From Delhi to the rest of India to the West, since it began, the India Art Fair (IAF) has constantly shifted focus with regard to participation. This year is no different. In its eighth edition, the festival will see increased participation from South Asia, with more galleries and artists from Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh. “We are adjusting our focus and programming to provide a more concise selective roster of galleries and turn the fair into a definitive reference point for South Asia,” says Zain Masud, International Director, IAF. Appointed for the role this year, Masud, who has a postgraduate degree in Art History from Oxford University, and who was Assistant Fair Director for Art Dubai in 2009-14, has reportedly made more curatorial interventions than before at the fair.
As art connoisseurs walk down the road to the NSIC grounds in Okhla, Delhi, for the four-day fair that begins on January 28, they will be welcomed by Paresh Maity’s Sound of Silence, a female head made of 4,000 brass bells. Achia Anzi’s Shibboleth II will discuss the politics behind an agrarian utopia. The indoor art projects include Ram Rahman’s installation that looks at the making and unmaking of Delhi’s modern culture, through its architecture and the role played by leaders such as Jawaharlal Nehru and Maulana Azad. Also on view will be veteran printmaker Krishna Reddy’s ‘Figural Ciphers’ — sculptures in marble, wood and bronze, depicting the influence of Constantin Brancusi, Alberto Giacometti and Ossip Zadkine, artists he had met during his formative years in Paris.
Inside the twin halls will be booths by 75 exhibitors, including art galleries and institutions such as the Bhau Daji Lad Museum and Kiran Nadar Museum of Art. Contemporary international biggies are missing from the list as are some of the domestic regulars, but the fair promises works of artists such as Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso and A-list Indian artists, including members of the Progressive Artists group, Jitish Kallat, Atul Dodiya, Riyas Komu, Nalini Malani and Shilpa Gupta.
“Patronage and outreach are very important and the fair is doing that at a concentrated level, vis-a-vis individual galleries raising support. There is nothing like culture to get people together. It is incredible that there will be artists from across the subcontinent,” said Tasneem Zakaria Mehta, managing trustee and honorary director at Mumbai’s Bhau Daji Lad Museum, at a press conference in Delhi on Tuesday to announce IAF.
The speakers forum will focus on more immediate concerns — with topics ranging from “The artist and the gallerist” to “Private collections and public engagement”, “Access and integration in the arts across” and “A new generation of South Asian Collectors”. Discussions will also be held under The Spotlight Series. If on January 29, Pakistani artists Lala Rukh and Ayesha Jatoi will discuss their practice, on January 30, a session will be held on the intersection of art and medicine in historic and contemporary India. The next day, a panel will question if the e-commerce industry can help grow the art market in India. Focussing on individual contributions, separate sessions will focus on Le Corbusier, Ebrahim Alkazi and Sujata Bajaj.
The fair will see a couple of firsts too. For instance, a designated space called IAF Atrium will host performances, book launches and talks. It will also showcase an inaugural film programme focusing on film as art, curated by Shai Heredia, filmmaker and director of Experimenta, India’s international festival for moving image art. Meanwhile, expected to be walking down the aisles are collectors and delegates from international institutions such as The Guggenheim, New York, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh and Palais de Tokyo, Paris.