IF YOU DROVE DOWN THE LEAFY LODHI ROAD, just south of central Delhi, on a February or March evening this year and were attentive to your surroundings, you might have been rewarded with an unusual sight. Nestled in the row of bungalows facing the road was an abandoned double-storey house from whose front wall narrow strips of cement had been chiseled off to fashion straight and curved lines running across it in no particular pattern, and occasionally crossing each other. Some of these hollowed-out lines had red LED string lights embedded in them, making them glow softly.
Through the bare windows of an empty room on the ground floor, the word ‘HOUSE’ was visible, emblazoned on the opposite wall in large block letters and lit brightly like a neon advertising sign. If you wandered in, you would have found a room at the back that had ‘EVERY’ and ‘THING’ similarly affixed to two of the walls. Through a gaping hole in the middle of the ceiling of this room, you could see ‘NO’ shining brightly on the wall of the one above.
Public art is not new to Delhi, but The House of Everything and Nothing (2013) stood out for its quirkiness and an almost offhand choice of location. That a passerby could, without any warning, stumble upon this spectacle, was an affirmation that the city is open, forward-looking and comfortable with bold experiments in art. That the work was commissioned to be unveiled on the eve of the annual India Art Fair, which draws visitors and art professionals from all over the world, was a reminder of the city’s standing in the world of contemporary art.