It could have been a case of the beautiful, warm, winter Sunday exaggerating an already cheerful mood, but French artist Jean Paul Guiragussian did look truly pleased and excited while saying, "It is the world's best art fair." The fair in question was the India Art Fair, the largest three-day art event in Delhi, which concluded on February 3. This premier annual exhibition of modern and contemporary work was only made possible by the efforts of an exceptional art world that brought together thousands of diverse and dynamic works by both well-known and emerging artists from India and across the globe. Numbers are perhaps a good measure of success. There were exhibitors from as many as 24 other countries, including Israel, Latvia, Turkey, and over 100 galleries from India and abroad.
While art in India has, for a long time, witnessed a simmering sort of existence, art across the world has evolved to acquire unimaginable dimensions. Evolving relatively quickly itself, the market for art in India is today not just being opened up by connoisseurs, but even the public and viewing audience seems more aware and conscious in its appreciation. Artists such as Shivani Aggarwal who had a solo show at the fair were convinced that the Indian art scenario was changing positively, and even Guiragussian, who was only participating in the Indian Art Fair for the first time, said that he had received offers for more shows and exhibitions in the country. With more works, there was also more innovation on display this year and the last day of the show saw the venue brimming with a full house.
By showcasing different art mediums, the fair has helped widen the space for a bigger stage. Photographer Sandeep Biswas talks of the common opportunity that the Indian Art Fair gives the country's growing art world to collectively assemble, but just as pertinent, he feels, is the participation of foreign art galleries. According to him, the fair is a platform for Indian art to go international. The presence of auction houses such as Christie's and Sotheby's, says Biswas, helps them first monitor Indian artists, and then helps them promote the country's art to collectors, curators and galleries overseas. In the end, though, it is often how a gallery represents an artist's work that determines his or her artistic merit and potential. The fair is thus inevitably an occasion for the gallery and the artist to create a foothold for the future.
Though the Indian art world is still at a nascent stage, and despite the fact that the market may have been low for some time, there is ample potential for growth. It isn't just this one big event. The number of galleries in cities is growing, there is an increase in art shows and events all across the country, and there is now more interest among a more aware people. A coming of age of the Indian art world may be still a farfetched dream, but it is definite that the scenario is changing. Art in India and the buoyant Indian art market are moving forward.
Asanna Gonmei is Editor, Supreme Media Solutions Pvt Ltd, New Delhi
The views expressed by the author are personal