Biggest Art Fair begins in New Delhi

New Delh: Over 1000 works of art by some of the world`s best artists ranging from Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Damien Hirst and modern Indian masters like M F Husain and S H Raza, along with those of contemporary giants from 20 countries are being showcased at the India Art Fair here.

In its fourth edition, one of the country`s biggest art event is featuring works from 20 countries brought here by 98 galleries of which 43 are based outside India. It marks an increase from less than 50 galleries in the event`s inaugural edition in 2008.

The five-day fair, that opened for public viewing today is being held at NSIC exhibition grounds in Okhla in custom built tents fabricated from steel, wool and fabric by designer Sumant Jaykishan. Previous editions of the art event have been held at the Pragati Maidan.

Participating artists mingled with gallerists and collectors at a special VIP preview on Wednesday, and all eyes were on the alive installation by artist Vivan Sundaram. Decked up in Sundaram`s creations – clothes fashioned out of padded bras and underwear, sanitary napkins and truck tyres models moved around the entire expanse of the area trying to create awareness of recycling materials.

The India Art Fair which was previously known as the India Art Summit has this year roped in two international investors, Sandy Angus and Will Ramsay, co-founders of the Hong Kong Art Fair, who have bought in art houses and collectors from abroad. Last June, founder director of the fair Neha Kirpal sold a forty nine per cent stake to them.

While gallerists are happy with the more spacious and professional look of this year`s event conforming to global art fairs like those held in Basel, London and Madrid, there are a few who think the charm of being in India needs to be retained. "Last year we had been in a different building, which had an Indian flavour, it is more spacious here. The presentation is very fantastic. It is very reduced and very eclectic, very simple but very effective," said Thomas Krizinger of Gallerie Krizinger from Vienna.

Standing before his wall mounted huge exhibit, Rashid Rana, one of the most important artists from Pakistan said, "It is an amazing feeling to participate in an art fair, there is an amazing energy and buzz here."

Artist Mark Quinn, Subdh Gupta, Anjolie Ela Menon, Vivan Sundaram, Rana, Mithu Sen, Dayanita Singh, George K among others were spotted at special opening day yesterday, that was open for press preview and VIP visitors. "We have some of the top galleries for the first time here," said Neha Kirpal.

First timers at the fair include White Cube from Britain, Galleria Continua from Italy, Hauser & Wirth from Britain and Switzerland, Arndt from Germany, Everard Read from South Africa, Frida Fine Arts from Russia, and Kalfayan Galleries from Greece. "It is better to come and see at close quarters the interests of major artists. There is a very interesting visual cultures here," said the gallerist from White Cube which has bought works by Damien Hirst, Antony Gormley, Tracey Emin, Gilber&George and Sarah Morris.

"The response on the very first day has been good and I feel it is a great opportunity," said Tobias Sirtl of ARNDT gallery from Germany who has six artists on the display but no Indian artist at the moment.

"The situation in art fairs elsewhere in the world is no different, however, it is interesting what fascinates Indian art-lovers more. We have not yet sold any item as of now but are looking forward to the other days of the fair," said Sirtl whose two most expensive items here are the Gilbert & George`s `VIP Only` (USD 450,000) and `Orphan` by Sophie Calle (3,500 euros)".

James Lavender, Associate Director of UK based Hauser & Wirth said, "We have got a great response. We want to build new relationships and consolidate the existing ones which is why we have become a part of the Fair.

"The gallery had already sold two works one each by Gupta and McCarthy. Works at the gallery are priced from 20 thousand dollars. I feel the appreciation for art is becoming stronger and I found an educated audience for the art works on display. We have Subodh Gupta`s and Bharti Kher`s work on display, apart from Paul Mc Carthy`s," said Lavender of Hauser and Wirth.

Federica Beltrame of Galleria Continua from Italy said since they were exhibiting for the first time they did not have any expectations. "We were curious to see the market. I think it is a good start. Price range is between 4000 euros and 700 thousand euros. As such, we have not sold any item but many new collectors have taken interest in our exhibits. At the moment, we are not displaying any Indian artist`s work but might soon collaborate with some".

Yuli Karatsiki of Kalfayan Galleries (Greece) also was happy at the enthusiastic response.
"India is an upcoming art market and it is good to see the audience appreciation and interest in the work of non-Indian artists. Price of exhibits is in the range 1800 euros – 22 thousand euros," he said.

Jannis Markopoulos, Director, Frida Fine Arts Gallery (Russia) said: "The response has been interesting. It is a new wall which will grow with time. We might collaborate with Indian artists as well. The situation is changing every day and so does the response."

Monique Howse of Everard Read Gallery from South Africa said, "We have a variety of work on display here, about 20 pieces and include those by contemporary artists. The response has been very good. It is interesting to see the selection of the audience, however."