Playing to the Gallery

As the United Art Fair in Delhi came to a close,we find out how the event has changed since its first edition last year

Written by Pallavi Pundir | Published:September 19, 2013 3:06 am

The United Art Fair (UAF) started out in 2012 with key words such as “affordable”,“young” and “contemporary”,and most importantly “artist-driven”,creating quite a ruffle for art enthusiasts. It boasted of about 2,500 works by over 500 artists. The second edition opened on September 14 in Delhi,minus the frills and fluff of the first. We came across a toned-down number of 287 artists and over 2,000 artwork. Even the focus on young and contemporary spread-eagled to folk,traditional,design and historical among others,by artists of all age groups,Indian and international.

“When Peter Nagy asked us to curate,he gave us an open hand. We showed a diverse range of works that many galleries don’t have the daring to show,mostly because they are limited by the commercial aspect,” says Ram Rahman,one of the six curators in the newly formed panel of UAF. Others include gallerist Peter Nagy,curators Alka Pande and Heidi Fichtner,critic Meera Menezes and designer Mayank Mansingh Kaul. The format this time changed to create a gallery or museum kind of an experience with fewer artists.

We spotted photographs by Delhi-based artist Manu Parekh,a medium never seen before in an exhibition. Surprised by the response,Parekh says,“Most people did not know I click photographs”; artist Manisha Jha,also based in Delhi,who brought with her goddess-like figures with the intricacies of Madhubani art,reiterates the same sentiment. “Each artist had a wall dedicated to his/her work,” she says.

However,when it comes to artist-customer interaction,there wasn’t much going on. “People came asking about my work but I don’t have any idea about sales. I just come every morning to see if there’s a red dot under my work,” says Israeli artist Ayelet Albenda. Parekh looks at it differently. “As a painter,I can’t go and sell my paintings. I believe in the gallery system and I operate through them,” she says.

An artist is expected to give 50 per cent of their sales to UAF. In addition,each artist has to present a minimum of three works,of which one goes as a donation-cum-commission to the organisers. “Fairs like India Art Fair require galleries to pay a fixed sum for the booths,irrespective of the sales they make. That’s a guaranteed income. Here,Annurag Sharma (the director of UAF) has taken a financial risk by putting his money on the artist,” says Rahman.

He admits that the fair inevitably becomes the middleman as they take charge of aspects such as mounting works and shipping. “That’s not defeating the purpose. It’s like a giant gallery,the model is different from other fairs in just technical terms,” says Rahman.

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