Contemporary art in… Delhi: Art Radar guide

Our city guide series continues with tips and suggestions to sample contemporary art and culture in New Delhi.

The large, densely populated capital of India is considered the diverse nation’s cultural centre. Home to internationally renowned contemporary artists such as Amar Kanwar, Bharti Kher, Subodh Gupta, Jayasri Burman and Paresh Maity, Delhi’s art scene is on the rise.

Reena Kallat, 'Falling Fables-2', 2010, acrylic on canvas, 112 x 198 cm. Image courtesy Nature Morte.

Reena Kallat, ‘Falling Fables-2′, 2010, acrylic on canvas, 112 x 198 cm. Image courtesy Nature Morte.

In the last few years, New Delhi has witnessed the mushrooming of a huge number of privately owned contemporary art galleries all over the city. Further cementing its status as a city that is serious about its emerging art scene, Delhi has also hosted the India Art Fair annually since 2008, attracting collectors and galleries from all over the world and increasing global interest in the Indian art market.

Art Radar lists must-visit places and tips for art lovers visiting New Delhi.

Damien Hirst prints for sale at the India Art Fair.

Damien Hirst prints for sale at the India Art Fair.  Image courtesy IAF.

When to visit Delhi to see contemporary art

It is best to avoid Delhi during the peak summer months of April to June, when maximum temperatures can climb as high as 45˚C. Some of the contemporary art events in Delhi to mark in your cultural calendar are:

  • India Art Fair: South Asia’s leading art fair usually takes place at the end of January or early February. The dates for the 2014 edition are 30 January to 2 February 2014. The fair is immensely popular and has had over 400,000 visitors in five years. Since 2013, it has its own dedicated venue at the NSIC Exhibition Ground in Okhla Industrial Estate.
  • Delhi Photo Festival: the inaugural edition of this biennale dedicated to photography was held in 2011. Its next iteration is scheduled for 2015. It usually takes place in the second half of the calendar year, around September.
  • United Art Fair: based on a format that is artist-led and bypasses gallery booths, the United Art Fair has had two editions so far, in 2012 and 2013. The dates for this year are yet to be announced.
Kriti Bajaj, visitors at the Festival at India Habitat Centre with a view of Prabuddha Dasgupta’s early work exhibited.

Visitors at the Delhi Photo Festival 2013 at India Habitat Centre with a view of Prabuddha Dasgupta’s early work exhibited. Photo by Kriti Bajaj.

What to wear in Delhi on your art trip

Dress according to the weather. During the warmer months of March to October, cotton clothing is recommended, especially if you are on a short trip and moving around a fair amount. For the winter months of December to February, pack enough warm clothing as it gets quite chilly, especially at night, and most buildings and transportation are not centrally heated. Clothing can also be bought in the city at very affordable prices.

Harisadhan Dey, 'Mission Lalgarh -I', 2010, 30 x 36 inches, Oil & Acrylic on Canvas. Image Courtesy United Art Fair

Harisadhan Dey, ‘Mission Lalgarh -I’, 2010, oil and acrylic on canvas, 30 x 36 in. Image Courtesy United Art Fair.

Where to stay in Delhi to make the most of contemporary art spaces and events

When choosing a place to stay, criteria such as budget, facilities, location and especially safety should be taken into account.

Central Delhi is ideal for its good transport links, and a number of art galleries including the National Gallery of Modern Art and the National Museum are located here, as well as a number of beautiful parks, shopping districts and tourist sights.

Gigi Scaria, ‘Panic City’, 2006, single channel video with sound (duration: 3 minutes). Image courtesy Chemould Prescott Road.

Gigi Scaria, ‘Panic City’, 2006, single channel video with sound, duration 3 minutes. Image courtesy Chemould Prescott Road.

How to get around Delhi

Delhi is a vast city and dense traffic often makes it difficult to navigate. It is advisable to plan your day in advance, keeping a margin for unforeseen delays.

During the day, auto rickshaws are plentiful – be sure to ask them to turn on the metre so that they don’t overcharge you. Most of central Delhi and many of the surrounding areas are now connected by the metro, which can be very congested at certain times of the day  but it does mean beating the traffic. The metro also has a separate compartment for women. At night, it is safer to book a cab from a trusted company.

Delhi gallery maps, guides and listings

Get a copy of Time Out Delhi (or visit their website) or First City (download their app here) for event and exhibition listings. Daily newspapers such as Delhi Times also include listings of art and culture events for each day. Websites about Delhi such as Little Black Book Delhi and Brown Paper Bag also provide regular updates on the most interesting gallery shows and art events.

The Delhi Art & City map can be bought at select bookstores for INR 50 and is a comprehensive map of art galleries and institutions in the city.

Bose Krishnamachari 'White Builders And The Red Carpets', 2008, , 2008, Exhibit 320.

Bose Krishnamachari, ‘White Builders And The Red Carpets’, 2008, at Exhibit 320.

Best contemporary art galleries and museums in Delhi

The most interesting contemporary art institutions and initiatives in Delhi

Kriti Bajaj

Related Topics: art tourism, Indian art and artists, art in New Delhi

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