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Frieze Masters: Discover a millennium of art in a London park

One Indian gallery is flying the flag as the only exhibitor from the sub-continent to attend

Saffiya Ansari

Published: Updated:

Art lovers have descended on London’s Regent’s Park to explore 1000 years of art on show at Frieze Masters, the sister fair to world renowned art show Frieze London which is set to run from Oct. 6-9.

Although representation from the Eastern hemisphere is lacking, one Indian gallery is flying the flag as the only exhibitor from the sub-continent to attend, while myriad other galleries showcase works from the greats of the art world – including a stunning piece by renowned French surrealist René Magritte.

Frieze Masters features more than 130 leading modern and historical galleries from around the world, showcasing art from the ancient era and Old Masters to the late 20th century.

Jhaveri Contemporary, the only India-based gallery at Frieze Masters, is spotlighting late artist Mrinalini Mukherjee with four of her fiber and ceramic sculptures.

(Saffiya Ansari/ Al Arabiya English.)]
(Saffiya Ansari/ Al Arabiya English.)]

“[Showing] this very important but overlooked female sculptor forms part of the current trend of seeking out forgotten artists,” gallery owner Amrita Jhaveri told Al Arabiya English.

“Each sculpture would have taken the artist almost a year to make as they are carefully knotted,” she explained, adding that the earliest piece in the collection, titled “Nag Devta,” was created in 1979 and is “inspired by mythical snake deities and takes on a serpentine form.”

The gallery is Frieze Master 2016’s sole representative from India – a country of one billion people with millennia of history and centuries of artistic production – so why is this the case?

“Being accepted into the fair is not just a matter of applying. Galleries are often pre-selected for their high standards of presentation and their ability to bring rare and unique material to the fair.

“Naturally a fair based in London is will have a greater number of Western galleries and dealers just as a fair based in India or Dubai attracts a greater number of galleries from the region,” Jhaveri said.

One such gallery, the Dickinson based in London, is showcasing French artist René Magritte’s “L’Empire des lumières” (1949), as the main highlight of their surrealism-themed stand.

(Saffiya Ansari/ Al Arabiya English.)]
(Saffiya Ansari/ Al Arabiya English.)]

The painting, which was deemed revolutionary in its time and still impacts pop culture today, was first purchased by American heavyweight Nelson A. Rockefeller who then gifted it to his secretary.

It depicts a dimly lit street at night, illuminated by the eerie glow of a single street lamp. Surrealism kicks in when the viewer realises the sky above is sunlit and populated with fluffy white clouds – an impossible juxtaposition of night and day in a single painting.

“Following numerous requests from collectors and museums worldwide for surrealist material, we decided to focus this year’s presentation on surrealism, looking particularly at the influence upon the movement both sides of the Atlantic,” gallery representative John Swarbrooke told Al Arabiya English.

“We have gathered over 50 works of art for sale for the occasion, ranging in artist, media, price and subject, with our start attraction being the very first version of Magritte’s iconic ‘Empire des Lumieres’ series. Visitors have the opportunity to see a mini-museum quality show where all the artworks are for sale.”

Other highlights at Frieze Masters include the London-based Prahlad Bubbar gallery’s showcase of Indian art dating back to the 18th century, particularly its vibrant depictions of Holi, the Indian “festival of colors.”

(Saffiya Ansari/ Al Arabiya English.)]
(Saffiya Ansari/ Al Arabiya English.)]

The gallery drew a crowd with its assortment of artistic souvenirs collected by 18th-century Swiss adventurer and spy Antoine Polier, who amassed an array of fine Mughal and Deccani art and commissioned paintings during his travels.

Intricate paintings, many of which used gold foil, of finely-dressed women, jewels and royal celebrations all brought to life the pomp and circumstance of courtly Indian life - in a London park on a brisk afternoon in 2016.

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