The sixth edition of India Art Fair, India’s premier fair for modern and contemporary art, concluded on February 2 after a buoyant four day run at the NSIC Exhibition Centre in New Delhi.
With 96 per cent of exhibitors reporting good sales, and a number of exhibitors selling out entirely, the fair reinforced the recent renewed sense of energy and market confidence that has been seen and felt across the Indian art community. RoshiniVadehra, Director of Vadehra Art Gallery commented “it has been a great start to 2014. We have been participating in India Art Fair since its inception, and this has been one of the best years yet for our modern and contemporary sales”.
A noticeable trend for returning international galleries was an increased level of engagement from fair visitors, as exhibitors enjoyed the attentions of a more confident art-loving public with a closer appreciation and understanding of the gallery brand and exhibiting artists. Lorenzo Fiaschi, Galleria Continua (San Gimignano/Beijing/Le Moulin), commented: “After three years our relationship with art lovers in India is growing deeper and deeper. For us this has been the best edition yet – we look forward to coming back next year.”
With 12 new galleries from cities including Paris, Lisbon, Cologne, Barcelona, Madrid, Istanbul, Tel Aviv and Karachi, the fair was pleased to report sales for 90 per cent of all first-time exhibitors, with a number of galleries selling out entirely. Mark Hachem, Director of Mark Hachem Gallery said “We have had a very good fair. We’ve made great contacts, one institution has bought pieces. We have made sales to both Indian and expat collectors”
India Art Fair played host to a range collectors, both old and new, from around the world. Indian collectors accounted for a significant percentage of the sales, whether non-residential Indians living abroad, or younger new collectors from tier-two cities and towns across the country. Renowned collector Rajiv Savara said “This year the quality of galleries and their offerings is much improved, and in some cases, extraordinary. The footfall is much better too”. Collector and co-partner in Select City Walk Arjun Sharma who purchased close a dozen works said: “Qualitatively this year’s fair has surpassed my expectations. There is a very fine mix of contemporary, modern and master works. The price points are more attractive. The fair has become a significant part of everyone’s calendars - so much so that I have made a point of returning from an overseas business trip early to catch the opening night”
Probably the single biggest buyer of the 2014 edition of India Art Fair was KiranNadar, founder and director of the KiranNadar Museum of Art, said: “All the galleries seemed very positive and said they had done much better compared to all the previous years gone by, which is very heartening for the market. The fair was very well organized and comfortable to navigate. The speakers forum line up was world class with great educational initiatives which is a big break through.”
The KNMA was one of a number of international museums present at the fair, including The Himalayas Art Museum in Shanghai and the Mark Rothko Museum in Latvia. In addition a number of major international museum delegations and representatives attend this years art fair. Chris Dercon, Director of Tate Modern said: “This is my third visit to the India Art Fair, and I make a point of attending as it is important to get an overview of the Indian art scene. The fair is now bringing independent projects, challenging the homogenous system of the art market. At the same time more and more institutions are bringing their best thoughts and images in an increasingly professional way to an ever growing wider public”. Also present was the Director of the Delfina Foundation, Aaron Cezar, who said: “I have been coming to India Art Fair for the last three years and have witnessed the transformation of both the fair and the city. India Art Fair provides a point of momentum for the contemporary scene in Delhi, and the fair goes from strength to strength to strength - in the quality of the work and the quality of experience”
The international museum outreach also prompted an encouraging degree of cross-cultural outreach and collaborations supported by several foreign missions in India as an extension of their cultural policy and outreach. With Gallery Chowk (exhibiting for the first time at India Art Fair), the Pakistani High Commissioner to Delhi, Mansoor Ali Kahn, suggested a much bigger India-Pakistan initiative at the art fair for 2015 and said “We need to develop an institutional framework to increase cultural collaborations through art with Pakistan and India to better facilitate the art exchange. We should start with a single exhibition of Pakistani art in India. We have to come out of the old mindset. Art can take a lead in that”
Acting in this way as a conduit for developing international cultural relations, India Art Fair also marked the first private-sector led Indo-Chinese cultural exchange program coordinated by ‘Made in China’ Chairman Philip Dodd. A delegation of Chinese collectors and gallery and museum owners visited the fair to meet their Indian counterparts and to discuss cross-promotional cultural exchange, a dialogue that will continue when an Indian delegation goes to Shanghai and Beijing later this year. Budi Tek the famous Indonesian-Chinese entrepreneur, philanthropist, collector and museum owner said “We see something is moving so rapidly in the art world in India. I think we should seriously consider collecting Indian art work, and we look forward to returning”. Following the delegation’s visit it is highly likely that Indian art will find it’s way into major Chinese museums later this year.
With a strong series of talks and debates at the 2014 Speakers’ Forum, and with a number of curated walk, school groups and specialist workshops, India Art Fair beyond it’s commercial role as a trade fair for art, has proved itself to be major catalyst for meaningful education and outreach for a larger community in India and abroad. Plans are already being laid for India Art Fair 2015 with the announcement that renowned curator and art critic GirishShahane will join the art fair organisers as Artistic Director of the fair.
NehaKirpal, Founder and Director of India Art Fair said: “Sandy Angus and I are very pleased to have had a successful art fair as we recognize the importance of our role in the Indian context as market builders and a conduit for change, which we are working towards through a progressive ongoing efforts for international and domestic outreach and education. Since the inception of the art fair to date we’ve seen the transformation of the art fair, the exhibiting artists and galleries rising to a truly world class standard with an global appeal, and the development of an entire industry around the arts, fueling tremendous possibilities for both business and culture.”