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Published on: Jan. 27, 2023, 3:22 p.m.
India Art Fair: Great opportunities
  • Kismet, 2022 - T. Venkanna; Gallery Maskara

By Suman Tarafdar

That art defies convention is unsurprisingly truer more often than one thinks. The art mart seems to have taken a leaf out of that book, as despite the bleak economic outlook, the Indian art market is on course to have its best-performing year ever based on the first six months of 2022-23. With a turnover of $75.8 million as of 30 September 2022, according to Indian Art Investor’s Indian Art Market Report, 2022-23 is likely to exceed 2021-22.

India’s art market is dynamic with a strong domestic demand, with growing passion and interest in collecting, says Jaya Asokan, fair director, India Art Fair. “In fact, despite the challenging pandemic, the 2022 fair was our most successful edition to date, with galleries making sales to established and new millennial collectors across mediums, genres and price points. The passion and interest for collecting has grown through the pandemic, highlighting the strong and rising domestic demand for South Asian art, despite limitations imposed by the pandemic on international travel.”

India Art Fair, the leading platform showcasing modern and contemporary art from India and South Asia, is back at its regular winter slot. Taking place this year during 9-12 February at the NSIC Exhibition Grounds in Delhi, the fair will present 86 exhibitors, including 72 galleries and 12 institutions.

The studio will house a selection of tech-meets-art projects and installations. This will include a dedicated Digital Residency Hub, showcasing artworks made by the three India Art Fair digital artists in residence – all made on iPad Pro and in response to the theme ‘Finding the Extraordinary in the Ordinary’. The platform section will showcase the rich artistic traditions of India through the works of contemporary masters of traditional arts, from Warli, Madhubani, Pattachitra, Kalamkari art, Bhil traditions and Chamba Rumal  amongst others.

IAF has also added a number of collaborations. This includes the Kochi Biennale, Serendipity Art Foundation, the highly curated collector weekends in cities like Kolkata and Baroda to engage HNWI audiences and patrons, and the introduction of an India Art Fair Partner Venue and Young Collectors Hub at Bikaner House, Delhi, aimed at engaging a new generation of collectors and converting interest from the burgeoning millennial and middle-class demographic.

  • Asokan:  strong domestic demand

    Asokan: strong domestic demand

India Art Fair is a one-stop destination and the only one-of-our kind to discover South Asian art and artists, reiterates Asokan. “Each year, we require galleries to showcase works by new or previously unseen artists to bring freshness, dynamism and diversity to the market. This has resulted in recognition from curators and collectors worldwide, leading to opportunities such as residencies and exhibitions for participating artists. In fact, many of the most well-known and important South Asian artists started their careers at the fair. The fair continues to promote the conversation about South Asian art both locally and internationally.”

The ‘India story’ has been gaining momentum globally, with a growing number of South Asian artists showing internationally. Asokan points to Nalini Malani’s My reality is different at the National Gallery, Manish Pushkale’s exhibition at Musée Guimet in Paris, Mithu Sen retrospective at the Australian Centre for contemporary art in Melbourne and Shilpa Gupta’s Ng Teng Fong Roof Garden Commission at the National Gallery Singapore, amongst many others as evidence of the growing recognition of Indian art.

 Growth pangs

Asokan admits that the still rather nascent Indian art scene has considerable challenges. “Our biggest challenges remain the same: from public support to awareness, there’s limited knowledge and support towards art. However, with a collaborative spirit among artists, galleries, collectors and collectives, India is rising to the world stage. Unlike in mature art markets where it is highly tiered and structured, the scene is still growing and offers great opportunities for artists to shape their own careers.”

  • TBT - Anoushka Mirchandani; Courtesy: The Artist and Gallerie ISA

    TBT - Anoushka Mirchandani; Courtesy: The Artist and Gallerie ISA

Despite a shorter lead time for preparation, “We have slowly built on the fair’s success and expanded its reach beyond the four-day event,” Asokan points out. “The India Art Fair website has been transformed into a premier educational and inspirational platform for discovering South Asian art and artists.”

In response to the efforts to expand, it has now grown to a year-round presence. “We believe access to art is vital,” affirms Asokan. “And as we proceed into our 15th year, we are taking active steps to grow the fair beyond the four-day event in Delhi, through year-round programming such as educational initiatives, collector weekends, pop-ups and public art projects, all aimed at widening audiences for the arts in India”. For the art fair to come out stronger out of perhaps the most challenging period in its history is just as strong a testament to it and the resilience of the Indian art market.

  • Courtesy: India Art Fair and BMW India

Car art

BMW India and IAF mark their seventh year of partnership with this edition. “BMW group’s social sustainability commitment has always valued and nurtured various cultural engagements and co-operations globally and in India,” points out Vikram Pawah, president, BMW group, India. “BMW India is delighted to present the latest edition of the India Art Fair and the ‘Future is Born of Art’ commission for connoisseurs for art and automobiles.”

BMW India also engages young Indian artists to design a car wrap under ‘The Future is Born of Art’ commission. At the 2023 fair, we’re excited to unveil the all-new X7 covered in the winning design by Bengaluru-based painter Devika Sundar, says Asokan. Then there’s Raw & Radical: The BMW Art Talk, where four trailblazing women artists Mithu Sen, Jayashree Chakravarty, Benitha Perciyal and Diana Al Hadid will share their inspiring journeys and groundbreaking work in a conversation with BMW’s Head of Cultural Engagement. 

  • Mipa Blue to Red Mix 2 and Black Mist 2018’- Anish Kapoor; Courtesy: Galerie Continua

    Mipa Blue to Red Mix 2 and Black Mist 2018’- Anish Kapoor; Courtesy: Galerie Continua

International presence

International galleries present a number of exciting works. Galleria Continua who will present works by Anish Kapoor, JR and Osvaldo González; Marc Straus will feature Anne Samat; Bruno Art group will present Andy Warhol; Saskia Fernando Gallery will show internationally-renowned South Asian artists Jagath Weerasinghe and Chandraguptha Thenuwara; Grosvenor Gallery will shine a spotlight on Senaka Senanayake; and Aicon will include Rasheed Araeen and Victor Ekpuk within its booth presentation.

  • ‘Paper-Work 2’ - Bhuri Bai

    ‘Paper-Work 2’ - Bhuri Bai

What’s new at IAF 2023

There are seven new participants from India including 079 | Stories art gallery (Ahmedabad), Dhi Artspace (Hyderabad), Gallery Dotwalk (Gurugram), Iram Art (Ahmedabad).

IAF’s first Digital Artists in Residence (DAIR), Gaurav Ogale, Mira Felicia Malhotra and Varun Ogale, will showcase their digital projects and artworks in The Studio.

IAF will have its first poster zine titled Fire in the Belly featuring eight woman artists. Featuring Anikesa Dhing, Aravani Art Project, Aqui Thami, Dhruvi Acharya, Meena Kandasamy, Rithika Pandey, Shilpa Gupta and Zeenat Kulavoor, the zine is meant to be torn, pasted and used to spread feminist messages towards creating a more equal world.

The fair façade, by contemporary Warli artists and sibling duo, the Vayeda Brothers will be transformed into a mesmerizing ‘Forest of the Future’.

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