Artix 2023 | The hotel as art district

Forty-three rooms at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in New Delhi have been converted into galleries and salons to host Artix, India’s first hotel art fair

August 24, 2023 04:10 pm | Updated 04:10 pm IST

Oil on canvas by B. Prabha (1970)

Oil on canvas by B. Prabha (1970) | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Just before COVID-19 shut down the world, Payal Kapoor visited Felix Art Fair at The Hollywood Roosevelt hotel in Los Angeles. There were paintings displayed in poolside cabanas, installations mounted on pristine white hotel beds, “art on the tables, on the walls, in the bathroom, above the sinks and toilets, and even in the bathtub”. The young art fair (2023 marked its fifth edition) was a laid-back alternative to Frieze Los Angeles, prioritising ‘conversation, collaboration and community’.

Art in the bathroom at Felix Art Fair

Art in the bathroom at Felix Art Fair | Photo Credit: @felixartfair

Kapoor was convinced that the intimacy, dynamism and anti-trade show experience was needed back home as well. Artix, which kicks off this weekend at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in New Delhi, hopes to do this justice. Conceived and designed by three women, each with their own unique links to art, India’s first-ever hotel art fair is designed to be a mobile, engaging experience. “Art is extremely personal, and therefore one’s connection with it has to be intimate and on one’s own terms,” says Timsy Anand, one of co-founders, stating that a hotel room is both public and personal, making it familiar yet foreign as a destination for art. “The rooms allow for the warmth that collectors and audiences look for but rarely get,” Kapoor adds.

(L-R) Co-founders Timsy Anand, Malavika Poddar and Payal Kapoor

(L-R) Co-founders Timsy Anand, Malavika Poddar and Payal Kapoor | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Ruchika Wason Singh’s A Map of Un-belonging

Ruchika Wason Singh’s A Map of Un-belonging | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

The artsy suite life

Space and how it’s used is essential to the idea of exhibiting. Unlike traditional trade shows, where people are herded through big hallways, in a hotel they can wander in and out of suites, mingle with each other, even take a break and sit around the pool. It’s cool, it’s relaxed, and yet the serious conversations will happen.

The entire second floor of the Taj Mahal Palace has been converted into an interactive art district, with nearly 43 rooms and suites transformed into salons. With over 20 galleries participating — including Dhoomimal Art Gallery, Art Centrix, and Cultivate Art — it will also showcase artworks from three collectors and seven independent artists. “Walking into galleries can be intimidating for people who have not collected before,” shares Uday Jain, director of Delhi-based Dhoomimal. “This kind of setting makes it more accessible for them to interact with the artwork.”

Priya Paul and (right) Uday Jain

Priya Paul and (right) Uday Jain | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Priya Paul, chairperson of The Park Hotels — long known to ensure art is central to the design of her properties — and one of the contributing collectors, is of a similar bent of mind. “As a collector, I find Artix’s debut truly promising, particularly for the new generation of art enthusiasts,” she says, adding that it is “imperative for us to endorse such platforms where our collective vision converges: that art is not an intimidating realm. It should be enjoyed and be an accessible investment, one that we can embark upon from the earliest stages of our lives”.

Meanwhile, for Lekha Poddar, another contributing collector, hotel art fairs have the potential to complement and enhance the traditional methods collectors use to discover and interact with new artists. “It can offer a more dynamic and personalised approach, making it an exciting addition to the collector’s toolbox,” says Poddar, who will be showing works by artists Jyoti Bhatt and Kalam Patua.

S.H. Raza (1957)

S.H. Raza (1957) | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Fairs exhibiting in hotel rooms is now a decades-old practice in places such as Paris and London. A recent headline maker was the Hotel Warszawa Art Fair. Its 2022 edition hosted not just reclusive Polish artists and collectors, but also runaway artists from the ongoing Ukraine-Russia war.

A travelling show

Mobility is a key factor in how the co-founders hope to create the collectors of tomorrow. “We plan to host two art fairs in a year, each in a different city,” says Kapoor, explaining that they plan to select their destinations based on high capita income and a committed interest in the arts. While keeping the next venue under wraps, she admits that “cities like Kolkata, Hyderabad and Mumbai are on our radar for the next chapter”.

Artix is on at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel from August 25-27.

The writer follows arts and culture.

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