With new ideas and initiatives, this year’s fair ended on predictions of new energy and confidence in the South Asian market.
Organised between 9–12 February 2018, India Art Fair offered visitors a window into South Asia’s burgeoning art and cultural scene with a record number of galleries and institutional participants.
A reimagined public programme
India Art Fair has been the leading platform to discover modern and contemporary art from South Asia and a portal to the region’s cultural landscape. The fair has always taken place in the country’s capital city of New Delhi and has drawn together galleries, artists, private foundations, arts charities, artists’ collectives, national institutions, cultural events and festivals, enabling international audiences to engage in innovative ways with the art and cultural history and development of the region. In addition to curated insights into South Asian art, the India Art Fair promotes cultural discourse through large-scale public art installations, conversations, screenings, performances and live events to engage diverse audiences as well as cover a wide spectrum of artistic practices.
In its 10th year the public programme of the 2018 edition was reimagined and featured an exhaustive and impressive list of international artists, speakers and consultants from some of the world’s leading art organisations. Under the leadership of new Fair Director Jagdip Jagpal, this edition featured a refreshed and expanded programming across each of the fair’s sections and a testing out of new ideas. In the Director’s Welcome of the India Art Fair 2018 catalogue, Jagpal says:
We are seeing an abundance of art initiatives in India and South Asia and I find it very exciting to share my passion for the arts with you at India Art Fair. As a global platform for modern and contemporary art, our aim is to provide a window into this vibrant art scene and to engage our visitors with our cultural history as well as the latest trends.
The 2018 programme of the fair offered unrivalled access to South Asia’s thriving cultural scene at both the individual artist as well as the institutional level. In partnership with the BMW Group in India, the fair was organised at the NSIC grounds, Okhla Industrial Area in New Delhi from 9 to 12 February 2018. In an editorial note for CNN’s online portal on the eve of the event, Jagpal said:
It’s clear to me that, despite the strength of its artists’ output and the commitment of its organizations, India has not yet achieved the recognition it deserves. But 2018 is a fascinating moment to be involved in the arts here – a sense of momentum is building.
Deeper engagement between South Asian artists
This year witnessed a particularly strong representation of leading Indian galleries, enabling deeper engagement with artists from the local art scene alongside artists from South Asia. Out of the 70 galleries that participated, 78 percent were from the region with the continued representation of galleries like Chemould Prescott Road (Mumbai), Vadehra Art Gallery (New Delhi), Experimenter (Kolkata) and GALLERYSKE (Bengaluru/New Delhi), and with several others returning in 2018 including Mumbai-based galleries Chatterjee & Lal, Jhaveri Contemporary and The Guild (all Mumbai), and Threshold Art Gallery and Latitude 28 from New Delhi.
Prominent galleries showcasing the region’s Modern masters included DAG Modern (New Delhi/Mumbai/New York), while others offered insights into the region’s cutting-edge emerging art scene. The 2018 fair also featured younger galleries including TARQ (Mumbai) and Anant Art (New Delhi), alongside first-time participants like Samara Art Gallery and ZOCA (both from Ahmedabad).
Through Platform, a springboard for emerging art practices and initiatives, the event also focused on vernacular arts from the region with the participation of Tribal Art Forms, the Delhi Crafts Council, Blueprint 12 and Pichvai Tradition & Beyond (all from New Delhi), the Britto Art Trust (Dhaka, Bangladesh), the Nepal Arts Council (Kathmandu, Nepal) and the Swaraj Art Archive (Noida), with the ambition to explore the cultural history of the region through previously overlooked vernacular traditions.
As a complement to the fair’s regional perspective, carefully selected galleries from across Asia, Europe, South America, the United Kingdom and the United States showcased their globally-recognised artists, many of whom have never exhibited in India before. International galleries that participated for the first time included David Zwirner (London, UK/New York, USA/Hong Kong), Blain|Southern (London, UK/Berlin, Germany), Karla Osorio Gallery (Brasilia, Brazil), Mo J Gallery (Busan, South Korea) and Richard Koh Fine Art (Singapore/Kuala Lumpur). Sabrina Amrani (Madrid, Spain), Aicon Gallery (New York, USA), baudoin lebon (Paris, France/Seoul, South Korea), 1X1 Art Gallery (Dubai, UAE) and Lukas Feichtner Galerie (Vienna, Austria) also returned.
In a first for the India Art Fair was Art Projects, a dedicated exhibition space showcasing 18 large-scale installations by Indian artists G. Ravinder Reddy, Shilpa Gupta, Nandan Ghiya, Tanya Goel, Sudipta Das, Subba Ghosh and Navjot Altaf alongside Pakistani artists Imran Qureshi and Zoya Siddiqui, and South Korean artist Timothy Hyunsoo Lee amongst others.
The fair witnessed the largest number of museum patrons, curators, directors from museums festivals, biennials, private foundations and arts organisations to date, signalling a growing global interest in modern and contemporary Indian art. A new series of talks entitled “I Know What You Did Last Summer” put artists at the heart of the programme and featured Hetain Patel, Nikhil Chopra, Lubna Chowdhary and Reena Saini Kallat.
Growing significance of the India Art Fair in the South Asian art market
The India Art Fair closed amidst reports of strong sales and a renewed energy in the South Asian art market that in the past year has seen a positive outlook and increasing confidence with a boost in both modern and contemporary art sales. In ArtTactic’s South Asian Market Report 2018, sales were conservatively estimated at USD223 million in 2017, up an estimated 13 percent from 2016. Art fairs are proving to be an important sales channel for younger galleries as a platform to cultivate and source new buyers and according to the report,
Art fairs generate an average of 18.8% of the annual sales for these galleries, and were the third most important sales channel for the galleries surveyed. Overall, 64.7% of galleries said that art fairs remained a very effective channel to finding new art buyers.
Further, the report states that one aspect of art fairs that seems to be the most relevant to galleries is their ability to help broaden an international client base, with 73 percent of the participants of the ArtTactic survey stating this as the most important benefit. As for the India Art Fair in particular, 90 percent of Indian and 33 percent of South Asian galleries contributing to the survey have participated in this fair. The report goes on to state:
The above statistics show the importance of India Art Fair for the regional art market, and with an increasingly international profile (including new gallery participation in 2018 from international galleries such as David Zwirner Gallery) – the fair is likely to start attracting more international collectors, providing younger and less resourceful galleries with the opportunity to broaden their international collector base without having to travel abroad.
This was evidenced in this year’s edition of the fair with a record number of 83 participants, including 12 institutional partnerships with the first-time involvement of leading non-profit organisations like KHOJ and the Gujral Foundation, for public programming collaborations. This is a 26 percent increase in the number of galleries and institutions that participated in the 2016 edition, with several Indian galleries returning to the fair after a hiatus of a few years. The importance of this sales channel, particularly for newer galleries in India and South Asia, to enable them to find new buyers and access markets beyond their reach is indeed undeniable.
- Play-acting the everyday: Indian photographer Gauri Gill at Nature Morte, New Delhi – February 2018 – The Indian photographer collaborates with papier-mâché artists from a small village in Maharashtra in her most recent series
- ArtPrice launches new index: ArtPrice100® – February 2018 – The French art market database creates a new index focusing on blue-chip artists exclusively
- The Leonardo Effect: ArtTactic’s Raw Facts Auction Review 2017 – key findings – February 2018 – The London-based analytics company ArtTactic has released its 2017 Raw Facts Auction Review report on the global auction market
- A fine balance: ArtTactic’s South Asian Art Market Report 2017 – key findings – January 2018 – ArtTactic releases their annual South Asian art market report, noting an exciting upturn in the region’s sales of modern and contemporary art
- A Healthy Indian Art Market: Saffronart Autumn Auction 2017 – round-up – September 2017 – Saffronart’s auction results show healthy demand for Indian modernist works
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