If there is one thing that stood out at the recently concluded 15th edition of the India Art Fair, it is the message that the moment for art and design has arrived for India! The fair showcased 108 exhibitors and featured 72 galleries alongside major regional and international art powerhouses. However, the real show stealer was embroidery and design arts.
India, known for its artisanal work, is on the cusp of witnessing the art and craft divide slowly disappearing.
The inaugural collectible design section saw the debut of seven design studios which included studios by the likes of Rooshad Shroff (Mumbai), Ashiesh Shah Atelier (Mumbai), and Gunjan. These studios showcased the fusion of furniture and objects as art, alongside highlighting embroidery as a serious art form, transforming the contemporary works into exquisitely woven pieces of art in collaborations like MASH x Milayaa (Mumbai), curated by me and Karishma Swali & Chanakya School of Craft (Mumbai), with artist Barthelemy Tonguo and and Venkanna (Gallery Maskara) who breathed new life into this medium.
“This edition of India Art Fair has been our most ambitious to date, with a record number of participants and brisk sales,” said Jaya Asokan, the fair director.
What stood out for me was Mithu Sen’s ‘A Prayer Unanswered, 2024’ from Gallery Chemould, Ayesha Sultana’s ‘Breath Counts, 2023’ at Experimenta, Tyeb Metha’s iconic work from Vadehra Gallery, Chatterjee and Lal and Nikhil Chopra’s fabulous drawing ‘In the Line of Fire’ and Dayanita Singh at Nature Morte.
Several international big names such as Anish Kapoor, Ai Weiwei, Olafur Eliasson and Ozioma Onuzulike were part of the fair at Galleria Continua, Carpenters workshop, Neugerriemschneider, Berlin, Marc Straus (New York), as local collectors looked to expand and include international names in their collection. In particular, the Ai Weiwei sculpture in the Gallery Continua booth was remarkable.
It was great to meet up with important collectors from India and overseas, especially Ms Kiran Nadar zipping around in her scooter, Kumar Mangalam Birla and Asha Jadeja Motwani who recently announced an important art prize for a commissioned work by a woman artist, through her foundation.
I enjoyed the talk series and panel discussions with international museum directors such Klaus Biesenbach, director of the Neue Nationalgalerie; Michael Govan, CEO and Wallis Annenberg director at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA); Prof. Dr. Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung, director and chief curator at Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW) and Shuddhabrata Sengupta (Raqs Media Collective). The conversation with the US-based collector Komal Shah and Nishad Avari from Christie’s was insightful as it addressed collecting feminist art in a global context.
The fair, however, would have been incomplete without the party circuit filled with previews from major auction houses and art galleries hosted by Shalini Passi, collector and founder of MASH. There was also an elegant luncheon hosted by Kiran Nadar (founder, the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art), well attended by international and local guests. The Raw Mango party was immensely popular with the young artists, curators and the IAF team.
Art fairs are more than exhibitions; they are spaces that provide a platform for the art community to get together, contemplate, collaborate, and celebrate new associations, push new boundaries, include voices that have been marginalised and create a marketplace for the art world to thrive.
So, until next year, may the conversations and connections keep growing, and the artistic spirit keep soaring!