Explosion of creativity at India's biggest art meet
The biggest market of art in India, the India Art Fair (IAF), began in New Delhi on April 28
The biggest market of art in India, the India Art Fair (IAF), began in New Delhi on April 28. While one would have to wait till the end of the fair, and for all the participating galleries, museums, institutions, cultural organisations, individual entities,and other participants to submit their sales figures to the IAF at the end of the fair to ascertain its financial success, one can declare it a triumph already.
The debilitating and unusually searing Delhi heat notwithstanding, the art fraternity of the country turned out in great numbers with unprecedented enthusiasm to congregate at the NSIC Grounds, Okhla, in south Delhi for the launch of the four-day fair. The fervour was palpable, and comprehensible too, as the fair is being held in its physical format after a gap of one year. There was no edition of the fair in 2021 owing to the pandemic, and this edition - the 13th - too has been delayed by nearly four months for the same reasons.
Traditionally held in the first few days of February, the current timing of the fair is a brave step on the part of the IAF as Delhi is far from comfortable at this time of the year - the art fraternity of the country, including artists, gallerists, curators, and of course, buyers, generally migrate to the cooler, temperate climes in the western hemisphere at this time of the year, leaving the arts season of India dull and dry, only to be revived post monsoon.
Jaya Asokan, director of the fair, says, "There is so much pent-up energy in people to go out and interact that the timing of the fair is not likely to have any impact. At the gallery openings and other events, I'm seeing people coming out in big numbers and that's a positive sign."
This is Asokan's first edition of the fair as its director, a position to which she was appointed in April 2021.Asokan, who has 20 years' experience in numerous creative industries and priorly worked with Saffronart, hopes to develop the fair's footprint throughout the year, beyond intense activity at the actual event. "The pandemic has been a great learning experience for everybody globally. We want to pivot the fair to not just four days but extend it beyond to engage with stakeholders even outside the traditional art hubs of New Delhi and Mumbai, to include cities like Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, and Pune. Even in the run-up to the fair, we have been conducting walkthroughs, pop-ups, collectors' weekends, workshops, and other such events to make greater inroads into the local arts scene, and even globally," she said.
A total of 77 exhibitors are participating in the fair across different segments, including 14 non-profit foundations and institutions such as the Kochi Biennale Foundation, Chennai Photo Biennale, Serendipity Arts Foundation, and others. While all the top Indian galleries are in attendance, seven others have made their debut at this edition of the fair. These are: APRE Art House (Mumbai), Art Incept (Gurugram/ New Delhi), Gallery Art Exposure (Kolkata), Modern Art Gallery. Ojas Art and Terrain.art (all New Delhi) and Vida Heydari Contemporary (Pune).
Apart from the fair's main segment, other distinct sections include Focus, Platform, Institutions, The Studio and In Memoriam (remembering Satish Gujral who passed away in 2020). The outdoor projects featuring music concerts, performances and talks get tremendous response from the connoisseurs, buyers, and even those who are at the fringes of the art world yet are ready to take their first tentative steps towards lifelong engagement.
The most eye-catching highlight, however, remains the BMW partnership with the India Art Fair (in its sixth year now), which this year, is presenting a new commission, titled The Future is Born of Art. This commission was awarded in March 2022 to young Indian artist, Faiza Hasan, to design a wrap for BMW's first all-electric car in India, BMW iX, which is on display at the fair's BMW lounge.
"What I have chosen to depict on the BMW iX, it's a gathering or a coming together of sorts," says Hasan of her design commission. Representing the brilliance of the night sky, the car titled 'Suno' pays homage to people from all walks of life. Urdu words in gold lettering that spell out ummeed (hope), tassawur (to imagine), nigehbaan (to safeguard) and the title suno (to listen) are placed among portraits of people on the car, and add to its sustainable philosophy.
Outside the Fair Grounds
Beyond the actual fair, the city's top galleries promise almost equal excitement as they have mounted their biggest shows of the year to coincide with the fair. The Kiran Nadar Museum of Art leads with as many as four seminal solo shows: 'K. Ramanujam: Into The Moonlight Parade…', 'Atul Dodiya: Walking With The Waves', 'Somnath Hore: Birth of a White Rose', marking the centenary of the seminal Indian modernist, and another centennial exhibition, 'Sayed Haider Raza, Traversing Space: Here and Beyond,' on one of the most important blue chip artists of India.
Vadehra Art Gallery is showcasing a solo exhibition by the award-winning artist, N. S. Harsha, titled 'Stomach Studio', while Gallery Espace is presenting a solo exhibition of recent works by Manisha Gera Baswani, titled '…and the dots connect now'. Other must-visit shows at this time are 'Flotsam (1926-2018)', a solo by Al-An deSouza at Talwar Gallery; Shruti Mahajan's solo, titled 'Between Brackets | In Touch Edition 07', at Shrine Empire; Pandit Khairnar's recent works in an exhibition titled 'Between Light and Shadow: Travels Through an Indian Landscape', at Gallery Threshold; 'Tanabana', a solo show of works by Saad Qureshi, 'Notes from a City Unknown,' another solo, of the works of Seher Shah, at Nature Morte; and a group show, 'The World Awaits You Like A Garden', at Latitude 28.
(The 13th edition of the fair is being held at its usual venue, the NSIC Grounds, Okhla, New Delhi, through 1 May. Details on entry is available on www.indiaartfair.in)
(The writer is a New Delhi-based journalist, editor and arts consultant. She blogs at www.archanakhareghose.com)