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Published on: April 19, 2022, 12:23 p.m.
IAF 13: Raring to go
  • Aravani Art Project, Concept for The Future is Femme 2022; Courtesy: India Art Fair

By Suman Tarafdar

For Indian art aficionados, forced like much else into the virtual world, the return of India Art Fair could be a sign of a return to a ‘normal’. The pre-pandemic Indian art market was projected to grow at a healthy pace. “We are so excited to return to the physical fair," says Jaya Asokan, fair director. “At its core, India Art Fair has always been about celebrating the strength and diversity of Indian and South Asian art and artists. Especially after having skipped a year, the upcoming 2022 edition of the fair will be a testament to the resilience and excellence of the art community and market. We are working with galleries – old and new – along with institutions, festivals and non-profits and hoping to make the fair a dynamic space for anyone interested in art and culture.”

The fair will mark a return of some of the biggest galleries in the Indian art space. Among those listed are Vadehra Art Gallery, Nature Morte, Gallery Espace, Apparao Galleries, Chatterjee & Lal, Art Alive, Blueprint 12, Experimenter, Emami Art and Akar Prakar, Tarq, Dhoomimal Art Gallery, DAG and Archer Art Gallery, among others.

Given the immense logistical challenges still facing the world, the number of international galleries is limited compared to previous editions. The international galleries listed are Aicon Art and Aicon Contemporary (New York, USA), Grosvenor Gallery (London, UK) and Galeria Karla Osorio (Sao Paulo, Brazil). “Whilst we will certainly miss some of our other international galleries at the fair this year due to travel restrictions, we are glad to have this opportunity to celebrate the incredible work coming out of India and South Asia,” says Asokan, putting a positive spin.

The 13th edition of the fair, which will run from 28 April to 1 May at Delhi’s NSIC Exhibition Grounds, Okhla, has 79 participants. For the first time, the fair will see 14 grassroots arts organisations, foundations and festivals, from Serendipity Arts Foundation, Chennai Photo Biennale to Kochi Biennale Foundation, who will bring their programmes and selection of artists to Delhi.

New era

Of course, the fair has had to adapt to Covid impacts. “As a fair, we are making the transition from a four-day event to having a year-round presence, as it is important for us to keep India and its artists relevant as well as maintain the excitement around the physical fair.”

“We have also re-imagined our Platform section under the guidance of curator Amit Kumar Jain. This section will feature traditional Indian art forms to highlight their incredible value, from Madhubani paintings by Santosh Kumar Das and Gond masterpieces by Jangarh Singh Shyam, who have been crucial to bringing the regional art forms to mainstream audiences, all the way to rare bhuta bronze masks and masterpieces from coastal Kerala and Karnataka.”

Another first -- the fair will also host two Preview Days, along with two Public Days over the weekend. This has been to not only to limit capacity, but also to give our collecting audience ample time to view, experience and acquire art, according to Asokan. Access and ticketing will be made completely touchless and digital. Visitors are being encouraged to purchase their tickets online and in advance of the event to avoid long queues at the fair.

The facade of India Art Fair, always a point of interest, will be by Anushka Mahapatra –– an artist that the fair selected through an open call led in partnership with Artdemic and The Gujral Foundation. The fair continues its partnership with German auto major BMW, now in the sixth year of partnership. A new joint initiative is the launch of the ‘The Future is Born of Art’ Commission. The commission will give a young Indian artist the opportunity to design a car wrap for the iX — BMW’s first and fully electric car in India.

Asokan also has other plans to expand the IAF’s footprint. “Now and going forward, I am keen to expand the fair’s footprint in India through new public projects and pop-ups, as well as tapping into new audiences through creative commissions and collaborations outside of the pure visual arts, such as design, architecture, film, and fashion.”

Impact on art mart

Given the negative impact of Covid on the larger economy, and especially on discretionary spends such as art, reports are contradictory on the health of the art market.  Asokan says that, undeterred by Covid-19 and market volatility, 2020-21 has been the strongest sales year in the history of Indian art auctions. “There was a recorded 57 per cent increase from the previous fiscal year sales, including a 1961 abstract work by V.S. Gaitonde, which fetched almost Rs40 crore ($5.5 million) at Saffronart’s sale in March 2021, a global record for an Indian artist at auction.”

“We also saw a noteworthy increase in online sales owing to new gallery-led collaborative initiatives, such as South-South, InTouch and TAP India, as well as artist-led open source initiatives such as Art Chain India,” remarks Asokan. “The move online has led to greater price transparency as well as visibility of Indian art and artists amongst new millennial collectors who will be instrumental in shaping the art market of the future. Offline, there’s been a rise in Art Weekends which are key to engaging local artists and audiences, starting from the Mumbai Gallery Weekend, Delhi Contemporary Art Week, Delhi Art Week to the recently announced Kochi Art Week.”

“Additionally, it has been incredible to see new galleries popping up across the country, which is a clear sign of growing interest in art, including in cities outside the traditional centres of Delhi and Mumbai. In 2022, we are proud to welcome new gallery participants including Vida Heydari Contemporary (Pune), Frangipani Art Gallery (Ahmedabad), Gallery Art Exposure (Kolkata), APRE Art House (Mumbai), Art Incept (Gurugram/ New Delhi) and Terrain.Art (New Delhi), amongst others. Overall, India’s art market is dynamic with strong domestic demand, with the forthcoming edition of India Art Fair poised to reassert India’s position in the global contemporary art map.”

Of course, health precautions are mandatory. “Our aim is to ensure the fair is as safe and inclusive as possible,” affirms Asokan. “We are going above and beyond government-mandated protocols, and will have strict measures in place to ensure a safe running of the fair, including limiting the daily visitor capacity and footfall at the fair venue. We have also enforced mandatory vaccination for everyone who is 18 and over – a rule that’s applicable for all our visitors and participants. Without proof of vaccination, you will not be granted entry into the fair.”

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