Someone once said that art, like love, must be expected to take many forms. Innovative installations, life-size sculptures, beautiful pictures, larger-than-life paintings, miniatures, are some of the forms that art has taken in this edition of the India Art Festival.
The event, which provides an important platform to modern and contemporary artists to showcase their work, opened in Delhi on Thursday. This was the first ever Delhi edition of the festival, which brought together some 40 art galleries and more than 300 artists from India and abroad, including countries like Singapore, UAE, Sri Lanka and Switzerland.
The organisers say that the India Art Festival is a successfully-tested model for dialogue and collaborations between art galleries, independent artists, art collectors and connoisseurs. There are many celebrities in the world of contemporary arts, for whom selling their paintings for millions of dollars to international buyers isn’t unusual at all. But what of the lesser known artists?
One of the aims of this festival is to focus on such relatively marginal figures, in order to provide support to those who need it. It is thus that the festival becomes something of an affordable art fair, for buyers and exhibitors alike. So if you are an art lover who wants to get value for your money, you know where to head this Sunday, which is the final day of the festival.
On display are thousands of innovative artworks from independent artists who would only relish this opportunity to get noticed and share gallery space along with several established artists and masters. According to the festival director Rajendra, the event has assumed social and cultural responsibility and so it became crucial to take it to various cities in India. “The Delhi edition opens with an unbiased approach,” he said, “while the India Art Festival remains the flagship brand, it is the artists and the participating galleries that are its ambassadors”.
Among the highlights of this year’s festival are Nisha Jaiswal’s miniatures — which are not for sale. The artist paints in two formats — Hindu deities in black-and-white dots, and multi-coloured peacocks depicting different themes. Each of her pieces takes around two to three years of her time. The collection she is displaying at the India Art Festival, she said, took her over 30 years to finish.
The national capital is indeed a fitting venue for this festival. Delhi as such is an interesting city so far as art is concerned — it has galleries that go back decades in time, as well ones that were launched very recently. Both private and government galleries functioning at various levels and scale contribute to the city’s rich history of art curation.
But most people do not get any opportunity to exhibit in the major art fairs for various reasons. Many art galleries here are deprived of the chance to be part of the festival circuit. And the India Art Festival is a platform for such galleries.
The festival comes to Delhi after successfully completing five editions in Mumbai and an international edition at the World Trade Centre in Seoul, South Korea. The mid-level galleries in Delhi have welcomed the idea of having such a festival with open arms. Even so, 70% of the festival exhibitors here are regular participants at major art shows.
“The India Art Festival is here to democratise the very functioning of the art market and the gallery system. Galleries are private establishments where as art fairs are brand identities. Both have credibility; over a period of time our art market has become more and more democratic through the activities in the secondary art market. There was a time when the works of the masters were available only with the mainstream galleries. But today, medium to small level galleries and several other secondary market operators deal with the works of the masters. That means the market has literally opened up,” said Rajendra.
The festival organisers are now attempting to get major galleries in Delhi and Mumbai to showcase works of lesser-known and independent artists struggling to get noticed.
The international galleries that participated in this year’s India Art Festival include the Kirsanov Photography from Zug, Switzerland; Gnani Arts from Singapore; Myanmar Ink Art Gallery from Dubai; and Segar Gallery from Colombo. The institution Kalavishkar, which organises the festival, is also the publisher of the Indian Contemporary Art Journal, a quarterly art magazine which was launched around a decade ago.