Zeenat Nagree

Left: Bhupen Khakhar, Blind Babybhai (detail), 2001, watercolor on paper, 44 x 44”. Right: Bhupen Khakhar, Injured Head of Raju (detail), 2001, watercolor on paper, 44 x 44”.

WITH EACH PASSING YEAR, the calendar of the Indian art world has increasingly arranged itself around the New Delhi–based India Art Fair. This year, the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art’s outstanding retrospective of the abstractionist Nasreen Mohamedi’s (1937–1990) unique oeuvre coincided with the fair’s run. “A View to Infinity” (January 31–December 8, 2013) came in the wake of her posthumous international acclaim and exhibitions featuring the artist’s delicate Minimalist drawings from the 1970s and ’80s, which have prompted comparisons to Agnes Martin and Kazimir Malevich, and tight urbanscapes shot during the same period. Curator Roobina Karode chose a wide array of Mohamedi’s remarkable drawings and photographs—at turns restrained, taut, hypnotic, and vertiginous—along with early figurative watercolors and semiabstract collages for an expansive medium-driven survey.

Amid much fanfare, South African superstar William Kentridge appeared as a speaker at the India Art Fair. His visit culminated in a spectacular solo show, “Poems I Used to Know” (February 6–March 20, 2013), at Mumbai’s Volte Gallery. Renowned international artists rarely offer such sumptuous presentations of their work in India, making this exhibition a highlight of 2013. Kentridge showcased his well-traveled video installation I Am Not Me, the Horse Is Not Mine, 2008, based on Nikolai Gogol’s absurdist short story “The Nose” and Dmitri Shostakovich’s opera of the same name. The eight-channel work envelops the viewer within the breadth of its complexity as its exuberant score enhances the vitality of Kentridge’s cleverly animated shapes and figures.

Heightened attention in the latter part of the year was given to Mumbai’s Chemould Prescott Road. To mark the gallery’s fifty-year existence, during which its founders Kekoo and Khorshed Gandhy played a pivotal role in promoting modern and contemporary art in India, the couple’s daughter and current director Shireen Gandhy invited the renowned curator, critic, and theorist Geeta Kapur to present five exhibitions. Drawing from Chemould’s roster without being bound by it, Kapur has gathered some of the most prominent contemporary Indian artists for this exhibition series titled “Aesthetic Bind.” Each show has a different theme: The first, “Subject of Death” (September 3–October 3, 2013), took as its protagonist the path-breaking painter Bhupen Khakhar, who is best known for his Pop colors and homosexual characters. The second show, “Citizen Artist: Forms of Address” (October 14–November 15, 2013), featuring Jitish Kallat, Shilpa Gupta, and Rashid Rana, among others, examined control, protest, and dissent within the frame of the nation-state. Kapur’s exhibitions are bound to acquire greater significance in the years to come, owing to their timely and layered propositions about the figures and subjects that preoccupy a significant share of India’s leading artists. The series will continue into 2014, assuring a promising beginning for art in India next year, despite our not knowing what the forthcoming India Art Fair and its satellite events hold in store.

Zeenat Nagree is an art writer based in Mumbai and an editor at ART India.