5 Standout Shows to See during Delhi Art Week
Installation view of “Simulacrum” at Anant Art Gallery during Delhi Art Week 2022. Courtesy of Anant Art Gallery.
This August, across India’s sprawling, frenetic capital, art galleries and institutions are coming together for Delhi Art Week. Returning for its second edition and in partnership with Artsy, the initiative is as much about the local community as it is about connecting with global audiences.
“We want more and more people to be art sensitive and be familiarized with Delhi’s galleries,” explained Sunaina Anand, who co-founded Delhi Art Week with Tariq Allana and Reena Lath. Splitting the city into four geographic zones with suggested itineraries, the week-long event offers an overload of art presented by commercial galleries, museums, and cultural institutions.
The city-wide celebration—overlapping by a day with Delhi Contemporary Art Week at Bikaner House—has never been so compelling. Below are five standout shows during Delhi Art Week to view in person from August 24th through 31st, or online on Artsy through September 14th.
Tipu Sultan—visionary ruler, bane of the British, and leader of the southern Indian state Mysore—was a colossal thorn in the side of India’s colonizers. Curator Giles Tillotson’s group exhibition at DAG, “Tipu Sultan: Image and Distance,” explores the visual fetishization surrounding Tipu’s long-anticipated, hard-fought defeat and killing in 1799 following successive wars. History painters, many of whom never set foot in India, whipped up paintings and prints that gave a victorious gloss to the brutal siege.
Henry Singleton’s The Last Effort and Fall of Tippoo Sultaun (ca. 1802), which has been brought to India for the first time for “Image and Distance,” is symptomatic of a style that combines high-intensity drama with the relative ease of Tipu’s capture. Alongside these imagined views, exquisite watercolor portraits and gouache miniatures by unnamed Indian artists provide vivid insight into this notable historic figure, and his politicking and state.
Rajyashri Goody’s first solo exhibition with GALLERYSKE, “Is the water chavdar?” revisits a monumental march known as the Mahad Satyagraha, led by social reformer Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar in March 1927. With a following of 10,000 people, Ambedkar boldly cupped his hands and drank from a water tank in Maharashtra in western India, in defiance of caste restrictions that prohibited the purportedly “impure” act.
Goody, known for her nuanced approach to Dalit history, has previously explored the fallout and implications of this transformative moment that, at the time, went unrecorded in both national and international media. For “Is the water chavdar?” Goody compiled an homage to the thousands who tirelessly journeyed to join Ambedkar, and those who still pilgrimage to the site today. Expect ceramics, photographs, prints, and recipes that memorialize the mass action while assessing its significance in staking Dalit rights.
Pichvai Tradition & Beyond
Since 2009, Pichvai Tradition & Beyond has been reinvigorating India’s artistic heritage through an atelier model focused on an intricate style of cloth painting that originated in 17th-century Nathdwara near Udaipur, Rajasthan. A group of artists is reimagining this tradition and presenting an exhibition of innovative works that update both the scale and the imagery associated with the genre.
While secular themes are embraced, an antique aesthetic is retained. With delicate applications of gold foil matching the finessed brushwork, each piece is a striking example and reminder of India’s exquisite artistry.
Anant Art Gallery
A new iteration of curator Arushi Vats’s late July group exhibition, “Simulacrum” explores the people and places that suffer erasure in an age where documentation and reportage prevails. One body of work, Ashfika Rahman’s haunting photographs of desolate landscapes in Bangladesh, records the location of missing bodies. Taken from her ongoing series “Files of the Disappeared,” which Rahman began in 2018, the work is part of a campaign to confront incidences of torture and disappearances at the hands of the state.
Disenfranchised communities in Assam, in northeast India, are the focal point of Dhrubajit Sarma’s woodblock portraits. Using photo transfer and carving techniques, Sarma empathetically explores the plight of this vulnerable community whose livelihoods and customs are increasingly under threat from ecological uncertainty and recent citizenship laws that render them stateless. Meanwhile, in more personal work, Nilanjan Das documents empty benches in the public realm, and proposes divisions as a riposte to the frequent surveillance of couples by moralizing passersby.
Kantha, one of the oldest forms of fabric embroidery in India, is given a contemporary remix by Chandrapal Panjre at Arushi Arts. Staying faithful to the technique, Panjre uses recycled swatches of sari fabric and old kantha quilts, binding them together with running trails of stitches. Innovating the process, he throws in deviant threads and irregular snippets of cloth.
The pieces in “Untold Stories” have vibrant, erratic surfaces energized by the past lives of the materials. Regarding kantha as a philosophy of simplicity tied to rural life, the works link to the culture of Panjre’s childhood village community.