1,000 artists, 20 countries - India Art Fair cometh

New Delhi: Billed as one of the biggest carnivals of art this year, the fourth India Art Fair here Jan 25-29 will feature more than 1,000 artists by 91 art houses from 20 countries, including works by Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso, Damien Hirst, Anish Kapoor, Anthony Gormley and Jean Miro.

India`s coming of age as an international art destination and recovery of the art market post-meltdown will be the highlights of the event to be held at the National Small Industries Corporation (NSIC) Ground in Okhla.

The focus of the fair is foreign participation. It is likely to draw leading art houses like Hauser and Wirth (Switzerland), Galleria Continua (Italy), Lisson Gallery (UK) and White Cube (UK) and top-of-chain experts to address forums on business, aesthetics, art practices and awareness.

Neha Kirpal, the founding director of the fair, said "the 2012 edition of the fair presents the strongest and most diverse contingent of galleries seen at the fair to date".

Nearly 60 percent of galleries are from Asia, including Indian galleries, which make up about half of the exhibitors overall, while 26 percent are from Europe. The remaining 14 percent are from North and South America, the Middle East, Africa and Australia, official statistics said.

Estimates say the India Art Fair, founded as the India Art Summit in 2008 as a pioneering platform of modern and contemporary art in India, has attracted more than 170,000 people in the last three years.

"The art fair has seen tremendous growth over a short period of time, and much of its success can be attributed to its focus on providing a relevant and transparent platform for the Indian art scene. It has received unprecedented interest from international museums and private collectors, and cultivated a whole breed of new collectors and art enthusiasts within India," Kirpal said.

The fair, which has changed its venue from Pragati Maidan to the NSIC Ground this year, has made a new fashion statement with a new business model.

The fair this year will host its visual feasts in designer tents spread over 12,000 square metres designed by veteran set designer Sumanth Jaikishan.

Earlier this year, Kirpal had divested a 49 percent stake in the art fair to two stakeholders, Sandy Angus and Will Ramsey, co-founders of the Hong Kong Art Fair, to create a larger network. Angus is chairman of the global exhibitions company Montgomery Worldwide and Ramsay is the founder of the Affordable Art Fair and the Pulse Art Fair.

"The growing size of the fair, increasing footfall, the global interest generated by the fair and a booming trade drove the organisers to invite foreign partners," the source said.

The Indian art market is estimated at a little over Rs.2,000 crore.

One of the immediate spin-offs of the new business model of the fair has been the formation of the Collectors` Circle - an outreach programme to build an international chain of collectors and art experts - in the run-up to the fair.

A paid programme, the Collectors` Circle, launched last year, has since been able to create a pool of buyers and art lovers with regular seminars, buyers interface and education modules. The members of the Collectors` Circle have free access to the fair.

Besides the gallery presence and the seminars, the main attraction of the fair will be corollaries and collateral events like the video lounge, sculpture court, art book shop, site-specific public art events and live art shows in venues across the national capital.

One event stands out on the list. On Jan 27, the Khoj International Artists` Association will present Khojlive 12 - an evening of 17 back-to-back performance art acts and a lecture by Roselee Goldberg, an art historian and curator, to challenge the notion of performance as mere spectatorship, said Pooja Sood, director of the Khoj International Artists` Association.