With just five days to go, India’s biggest exhibition of contemporary and modern South Asian art is nearly ready to open its 12th edition. Installations and art works are being mounted and, with a steady rise in participation from international galleries, 2020 will see names like Aicon Contemporary, New York, Grosvenor Gallry, London, and PSM, Berlin. But Jagdip Jagpal — who took over as fair director in 2018, and is looking at expanding India’s art market by growing an interest in art — says that, as always, 70% of the floor space is reserved for Indian galleries. “[As long as] I’m here, that will never change,” she stresses.
This year, visitors can look forward to fresh artist programmes, a new lifestyle space, performance arts (don’t miss Lagos-based multimedia artist Jelili Atiku’s politically-charged Nobody is Born Wise ), the Andy Warhol BMW Art Car — “it is pop art, and pop art has always been popular in India” — and an original painted facade. “We’ve commissioned Sameer Kulavoor, whose work engages with the lives of ordinary people, to paint the facade [covering almost two buildings], says Jagpal. “What he’s doing for the fair is a new work.”
Edited excerpts from an interview:
What kind of Indian art and artists are emerging as contenders in the global scene?
Over the past few years, galleries have had the confidence to promote both new and known artists. IAF is a platform where art is for sale, for viewing, and there’s grants, prizes, and residencies. In terms of art forms, the focus is on female and non-binary artists. In terms of form, textile art is growing in popularity, like artist Arshi Irshad Ahmadzai (who sketches faceless women on muslin, to focus on the absence of female agency in patriarchal societies). So are the photographic arts, along with the traditional mediums like oil on canvas, with artists like Ratheesh T, represented by Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke.
- Artists in residence: The new programme opens with workshops, displays and specialist workshops — from drawing to zine making — by artists such as Marcel Dzama, Renuka Rajiv, Manisha Parekh and Gagan Singh.
- New addition: The museum retail space, Bookshop & Cafe, will offer everything from art books and zines to artist-designed lifestyle products. The Learning Space (in the bookshop) will host workshops, screenings and the like.
It is your third year at the helm. What has defined your approach?
The main thing is to put the artist’s voice at the centre of the art fair. We don’t have talks where the curator’s point of view is in focus. There are also no panels; the idea is to have case-study style discussions. For example, we have Nilima Sheikh, who will be in conversation with Sneha Ragavan of the Asia Art Archive [the artist will talk about her trips to Himalayan villages and how that has informed her art practices].
Your experience of the art market?
It has been a slow and steady growth, and because of that, particularly with contemporary art, we are seeing a steady increase in the number of younger collectors — in the mid-price range — buying contemporary. This is replacing luxury purchases, and I think this is also the reason that galleries are taking risks, and [acquiring] purely based on quality. We don’t have peaks and troughs, and I think that’s important.
At the NSIC Grounds, Okhla, from January 30 to February 2. Details: indiaartfair.in
Shows to check out
Colonial Times (2019): Israeli multimedia artist Achia Anzi will use LED light installations and audio excerpts of poetry, by the likes of Henry Louis Vivan Derozio and Mahmoud Darwish.Defunct Architectural Spaces (2018): Kolkata-based artist Rathin Barman’s large-scale installations are inspired by now-defunct colonial buildings. His work will include drawings and objects to show how current inhabitants are using these spaces now.
Defunct Architectural Spaces(2018): Kolkata-based artist Rathin Barman’s large-scale installations are inspired by now-defunct colonial buildings. His work will include drawings and objects to show how current inhabitants are using these spaces now.
Photoink (2020): Martin Parr, the internationally-acclaimed Magnum photographer, will capture booths and people, and exhibit them as a live photography project.
Pooja Singhal, of Pichvai Tradition and Beyond — an atelier that contemporises and promotes traditional pichvai techniques — is participating for the first time. “We are a traditional art form, and to take part in this contemporary fair helps to mainstream it,” she says. “It is a big step forward for the survival and relevance of the work [commercial revival of heritage art] that people like me are doing. My booth is also quite contemporary. For instance, I’ve changed the colour palette of the pieces to play with pastels instead of the deep, traditional colours.
Collaterals to catch
Don’t miss MATERIOLOGY 2.0. Presented by Stir, and curated by Amit Gupta and Pramiti Madhavji, it brings together 12 international and Indian designers — from Matteo Cibic and Rooshad Shroff to Paola Navone and Sumant Jayakrishnan — to create six installations in response to the question ‘What happens when yesterday becomes tomorrow?’. At Stir Gallery, from February 1-22.
The Gujral Foundation presents multi-disciplinary artist Remen Chopra W Van Der Vaart’s solo exhibition, Memory’s Cut; Its Deep Embrace. Exploring her memories of home, the artist will transform 24 Jor Bagh with photography, drawing, sculpture, textiles and sound — to reflect upon personal and familial histories of migration. January 31 to February 24.