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    Begin the year on a high note, with the seventh edition of the India Art Fair, featuring 400 artists and 90 exhibitors

    Taking the intimidating art gallery trope out, and pairing art with good food, music and innovative additions, the seventh edition of the India Art Fair plans to bolster both engagement and investment. This year, the fair boasts a line-up of 90 booths, 45 illustrious speakers and hopes to garner 2an audience upwards of last year’s impressive 90,000. But it all began with an ambitious idea written on the back of an airplane bag. Founder-director Neha Kirpal was working at a PR firm in London when her love affair with the art market began. It was her goal to bring to India the same enthusiasm that UK’s 9,000 art galleries harboured. “India has a rich 5,000 years of cultural history, but the lack of engagement with art was surprising and the markets were grossly untapped,” says Kirpal. When she first embarked on making her idea a reality, she found the artistic fraternity to be alienated and uneven in the audiences it catered to. “I wanted to bring a democratic international platform that would bring about an exchange of ideas—so, better production and appreciation of art,” she shares.
    A major achievement for the fair is that 40 per cent of artwork sales are credited to first-time buyers. But to Kirpal, the India Art Fair isn’t just about the economic boost it brings—it’s a harmonious engagement with art forms sans elitism. “There are people who fly in, and there are people who hop on a bus or two to get here. The diversity is incredible,” she says, observing that the fair has played catalyst to festivals and movements across the country, like The Kochi Biennale and the Dhaka Summit.
    This year, Girish Shahane serves as the artistic director of the festival. Having curated Art Chennai last year, Shahane deems this an entirely different experience in terms of scale and scope. He has also overseen the programming of the Speakers’ Forum, featuring names like Feroze Gujral and Jitish Kallat. “There is an increasing number of fairs such as the Venice and Berlin Biennale, that are focusing more on artists from within their specific region. This reflects not just a desire to differentiate the fairs from the mainstream model, but also the demands of the market,” he feels. Kirpal has been open about her lack of in-depth knowledge on all things art which begs the question—can non-artists play an active part in elevating India’s art scene? Shahane believes they certainly can. “Outsiders always provide a breath of fresh air, while insiders tend to get complacent. Neha in 2008 disrupted the functioning of the market,” he admits. Future plans for the fair include an app-based art gallery combining facts and humour for concept notes, a Google art project and an art weekend in different cities.

    Kirpal’s must-visit installations

    11. Italian contemporary artist Francesco Clemente’s tent installation. For 40 years, Clemente has collaborated with Indian artisans in Chennai, Orissa, Varanasi and Jodhpur, creating his series of tents using a range of techniques such as embroidery, block printing and his own spectacular paintings.

    2. Faig Ahmed, an Azerbaijani artist, lives and works in Baku, and uses the most basic components of a deconstructed rug, woollen threads and arabesque patterns, to elasticise perceptions of the cultural icon in carpets.

    3. Krystian Truth Czaplick’s Untitled (Fungus) project  is a laconic yet very poetic project,comprised of duplicated forms, which Czaplicki annexes to urban architecture. It has appeared on the streets of Warsaw, London, Manchester, Rome and Moscow.

    4. With Memory of Red, Smriti Dixit connects personal and collective memories, and artwork flows like a web of arteries, of bloodline and lineage, passed from one woman to another. Dixit invites viewers to leave personal objects, and through the duration of the fair, will keep incorporating them.

    Two is company
    Dhruvi Acharya and Chitra Ganesh will explore their own encounters with illness, grief and loss, and subsequent reflections, on a live painting exhibit using projection and watercolour. ‘‘Conceptual inspirations for this work include Tibetan medicinal drawings, 15th century illustrations of alchemy, Vedic chakra drawings, as well as the language of comics, a key visual inspiration in our individual practices as well,’’ says Acharya.

    Major attractions
    Curated walks by Artsome: Don’t miss the free 40 minute guided tours by art afficionados. Themes include Pop art, Indian Modern art, and installation art. Customised walks are also up for grabs.
    IAF Courtyard: A new courtyard space has been created, housing a boutique Design store, which includes brands like Workshop 1701 designs LLP, EN Inde Lifestyle Products Pvt Ltd, Atelier Nini and K Janavi. The major attraction is The Perfume Library – the first retail footprint of art fragrances, with a collection of rare, limited edition perfumes.

    Food for thought
    A rooftop structure overlooking the forecourt will have a curated set of food offerings. Delhi’s popular hangouts like Hungry Monkey, the Safdarjung Enclave restaurant will share space with Caara, a bespoke organic catering venture, well known for their artistic plating.

     

    Divya Karthikeyan

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