In this interview, Jaya Asokan, Fair Director of India Art Fair, talks about the ongoing edition of the fair in the light of the pandemic, the challenges that she and her team had to face in coming out with this edition after a hiatus.
India Art Fair, driven by the endeavor to discover and celebrate modern and contemporary art from South Asia, opened this week amid great anticipation and enthusiasm from visitors, collectors, and exhibitors. It will run from 28 April – 1 May 2022 at the NSIC Grounds, Delhi, India. In partnership with BMW India, the fair puts the works of 77 exhibitors, including 63 galleries and 14 non-profit foundations and institutions.
Helmed by Jaya Asokan, the new edition sees participation from Kochi Biennale Foundation, Chennai Photo Biennale Foundation and Serendipity Arts, among others. The fair spotlights the next generation of artists, alongside modern masters, through initiatives like Auditorium talks, performances, outdoor art projects, artist-led workshops, and an online symposium in the run up to the fair. IAF Parallel programme including events and exhibitions of Indian and South Asian art are simultaneously taking place in cities across India and the world.
In this interview, Jaya Asokan, Fair Director of India Art Fair, talks about the ongoing edition of the fair in the light of the pandemic, the challenges that she and her team had to face in coming out with this edition after a hiatus, the prospects of the hybrid formats for festivals and fairs, the changing paradigms and the possibility of going beyond the metros and the bigger cities, among other things.
Q. As the Fair Director of the India Art Fair, how do you look at this edition in the light of the pandemic?
A. It’s definitely been challenging because if we are coming back after two years it was very important for us to have great representation for the whole community. Now, I am an Art President for a number of institutions, almost fourteen, and these are the ones who I am really working with. I mean younger artists, the next generation, and it was important for us to give them a platform. It was also important for us to have diversity and inclusivity and so we have for instance the Aravani Art Project, which is a public art project. Those are some of the things we kept in mind as we really look at this edition as coming back together after two years, not only the galleries but the institutions, the collectors, and the whole fraternity.
Q. Tell us about the challenges that you had to face in coming out with this edition.
A. Like with everything else with the pandemic, we had to postpone the fest. It was initially slated for February. So, of course, there are always production related challenges when you are shifting the things around. The weather as well can be challenging. But, fortunately, we are seeing a great enthusiasm amongst the collectors to come in. India Art Fair’s return to its physical format has been a cause of great excitement for the Indian and South Asian art scene. Now, I really don’t like to compare it to the past. I think we all must look towards the future and shape it to what we want it to be. We have had a few great initiatives with this edition as well like the NFTs, etc and we just want to build on that for the future.
Q. How do you look at the prospects of the hybrid formats for festivals and various events now that we are slowly moving towards normalcy?
A. Yes, I think, the hybrid will absolutely stay. Will it all turn digital? I don’t think so! I mean we can see the people outside. I think the people always gravitate towards the physical formats but the future will definitely see a lot more of these hybrid events. We have also been doing a lot of digital programming during the last six months or so such as walkthroughs and symposiums. We had a few small offline events in Kolkata and other cities and so we are also working our way around to see what works but the future is definitely hybrid.
Q. As the Fair Director how do you look at the changing paradigms as far as the India Art Fair is concerned?
A. We are actually very keen to move it beyond the four day event. I think that’s one of the changes that I am very keen to do because I feel that we can offer a lot more, whether it’s digitally or whether its small weekends. And we have already been seeing some great response to such initiatives. Like, for example, we did a Collector’s Weekend in Kolkata which is just a two day itinerary, taking people around, and also it’s a great way to showcase what’s happening in other cities outside of Delhi, which we also want to do.
Q. Since you are keen on taking the India Art Fair outside Delhi to other cities, how do you look at the possibility of going beyond the metros and the bigger cities, targeting smaller towns across the country?
A. I think the thing is we always focus on the smaller towns when it comes to either audience engagement or programming. So that’s why we are able to offer it digitally to them. We are definitely interested in doing things in these cities. We may not take the fair there but we would love to have smaller events from time to time. That’s something we are thinking of doing at this point of time.
Q. What are your recommendations to those visiting the India Art Fair this year? Also, tell us about the measures that you have taken this year owing to the constantly lurking threat of the pandemic.
A. I think this year we have a lot of young emerging artists, especially for first time collectors. I believe the selection is fantastic. So they definitely can go home with something.
We are fully prepared and are following all government mandated guidelines even in terms of the number of people we are allowing. The sanitizers are in place and wearing the masks is compulsory. We are taking all the necessary measures.