On December 19th, 2013, Christie’s held its first-ever auction in India at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai—the first foray by an international auction house since Sotheby’s Indian art sale in New Delhi in 1992 (Bloomberg). And it was, perhaps, the perfect cap to a year of slow wins for Indian art. Despite the absence of a national pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennale, four Indian artists held court at the prestigious biennale—among them, New Delhi-based bookmaker and photographer Dayanita Singh at the German Pavilion and Prabhavati Meppayil at Massimiliano Gioni’s “Encyclopedic Palace”. On either U.S. coast, Indian-born, printmaking- and paper-proprietress Zarina’s retrospective was shown at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles and the Guggenheim Museum in New York, and the quinquennial dOCUMENTA featured works by four Indian artists. If these exhibitions are any indicator (their reputations suggest they are), wise eyes would keep watch on India in 2014—and Art Stage Singapore, the early January Asian art world rendezvous, is the best way to begin.
In a section of the fair devoted entirely to Indian art, Mumbai-based artist and curator Bose Krishnamachari has assembled work by a handful of Indian artists that draws on Greek philosopher Heraclitus’s famous credo, “the only thing that is constant is change,” well-suited for a country that has endured globalization, liberalization, and fluctuation. “India is spoilt for choice,” he says. “Everything here is plural: caste, creed, race, religion, cuisine, language. 1.2 billion Indians are living on the edge, weighed down by the immensity of their collective history, unsure of what the future holds.”
Highlights of Krishnamachari’s Indian platform include Pooja Iranna’s staple-pin sculpture, reflecting the overcrowded, maze-like modern world; Jitish Kallat’s miniature allegorical theater featuring small sculptures of airport travelers amid TSA pat-downs; Paribartana Mohanty’s video critique of the “all-seeing” camera; and Raghava KK’s childhood-recalling cartoons and popular memes set alongside historical figures in an imagined, parallel universe.