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Published on: Feb. 7, 2024, 3:41 p.m.
IAF 2024, where design and art blend together
  • Tayeba Lipi, Boots with long lace, 2019; COURTESY: SHRINE EMPIRE

By Suman Tarafdar

In our increasingly fluid times, merging spaces seems to be the norm. Well, here’s one that has been long on the cards – creative cousins art and design blending into each other, where breaking mental preconceptions is de rigueur though.

India Art Fair (IAF), one of the country’s leading annual art events, is marking its 15th anniversary at the upcoming edition. It will be the largest to date with more than a hundred exhibitors, including galleries, institutions and design studios from India and around the world, points out Jaya Asokan, fair director, IAF.

While most of India’s leading galleries are going to be represented at the fair, there is significant international presence in the main galleries section, including some of the world’s leading galleries such as Carpenters Workshop Gallery, Marc Straus, neugerriemschneider and Galleria Continua, which will bring works by not only global powerhouses such as Ai Weiwei, Olafur Eliasson, Eva Jospin and Ozioma Onuzulike, but also the contemporary South Asian artists in their rosters such as Shilpa Gupta and Nikhil Chopra, points out Asokan. “We will have Galerie Geek Art showing coveted Japanese artists like Takashi Murakami, Indigo+Madder from London showing some of the most exciting young South Asian and diasporic artists working today and Saskia Fernando Gallery from Colombo showing Sri Lankan master artists.”

Outdoor art projects, a regular feature of the fair, include a video work by Irish artist John Gerrard supported by the Los Angeles Museum of Art (LACMA) and the winning installation by the first ever MTArt Agency x India Art Fair Artist Prize, Sajid Wajid Shaikh to installations by artists like Shun Sudo, Gigi Scaria and Pulak Sarkar, supported by Galerie Geek Art, the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art and Bangladesh Art Week respectively.

IAF 2024 will host some of the world’s leading voices in art, design, culture and the market at the fair’s Talks Programme this year, including artists like Rana Begum, Anita Dube, Jitish Kallat and French-Camaroonian artist Barthélémy Toguo; museum directors, such as Michael Govan, CEO and Wallis Annenberg, director, Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA); and Klaus Biesenbach, director, Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin; leading market experts like art market columnist Melanie Gerlis; Sonal Singh, managing director, Christie’s India and Darshan Mehta, president, Reliance Brands, among leading patrons and some of South Asia’s most path-breaking curators and change-makers.

  • Asokan: IAF 2024 is the largest to date

    Asokan: IAF 2024 is the largest to date

BMW continues to support the fair for the eighth year, including three years of the ‘The Future is Born of Art’ Commission – one of the largest artist commissions in the country. The theme for this year’s The Future is Born of Art is ‘Forwardism’ and the winning artist Sashikanth Thavudoz will unveil an immersive multi-sensory installation titled Symphony of Nature: The Harmonic Forest using natural and manufactured materials to speak to the fragility of our ecological balance. The work exemplifies ‘Forwardism’, the theme of the commission, advocating for progress with conscience and purpose.

Other leading partners for the fair include Rado, JSW, India Sotheby’s International Realty and SoulTree and will see new partners including Vianaar, Tarun Tahiliani Design Studio, Chandon, Faber-Castell, Aava and The Marg Foundation. Stonex will support our Young Collectors’ Programme.

For the fair to have survived several changes of ownership, not to speak of global economic down-turn when disposable income effectively vanished, 15 years is testament to its survivability and India’s growing art market.  “This is a pivotal time for Indian and South Asian art,” points out Asokan. “India Art Fair has paved the way for this immense growth, serving as the catalyst for the market and the meeting point for collectors, gallerists and artists over the years.” Followers of art will be eagerly watching to gauge the art market and IAF’s place in it.

  • Atelier Pichvai Tradition and Beyond, Temple Map with Foliage, 2023

    Atelier Pichvai Tradition and Beyond, Temple Map with Foliage, 2023

Blurring borders  

Design makes a major entry into IAF this year, with the inaugural Design section as one of the biggest highlights at the upcoming fair. “We will spotlight seven pioneering design studios making collectible and limited-edition pieces,” says Asokan. The highlights include brass repoussé work by Vikram Goyal, a collaboration between Rooshad Shroff and artist T. Venkanna, reinterpretations of Indian craft objects by Gunjan Gupta, innovative jewellery by Studio Renn, Karishma Swali & the Chanakya School’s work with master textile artisans, Atelier Ashiesh Shah’s work with India’s craft traditions and hand-painted wallpaper by global design house de Gournay.

“We firmly believe that there are no boundaries when it comes to creativity and artists of all kinds have always been in dialogue to broaden their practices and generate new ideas,” explains Asokan. “The inaugural collectible Design section at India Art Fair is built upon this fundamental principle. The worlds of art and design have always been in conversation with each other, and the aim of the Design section is to promote even greater cross-pollination among creative disciplines.”

There are already fairly well-established design fairs in the country, including in Delhi. The design studios at IAF show limited-edition, handmade and unique pieces that are conceptual and deeply process driven – and explore dimensions of design objects beyond the purely functional. “As South Asia is quickly becoming a global design destination, with design studios from the region being shown around the world,” stresses Asokan. “Our Design section will showcase some of these pioneers, paying homage to South Asia’s long history of craft while making contemporary interventions and defining a new South Asian aesthetic.”

The pioneers seem excited to be part of the fair. The lines between art and design are more blurred than ever, says Rahul Jhaveri, creative director, Studio Renn. “Over the past few years – there have been considerable inter-disciplinary dialogues between designers and artists, the result of which was that designers began to approach their work with an artistic sensibility and artists through a designer lens. This undefined blurry line would disappear over the next few years. IAF is at the helm of this movement through its maiden design section and it is a privilege to be part of that stance. We exist at the fringe, pushing things beyond and into the unknown. Showcasing our work at IAF is part of that journey.”

Being part of the maiden design section is an honour as it allows us to shape new narratives and blur the boundaries between art, design, and craft, says Karishma Swali, creative director, Chanakya International and Chanakya School of Craft. “In our practice, we navigate the intersections of art, craft, design, and innovation. While we may assign labels such as art or design to creative expressions, the essence lies in the overarching concept of exploration. It is this spirit of exploration that not only defines the importance of artisanal legacies within tradition but also propels us into exciting new territories.”

For designer Vikram Goyal, the past few years have seen incredible innovation in design, including with craft, “which makes this a great time for design to be part of IAF. The collectable design market in particular is growing the world over, and India is following suit. We have so much to offer from a craft perspective, and that creates so much potential for design.”

“For over 17 years, we have been exploring the lines between art and design and it’s exciting to see functional design integrated with contemporary art fairs,” points out Loïc Le Gaillard, co-founder, Carpenters Workshop Gallery. IAF is a great way to engage with a new audience and collectors and to learn more about the already diverse art scene in the region. We are excited to engage with the rich history of India and hope to create a lasting relationship with the region.

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