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A Mixed Bag

Contemporary artwork was among the winners of the 6th India Art Fair.

February 4, 2014 12:02:53 am
Over a lakh visitors attended The India Art Fair this year. Over a lakh visitors attended The India Art Fair this year.

Red is the warmest colour at any art fair. From artists to collectors and gallerists, all eyes scan for the red dots pasted on works. These little circles spell “Sold”, marking an artist’s popularity as well as a gallery’s profits. At the 6th India Art Fair, however, most galleries didn’t bother with bindis while a handful sported blue or green ones. If tradition had been followed, the fair that closed on Sunday, may have been emblazoned with red. Neha Kirpal, Founder-Director of the fair, said, “Around 96 per cent of the exhibitors reported strong sales, with a number of them selling out entirely”.

“Zarina Hashmi, Chitra Ganesh, Waswo X Waswo, Manjunath Kamath and Australian artist Jayne Dwyer,” said Renu Modi of Delhi’s Gallery Espace, about the artists sold from her booth. The gallery has been a regular at the fair. Modi says, “This year was the best and we have developed many new buyers”. The mood at Bangalore-based Tasveer Art was similarly upbeat, with co-owners Abhishek Poddar and Shalini Gupta claiming that they did better business this time than in previous editions. “We sold more than 25 pieces,” said Gupta. Delhi Art Gallery (DAG), which had the largest pavilion in the fair and recreated a museum experience, is planning to be back next year “with double the space,” said Kishore Singh of DAG, “Around 12 per cent of the 400 works we displayed attracted commercial interest.” At Studio Art, a Subodh Kerkar golden palm leaf installation sold for Rs 30 lakh, says Ashima Singh.

Most buyers among the one lakh viewers who attended the fair over four days — a 20,000 increase from last year — preferred to put their money on contemporary names. “We expected a Modernist comeback but it is important to know that it was the young, contemporary galleries that have done really well,” says Kirpal. One assumes that this is due to the changing profile of buyers —  the stereotype of the older collector is fast being replaced by images of cash-rich corporates in their late 20s and early 30s who add art acquisition to their other signs of success.

At Delhi’s Dhoomimal Gallery, where the half a dozen sold works were mostly of FN Souza and KS Kulkarni, Uday Jain also noticed the Contemporary wave. “We mostly deal with masters and big-value items, and there are newer clients who were looking for something more Contemporary. These days, the art scene has become very intimidating. The mela atmosphere of the fair does a terrific job in initiating them into art,” he said. Their total sales amounted to about Rs 30-35 lakh.

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Mark Hachem, Director, Mark Hachem Gallery, is returning a happy man. “This was our first time in India. I brought the contemporary artists I represent in Paris. I am lucky to have had a good response in terms of sales, collaborations with other institutions and museum acquisitions,” he said. Among the artists in demand, he said, were Jesus Curia, Donadini and Isabel Miramontes. While Pakistan-based Art Chowk sported several blue bindis on works of Faraz Mateen and Simeen Farhat, Galerie Suzanne Tarasieve of Paris, which showcased European Contemporary works, reported lacklustre sales. Of the overall view, Kripal said, “Around 90 per cent of international works were sold to Indian collectors.”

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First published on: 04-02-2014 at 12:02:53 am

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