WFY Today

“Exclusive Now: The India Art Fair Opens in Delhi”

“India’s art market is expanding in tandem with the country’s overall economy. Jaya Asokan, the fair’s director, says, “And we are growing with it.”

When the fair first opened in 2008, the picture was quite different. The Indian art market had abruptly bottomed out following a spectacular six-year boom period. The recovery has been gradual, but secondary market figures are now higher than they were in the late 2000s, and an increasing number of private institutions, foundations, and biennials have contributed to a more sustainable art ecosystem.

According to Asokan, the IAF is one of those institutions that has played an important supporting role for the market during a difficult time while also promoting the region’s non-profit organisations. These efforts are paying off. “We’ve turned a corner,” Asokan says. “We might be smaller than other global markets, but we’re not nascent anymore.”

Increased competition may be the most obvious sign of this maturation. For 14 years, the IAF was the only significant fair in South Asia. That changed last November with the launch of Art Mumbai, which was organised by the heads of SaffronArt, India’s largest auction house. In comparison, the Mumbai fair is small in size, but it has big plans to expand. The presence of two major commercial art events in the country raises the question of whether the market is large enough to support both.

“We congratulate Art Mumbai on its successful first edition and welcome the expansion of the ecosystem—an ecosystem we helped to establish,” Asokan says in a statement. “Of course, we are aware of the saturation point for events like ours. Collectors may not want to go to both; it is natural to skip one. “It is not a bad thing.”

In an expanding market, innovation is critical, and this year’s IAF introduces a new design section (which Asokan says was planned prior to the launch of Art Mumbai). “Design hasn’t been displayed properly in this country,” Asokan said. “We want to show it not as a mass market but as collectible.” The new section features design studios such as Studio Renn (Mumbai) and Vikram Goyal (New Delhi).

The new section also pays homage to a major driving force behind India’s middle-tier art market: interior designers who purchase works on behalf of their clients. This collector base is known to be one of the most dependable in the industry, and with many Indian cities experiencing construction booms, the demand for art to fill new homes is expected to remain steady.

“Each year at the fair, we see many of our galleries do business with interior designers and architects,” Asokan said. With this group of buyers in place, she hopes the fair can push the boundaries of design even further by “encouraging cross-pollination between disciplines,” which South Asian collectors are “especially receptive to” given their long and diverse traditions of artisanship and craft.

Innovation may be necessary to stay ahead of the competition, but when it comes to expanding the overall market, it appears that IAF continues to play to the region’s historical strengths.

2 thoughts on ““Exclusive Now: The India Art Fair Opens in Delhi”

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