India Art Fair, one of the country’s leading art events, is back at its regular slot, from 9-12 February 2023, at NSIC Exhibition Grounds Okhla, New Delhi. And, ‘despite a challenging economic scenario, is optimistic about being the most successful edition to date’, says Jaya Asokan, Fair Director, India Art Fair. Taking note of not just the record-breaking sales at the previous edition of the fair, but also Indian art being featured across the globe, coupled with strong domestic demand, she is confident of growing the fair. A slew of innovations, a return of all the popular features and a number of collaborations promise an exciting time for the art aficionado at IAF 2023, she tells Suman Tarafdar in an exclusive for The Luxury Chronicle. Here are the excerpts from an interview.
What are the highlights of India Art Fair 2023?
We are thrilled to announce our return in 2023, as we pave the way for a new era in Indian and South Asian art. Our fairgrounds will be a showcase for the most
powerful and emerging young artists from India and the wider South Asian region. From the region’s greatest modernists, contemporary and folk artists to a new generation of cutting-edge digital artists, showcased in The Studio, there will be something for everyone to enjoy. More than anything, we are proud to present 85 galleries and institutions, each of whom have dared to innovate and reinvent their programs to make them widely inclusive and diverse in representation of artists, mediums, and price points.
How has the art market behaved post Covid, Indian and international?
India’s art market is dynamic with a strong domestic demand, with growing passion and interest in collecting. 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.
We have also seen a thrilling expansion of the art scene in the past year, with several new collaborative initiatives propping up across the country, from Delhi Art Week, Mumbai Art Weekend and Madras Art Weekend, each asserting their city’s growing importance in the India’s cultural ecosystem, to new museums and platforms for contextualizing contemporary art such as MAP Bangalore, Kolkata Centre for Creativity, Ark Foundation in Baroda, Kiran Nadar Museum of Art’s upcoming building and Serendipity Art Foundation’s The Brij, both in Delhi, all of which will play an instrumental role in shaping the next decade of Indian and South Asian art.
At the 2023 edition of fair, we’re proud to welcome 7 new participants from India including 079 | STORIES ART GALLERY (Ahmedabad), Dhi Artspace (Hyderabad), Gallery Dotwalk (Gurugram), Iram Art (Ahmedabad) coming from beyond the traditional art centres of Delhi and Mumbai.
What are some of the opportunities and challenges of the Indian art scenario at the moment?
Our biggest challenges remain the same: from public support to awareness, there’s limited knowledge and support toward 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. Post pandemic, the ‘India story’ is gaining even more momentum, with a growing number of South Asian artists showing internationally, from 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.
What are some of the innovations / changes you plan to introduce? In what direction would you like to take the fair in?
We believe access to art is vital. And as we proceed into our 15th year, we are taking active steps to grow the fair beyond the 4-day event in New 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.
What role is the fair playing in increasing the visibility for South Asian art?
India Art Fair is the first and foremost place to discover South Asian art and artists. Every year, we insist galleries bring works by new or never-before-seen artists to ensure freshness and dynamism in the market. Art recognized by curators and collectors from across the world, leading to residencies, exhibitions, opportunities and a complete shift in career. We’re rooted to our home base, with many of the biggest and best-known artists having started their journey with the fair. Over the past year, the fair has continued to drive the conversation of South Asian artists and art both locally and internationally.
India Art Fair is a one-stop destination and the only one-of-our kind to discover South Asian art and artists. 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.
How many participants are there for this edition? Which prominent international galleries will be present?
The 2023 IAF will be our most ambitious edition to date, with an expanded floorspace and three large exhibition halls dedicated to galleries, featuring 64 Indian and seven international participants respectively, including Galleria Continua which 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 finally Aicon will include Rasheed Araeen and Victor Ekpuk within its booth presentation.
Who are the main sponsors for this year?
BMW India and the India Art Fair have been partners for over 6 years, working towards a shared vision of the future of art in India. BMW India not only supports the IAF but 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 Bangalore-based painter Devika Sundar. Don’t miss the 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.
How are valuations at the moment compared to previous years? What are some of the more popular trends that potential buyers are looking at?
India has recently become the world’s fifth-largest economy, with the expansion of the art market having grown in parallel, with the India Art Fair at its helm. The Indian art market is on course to have its best-performing year ever based on the first six months of FY23. With a turnover of USD 75.8 million as of 30 September 2022, according to Indian Art Investor’s Indian Art Market Report, FY23 is likely to exceed FY22.
Given the negative impact on the larger economy, and art being a discretionary spend, do you expect an impact on the purchasing power of patrons in the short term?
On the contrary! The passion and interest for collecting has grown through the pandemic, and in 2022, we saw record-breaking sales at the fair, the best ever in its history, highlighting the strong and rising domestic demand for South Asian art, despite limitations imposed by the pandemic on international travel.
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. The India Art Fair website has been transformed into a premier educational and inspirational platform for discovering South Asian art and artists.
Additionally, we have expanded the fair’s presence through collaborations with the Kochi Biennale, Serendipity Art Foundation, highly curated Collector Weekends in cities like Kolkata and Baroda to engage our HNWI audiences and patrons, and the introduction of an India Art Fair Partner Venue and Young Collectors Hub at Bikaner House located in the heart of New Delhi, aimed at engaging a new generation of collectors and converting interest from the burgeoning millennial and middle-class demographic. Our programming is vast and varied, with a mission to provide a gateway and entry point into the art and culture of collecting.
Any other aspect that is important this year?
I am particularly excited about the fair façade, which will be transformed into a mesmerizing ‘Forest of the Future’ by contemporary Warli artists and sibling duo, the Vayeda Brothers. This installation is sure to be a highlight of the fair and will be a visual treat for visitors. On the other side of the spectrum, we are thrilled to introduce our first-ever Digital Artists in Residence (DAIR), Gaurav Ogale, Mira Felicia Malhotra and Varun Ogale, who will be showcasing their arresting digital projects and artworks in The Studio.
This year, we’re also proud to introduce India Art Fair’s first-ever poster zine titled Fire in the Belly featuring 8 womxn artists and creative powerhouses. This is a way for us to make a statement about the art world. Featuring internationally recognised artists, activists and writers 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 action-oriented spirit of our zine will also be carried through the talks programme. Titled ‘Align & Disrupt’ and curated by independent arts educator and curator Shaleen Wadhwana, each conversation will deep-dive into important questions, from representation, philanthropy, patronage, disability and sustainability. For the first time, the key learnings from the talks will be documented in an action-plan which will be widely circulated and made accessible to the public.