Emerging talent and hybrid forms at Delhi Contemporary Art Week

CultureEmerging talent and hybrid forms at Delhi Contemporary Art Week

The third edition of Delhi Contemporary Art Week begins on 1 September at the India Habitat Centre. Artists from across South Asia are represented here by seven prominent Delhi galleries participating in the week-long event, writes Sneha Gohri.


One of the city’s biggest annual art events, the Delhi Contemporary Art Week (DCAW) opens on 1 September at India Habitat Centre. In only a couple of years since its inception in 2017, the DCAW has emerged as a sought-after forum for contemporary artists from across South Asia. It is the kind of festival that has room for both established names and emerging talent, with the curators going out of their way to showcase art in diverse mediums and formats.

Seven galleries are participating in this year’s DCAW, namely Blueprint 12, Gallery Espace, Exhibit 320, Latitude 28, Nature Morte, Shrine Empire and Vadehra Art Gallery. Guardian 20 caught up with the gallery owners to get a sense of how the week-long festival, which ends on 7 September, might unfold.

Rasika Kajaria, owner of Exhibit 320, describes DCAW 2019 as a “coherently curated and impactful” group show. One of the artists represented by Exhibit 320 at the DCAW is Rahul Kumar. About his association with the gallery, Kumar said, “I feel there is an alignment in my vision and that of the gallery. I find it enriching to work with a new gallery that is willing to experiment and is not scared of taking risks.”

Kumar’s medium of choice is clay. He is displaying a series of clay sculptures and tablets at the show. Some of the pieces are inlaid with gold fillings, reminiscent of the Japanese technique of Kintsugi, which Kumar has studied.

The Nature Morte gallery is showcasing the works of Bhutanese artist Zimbiri as part of this year’s DCAW. Prachi Singh, the gallery’s manager, said, “We have chosen to present Zimbiri’s paintings at the Delhi Contemporary Art Week as she represents the exciting new talent emerging from the farthest corners of the subcontinent.”

About her series to be exhibited next week in Delhi, Zimbiri said, “In this particular series, I am using a tiger motif, which was inspired by the nature of cats. I remember reading this quote once that described the difference between cats and dogs. How the nature of dogs is to believe that the humans who feed them and look after them are gods; whereas the nature of cats is to believe they themselves are gods. We admire the characteristics of dogs: loyal, obedient and loving. But I am beginning to admire the characteristics of cats as well: independent, proud and adaptable. It was with this in mind that I decided to use the tiger, the king of cats, as a motif for my collection.”

Blueprint 12 is another gallery participating in DCAW 2019. Ridhi Bhalla, one of its co-founders, told us, “We usually take this platform to introduce new voices from the subcontinent.” The artists they’ve chosen to exhibit this time around are as diverse in their cultural backgrounds as they are in their stylistic preferences.

One such artist is Arshad Ahmad Afzai, from Afghanistan, who is currently in India as an Inlaks scholar. Her art is an investigation into questions of form, especially the female form.

Original Shadow 6, by Rahul Kumar.

Another Blueprint 12 artist is Mehreen Murtaza, from Pakistan. Her works, according the gallery spokesperson, “sometimes carry a political inflection but that is not her primary interest, which is more concerned with exploring the process of mediating the essence of an event through images”.

“Contemporary art in South Asia is more exciting now than it has ever been,” according to a statement by the Shrine Empire gallery. “There is a fresh crop of artists who are creating compelling works that engage with the rapidly fluctuating infrastructure, economy, ecology, landscapes and identity politics of this region.”

The artists Shrine Empire is exhibiting are Anoli Perera, Ayesha Singh, Fariba S. Alam, Khushbu Patel, Neerja Kothari, Puja Puri, Parul Gupta, Samanta Batra Mehta, Sangita Maity, Shruti Mahajan and Tayeba Begum Lipi.

Gallery Espace will be showcasing the works of contemporary artists Puneet Kaushik, Manjunath Kamath, Ravi Agarwal, Sunil Gawde, Chitra Ganesh, Dilip Chobisa, Nandini Bagla Chirimar, Harendra Kushwaha, and Khokan Giri. A large sculpture of elephants by Arunkumar H.G. has also been set up at the Open Palm Court Gallery, India Habitat Centre.

“The DCAW presents a wonderful opportunity for contemporary art galleries in Delhi to get together. Over the past two years, its popularity has gone up and it has turned into an important event in the art calendar of Delhi,” said Renu Modi, founder-director, Gallery Espace.

Roshini Vadehra, founder of the Vadehra Art Gallery, another DCAW participant, said, “This event is a wonderful opportunity for galleries and collectors to engage on a cohesive platform. It is different from a gallery exhibition or an art fair.”

Apart from the main exhibition, several outreach initiatives for children, art professionals and collectors are being organised as part of the DCAW. There will also be panel discussions and talks on a variety of art-related topics at the venue.


Delhi Contemporary Art Week is hosted at the Visual Arts Gallery, India Habitat Centre, Delhi, from
1-7 September

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