Tons of visitors but moderate sales at Yes Bank India Art Fair '14


Yes Bank presents India Art Fair, India’s modern and contemporary art fair, closed its 6th edition on the 2nd February, 2014 at NSIC Grounds, New Delhi. The four days of celebration of Indian and International contemporary art witnessed 91 exhibition booths and 1000 artists. At the summit, India Art Fair also announced the first edition of its Menot and Protégé programme – a philanthropic venture to promote aspiring artists. Artists Jitish Kallat and Dayanita Singh will be the first two mentors in this programme. Each of them will be selecting a candidate to work with closely for a year. Based on the guru-shishya model, this collaboration will allow young talents to have access to two of India’s leading artists for an entire year—an experience few art institutions can hope to rival.

“Yes Bank recognizes the enormous growth potential in the field of art, and we are continuously striving to facilitate a responsible attitude to Indian anf global art, by introducing synergistic corporate interest, support and patronage through corporization of art. We at Yes Bank are proud to be the presenting partner of India Art Fair and endeavour to spearhead initiatives which can foster creativity and promote the development of art in the long run,” says Rana Kapoor, MD and CEO, Yes Bank Limited.

“Indian art now has a truly global quality about it,” says Neha Kirpal, founder-director of the IAF. More than 20 projects are unfolding on the premises of the IAF. A number of shows have also opened in spaces across the city, making this, aesthetically, one of the richest seasons in the annual cultural calendar of Delhi. Ranjani Shettar’s solo, Between the Sky And Earth, is on at the Talwar gallery; a three-part retrospective of Nalini Malani’s work is showing at the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art (KNMA); and a series of encounters with contemporary art, all part of a single project called INSERT2014, curated by the Raqs Media Collective, are on for the next few weeks.

This year the IAF has tied up with two major museums—the Mark Rothko Art Center in Daugavpils, Latvia, which is the repository of some of the finest works of the modern Expressionist master, and the Himalayas Art Museum in Shanghai, China, which focuses on raising public awareness of art.

“In the previous years, we have had buyers from all over the West,” says Kirpal, “This year, we have an exchange programme to present Indian art to the Chinese market.” A group of 25 curators and collectors from China are visiting IAF 2014. Later in the year, a similar team from India will be sent to China. Efforts have also been made to attract interest from within the country as well. “As much as 40% of the buyers at IAF every year are new or just starting to build a collection,” Kirpal says. “This year we conducted outreach programmes in several tier 2 cities in the country—in Pune, Surat, Ahmedabad, Ludhiana and Chandigarh, for instance—so that we could bring in more audience.” Several gallery owners however are sceptical about that figure, echoing doubts about some of the claims of attendances in past years which Neha has comfortably and rounded off to a cumulative unchallengeable figure of 400,000 over the past five years.

There were about 91 exhibitors, the biggest being the Delhi Art Gallery, with 330 works covering nearly 400 sp metres. Nearly a third of the exhibitors were from abroad though some big international names, such as the Lisson Gallery from London and Hauser & Wirth from Zurich, have not returned after appearances four or five years ago. This indicates some disappointment with a lack of sales to big buyers, and also frustration with shipping and other problems caused by India’s customs controls that make it impractical to bring many foreign works for sale.  “There is a risk of this not going much further if the organisers don’t develop a co-ordinated programme with collectors and corporate buyers,” says Carlos Cabral Nunes of Portugal’s Perve Galeria, reflecting the views of other foreign exhibitors.

Most galleries that had done well sold works ranging from under INR 100,000 to four or five times that figure, though some went far higher. London’s Grosvenor Gallery did exceedingly well selling works by Olivia Fraser, a Delhi-based British painter with limited edition prints of new works that started at INR 50,000. Archer Art Galley of Ahmedabad did well with limited edition reproductions of well-known artists starting at INR 15,000. On the other hand, Aicon Gallery of New York and London sold four works by established Indian masters, M.F.Husain and F.N.Souza, and a younger painter G.K.Irani, for between INR 400-500,000 to INR 1.5 crore.

Experts advise that India should look eastward to the Chinese and South-East Asian markets to build links. That’s where the business lies. India always looks westwards to Europe and the US for foreign accolades and praise so it will be some time before it recognises that looking east is where the future probably lies if Indian art is to appeal internationally to a wider audience than its present relatively small group of western collectors.

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