THE INDIA Art Fair (IAF) is about to complete its eighth edition this year. Since its inception in 2008, the fair has grown to be among the top five most attended art fairs globally, with over one lakh visitors each year and counting. Founder Neha Kirpal tells Kunal Doley about what’s new at the fair this year, and the possibilities the future holds. Edited excerpts:
What is the kind of business that you’ve seen this year, especially compared to the past few editions?
The art fair is still on; we have one more day to go, so we won’t be able to tell you the kind of commercial transaction that we’ll eventually see, but what we can definitely say is that we’ve seen a lot of interest coming in from collectors, long before the fair had even started. This is on account of our pre-fair promotions and social media campaigns, especially around the new inclusions—we got 18 new galleries this year. Then there is the new section called ‘Platform’, focusing on south Asian art. So we had collectors writing in and enquiring about our artists and the works. That’s a very interesting trend because typically we don’t see such queries before the start of the fair.
What has been the feedback from the public so far?
Last year, the footfall was about one lakh and it’s only growing – by as much as 10,000 to 20,000 every year – at least that’s the kind of growth range that we’ve seen over the past five to six years. The figures are very encouraging, especially when one realises that the IAF is a ticketed public event and entry is not free.Also, we are trying to make the IAF a more rounded, lifestyle affair. It’s not just about people coming to the art fair; it’s also about them getting a place where they can spend a weekend. To make it a more liveable environment are the restaurants, eateries, specially-designed stages and the after-hour events with good food and music. There is also a whole range of collateral events (about 20 of them) happening around the fair that are adding to the buzz.
Have you seen any trends among visitors this year?
We are seeing a lot of interest coming in from newer sections of people such as young individual collectors from around the country who have never come to the art fair before. A lot of these are from mainstream corporate worlds who have never engaged with art. Maybe this had had to do with the outreach programmes, roadshows and dinners that we conducted and which are leading to a broader interest among visitors. We’ve also never had such a huge audience coming in from places such as the Middle-East and within the south Asian region. That has happened now maybe because their countries are being represented in such a substantial way.
What has been the profile of a typical buyer at IAF over the years?
The objective of the fair has always been to look at the next set of audiences, to cultivate further interest among them. Of course, we bring in top collectors from across the country and other parts of the world who are already on everybody’s checklist and are engaged with the art world. But the idea is also to reach out to newer people.
This year, you got a lot of corporate support in terms of sponsors and partners. Tell us more about it.
There are a whole lot of corporate houses who have come forward this year. These sponsors and partners have expanded the reach of the 2016 edition. BMW, for instance, is not just our presenting partner; it is also showcasing the Cesar Manrique BMW 730i Art Car (a commissioned piece of art), reflecting the cultural and historical development of art, design and technology. To further its engagement at the fair, BMW is also hosting IAF’s first-ever ‘collectors’ lounge’—an exclusive space for collectors to connect, share highlights and continue discussions.
Our associate partner JSW has brought its steel and cement to create the fair’s seating and outdoor areas. So there is this whole influx of luxury brands and Indian industrial houses who are getting behind to support an Indian venture that is truly international.
You also got Zain Masud, formerly of Art Dubai, as the new international director. What was the idea behind it?
While we were looking at creating a certain positioning for the art fair, and this year particularly, when we are trying to establish ourselves as a leading art fair within the south Asian region, we felt it was important to share that vision with the world at large. So it was very important for us to get Zain Masud as the international director. Zain has added a lot of value in terms of international outreach with galleries, collectors and museums and helped us create and reposition in that measure.