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Art out of the box — The Indian art scene after 2 years of pandemic

The Indian art scene, post-pandemic, is broadly collaborative with new galleries, institutions and audiences playing an important role, ensuring dynamism as well as making it as inclusive as possible. From creating a metaverse simulation of the fair to showcasing new-age artists, Jaya Asokan, fair director of India Art Fair, has taken this collaborative approach to learning and experimenting new ideas as she steps into the physical format of the fair after a gap of two years. She speaks with Vaishali Dar on how the 13th edition of the Indian Art Fair has adapted to the needs of the art community. The fair will be held from April 28-May 1. Excerpts:

Is there any transformation in the art world post the pandemic?
The Indian art market is picking up at a record rate driven by strong domestic demand. Despite challenging pandemic years, the art community is continuing to grow, whether it is Saffronart’s recent record breaking auction sale that crossed Rs 100 crore this April, or galleries making consistent sales across price points, including many new millennial collectors.

There’s a growing passion and interest in art beyond the traditional centres of New Delhi and Mumbai. The past year has witnessed market consolidation and interest in Indian contemporary art owing to collaborative gallery initiatives such as Mumbai Art Weekend, Delhi Contemporary Art Week and the inaugural Delhi Art Week, as well as increase in transparency with a noteworthy rise in online sales on platforms such as South-South, InTouch and TAP India, as well as artist-led sales initiatives such as Art Chain India. We have also seen a rise in non-commercial art market initiatives creating new platforms for discussing, contextualising and promoting contemporary art, whether it’s Serendipity’s Live Museum and Kiran Nadar Museum of Art’s new space coming up in Delhi, Museum of Art & Photography in Bangalore, Ark Foundation in Baroda, amongst others. Thus, it’s the return of the power of experiencing art and culture in person, as the fair is set to solidify all these positive trends, bringing together experienced and younger collectors with a strong offering from the region.

What can we expect in the physical format this year?
This edition of the fair will see 63 standout galleries from all across India and outside, and an unprecedented 14 nonprofits and institutions bringing highlight art projects to the fair. A number of stunning outdoor projects—our massive fair facade, the largest canvas at the fair which has been created by young artist Anshuka Mahapatra using phrases in seven Indian languages to express the beauty of the everyday; a 50-feet-long mural by the transartist collective Aravani Art Project imaging a world free of binaries, and a large metal sculpture made of silencer pipes by artist Narayan Sinha pointing to the light at the end of the tunnel. Internationally acclaimed artist Shilpa Gupta will be designing special T-Shirts with the words ‘I Look at Things with Eyes Different From Yours’ for our volunteers. Besides iconic names like photographer Raghu Rai, Kiran Nadar and Atul Dodiya giving talks, there will be rising star artists like Hetain Patel, Gurjeet Singh and Arpita Akhanda presenting performance art. We have seven new galleries along with an in-memoriam display honouring Satish Gujral with his rare sculptural work called Burntwood Series.

A brand new space called The Studio will highlight the many ways art and technology intersect with projects by artists Thukral & Tagra, Muzzumil Ruheel and the winners of Serendipity Arts’ Virtual Arts Grants, among others. The very special BMW iX with a car wrap created by Hyderabad-based artist Faiza Hasan, the winner of first ever ‘The Future is Born of Art’ Commission will be on display at the BMW Collectors’ Lounge. The car wrap, responding to the Commission’s theme of ‘Sustainable Circularity’ will feature portraits by the artist along with words like ‘suno’ meaning ‘listen’ urging visitors to expand notions of sustainability with the needs of the community.

What according to you is the relevance of NFTs, digital and technology that dominate the art world now?
The emergence of NFTs has actually broadened the conversation and audience for art in India and globally as well, especially amongst younger millennials who are gradually beginning to see art as a product and investment. We also have NFT works by Indian artists presented by digital art platform including known names such as Amrit Pal Singh and younger talent such as Laya Mathikshara and Khyati Trehan, besides a dedicated Auditorium Talk to demystify NFTs with a conversation hosted by techart platform BeFantastic and with experts including artist Raghava KK, who sold a work at a record price at Sotheby’s auction in 2021, Om Malviya of Tezos India and Aparajita Jain of We are also working with the creators at XR Central to create a metaverse simulation of the fair showcasing special highlights from the edition for those who are unable to attend.

Do we see more young and new-age artists in the art world?
Especially in light of the pandemic, as a fair we are hoping to highlight the young and emerging voices in Indian and south Asian art, not only to motivate the next generation but also to keep the market fresh and dynamic. One of them include artist Saad Qureshi who creates large-scale paper weaves resembling carpets, apart from a young artist interested in quiet quotidian and domestic moments, Keerti Pooja, The Singh Twins, an artist duo made of Amrit and Rabindra Kaur Singh, who are British artists of Sikh heritage from the UK and offer a vibrant and effervescent view of what it means to be south Asian today with references to both traditional Indian traditions and western pop culture, will be shown by Art Alive Gallery. Photographer Sharbendu De has been bringing new visions of ecology and nature, as well as Utkarsh Makwana who tells stories of myth and fantasy through boldly coloured paintings inspired by miniature traditions.

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