The fair has 70% of its floorspace dedicated to Indian galleries, institutions, artists’ collectives, cultural events and festivals.
From hosting five incredible artists in residence to innovative performance art, the 12th edition of the India Art Fair (IAF) will focus on compelling narratives that promise to excite both students and collectors. With over 75 galleries and institutions from 20 global cities, the fair is a visual delight for art lovers, bringing together some of the best art books, exhibition catalogues, magazines, publications by artists, graphic novels, talks and workshops that aim to encourage deeper critical engagement with the cultural history of the country. In an interview with Vaishali Dar, fair director Jagdip Jagpal talks about how the fair has developed a strong identity in promoting south Asia’s freshest talent alongside established names. Edited excerpts…
This is your third time at the India Art Fair as director. What value additions do we see in IAF 2020?
With over 75 galleries and institutions from 20 different global cities, the 2020 edition of India Art Fair will present compelling narratives. Modern masters such as MF Husain, Ram Kumar and Mrinalini Mukherjee will be seen alongside new, up-and-coming talent: from Sameer Kulavoor designing the façade of the exhibition tents to other breakout artists such as Arshi Irshad Ahmadzai, Nibha Sikander, Tehmeena Firdos, Omer Wasim and Salman Toor. With the artist’s voice at its core, the 2020 edition will also have an expanded public programme.
Spotlighting trending topics and artists, the auditorium talks series will have the likes of Nilima Sheikh, Turner prize-nominated filmmaker Naeem Mohaiemen, Magnum photographer Martin Parr and popular artist Marcel Dzama make presentations about recent projects and exhibitions. This year’s memorial lectures will be dedicated to the life and works of modernist Ram Kumar and artist Tushar Joag conducted by experts Kishore Singh and Shireen Gandhy, respectively. The fair will also hold future-facing conversations on south Asian textile art between textile artist Raisa Kabir and curator Uthra Rajgopal from the Whitworth.
Performance art will be another focus. In a solo act, national award-winning theatre artist and activist Maya Krishna Rao will explore what it means to be a ‘loose woman’, while Nigerian artist and human rights defender Jelili Atiku’s presentation will make a strong case for freedom of speech and expression. Piyali Ghose plans to dig deep into the history of the Indian sari—one of the world’s oldest and perhaps the only surviving unstitched garment from the past. We are also introducing a new and extended bookshop and café. Bringing together some of the best art books, from exhibition catalogues and magazines to small-press publications by artists, zines and graphic novels, the space promises to excite both students and collectors.
Over the past three years, how has the IAF impacted the Indian art scene?
In two years, India Art Fair has developed a strong identity, gaining an international reputation for promoting south Asia’s freshest talent alongside established names. Wherever possible, we look to profile artists from across the region in dialogue with one another. Our education programmes—whether talks, performances, masterclasses, walkthroughs, workshops or book signings—aim to encourage deeper critical engagement with the cultural history of the region.
We find some new international galleries participating in the fair for the first time like Saskia Fernando Gallery (Colombo, Sri Lanka), PSM (Berlin, Germany), Marc Straus (New York, US) and Gallery Tableau (Seoul, South Korea). What is ‘new’ about them?
The fair has 70% of its floorspace dedicated to Indian galleries, institutions, artists’ collectives, cultural events and festivals. A selection of international exhibitors will bring important and new works by artists—Sri Lanka’s best-known talent, from Chandraguptha Thenuwara to Saskia Pintelon, and Priyanka Udagedara at Saskia Fernando Gallery’s booth. Gallery Tableau will have Korean artists Sangmin Lee, Yongrae Kwon and Hwang Sun Tae exhibit finest multimedia work, while Marc Straus (New York) and PSM Gallery (Berlin) showcase the large-scale works by abstractionists Anna Leonhardt and Nathan Peter, respectively.
In 2019, MCH Group, the Swiss-based owner of the Art Basel franchise, sold its majority stake in the IAF to Angus Montgomery Arts, making it the sole owner of the Delhi event. Will this effect IAF 2020 in any way?
We are thrilled to continue working with Sandy Angus as the sole owner. Born and bred in India, his support and loyalty to India and the fair has meant a lot to us, and we look forward to delivering yet another fantastic edition, which will present a stellar showcase of south Asian modern and contemporary art.
Any new section you plan to introduce this year?
For the first time, India Art Fair will host five incredible artists in residence who will engage with visitors in several ways. First on the list is the extremely popular Gagan Singh. The artist, who is known for his laugh-out-loud funny drawings, will create a new series of sketches inspired by people and exhibits at the fair, as well as hold free drawing workshops. In another session, leading contemporary artist and paper aficionado Manisha Parekh will share creative ideas of reusing old paper—from newspapers and magazines to receipts, letters and junk mail—to create beautiful personalised gift objects and artworks. DIY fun will extend to collage-making sessions by Ghiora Aharoni and
Renuka Rajiv who will guide participants to create their own pieces and share tips and tricks. Last but by no means least: a workshop on zine-making by the multi-talented David Zwirner artist Marcel Dzama promises to be a serious hit.
What are the five interesting art projects that viewers can look forward to this year?
In an unprecedented showcase, internationally-acclaimed Magnum photographer Martin Parr, who is known for his in-your-face flash style of street photography and street portraits, will take pictures of fair visitors and present these at his booth. Contemporary artist Rathin Burman’s large-scale installation will be another impressive addition. Made in metal and executed in his signature style, the newly commissioned art by MASH India will explore the nature of built structures and what lies beyond the visible. Touching on the ongoing conversation around water scarcity and excess, Chennai-based artist Vijay Pichumani with Art Houz Gallery will present giant wooden raindrops. Most notably, BMW Group India will showcase American pop artist Andy Warhol’s 1979 BMW Art Car at the fair for the first time.
Tell us about your outlook on art business in India? Has the ongoingeconomic slowdown and ‘overpriced’ valuation sought by sellers impacted the segment?
India is a major emerging market which is building strength amid slowing global growth. We received an overwhelming number of applications for IAF 2020, and are confident the strong programme and works for 2020 will appeal to the growing number of local and international collectors and museum groups who will be visiting the fair.
How important is it for you to build a thriving art scene in Delhi or India, as such?
At the fair, we provide a platform for activities taking place outside Delhi and Mumbai, from supporting Kochi-Muziris Biennale and Serendipity Arts Festival in the 2018 and 2019 editions to giving Chennai Photo Biennale a presence in 2020. Our programme also highlights stories, projects and conversations led by regional art initiatives such as Lahore Biennale, Colomboscope, Photo Kathmandu and Chobi Mela which have been successful in creating a space for discussing, contextualising and promoting contemporary art in new and unique ways.