Gateways between worlds – how the India Art Fair promotes creative connections and art markets
Launched in 2014, PhotoSparks is a weekly feature from YourStory, with photographs that celebrate the spirit of creativity and innovation. In the earlier 435 posts, we featured an art festival, cartoon gallery. world music festival, telecom expo, millets fair, climate change expo, wildlife conference, startup festival, Diwali rangoli, and jazz festival.
This weekend, New Delhi’s NSIC Exhibition Grounds is host to the India Art Fair 2020, featuring artworks from 81 exhibitors. See Part I and Part II of this article series for the lineup of galleries featured in PhotoSparks coverage.
“A committee of experts picks the galleries who will exhibit at IAF, depending on their track record and quality of submissions,” explains fair director Jagdip Jagpal, in a chat with YourStory. Around 70 percent of the floor space is dedicated to Indian participants, representing the fair’s commitment to the country’s art scene, she adds.
New international galleries featured this year are Saskia Fernando Gallery (Colombo), Gallery Tableau (Seoul), PSM (Berlin) and Marc Straus (New York). There are also live performances by Maya Krishna Rao (theatre), Jelili Atiku (multimedia art), and Raisa Kabir (interdisciplinary art).
Indian galleries and artists
Some of the exhibitors at IAF focus on photography, such as WonderWall. It has showcased the works of over 40 artists through 60 shows. “WonderWall was founded in 2007 to establish photography as an art form,” explains founder Ajay Rajgarhia.
At IAF, showcased photographers include Amber Hammad, Karan Khanna, Anu Malhotra, and Mala Mukerjee. Displayed works are priced from Rs 50,000 to Rs 1.3 lakh. Ajay says success comes not just from sales but also the growing appreciation of photography as a form of art.
WonderWall has organised exhibitions in Kolkata, Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Chennai and Singapore, through tie-ups with local galleries. It has been at IAF since its inception, and also participated at the PhotoARTAsia Expo in Bangkok.
The company has gallery space in Lado Sarai (New Delhi’s art district) and also offers artworks on sale via e-commerce. “Don’t just follow the market. Follow your calling and do what you excel at,” Ajay advises aspiring photographers.
Ratheesh T, an exhibiting artist, explains that art for him is a way of sharing one’s emotions and reflections on life, and evolving as a human being. He has exhibited at over 30 shows in eight countries.
“My artworks number more than 500 paintings so far, and I have been part of art exhibitions around the world, such as the Japan Triennale, Berlin Art Forum, and Kochi Biennale,” he proudly adds. His works are priced from Rs 12 lakh to Rs 35 lakh.
He calls for more art appreciation in India, with interest from the public, government support, and more museums and public spaces for art. “It was a wonderful experience to exhibit at IAF. I met a lot of interesting people from the art world, especially artists whose works I have admired but never met,” Ratheesh enthuses.
He suggests that audiences approach art with an open mind, without rigid opinions and ideas. “Aspire to be a good human being. That will reflect in one’s art. Art is a mirror to one’s life,” Ratheesh advises aspiring artists.
Indian art is showcased overseas by a number of galleries, such as 1x1ArtGallery in Dubai. “I started the gallery in 1996 with a view to promote art from the Indian subcontinent in the United Arab Emirates. Over the years, we have had close to a hundred shows with a select roster of artists that we work with,” explains gallery founder Malini Gulrajani.
Emirati and Middle East-based artists have also been featured in recent years, in a spirit of cultural collaboration. “Success for me is being true to my beliefs and the artists that I work with,” Malini adds.
The exhibited works are priced from Rs 2 lakh to Rs 50 lakh. “We have had a very positive response to the show at IAF, both in terms of critical appreciation of the works as well as sales,” she enthuses. For aspiring artists, Malini recommends tips such as the importance of hard work along with sincerity and intelligence.
The Karla Osorio Gallery from Brazil is also at the fair. “We are participating in IAF for the third time,” explains gallery director Karla Osorio Netto. Six artists are being showcased: the Brazilians Almandrade, Bené Fonteles, Daisy Xavier and João Trevisan, along with India’s Asim Waqif and Argentina’s Catalina Léon.
Almandrade represents the neo-concrete movement. Bené Fonteles is regarded as a ‘shaman’ of the arts, while Daisy Xavier is an artist and psychoanalyst. Catalina León captures abstract mythological themes, Karla says. Asim Waqif focuses on urban and public space, and João Trevisan explores themes of physics.
New York’s Mark Straus Gallery is another international exhibitor at IAF. “It was established in 2011, and is a leading contemporary art gallery in the Lower East Side of New York,” explains Andrew Horton, Director of Operations.
It represents over 20 artists from a number of countries, and sometimes showcases older artists who may not have been looked at in the proper light. “It is this element of discovery and re-discovery that has established Marc Straus as one of New York's leading contemporary art galleries,” Andrew says.
Founder-collector Marc Straus started the collection over 50 years ago. The gallery has exhibited at a range of art fairs around the world. “Success means continued and increased visibility for all of the artists we represent,” Andrew says. This includes professional connections and acquisitions by collectors.
“The India Art Fair has been a success for us on these fronts, with several artworks already placed with local collectors and new relationships underway,” Andrew proudly says.
The artist lineup includes Chris Jones, Clive Smith, Anna Leonhardt, Hermann Nitsch, and Michael Brown. The prices range from Rs 5 lakh to Rs 39 lakh. “During our time in India, Marc had the pleasure of lecturing a group of enthusiastic young collectors on how to build a quality art collection,” Andrew says.
He also offers tips for aspiring artists. “It is imperative to spend time in the studio, pushing things forward – as well as connecting with artist peers for mutual feedback and support,” Andrew urges.
Some exhibitors were also the fruit of international collaboration. “The Shrine Empire Gallery for contemporary art was created in December 2008 from a merger of two existing entities, The Shrine Gallery and Empire Art, which had previously worked together on exhibitions in India and Singapore,” explains Anahita Taneja, Director, Shrine Empire.
It represents around 12 artists exclusively in the region. “We focus on exhibitions and artists who have pushed the boundaries of contemporary art either conceptually or through their approach to material, and have a unique language,” Anahita says.
“Our success can be attributed to our willingness to take risks and accept challenges with regard to our programming. We focus on producing what we consider to be relevant exhibitions. We believe that sales and accolades will follow,” Anahita adds. The exhibited artworks are priced from Rs 50,000 to Rs 8 lakh.
She advises aspiring artists to focus on developing a voice of their own, and research their interests and concerns in great detail. “This will inform their practice regarding nuances of ideas and fresh approaches,” Anahita suggests.
The Saskia Fernando Gallery was founded in Colombo in 2009, and makes its debut at IAF. “The gallery’s aim was to create a professional structure through which leading and emerging Sri Lankan contemporary artists could present their work,” explains founder Saskia Fernando.
“We have over the past decade changed the way in which Sri Lankan art is viewed, collected and engaged with, both on a local and international scale. We have collaborated with galleries on shows in London, Dubai, Singapore and Los Angeles,” Saskia proudly says.
The change in perception of the country’s art scene in its entirety is where the gallery measures its success, alongside the expansion of the collector base internationally. “As we work with both emerging and leading established artists, our price range is quite vast, starting from very accessible price ranges. This makes collecting with us less intimidating for those who are just beginning to develop an interest,” Saskia adds.
“The India Art Fair was an obvious choice for us to connect with the South Asian art market and we are receiving an excellent response to the work being presented,” she enthuses. She also offers tips for those who want to become artists.
“Aspiring artists need to spend all their time engaging with their medium and continuously developing their narrative. Individuality is key, and this can only be discovered by working tirelessly in their practice to find the direction for themselves,” Saskia signs off.
Now, what have you done today to pause in your busy schedule and fully explore your true creative direction?
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