Celebrate successes but sustain the momentum – insights from India Art Fair 2020
Launched in 2014, PhotoSparks is a weekly feature from YourStory, with photographs that celebrate the spirit of creativity and innovation. In the earlier 445 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 a jazz festival.
The twelfth edition of the India Art Fair wrapped up in Delhi earlier this month, with artworks by over 80 exhibitors and 500 artists. See Part I and Part II of this article series for the lineup of galleries featured in PhotoSparks coverage, as well as Part III and Part IV for curator interviews.
Though the fair is held only once a year, activities of the organisers and exhibitors continue through the months in between. “India Art Fair is absolutely delighted to announce a creative partnership with DLF Avenue,” said director Jagdip Jagpal, in a chat with YourStory.
The mall has opened in Saket, New Delhi after a major refurbishment and expansion project. As part of the activation, IAF will bring together a series of installations, films, and art workshops this week, Jagdip adds.
“All events hosted at the space will be free of charge, giving visitors an excellent opportunity to view, experience, and engage with art in innovative ways,” Jagdip enthuses. Featured artists include Madhvi Parekh, Mithu Sen, Sahil Naik, Aditi Aggarwal, and Sanket Jadia.
The fair reconnected with earlier exhibitors this year while also engaging with new organisations. “With the collector’s masterclass sessions, we’ve also welcomed a great deal of new and young collectors,” Jagdip says.
“We look forward to the next edition of IAF in 2021 already,” she adds. After nine years of being at NSIC, the 13th edition will take place at Pragati Maidan in New Delhi, from February 18-21, 2021.
Art and accessibility
The IAF organisers have worked on making the fair ever more accessible for people of all abilities and teamed up with Access For All (A4A) in this regard. “We have been curating access and inclusion at art events for the past five years,” says Siddhant Shah, Founder of A4A.
The organisation aims to bridge the gap between disability access and art. “We provide a wholesome solution that maximises physical, social, and intellectual accessibility,” he adds.
A4A has worked with the Kolkata Center for Creativity, National Museum, City Palace Jaipur, and Mehrangarh Fort, as well as Serendipity Arts Festival, Kochi-Muziris Biennale, and India Art Fair. “We have also done projects in other countries like China, Malaysia, Pakistan, and Spain,” Siddhant proudly says.
A4A works with schools and corporates to create sensitisation and awareness programmes through the medium of tactile art. In this regard, Siddhanth quotes a visually-impaired student with whom he interacted: “For the first time, my fingers are not only reading about the artists, but also seeing their works through our fingers and the tactile aid. Now even I am inspired to create art and express myself.”
“I think this says it all, and their experiences are our benchmark of success,” Siddhant says. His team conducted sign language walks for hearing-impaired students, which includes conversations with artists and gallerists.
At IAF, there was an inclusive art workshop area, as well as Braille books and tactile maps of the fair site. There was also a Braille book launch of artist Ravinder Reddy by the Kolkata Center for Creativity and Emami Art.
“My suggestion to galleries is that accessibility is not expensive if designed at inception – it may become a burden when you retrofit it. Also, accessibility is a great way to reach out to a wider, newer audience who may be your next collector or buyer,” Siddhant advises.
“Art is inherently inclusive. Accessibility is not an option, it has to be a given. Only then can we make arts truly accessible for all,” he urges.
The bookstore and design section of IAF also featured art media organisations, such as the aptly-named Platform magazine. “We founded it years ago in a quaint café in Paris, to promote past and present creative works, as well as young artists and masters,” explains Samiksha Sharma.
“Our focus is to present fresh profiles, cutting edge imagery, and engaging content. We are a creative playground that celebrates all things arts,” she says. Over the past 15 years, her ‘bookazine’ team has helped build portfolios and contributed to the rise of many creative minds in art, fashion, literature, music, design, and film.
The Serendipity Arts Foundation, which organises the Serendipity Arts Festival (SAF) in Goa each year, featured a range of its artworks at IAF 2020 as well, by artists such as Iftikhar Dadi, Rahaab Allana, Sahil Naik, Ravi Agarwal, and Nikhil Chopra. “We are very excited to do an abridged version of SAF in Delhi around the end of March,” said SAF Director Smriti Rajgarhia.
India’s art scene has attracted several international professionals as well. “The enthusiasm, curiosity, and sincere interest here are hard to find to that extent at Western art fairs anymore,” said Gregor Hose, Partner at PSM Gallery in Berlin.
“Art buyers at IAF 2020 ranged from India and Singapore to Belgium and Switzerland. We met new collectors who were just initiating their journey of collecting, starting from this art fair,” according to Roshini Vadehra, Director of Delhi-based Vadehra Art Gallery.
“I always had an inclination towards the arts. After I came to Ahmedabad in 2011 and saw the art world here, I developed a strong interest in the Indian contemporary art,” says German architect Hartmut Wurster, founder of Ahmedabad-based ZOCA (Zone of Contemporary Art).
Along with his artist friend Jignesh Panchal, he started putting together exhibitions from 2012 onwards. “Our aim was to bring about an exchange between Western and Indian culture, and provide a platform for artists and audiences,” he adds. The curiosity, interest, and dialogue have been inspiring and encouraging.
ZOCA has been exhibiting at IAF for the past three years, as well as in Europe. “The art we bring together aligns not only to the local context but far beyond. We look for positions that are relevant for a global audience,” Hartmut explains.
Hartmut and Jignesh discuss the backgrounds and choices before finalising art selections, a kind of “double verification” for local and international art lovers. “If we could help to create a dialogue between diverse people, we see that as a success,” Hartmut enthuses.
“Art enriches our lives with positions, thoughts or perspectives we may not have thought of before,” he affirms. ZOCA helps artists find the right buyer and place their works in international collections.
“We want our artists to grow, get exposure, and succeed in their own ways,” he says. ZOCA’s artworks are priced from Rs 1 lakh upwards, for experienced collectors and art connoisseurs.
Another international art promoter at IAF was Nolan Browne, Gallery Director, TASCHEN. “It was launched in Germany in 1980 by Benedikt Taschen, whose vision was to create the most beautiful and desired books in the world,” Nolan explains.
He has been at TASCHEN for seven years, and has travelled the world to Art Basel Hong Kong, India Art Fair, and Masterpiece London Art Fair. Its biggest book series is aptly named SUMO, featuring the works of artists like David Hockney, Annie Leibovitz, and David Bailey.
The art prices range between Rs 4 lakh and Rs 25 lakh. “The feedback has been very positive – a lot of visitors are in awe of what they are seeing,” Nolan says.
Tips for aspiring artists
The art professionals at IAF 2020 offered advice as well for aspiring artists. “Go to as many art events and network as much as possible,” advises Nolan of TASCHEN. “Present your work and yourself well,” he adds.
“With social media and access to endless sharing portals, it’s easy to showcase work and start a dialogue,” observes Samiksha of Platform magazine. “Engage with people around, be open to critique, and explore. Persevere – the road to success may be hard, but it will be worth it in the end,” she says.
“Read a lot, live with open eyes and ears, follow your set of ideas, and unique path. Let your ideas flow, show who you are, where you come from, and what you want to convey,” advises Hartmut of ZOCA. “This would give all your works an identity which would be unique to your self,” he signs off.
Now, what have you done today to pause in your busy schedule and fully explore your unique creative identity?
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