India Art Fair will truly be a celebration of resilience: Jaya Asokan

After a one-year hiatus caused by a pandemic, the India Art Fair returns for its 13th edition to be held from February 3 to 6, 2022 in New Delhi. The largest such event in the country, the fair has a new director – Jaya Asokan, who has taken over the role amid the Covid-19 pandemic. In an interview with Outlook, Asokan, who has two decades of experience in industries like arts, culture, design, fashion and luxury, talks about the challenges of conserving the fair during a global pandemic, why digital is integral to the world of the arts, the need for the arts to be accessible, inclusive and provocative and more.

Excerpts from the interview:

The 13th edition of the show promises to be better and bigger? What will be the
strong points?

2022 will truly be a celebration of the resilience of Indian and South Asian art, artists and the community at large. The facade of the fair will be transformed into a work of art by an Indian artist, selected on the basis of an open call led by the Gujral Foundation and Artdemic. We want to put young and fresh creative voices at the forefront of the fair, and what better way to do it than this!

Inside the exhibition halls, we will have an excellent selection of over 60 galleries and an unprecedented number of over 10 art institutions, showcasing a wide range of emerging and established Indian and international artists and art projects. Something to particularly highlight is our Platform section which will be dedicated to traditional Indian art forms, led by curator Amit Kumar Jain. Painting masterpieces from Madhubani of Bihar, textiles from Punjab and much more will be on display. Our aim is to show the rich, vibrant and ever-changing nature of traditional artistic practices. There will be organized lectures, film screenings, performances, as well as hands-on workshops and free posters from our artists in residence where we hope visitors get involved not only in the observation, but also in the creation. artistic!

Tell us about the kind of artists the fair will focus on in this edition. We look to the future of Indian and South Asian art, focusing on promising emerging voices that have continued to grow over the past difficult years.

Along with legacy names such as Vadehra Art Gallery, DAG, Dhoomimal Art Gallery (all in Delhi), Experimenter (Kolkata) and Jhaveri Contemporary (Mumbai), the new galleries will also make their very first appearances at the fair, a very promising sign for the growing Indian art scene. Vida Heydari Gallery (Pune), Gallery Art Exposure (Kolkata), Modern Art Gallery and Art Incept (both in Delhi) will be all new to the fair, bringing a range of cutting-edge contemporary masterpieces and works, as well as NFT by Terrain From art.

Throughout the year, we work with institutional non-profit partners, many of whom will be strongly present at the fair in 2022, directly from Aravani Art Project –– a collective of transartists based in Bangalore –– whose paintings Murals will adorn the walkway leading to the fair at Serendipity Arts Foundation which will feature an outdoor library of art books. Cultural festivals like the Kochi Biennial Foundation and Chennai Photo Biennale will be at the fair, as well as the performance center led by artist Nikhil Chopra, HH Arts Spaces.

What have been some of the challenges of taking office as Director of the IAF in the midst of a pandemic?

I took on the role of director of the fair in April of this year, just before the second wave hit India. Although difficult, it has also been an incredible year of learning, experimentation and development. The pandemic has taught us some important lessons –– I think it was important for us to take the time to reflect on our position in the art world, and to evolve with a changing world.

How has the pandemic affected the Indian art scene and the South Asian art scene as a whole, and how has it affected the art trade in the region?

One thing that has become clear is the importance of inclusive and accessible artistic programming, which we have always taken seriously and are pursuing in an even more concerted manner. We hope to make the fair a welcoming and pleasant space for all, with guides in Braille, tactile works and model sculptures that visually impaired people can experience by touch. From lectures and auditorium performances to artist-led workshops, masterclasses and open-air commissions, our public program will also be organized to appeal to a diverse audience of artists, collectors as well as those who do not. ‘have no prior art experience of all ages, hoping to initiate conversations and spark new interests and ideas.

We are also using the strength of our digital infrastructure to open up access to art and artists from India and South Asia. Offline, we’ve expanded our IAF Parallel program to include collaborations with design, architecture, art, fashion, music and more – bridges that we at India Art Fair are actively trying to build. Educating the next generation of collectors is another key objective, which will be driven by the fair’s Young Collectors program. Overall, it has been great to see the Indian art market bounce back in full force. In addition to the community spirit and collaborations, this is also due to the fact that the market has built a solid foundation since the downturn of 2009. Since then we have seen gradual growth, which not only bodes well. for this year but also for the long term future.

Even though the IAF is a platform for business, art has historically made more sense than just being a commodity to buy and sell. Will this edition of the IAF feature provocative artwork on politically relevant issues of our time?

Absoutely! South Asia is home to some of the most powerful and creative voices in the world, and we pride ourselves on providing a platform not only for their work, but also the themes, conversations and concerns they address.

Our 2022 Artists in Residence each address important issues through their work – Arpita Akhanda’s work speaks forcefully of the continuing effect of colonialism on the body, Indu Antony’s at times delicate at times scandalous work on femininity and feminism, Gurjeet Singh’s tender and playful account of queer stories, and Haroun Hayward’s meditations on diasporic life. I must add that each artist approaches these subjects in a deeply personal way. Other artists to watch at the fair include Sudipta Das and Sangita Maity, both born in eastern India, Khadim Ali and Affan Baghpati, and Delhi-based Baaraan Ijlal, who tackle all relevant social issues of forced migration and of marginalization. I am also a great admirer of the female-centric photography of Habiba Rowrose, Arshi Irshad Ahmadzai and Bushra Waqas Khan who explore the body, conflict and property in their textile works, as well as international artist Noa Eshkol whose rugs Wildly feminine and nature-inspired murals will be on display at neugerreimschneider’s stand at the trade fair.

The art world has discovered the power of online media over the past year and a half. Will this discovery play a role in the next edition of the IAF?

We take the digital world very seriously because it gives us a way to reach artists, art lovers and not yet art lovers in an unprecedented way. It also allows us to expand beyond the four days of the show and become a year round presence. The India Art Fair website is already a go-to source and repository of the region’s most exciting and important artists – something we continue to build on editorialally, while running online workshops. live, walkthroughs and discussions.

We have also expanded our IAF Parallel program of ongoing events and exhibitions taking place in galleries, museums and alternative arts spaces in India and beyond. We’ve also unveiled a new bulletin board to highlight opportunities for artists and arts professionals, and we’re soon building an archive that will serve as an online database for curious readers and researchers.

About Margaret L. Portillo

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