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Prominent displays of contemporary Indian art and artists
Contemporary Indian art is becoming more widely recognized globally thanks to a growing awareness of its development and impact. As the year draws to close, it continues to shine at international fairs and group exhibitions, at prestigious galleries and in public domain, highlighting its dynamism, depth and diversity.

Prime among them is a group exhibition, entitled ‘The Matter Within: New Contemporary Art of India’ courtesy Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA), San Francisco. It features works by Anita Dube, Ayisha Abraham, Rina Banerjee, CAMP, Nikhil Chopra, Gauri Gill, Shilpa Gupta, Tejal Shah, Sudarhan Shetty, Sunil Gupta, Dhruv Malhotra, The Otolith Group, Sreshta Premnath, Bharat Sikka, Siddhartha Kararwal, Anup Mathew Thomas, Pushpamala N., Raqs Media Collective and Thukral & Tagra. It includes sculptures, photography and videos, all inspired by material culture, spirituality, literature and socio-political aspects of the history of the region.

The works on view revolve around three thematic threads, which resonate from today’s India - embodiment, the politics of communicative bodies and the imaginary. Here the artistic practices that either operate within a gap between these existing thematic categories or incorporate these concepts are of particular interest. “Working with ideas that are both highly personal and representative of the shifts and changes taking place in the global sphere, these artists are navigating the complex routes between the historical past and the present, fact and fiction, or new and old identities, during a period of societal flux,” an accompanying note elaborates.

Another significant show, entitled ‘Step Across This Line: Contemporary Art from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh’, at London-based Asia House showcased several contemporary artists, like Abishek Hazra, Naeem Mohaiemen, Mehreen Murtaza,Wakil Rahman, Priya Sen, Saira Ansari, Ayaz Jokhio, Firoz Mahmud , Gauri Gill, Malik Sajad, CAMP (Shaina Anand & Ashok Sukumaran) and Rashid Rana. The three neighboring countries share a fractious past. Even though the tensions are very much there in political and religious spheres, they searched for a common ground with mutual visions and ideas in a wide variety of mediums.

The city of London also witnessed the ninth edition of Frieze Art Fair. The power duo behind the prestigious event Amanda Sharp and Matthew Slotover mentioned in a recent interview: “Frieze gave us access to a world that we did not even know existed. Through the event we had to get involved with so many more aspects of the business of art.” It drew more than 170 galleries, most reporting strong sales and palpable market confidence. Thousands of enthusiastic visitors, including artists, collectors, curators, gallerists and critics, and the general art-loving public thronged the venue. Indian representation was in the form of works by Rohini Devasher, Sandeep Mukherjee, Tejal Shah and Raqs Media Collective courtesy Mumbai-based Project 88. Neha Choksi’s large scale cement sculpture was put up at the Sculpture Park.

Even as India’s new-generation artists bask in the new-found glory and fame, its tradition and heritage retains its appeal. At other side of the spectrum is a new show that peeps into the past and resplendent with India’s glorious history, ‘Maharaja: The Splendor of India’s Royal Courts’, mirrors the exquisite culture of Princely India, presenting photography, textiles and dress, jewelry, jeweled objects, metalwork, furniture and paintings at The Asian Art Museum, San Francisco. It redresses commonly held perceptions and succeeds in adding greater depth and nuance to its subjects.

The precious pieces give a vivacious view of the splendors of India's royal courts. A curatorial note reveals: “They help us understand the real people behind the objects that were made for them. Nearly every object included in the display has a great story and multiple layers of meaning behind it. The two principal narrative arcs around which it’s organized bring to life the complex and fascinating worlds of India's great kings. The first goes behind the scenes to analyze the roles and qualities of kingship in India. The second traces the ways the institution of kingship shifted against a rapidly changing political and historical backdrop.”

Mention must also be made of a project by Sarnath Banerjee that formed part of FIAC – International Contemporary Art Fair at Grand Palais in the heart of Paris. His series of artworks ‘Bicarbonates’ visited the idea of imperfect twins. Employing almost-identical pairs of deft drawings, he explored reverse animation, wherein the tiniest of interventions in a drawing create a large comment sans any progression in time. On the other hand, ‘Everything is Happening at Once’, was produced alongside the Asian Triennial by Daksha Patel as part of Manchester’s Cornerhouse Projects. Her work looked at the ways in which people tend to construct cities and in turn, get affected by the very places they inhabit. By mapping recorded urban activity onto biological structures, the artist connected discreet areas of scientific enquiry and data visualization.

Back home, a thematic group show ‘Home Spun’ at New Delhi’s Devi Art Foundation encompasses painting, photography, sculpture, digital prints, interactive installations and video by artists from different countries. As the title of the show suggests it’s a spin on the idea of home. A curatorial note by Girish Shahane elaborates: “Home is a place and also a state of mind, with both a locational as well an emotional dimension. At one level, the exhibit delves into the desire for sanctuary and, the pain of exile, at the other level. It dramatizes the tension that exists between longing and belonging. The works also interrogate the very nature of these fundamental sentiments.”

The works also focus on the physical spaces that we inhabit - voluntarily or through compulsion, as they can well express our personality and define our character. It brings to life abstract issues of identity, security and conformity through tactile materials like brick, lace and bamboo. Among the prominent large-scale sculptural works on display are Hamra Abbas's ‘In This is a Sign for Those who Reflect’, Subodh Gupta's ‘My Mother and Me’, and Rashid Rana's ‘Desperately Seeking Paradise’.

Thanks to a series of meticulously curated and thoughtfully conceived showcases, the focus firmly remains on the new, emerging talent from the country, underlining creativity sensitivity and intensity of their practice that explores socio-political concerns.