On 17 February 2012, India Art Fair Founder and Director Neha Kirpal sat down with ArtTactic to talk about this year’s fair. She also discussed the growing international presence in Indian arts and the importance of quality in the contemporary art market.

Founder and Director of the India Art Fair, Neha Kirpal.

Click here to download and listen to the podcast in its entirety (10:42)

During the podcast, Kirpal mentions several issues she sees as key to the fair’s success and the Indian contemporary art market as a whole.

“Phenomenal” rate, prime for international investment

Our international participation is more than doubling each year, and it goes to show two things. On the one hand, of course it’s very much indicative of international galleries, particularly those from parts of Europe and the US, looking for new markets and looking at coming into India. There have been several galleries who were supported by their governments to participate as well, like those from Spain and France. It’s an interesting trend to see them believe in the long-term potential of the Indian market.

I guess that compared to some of the other markets that might be at a point of slight saturation or not too much movement in the market, in India it’s very much at the growth stage. So even though the market is young and relatively smaller, the rate at which it is growing is phenomenal, and … in the next five to ten year horizon there will be an appetite here to buy art from around the world. So it’s a good step for international galleries to start looking at coming to India.

Local collectors and grass-roots interest on the rise

It’s really the fair that is providing the first ever opportunity for people to see this kind of international art, for the lack of museums and … galleries in India. People are really starved to be educated in a broader international program. So I think the fair is a great beginning for people who want to invest in India and invest in building an understanding among Indian buyers, and certainly over a two-to-three year span the galleries will see how embracing India is of their kind of art.

We also feel that, through the seminar program that we’ve held each year, whether it’s talks like, “You don’t have to be a millionaire to collect art” or “How to start a collection” or several others, … it’s a lot more accessible, it’s a lot less intimidating for people to begin their journey collecting art, and we’ve seen a lot of young, new buyers coming in. Last year for instance, forty percent of what was sold was sold to new buyers. So these are very interesting trends to observe, to see that there is a lot of buying taking place as a first time initiative at the fair. And then it’s something that will sustain itself, and hopefully these people will continue to engage with the art community through the year.

An aerial shot of the 2011 edition of the India Art Fair.

Quality over quantity

After the third year of the India Art Fair attracted 128,000 participants, Kirpal began to shift her focus from attracting visitors and growing the fair to long-term qualitative goals, such as the fair’s environment and the collectors’ experience.

Once you get to the 100,000 mark it’s … I think for me more about the quality of the visitors and the quality of their experience rather than looking at sheer numbers.

It’s also important for us each year to really up the quality of the art at the fair. So for instance, this year we had about 250 applications and we selected 98 booths. So each year going forward, the quality of the international galleries as well as the Indian galleries needs to be filtered in order to have the best of what’s available, but also the most relevant and interesting for the audiences.

Indian galleries better, stronger, faster

At this year’s fair, Indian galleries made up fifty percent of the participants. Apart from their presence, Kirpal also spotted a positive trend in the output and enthusiasm from Indian artists.

I think there was a huge, noticeable difference, and everyone talked about it, whether it was Chris Dercon from the Tate or key collectors who had come in from New York or the Middle East or China, even. Indian galleries had tremendously stepped up what they were producing and what they were showcasing at the fair. So I think what was very noticeable as a trend was a huge attempt at creating fresh, important bodies of works by young and mid-career artists. There was a lot of work that was dated less than a year [old], which really went to show their commitment to the fair and also their excitement about what could transpire. There was a huge step up in terms of the quality of the presentation and the support material and all of that. I think that Indian galleries are very aware that they are now competing at an international level, and you’ve got the likes of Hauser and White Cube and Continua right there in the same environment, so I think everyone instinctively is upping the game and preparing for a global marketplace.

At the end of the podcast, Neha Kirpal also announced the dates for the fifth edition of the India Art Fair, from 31 January to 3 February 2013.


Related Topics: art in India, Asia expands, globalisation of art, art fairs

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By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

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