Does the India Art Fair 2023 mark a cultural rebirth for the Indian art scene?

India Art Fair 2023 debuts a fusion of art and technology, straddling modern and contemporary in India's capital through installations, talks, and performance art.

by Vatsala SethiPublished on : Jan 23, 2023

Southeast Asian countries, among them the Indian subcontinent, have long struggled with establishing their mark on the art world. Despite a rich cultural and artistic heritage, a lack of tangible infrastructure and patronage of foreign agencies rather than governmental entities can be attributed to the art community's dismal state. Owing to these challenges, one is often left to wonder if the art communities in India are left to their own devices to raise the bar?

In 2023, though, it feels as though we are on the verge of a transition. A subtle but significant change is visible, with numerous autonomous places leading the cultural rebirth in the Indian capital and other significant metropolises. Add to that the expansion of the Indian art community via curated periodicals, journals, zines, and interactive events. Covering the expanse of the subcontinent are several art events that take place all year round, that not only honour traditional art but also promote technology art.

A significant contributor to the burgeoning and diverse Indian art scene is the India Art Fair, which welcomes visitors to view not only native but also international art, opening them to Indian culture while also engaging them with discourses and conversations from around the globe. For the 2023 edition of the art fair, which is predicted to be their most ambitious exhibition to date, they are showcasing a wide range of cutting-edge contemporary and digital artistic talent with modern masterpieces.

Kismet, 2022, Pencil and hand Embroidery on linen, T. Venkanna | India Art Fair| STIRworld
Kismet, 2022, Pencil and hand Embroidery on linen, T. Venkanna Image: Courtesy of Gallery Maskara
Hanging by a thread III, 2021, Lakshmi Madhavan | India Art Fair| STIRworld
Hanging by a thread III, 2021, Lakshmi Madhavan Image: Courtesy of Devi Art Foundation

With India set to become the world’s fifth-largest economy, the expansion of its art market has grown in parallel, with the India Art Fair at its helm. This year the event will feature an expanded floorspace to showcase South Asia's top talent, including modern and contemporary art, as well as an expanded studio showcasing the fair's digital artist-in-residence programme. The show will serve as a gathering place for curators, collectors, and other art industry professionals, fostering cross-cultural relationships and connections with the global art scene. The exhibition is separated into various sectors—Galleries, Focus, Platform, Institutions, The Studio and Outdoor Projects, that provide special attention to different art forms.

“The scale and diversity of the fair in 2023 reflect the expansion of the contemporary and modern art market across India and South Asia, as well as burgeoning interest from the international community. We are particularly proud of all of our artists who are testing the boundaries of contemporary and traditional arts or digital innovation, with many coming from previously unexplored regions of India. We are proud of the quality of work they are producing and powerfully responding to our changing times,” states Jaya Asokan, Director, India Art Fair.

Forest of the Futures, 2023, India Art Fair facade (Detail), Tushar and Mayur Vayeda | India Art Fair| STIRworld
Forest of the Futures, 2023, India Art Fair facade (Detail), Tushar and Mayur Vayeda Image: Courtesy Tushar and Mayur Vayeda, and India Art Fair

Vadehra Art Gallery, Gallery Espace, Nature Morte, Jhaveri Contemporary and DAG are some of the finest contemporary art galleries in the region and ones to look out for in the Galleries section. Showcasing solo presentations curated by participating galleries, this year's Focus section will have a strong emphasis on painters, displaying distinguished names such as—Jayashree Chakravarty, Avijit Dutta and Waswo X. Waswo, as well as upcoming mid-career artists such as Anni Kumari and emerging artists Viraj Khanna and Digbijayee Khatua. The Platform is another section that will showcase the rich artistic traditions of India through works of contemporary masters of traditional arts, like Warli (Vayeda brothers), Gond (Dhavat Singh), Madhubani (AK Jha and Padma Shri Baua Devi), Pattachitra (Prakash Chandra), Kalamkari art (S.Srinivas Rao), Bhil traditions (Padma Shri awardee Bhuri Bai) and Chamba Rumal (Charu Centre run by DCC) amongst others.

Mipa Blue to Red Mix 2 and Black Mist, 2018, Stainless steel and lacquer, Anish Kapoor | India Art Fair| STIRworld
Mipa Blue to Red Mix 2 and Black Mist, 2018, Stainless steel and lacquer, Anish Kapoor Image: Courtesy of Galleria Continua

International Galleries to look forward to include Galleria Continua, which will exhibit pieces by Anish Kapoor, JR, and Osvaldo González. Additionally, Marc Straus will feature Anne Samat; Bruno Art Group will present Andy Warhol; Saskia Fernando Gallery will show artists Jagath Weerasinghe and Chandraguptha Thenuwara; Grosvenor Gallery will shine a spotlight on Senaka Senanayake; and Aicon will include Rasheed Araeen and Victor Ekpuk within its booth presentation.

The Future is Born of Art Commission, 2023, Devika Sundar | India Art Fair| STIRworld
The Future is Born of Art Commission, 2023, Devika Sundar Image: Courtesy of India Art Fair and BMW India

It's noteworthy that the art festival will also enable visitors to discover and experience the power of digital art through an arresting mix of tech-meets-art projects and installations. The Studio will be a dedicated Digital Residency Hub showcasing artworks made by the three India Art Fair Digital Artists in Residence, all made on iPad Pro and in response to the theme Finding the Extraordinary in the Ordinary. India Art Fair and BMW India will also showcase a special commission entitled The Future is Born of Art, by Indian artist Devika Sundar who will design the wrap for the all-new BMW X7, responding to the theme of Forwardism, presenting a unique vision of a future where art, science, and fiction meet.

Stills from the film PIPIO A bird flies a stone is thrown, Payal Arya and Aditi Kulkarni  | India Art Fair| STIRworld
Stills from the film PIPIO A bird flies a stone is thrown, Payal Arya and Aditi Kulkarni Image: ©Aditi Kulkarni and Payal Arya

In a first, the art show will release an all-women-led poster zine called Fire in the Belly, supporting the voices of eight creative powerhouses and artists. Leading artists and arts professionals are also expected to be invited to align on important issues as part of the talks programme called Align & Disrupt, which will take place in the fair's auditorium. Additionally, the IAF Parallel programme, which is scheduled to run through the course of the India Art Fair month, will offer guests a distinctive, multi-layered celebration of New Delhi's art scene. Featuring exhibits by Method India and Art Incept at STIR Gallery in Chattarpur, the Young Collectors Programme will provide collector nights and tours of the city's trendy art neighbourhoods, including Studio Art, Pulp Society, and ArtBuzz in Okhla.

Beyond The Body and Gender, 2021, performance, Debashish Paul | India Art Fair| STIRworld
Beyond The Body and Gender, 2021, performance, Debashish Paul Image: Courtesy of Debashish Paul

The fair's Artists-in-Residence programme supports a variety of artistic mediums and varied viewpoints. Among the multiple art performances, the one we are excited to witness is Debashish Paul in an art performance titled Me & My Pets. Paul will bring back the fun of childhood by having conversations with made-up animals, characters, and his various inner identities, as a way to explore his queer identity. The Vayeda brothers are expected to transform the fair’s facade into a Forest of the Future based on Warli customs, legendary tales, and rituals, honouring their community and ancestors. From the Outdoor Projects, one should not miss out on Sonia Khurana's immersive performance installation, Container Project, supported by Kiran Nadar Museum of Art where visitors are invited to parse out the meaning.

Daughter Weave Through Eternity, 2022, Rattan sticks wooden and plastic ornaments, metal beads, and washers, Anne Samat | India Art Fair | STIRworld
Daughter Weave Through Eternity, 2022, Rattan sticks wooden and plastic ornaments, metal beads, and washers, Anne Samat Image: Courtesy of Marc Straus

While it is unclear which route Indian arts will take, the country's current situation offers fertile ground for several options to coexist at once. For instance, it is possible that India may develop into a major Asian art hub, comparable to China, where it would serve as a focal point for the region's artistic community. On the other side, the city may slant even more toward technology, becoming a key hub for the expanding TechArt movement and home to a potentially vibrant digital art scene. As a consequence of the show’s previous iterations, a significant number of creative entities have strengthened their relationships with global markets and art connoisseurs, while many others anticipate establishing crucial connections thanks to the exposure they got. There is something for everyone at the India Art Fair 2023, whether they wish to immerse themselves in traditional paintings or are members of the tech community interested in digital arts and their future. Without a doubt, the environment benefits collectors, and people trade ways and ideas. The second version of the art expo following the pandemic demonstrates that the art world has recovered from the pandemic.

India Art Fair will be on public viewing from February 9 to 12, 2023, at the NSIC Exhibition Grounds in New Delhi.

Cloud Gate, 2019, Watercolour and charcoal on unbleached cotton fabric, Anju Dodiya | India Art Fair| STIRworld
Cloud Gate, 2019, Watercolour and charcoal on unbleached cotton fabric, Anju Dodiya Image: Courtesy of Chemould Prescott Road
TBT, 2022, Oil and Oil Pastel on Canvas, Anoushka Mirchandani | India Art Fair | STIRworld
TBT, 2022, Oil and Oil Pastel on Canvas, Anoushka Mirchandani Image: Courtesy of Anoushka Mirchandani and Galerie Isa

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