The India Art Fair 2016 scorecard: spotlighting India’s great artists

Art Radar explores who faired well and what’s to learn at India Art Fair 2016.

The India Art Fair closed its doors on 31 January 2016. Art Radar rounds up the most memorable moments and artists seen during the four-day event.

Rina Banerjee at Hosfelt Gallery, California. Image courtesy Hosfelt Gallery.

Rina Banerjee at Hosfelt Gallery, California. Image courtesy Hosfelt Gallery.

The eighth edition of the India Art Fair opened on 28 January 2016 with news of a three-year partnership with BMW, the launch of a series of art awards by the India Today Group and a committed focus on art from the Asian subcontinent. This year did also see increased international participation, a better design that enabled easy navigation through the fair and an extended programme of talks and project presentations.

Faig Ahmed, 'Step by Step', at Gallery Nature Morte. Image courtesy Nature Morte.

Faig Ahmed, ‘Step by Step’, at Gallery Nature Morte. Image courtesy Nature Morte.

India’s great artists

With most galleries opting to display a rather safe selection of artwork of ‘saleable artists’, the fair lacked an element of freshness and missed those few moments of surprise. Nevertheless, the selection of art on show provided a level of comfort for both the uninitiated collector and for the existing contemporary art collector.

Delhi-based galleries (who were the majority) like Nature Morte showed their ace artists Subodh Gupta and Faig Ahmed, Gallery Espace presented the likes of Zarina and Manjunath Kamath, while Vadehra Art Gallery’s booth hosted works by Atul Dodiya and Shilpa Gupta. The overall quality of work presented seemed to be better than that of the last edition and a very welcome change. Feedback from galleries on organisation revealed far fewer creases to iron out with many claiming it to be in the league of Frieze and Art Basel.

Collector Radhika Chopra commented to Flint PR:

As a collector I would say the fair is tighter and more thoughtfully edited, particularly with regard to the galleries. It is an all round better experience, with considerable thought given to visitors in terms of the layout and overall experience as well as the fun side of fair.

Nicola Durvasula’s solo presentation at Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke. Image courtesy Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke.

Nicola Durvasula’s solo presentation at Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke. Image courtesy Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke.

A fresh curatorial approach

This year also saw more crisply curated gallery booths, such as Mumbai’s Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke with their solo presentation of terracotta sculptures and watercolours by Nicola Durvasula, and Sabrina Amrani from Madrid showing four artists including Pakistani Waqas Khan’s quiet, reflective drawings.

Solo artist representations seemed a popular choice with international galleries who saw wisdom in highlighting the range and evolution of a single artist’s practice. Gallery Hosfelt from California showed a depth of Rina Banerjee’s work. Thomas Erben Gallery from New York showed photographs by Yamini Nayar dating from 2005, while Dubai-based Grey Noise presented the geometric compositions of Fahd Burki.

Sabrina Amrani, Madrid, gallery booth presenting works by Joël Andrianomearisoa, Ayesha Jatoi, Waqas Khan, Timothy Hyunsoo Lee and UBIK. Image courtesy Sabrina Amrani.

Sabrina Amrani, Madrid, gallery booth presenting works by Joël Andrianomearisoa, Ayesha Jatoi, Waqas Khan, Timothy Hyunsoo Lee and UBIK. Image courtesy Sabrina Amrani.

Successful sales

Day one witnessed an excitement amongst exhibitors, with some like Mumbai’s Gallery Isa, who sold four pieces by European contemporary artists including Achraf Touloub and Matthias Bitzer to Indian collectors within the first few hours. Sales for most galleries remained those made on the first day alone, except for Experimenter (Kolkata) and GALLERYSKE (Bangalore/ Delhi) and Lakeeren who reported excellent sales.

Dr Arshiya Lokhandwala of Lakeeren Gallery, as quoted by the fair organisers, observed:

There is noticeably more energy than last year, with many new collectors visible. We’re very optimistic and it feels good to be back here. We’ve sold a number of works across a range of prices (from 1-20 Lakh Rupees). People are responding really well to the booth and we have the pick of collectors who are interested.

Prateek Raja, Director of Experimenter Gallery, in conversation with visitors at the fair. Image courtesy Experimenter Gallery.

Prateek Raja, Director of Experimenter Gallery, in conversation with visitors at the fair. Image courtesy Experimenter Gallery.

Attendance, this year was limited to the art ‘insiders’ – a sophisticated audience whose interest in art is either limited to the Moderns or blue-chip contemporary artists, with only a few committing to a purchase by closing day.

Baudoin Lebon from Paris told Art Radar:

We are engaging younger new collectors across new markets. People are buying and asking and engaging, from the top end of the collectors but also especially from this huge emerging middle market. This year the fair has really improved a lot. It has evolved, and matured, and as a gallery we are really happy.

Mohsin Shafi , 'Confessions of a Centrefold', at the Taseer Art Gallery booth. Image courtesy Taseer Art Gallery.

Mohsin Shafi , ‘Confessions of a Centrefold’, at the Taseer Art Gallery booth. Image courtesy Taseer Art Gallery.

DAG Modern (Delhi Art Gallery) brought in the bigwigs of the Indian art world: a stunning Amrita Shergil canvas, an untitled bronze sculpture by Ramkinkar Baij, a Mother and Child portrait by Jamini Roy amidst a host of masterpieces by M.F. Husain, F.N. Souza, S.H. Raza, Avinash Chandra and Shanti Dave. With another pavilion across the two main halls of the fair, designed as a mini-museum with its own programme of screening, talks and curator-led walks, DAG Modern putting their best foot forward, even published their own newsletter – Art @ the Fair.

There were also some interesting new projects, such as an exquisite collection of “Company Paintings” presented by Noida’s Swaraj Art Archive, the works of Farida Batool and Mohsin Shafi at Taseer Art Gallery’s space from Lahore and art by Pala Pothupitiya and Jagath Weerasinghe from Theertha International Artists Collective, Colombo representing their own work.

A temple map at Pichvai Tradition & Beyond. Image courtesy Pichvai Tradition & Beyond.

A temple map at Pichvai Tradition & Beyond. Image courtesy Pichvai Tradition & Beyond.

A new curatorial direction

Overall, Zain Masud’s coming on board as International Director did work its charm, with many claiming a heightened level of professionalism and ‘seriousness’ to the fair. For galleries showing for the first time, Masud’s presence and the direction of programming towards a South Asia focus was a step in the right direction. However, with the collector pool not having expanded, galleries had little incentive to show new artists. The pace was slower, new collectors were few and far between.

Overview of the India Art Fair 2016. Image courtesy India Art Fair.

Overview of the India Art Fair 2016. Image courtesy India Art Fair.

With the neighbouring brand of the successful Dhaka Art Summit and a saturated market in need of new invigorating models of engagement, the India Art Fair seemed to be missing the manic activity of a busy art fair, perhaps even due to ‘fair fatigue’. However, the India Art Fair still provided a pleasant experience, well designed to allow both the viewer and buyer to absorb the art presented and to get acquainted with some of the most influential and recognised artists on the Indian scene today.

Kanika Anand

1019

Related Topics: Indian artists, art fairs, collectors, curatorial practice, market watch, business of art, events in India

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