India Art Fair is the leading platform showcasing modern and contemporary art from India and South Asia. This year it is running from 9 – 12 February 2023 at the NSIC Exhibition Grounds in New Delhi. With India becoming the world’s fifth-largest economy, the expansion of its art market has been equally staggering with the India Art Fair leading the bandwagon. In partnership with BMW India, the India Art Fair 2023 is presenting 86 exhibitors, including 72 galleries and 12 institutions.
Helmed by Jaya Asokan, the 2023 fair is the most ambitious to date, with larger floorspace to showcase South Asia’s greatest talent, spanning cutting-edge contemporary art and modern masters, and a new Studio presenting the fair’s Digital Artist in Residence programme. The fair continues to be a potent meeting ground for collectors, curators and art professionals, strengthening cultural dialogue and ties with the international art scene. “The Indian art market is picking up at a very good speed not only because we have artists and collectors in India more and more so but also there is a worldwide recognition of what’s going on in India. I think this strongly speaks for the rise of contemporary Indian art and we see that come together her at the India Art Fair,” rejoiced Prof. Thomas Girst, Global Head of Cultural Engagement at the BMW Group, who was present at the special press preview on the opening day of the India Art Fair 2023.
In this interview, Jaya Asokan, Fair Director of India Art Fair, talks about the highlights this year, the fair’s first-ever Digital Artists in Residence (DAIR), the need to take art beyond the metros and the bigger cities, her journey and association with the fair, among other things.
Q. How do you look at India Art Fair 2023 as the first edition in a post-pandemic sense? What are the key highlights this year?
A. Post-pandemic, our strategy has undergone a transformative shift. The 2023 edition will be our largest and most ambitious fair to date, as we champion and pave a bold new way for the next decade of Indian art. Our fairgrounds will be a showcase for the most powerful and emerging young artists from India and the wider South Asian region, presented by 71 galleries and 14 institutions. From the region’s greatest modernists, contemporary and folk artists to a new generation of cutting-edge digital artists, there will be something for everyone to enjoy.
I am particularly excited about the fair façade, which will be transformed into a mesmerizing ‘Forest of the Future’ by contemporary Warli artists and sibling duo, the Vayeda Brothers. This installation is sure to be a highlight of the fair and will be a visual treat for visitors. On the other side of the spectrum, we are thrilled to introduce our first-ever Digital Artists in Residence (DAIR), Gaurav Ogale, Mira Felicia Malhotra and Varun Ogale, who will be showcasing their arresting digital projects and artworks within the Studio space.
This year, we are also proud to introduce India Art Fair’s first-ever poster zine titled ‘Fire in the Belly’ featuring 8 women artists and creative powerhouses. This is a way for us to make a statement about the art world. Featuring internationally recognised artists, activists and writers Anikesa Dhing, Aravani Art Project, Aqui Thami, Dhruvi Acharya, Meena Kandasamy, Rithika Pandey, Shilpa Gupta and Zeenat Kulavoor, the zine is meant to be torn, pasted and used to spread feminist messages towards creating a more equal world.
The action-oriented spirit of our zine will also be carried through the talks programme. Titled ‘Align & Disrupt’ and curated by independent arts educator and curator Shaleen Wadhwana, each conversation will deep-dive into important questions, from representation, philanthropy, patronage, disability and sustainability. For the first time, the key learnings from the talks will be documented in an action-plan which will be widely circulated and made accessible to the public.
Q. Hybrid has become a preferred choice when it comes to art and cultural events. How do you look at the prospects of the hybrid formats for festivals as we are fast approaching normalcy?
A. I believe that a shared experience, whether in-person or online, creates a magical connection between people, especially in the context of art and culture. The fair is a place of discovery and a meeting ground for like-minded people who have a shared passion for promoting creative talent from India––and we hope to continue to strengthen our curation and representation of voices as we grow.
Beyond the 4-day fair, we have also expanded our presence all year round through the strength of our digital platforms including our website and social media which have become a go-to source for everything South Asian art and culture, where we celebrate the life, stories and achievements of some of our greatest and rising star artists from India and South Asia.
Q. As the Fair Director, how do you look at the possibility of going beyond the metros and the bigger cities, targeting smaller towns across the country?
A. Absolutely, we have been widening our outreach efforts year on year. Be it artists, galleries, collectors, visitors or partners, we’re keen to engage with new audiences and widen our footprint across the country.
Alongside modern masters, the 2023 fair will shine a spotlight on the works of several lesser-known modernists, women artists, folk art forms and young trailblazing artists from previously unexplored parts of the country, each presenting a vision of India and South Asia from a unique perspective.
We are also proud to welcome new gallery participants from beyond the traditional centres of New Delhi and Mumbai, from 079 Stories and Iram Art from Ahmedabad, DHI Artspace from Hyderabad, Gallery Dotwalk from Gurgaon, as well as the recently launched Gallery Chemould CoLab from Mumbai. Their presence and participation is testament to the growing curiosity and passion for collecting, and the emergence of strong grassroots-led local art scenes in the cities.
Over the years, we have also seen the collecting base expand, with some of our most important patrons and visitors coming from different cities, be it Baroda, Chandigarh, Pune and Chennai amongst others, all of who’ve shown strong interest and appetite for Indian and international contemporary art.
Q. How do you look at the changing paradigms in the creative spaces, especially in the context of the different offerings at the India Art Fair 2023?
A. I am amazed and proud by the sheer talent, quality and dedication with which young artists are approaching their practice. Beyond the traditional canvas, the fair programme will introduce large-scale public installations, sculptures and performance art, with artists raising powerful questions around gender, caste, ecology and society.
We have also seen a rise of digital art and artists through the pandemic. In 2023, we will have a special section in The Studio which will focus solely on highlighting digital and tech-inspired art presented by India Art Fair’s very own Digital Artists in Residence who will also engage with audiences in hands-on sessions and workshops presented by Today at Apple.
The Studio will also house arresting digital installations by artists Payal Arya and Aditi Kulkarni, Julien Segard and Shrimanta Saha supported by The Gujral Foundation, Serendipity Arts Foundation and the Foundation for Indian Contemporary Art (FICA) respectively, all making a strong showcase of the best in tech-meets-art projects and installations coming out of India.
Q. How do you reflect upon your journey with the India Art Fair?
A. My journey with India Art Fair has been a truly personal and powerful experience. With each edition, I am struck by the passion, dedication, and hard work that go into making the fair a success. The energy during the set-up days is palpable, and I am constantly inspired by the teamwork of all involved – from the art handlers, to the artists, exhibitors, partners, and the India Art Fair team. Being a part of this event is a privilege, and each edition is a chance to celebrate the beauty and power of art, to bring people together, and to inspire new perspectives and ideas. I cannot wait to welcome everyone to the fair and share with them the excitement and hard work that has gone into creating this magnificent edition.
Q. Tell us about the challenges of hosting an event of the scale of the India Art Fair? What kind of conversations do you usually have with the various stakeholders?
A. Our curatorial process is one of tireless dedication and commitment to championing the work of South Asian art and artists. It is a process rooted in diversity, inclusivity and constant questioning and reflection. Our team, made up of individuals from different backgrounds, ages and abilities, works together to conduct extensive research and engage in ongoing dialogue and debate. We travel both locally and internationally to build networks and relationships, all of which come together to create a truly meaningful and powerful fair, both at the 4-day event as well as in our year-round programmes.