in the facebook and if need be, I could ask the artists to come to me with their works; they do. I am not talking about those artists who are already touched their success mark. I am talking about the young people. I do not mind looking at the works of the old people and successful people either. But I want to see them in silence and isolation. I want to see a work of art as if I were worshipping before an idol. I just want to be with the work of art. I could make connections with a work of art only when I could make some personal dealings with it. I do not look at a work of art only because it has recently earned Rs.6 crores in the auction. In fact I am not interested in the money part of a work of art. If it makes a serious gain in the market it is good for those who involve in the dealings; including the artist. I would be happy for the artist. But I would like to look at a work of art repeatedly if not physically but mentally. I want to chew it like a cud. I have a few works of art with me. I keep looking at them. Sometimes, I keep looking at the works of art that I see in the facebook too. When the burden of fame accompanies a work of art, I tried to stand aside till it passes by with all its pomposity. I am not interested; simply not interested.
(Just outside the pavilions)
I believe that the enjoyment of a work of art should be done in silence and in isolation. If possible a work of art should be seen without out the shoes on. And the viewer should be washed clean before he comes to a work of art. It is not fundamentalism either. It is metaphorical. I believe that a work of art should be revered in that way. Inversely, a work of art should command that kind of respect from a viewer.
Postscript: A few friends met me at the venue. All of them have only one question to ask: where am I these days? “Very much here, in Delhi,” I tell them. I do not see them. They do not see me. I do not go for the openings. They do not go to a show after the opening. In fact, if I have a smart phone with a 4G connection I can operate from any part of the world. And also for a Sannyasi it is not good to be in one place for a long time. One should not get attached to the comforts or difficulties. One could carry a museum in mind the way I do. And I am sure when I have a real museum, India’s best art would be showcased there and each work of art will be approached like an idol in that museum.