India Art Fair 2012: For international galleries, India focus among emerging economies


The India Art Fair, formerly named the India Art Summit, closed its doors for the fourth time on 29 January 2012. An estimated crowd of 80,000 came to see over 1000 works of art brought to the event by 98 galleries from twenty countries. Read on to find out what collectors snapped up.

Sam Jinks, 'Woman and Child', 2010, mixed media. (The man on the right is not part of the artwork, but instead is an interested observer.)

Sam Jinks, 'Woman and Child', 2010, mixed media. (The man on the right is not part of the artwork, but an interested observer.)

New collectors, lower price points

While the number of diehard collectors remained small, the press noted a strong young collector presence and a high number of galleries from second tier cities around India, such as Jaipur and Ahmedabad.

Newer and younger collectors, especially those buying art for the first time, don’t hit straight for the top artists like [M. F.] Husain or [S. H.] Raza because of the prohibitive prices. They want to begin at lower price points and that’s where galleries like mine come in to help initiate them into the world of buying art.

Manan Relia, Archer Art Gallery

Many journalists in attendance reported that participants seemed unusually enthusiastic, whether attendees were buying or not.

‘Passionate’ is not a word you normally associate with art fairs, but it’s the right one for the atmosphere at the India Art Fair.

Madeleine O’Dea, journalist, ARTINFO



The mood of excitement to see things and to learn is palpable. There is tremendous spirit.

Hugo Weihe, International Specialist Head, Indian & South-East Asian Art, Christie’s

Watch the video above for a short tour of some of the galleries at the fair conducted by freelance curator Nadia Schneider.

The significant drop in footfall from last year’s 128,000-person-strong event was apparently intentional. Neha Kirpal, founder of the India Art Fair, moved the event from the Pragati Maidan, in the heart of New Delhi, to the more remote NSIC Exhibition Ground, a location that is an hour from the city centre, with the hope of increasing the number of serious buyers in attendance.

Indian contemporary and modern art sells well

Sales were moderately positive, with works in the 55,000-100,000 rupee range (USD1,100-2,000) selling best.

At the recently-ended India Art Fair, sales were better than last year, with 90 percent of the roughly ninety Indian and international galleries participating in the fair selling between one to four works of art.


All international galleries have vowed to come back next year, the event’s organisers say, something that had not been the case last year.

Margherita Stancati and Shefali Anand, journalists, The Wall Street Journal

Bangladeshi collector couple Nadia and Rajeeb Samdani were said to have gone on a miniature spending spree at the vernissage, exclusively snapping up Indian contemporary works including pieces by Rashid Rana and Nandalal Bose. Erstwhile collector of Chinese contemporary art and founder of the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Baron Guy Ullens, was also seen prowling the aisles, perhaps as a result of his admitted admiration for Indian artist Bharti Ker.


  Watch the video above for an interview of Shireen Gandhy by The Wall TV. Gandhy gives us an insight into the work of contemporary artists Desmond Lazaro and Mithu Sen.

Work by the Indian modernists proved more popular among collectors than other works, despite Kirpal’s attempts at making the fair more international through the development of a Collectors’ Circle and a move to a new venue in an effort to encourage more serious collectors to attend the fair.

What I’d like to see more of is international artists being sold here, but Indian collectors only pick up work they recognise. They aren’t willing to experiment just yet.

Ursula Krinzinger, Galerie Krinzinger

The Indian market is familiar with Indian artists, who sold more. India was a learning experience for us. We have not participated in any other fairs in Asia earlier, barring Art Hong Kong.

James Lavender, Associate Director, Hauser & Wirth Gallery

Local collectors lack international art knowledge

Not all galleries showing work by non-Indian artists walked away disappointed, with many viewing their attendance at the fair as the first step into a new market. London’s Lisson Gallery chose to focus on one well-known artist, Marina Abramović, and was pleased with the positive reception her work received. Diamond dust-covered silk screen prints by British artist Damien Hirst were Other Criteria’s offering, and they sold well.

India is our focus in the emerging economies. We are looking at young collectors. Damien [Hirst] is a supporter of young artists. This is our first visit to India as a company and the response has been overwhelming. We have sold many prints.

Charlotte Nunn, Other Criteria

Damien Hirst prints for sale at the India Art Fair.

Damien Hirst prints for sale at the India Art Fair.

White Cube’s Hirsts were less successful, and the gallery found that many Indian collectors were unfamiliar with work by big name, international artists. Work by well-established modernists was the hottest seller, and some commentators saw this as either evidence of Indian collectors sticking with safe investment options in an uncertain economic climate, or an indication that local collectors are starting to branch out from typical purchases of Indian art.

Indians are looking at more and more European modern classics as investment options.

Peter Femfert, Die Galerie (Frankfurt)

People want deals. Collectors have returned to buying the modern masters because the contemporary market has lost value, so they have lost confidence in it.

Kishore Singh, Delhi Art Gallery

It’s a confidence of the emerging Indian art market. It’s a real transformation, both in terms of artistic production and its audience. It’s gone from being an insular market to one where appreciation builds everyday.

Sundaram Tagore, Sundaram Tagore Gallery

In this video The Wall TV speaks to Sandaram Tagore about ‘works which bring the cross-cultural context together’.

Holds in place of sales

Many galleries reported that they had secured a number of “strong holds” in place of finalised sales, and they expected the sale of these holds to take place later in the year.

The works that we [have] got here are the best. We have given out many price quotations to visitors here, so we can hope that after the fair ends, collectors might get back [to us].

Galerie Krinzinger

There are enquiries about art works, but if we talk of actual sales, nothing major has materialised. Business is low and people are wary when it comes to investing in art.

Tunty Chauhan, Threshold Gallery

There was a lot of intent, asking and looking, but we sold to our old buyers. The organisers have to be more exclusive about selecting the galleries….

Usha Gawde, Sakshi Gallery

After two years of economic slowdown, it was hoped the fair would bring momentum to the art scene and pull galleries out of [the] doldrums. This hasn’t happened. Not everyone is negative though. Sunaina Anand from Art Alive Gallery, chirped, ‘At least people know what to buy. We can wait for another year for business to flourish.’

The Pioneer

New media eclipses traditional mediums

Painting and sculpture failed to attract as much attention as video, photography, mixed media and monumental installations, a trend that was reflected in sales figures. In this 2012 edition, work by 69 video and new media artists was on display, including pieces by Babu Eshwar Prasad, Nikhil Chopra and Mat Collishaw.

Of course, you can’t put up the fancy 3D jazz at your place, but here, plain paint … no, not working.

Andrew Hert, visitor and collector

Improved sales of photo prints at this year’s India Art Fair are the latest indication that the Indian market is gradually opening up to photography.


While Devika Daulet-Singh of Photo Ink, a Delhi-based photography gallery, describes the space for photography in India’s art scene as still ‘small’, she says collectors are becoming more and more comfortable with the idea of limited edition prints.

Margherita Stancati and Shefali Anand, journalists, The Wall Street Journal

There has been a movement towards new media and unusual art [and away] from classic and modern art. The buyers are also conscious about quality and price, which is a post meltdown phenomenon.

 Sharan Apparao, Apparao Galleries

Subodh Gupta, 'Incubate', 2010, stainless steel pots and pans.

Subodh Gupta, 'Incubate', 2010, stainless steel pots and pans.

India Art Fair: Not yet perfect

The India Art Fair has come under criticism in the past for being chaotic and bazaar-like, and the 2012 edition of the fair was not bereft of snags. Some gallerists reeled at the non-buying public that crowded out serious collectors. Others complained that the timing overlap with the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, may have led to weakened sales. India’s notoriously ambivalent bureaucracy also irritated some gallery owners, despite Kirpal’s administrative coup of obtaining “temporary museum status” for the event, allowing international galleries to skirt import tariffs.

While the overall response to the fair has been positive, I hope the next time, the organisers can help with the administrative difficulties.

Jose Fermin Serrano, LaAurora

…once past the smartly-hung big exhibitors, the quality took a sharp plunge downwards, with some stands plastered with a cacophony of garish paintings, floor to ceiling. ‘If we took just the really good Indian galleries, there would be about ten,’ explained one member of the selection committee. Next year, the committee will include some international selectors.

The Art Newspaper


The fair also got its share of praise from gallerists, the audience and the press for its new venue, a good balance of galleries (international and local, blue chip and second tier) and the wide range of price points.

[An] opening up of the space has allowed gallerists and curators to display art works and installations much more aesthetically; murmurs among art professionals [show that many] are comparing it to the Chelsea Art Fair.

Jyoti Pande Lavakare, journalistBusiness Standard

This whole fair shows [that] the best galleries from across the world are making directly for India. The fair is running like clockwork and I’ve never seen so many chairmen of auction houses.

Suhel Seth, Indian analyst and lobbyist


Related Topics: contemporary art fairs, New Delhi art events, promoting art

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