India Art Fair 2017 edition attracts significant international audiences and collectors exploring burgeoning South Asian market

The 2017 edition of India Art Fair closed on Sunday 5th February following a significant turnout of over 90,000 visitors over the duration of the fair. Founded in 2008, the annual fair has grown to become South Asia’s leading platform for modern and contemporary art and the most significant portal to the cultural offering in the region. India Art Fair 2017 saw participation from a comprehensive range of art world industry luminaries, with 72 exhibitors joined by prestigious collectors from 19 cities across India and 23 countries around the globe, further consolidating the sense of an international focus on the South Asian market.

Neha Kirpal, Founding Director of India Art Fair said: “This edition of India Art Fair has been a huge success, with impressive sales and global engagement from more world leading institutions and collectors than ever before. The strong international institutional turnout and number of established, new and young collectors is reflective of the high level of interest in this region. As we approach our ten year anniversary we look forward to an exciting year ahead, nurturing new relationships and developing our global expertise as a part of MCH Group’s new Regional Art Fair initiative.”

India Art Fair 2017 demonstrated emphatically that confidence in the contemporary art market is high, with over 90% of galleries reporting strong sales results (94% of Indian galleries and 85% of international galleries sold). The prices of the works at India Art Fair ranged from more affordable pieces in the region of $1,000 to major works by artists such as S.H. Raza, F.N. Souza, and M.F. Husain, priced upwards of $8 million. Almost 60% of the 72 exhibiting booths made sales to new and international collectors and over 30% were made to collectors under 40. International interest in India Art Fair has never been higher, with strong attendance from directors, curators, patrons and delegations from prestigious museums including The Met, MOMA and the Guggenheim in New York, TATE, the Ashmolean Museum in UK, Palais de Tokyo in Paris, The Singapore Art Museum, M+ in Hong Kong – to name a few, all looking to find new inspiration in a less exposed region.

With a growing base of new collectors from across the subcontinent, India Art Fair’s position as a critical point of cultural exchange and a portal into South Asian art continues to be affirmed by its successful Collectors’ Programme. Conversely, it is increasingly evident that global Indians are broadening their horizons to the international market, with evidence of deeper engagement with the select international galleries present at the fair. Further to this, the 2017 edition has seen the largest number of collectors from Mumbai since the fair’s inception.

Building on India Art Fair’s ongoing ambition to promote cultural discourse within the region, the Speakers’ Forum was received with critical engagement and debate reinforcing this platform at the fair as a vital forum for discussion within the region and globally. Notable speakers, sharing an array of engaging themes, included Richard Armstrong (Director, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museums and Foundation) and Sheena Wagstaff (Leonard A. Lauder Chairman of Modern and Contemporary Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art) Boon-Hui Tan (Director, Asia Society Museum), Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi (President and Director of the Sharjah Art Foundation), and Anurag Khanna (collector), Vir Kotak (Joint Managing Director, JM Baxi Group), Ashiesh Shah (Founder, Principal Ashiesh Shah Architects).

The Art Fair proactively engaged a range of demographics with a strong policy of diversity and inclusion bringing together children from over 32 public schools in Delhi along with underprivileged children and those with special needs through a series of specially curated participatory events and tours.

One popular return to India Art Fair was Platform, providing an opportunity for the best of established and emerging South Asian galleries, artists and artist collectives to exhibit on an established international platform. Dina Bangdel, Curator of Nepal Art Council said “Having India Art Fair’s Platform series has been absolutely critical for exposure. For the South Asian artists themselves it is an amazing opportunity. Last year’s artists have now gone on to exhibit at numerous biennales and triennales and I think that is really due to India Art Fair and our collaboration with them.”

The recognition of India Art Fair’s place and significance, as both aggregator and facilitator, driving the Indian and South Asian art market in a global context, was re-affirmed early in 2016 when MCH Group, the owners of the Art Basel fairs, announced their partnership with India Art Fair, in their first commitment to their new Regional Art Fair initiative. The initiative is designed to bring a portfolio of the world’s leading regional fairs together to mutually benefit from shared knowledge, contacts and regional expertise in order to help each fair realise it’s maximum potential in a global context.

In 2018 India Art Fair will mark its 10th anniversary. With MCH Group’s involvement, the fair will progress as a leading face-to-face, and digital platform, supporting galleries and partners with a broader reach throughout the year.

Endorsing the results of the fair, here is what a range of some of the most significant collectors and global art world figures said about this edition of India Art Fair and the fair’s future:

Richard Armstrong, Director, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation said: “India Art Fair is irresistible as we have an innate curiosity for what’s going on in contemporary India. The museum has taken a great deal of interest in Indian art, particularly over the last 10 years, and I’ve been hearing a lot about the fair and felt it was important to be here”

Sheena Wagstaff, Leonard A. Lauder Chairman of Modern and Contemporary Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art said: “India Art Fair provides a crucial forum for important conversations that now rarely happen in the public sphere. The fair has grown enormously in this respect, and it is for that reason that I am very happy to be here. I love coming to India Art Fair as it provides such a great opportunity to take the temperature of contemporary Indian art”

Rajeeb Samdani, Founder of the Samdani Art Foundation and Dhaka Art Summit said: “There are a lot of non-commercial events in the region, including the Dhaka Art Summit, the Kochi Biennale and Colombo Biennale, but what is vital for the growth and survival of the art scene in the region is a fair, a market place and a collector base. Since it began, India Art Fair became a meeting point for everyone, which is of huge importance. For the next generation of collectors, India Art Fair is the best place to come.”

Frédéric de Goldschmidt, Collector, Brussels said: “India Art Fair and the Delhi art community seems to be working very well together. As a collector it has been wonderful to be so well received by all the different collectors, museums and galleries, who have had an opportunity to put on their best shows, not only for the international visitors, but also for the Indian visitors and local people. The fair seems to be developing on a rich soil of private initiatives, fuelling a hunger and desire for cultural and artistic activities.”

H. E. Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi, President and Director, Sharjah Art Foundation said: “I always welcome the opportunity to come and visit India Art Fair. I find it very interesting and I have a lot of artist and gallerist friends here so being invited to participate in the Speakers’ Forum was a great opportunity to come back to the fair.”

Carl Christian Aegidius, Collector, Denmark said: “The fair layout is extremely good with a well done and positive feeling. The fair is opening the eyes of collectors both to Indian art and also international art. There is a lot of good indian art and for me some very interesting works with some exciting new discoveries.”

Isabelle and Jean-Conrad Lemaître, Collectors said: “It has been fascinating to get to know the country through its art. The fair is exceedingly well organised and we have been made very welcome. We have seen some very interesting video art from a couple of the galleries and we will certainly be coming back again next year.”

Vishal Mehta, Collector said: “I’ve been coming to India Art Fair for four years. It is a fantastic platform to engage with Indian and South Asian artists, and to find the best of the new younger contemporary artists, not just the moderns. The accessibility at the fair makes it interesting for both collectors and novices. It is a wonderful few days and an important part of the annual art calendar.”

Arjun Sharma, Collector said: “I think this is one of the best editions of the fair that I have seen. I have seen across the board a superior quality of work being shown and this has brought me back to the fair for the third time in three days, and I’ve not had enough of it yet. … The fair helps art in India and in Asia.”

Suhel Seth, Managing Partner of Counselage India said: “I think India Art Fair is evolving with grace, elegance and maturity. It’s now not just a platform to showcase great art – there is a strategic thematic strain running right through the fair. What is very impressive is all the adjunct activity going on, whether it’s the Platform exhibits, the confluence of technology and art, or the manner in which people are being encouraged to participate. … What I love is that the theme has been tightened to South Asia, because then you create a point of discrimination compared to the 250-odd art fairs that happen all over the world.”

JiaJia Fei, Director of Digital, The Jewish Museum said: “With the globalisation of the art market and proliferation of fairs in general this is one of a few that represent a lot of local galleries so I was able to see a lot of art that you don’t get to see at any other major western fair.”

Rajshree Pathy, Founder Director, India Design Forum said: “India Art Fair is very iconic. I have been a supporter since the inaugural event and over the last ten years, it has become like a magnet that consolidated not only the galleries, but the art collectors and those wanting to become collectors. I’ve seen it grow and metamorphose into something that has not only put India on the global contemporary art map but has also defined India not only as an emerging art market, but as an important and relevant art market for the rest of the world. Every year it gets better and better.”

Alessio Antoniolli, Director, Gasworks said: “I think what’s interesting about the art fair this year is that there is a focus on South Asia so it’s a great opportunity for someone from abroad to come here and to use it as an opportunity to research what’s happening on the ground. Not only in the market but also younger artists who may be introduced through the various galleries here.”

Boon-Hui Tan, Director, Asia Society Museum said: “I think the fair has really grown from its first iteration many years ago. I came when it was the Indian Art Summit. What is most interesting is the scene that has grown around it, how alongside the fair, there are all these other gallery and museum exhibitions. I think this makes it the prime convening platform. This is where the entire art world in South Asia gathers.”

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