A lowdown on this year’s edition of India Art Fair

The fifth edition of India Art Fair (IAF) is over. The grand affair — 105 galleries, 24 countries and over 1000 artists — came with the bonus of a room to watch video works, special projects in and around the fair and a forum with an array of speakers from some of the world’s best art organisations. A host of collateral events in Delhi and other cities completed the package.

Did galleries manage to sell? Was it better than last year? Were there serious buyers? As always, these are the essential questions art scribes deal with in the aftermath of the IAF. At the time of writing this story IAF hadn’t come out with figures, but we will try to give you some idea of the developments nonetheless.

Serious buyers

Geetha Mehra of Mumbai’s Sakshi Gallery informs us that compared to last year’s edition, the buyers and collectors were more serious this time. A lot of people from the museums the world over, particularly the west — The Louvre museum, Tate etc. — visited this year’s fair. In fact, Latitude 28 sold Kartik Sood’s ‘Random Act of Contemplating Reality’ and ‘Escaping in a day dream’ in mixed media to a private museum in Dubai.

Sunaina Anand of Art Alive gallery, observed that several people visited multiple times this year. “I noticed lot of positivity in the market and new kind of buyers. They came not once but twice which was quite encouraging to see because in a four-day event to make that kind of effort is laudable.”

Lower priced works sold better

The common refrain is that the art works priced in the range of Rs. 200,000 to Rs.1,000,000 did better business than those priced higher. “In fact works priced between Rs.700,000 to Rs.1,000,000 sold on the spot,” says Sunaina.

Shrine Empire gallery sold ‘Memory Keeper: The Blue Cupboard’ (wooden cupboard, lace, wool, cloth and video) by Sri Lankan artist Anoli Perera for Rs.350,000. Cristiana De Marchi’s embroidery piece at Dubai’s 1X1 gallery, was also lapped up for Rs.2 lakh.

Focus on solo shows

The number of solo shows has been steadily on the rise. From a lone solo show (of Chittrovanu Mazumdar) in 2011, it went up to 13 last year and rose up to 18 this year. From the modernists to contemporaries Somnath Hore, K.G.Subramanyan, Akbar Padamsee, Rekha Rodwittiya, Sheba Chhachhi, TV Santhosh, Hema Upadhyay, powerful solo booths captured everybody’s attention.

Bigger international galleries missing

Lisson, White Cube and Hauser & Wirth went missing this time and instead came Daniel Besseiche of France, SCREAM from London, Die Galerie from Germany and some more.

Nature of work

The work was less conceptual and no popular international stars (No Damien Hirsts, Anish Kapoors and Marc Quinns) descended on this platform this time, though we did have our own stars like Jitish Kallat, Subodh Gupta, Atul Dodiya shining bright on the international horizon.

Lot of people are of the view that in terms of quality, it was a much better year. There was art on display which a common viewer could connect with. For instance, Atul Dodiya’s famous shutter work tells the tale of Nirbhaya, the 23-year-old medical student’s brutal gang-rape. Juxtaposed with Gandhian legacy, the girl is surrounded by sharks with the date of her death - 29/12/2012 at the bottom.

Another highlight of the fair was Jitish Kallat’s installation of a historic letter written by Mahatma Gandhi to Hitler. Viewers have to pass through a tunnel and while doing that their bodies touch the words which are appearing on fog.