The India Art Fair has had a reputation of being a maze that could leave viewers (even the ones with a map in hand) both overwhelmed and lost. In its tenth edition, hosted at its regular spot of the NSIC grounds, the fair that draws gallerists and collectors from the world over seemed better laid out. Art — both contemporary and modern — glimmered booth after booth, with many wrapping up on the last day (yesterday) with satisfactory sales. “Most galleries have covered their costs,” attests Amal Allana of Delhi-based Art Heritage.
Most of the work, however, was sold on the first day, during a preview for select audience that the gallerists admit have been carefully determined. Many seemed thrilled at the widening of the collectors’ group, stating that during the IAF they were able to establish contact with new buyers. “The audience at IAF has changed dramatically over the last nine years that we have been exhibiting here. The management seems keen to bring a certain kind of audience to benefit the galleries and they have been able to do that cleverly,” says Pratik Raja of Experimenter, who, through the art fair, has sold works to the Kiran Nader Museum of Art and Devi Art Foundation, and some international buyers, “conversations with whom are still afoot”.
Along with successfully enabling sustainable networking opportunities and ensuring sales — always the priority of an art fair — IAF has also, with a comprehensive programming schedule and collaborations, ensured the initiation of school children and young professionals in greater numbers this year. “There are many people here who are encountering contemporary work for the first time. Curated walks assist an audience that may not know how to understand the work. Moreover, we saw a lot of school children at the fair. This will add to the way in which they view what they do in their art classes. I also hope they learn how to respect the arts, which is something that is not ingrained in us from a young age,” adds Raja.
Allana feels the buyers are now more aware. She says, “Buyers now do their homework on artists and do not gasp at the prices anymore. Last year, many buyers rushed to the fair on the closing day thinking they would get discounts. The fair has also provided a good opportunity for us to train ourselves as gallerists. Many galleries displayed additional information regarding the artwork they showcased.”
While last year the IAF was held at a time when the art market was reeling from the impact of demonetisation, this year artists have been struggling with the Goods and Services Tax (GST). A visual artist now has to shell out 12 per cent GST on the sale of his/her work. “There was a lot of enthusiasm about the art fair this year and galleries sold a lot. GST will take a little getting used to but it is not a deterrent,” says Renu Modi, director, Gallery Espace.
The international galleries also seem to be returning home after a pleasant experience. Joan Gasper i Farreras of Galeria Joan Gasper was surprised that “Indians seem to know so much about European art and are keen to learn and buy more”. Olivia Young of Mo J Gallery from South Korea, added, “I knew that minimalism is not that well-received in India. Despite that, we were able to sell a few works and would definitely like to return next year.”