After 116 years, India Pavilion's debut at Venice art fair

The pavilion at the 54th International Art Exhibition beginning June 4 and featuring seven works by four artists - including an art collective from Assam - is being organised by Lalit Kala Akademi with support from the Ministry of Culture.

"This is a historic event because India has never had a pavilion since the fair began. We have the full support of the Culture Ministry and hopefully it will be a recurring activity in future editions of the Biennale," Lalit Kala Chairperson Ashok Vajpayee told reporters here.

The four-month-long fair ending on November 27 will host 82 artists whose works will be on the theme "Illuminations".

"It is a positive step and the government is mighty pleased about this. I cannot say why such a step was not taken for the past so many years. Our role is to offer encourage and support art and artists in India," said Jawahar Sircar, Secretary (Ministry of Culture).

"The entire cost of participation works out to be Rs 2 crore with about Rs 60 lakh going into rental costs and the remaining adding up to transportation and other costs. Most of the artworks will be created at the fair," said Vajpayee.

Art critic Ranjit Hoskote, who curated the works for the fair, said, "India's participation is significant because it gives us an opportunity to assert a view of contemporary Indian art on a global platform and provide a view contrary to that presented of India by Western artists."

Selection of the artists, said Hoskote, was aimed at representing a set of conceptually rigorous and aesthetically rich art practices that are staged parallel to the art market.

"Many Indian artists get global recognition through gallery system, auction houses, curated shows, museums etc. I felt we could use the pavilion as a lab to pose new questions like what it means to be Indian in a global world," he said.

Selected artists include Aligarh-born artist Zarina Hashmi, Kolkata-born painter sculptor Praneet Soi who works in Amsterdam and Kolkata as well as Gigi Scaria, from Kerala who has made Delhi his home. Guwahati group 'The Desire Machine' has also been chosen for Venice.

The India pavilion would be housed in the 'arsenal' area next to China's pavilion, another debutante at the fair.

"The fair presents an opportunity for us to foster young brilliant Indian artists on the international scene as well as to foster Indo-Italian relations on the cultural scene," said an Italian representative.

"This is not a commercial venture and we hope to present Indian art at the Biennale which has a history of showing some of the most innovative works of art across the world. I don't think any other fair anywhere in the world can match the number of visitors that Venice fair gets," said Vajpayee.

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