India Art Fair 2013: A Great Success

Elisabetta Marabotto of Saffronart reflects on an interesting article on the India Art Fair by Girish Shahane

India Art Fair

India Art Fair. Image Credit:

London: For people who like me sadly could not make it to the India Art Fair 2013, Girish Shahane, Mumbai based art critic and curator, wrote an interesting blog post about the exhibit.

Comparing this edition to last year’s, the author notes that the fair was much clearer on its purposes and better organized. Some international galleries such as Houser and Wirth, Lisson and White Cube preferred not to join the fair again, partly because of the stringent Indian regulations and partly because they found the market underdeveloped. However, this withdrawal was not necessarily a negative move since it opened up space for other galleries such as Daniel Besseiche who was showing Bangladeshi artist Ahmed Shahabuddin and was appreciated by the Indian art lovers.

Shahane pointed out that this year the fair was more accessible to everyone. The subject matter of the exhibited works was more easily recognizable and the colours and visible skills of the artists took over from last year’s conceptual works which were appreciated only by a few. In addition, the occurrence of many galleries in one place was a great time saver for the people looking to purchase artwork but who didn’t want to spend the entire day roaming around Delhi or Mumbai.

Although this year the art fair was made for a wider audience, many events and parallel exhibitions were organized around Delhi for the art experts. A Nasreen Mohamedi Retrospective was held at the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art and other exhibitions at the British Council, IGNCA, National Gallery of Modern Art, Khoj Artist’s Workshop and the Devi Art Foundation.

The only drawback was that the last of the three pavilions at the fair was not as good as as the others, but still managed to attract many lesser-known art dealers.

All in all, the fair has been a great success for the galleries, viewers and the organizers, perhaps a sign that the economy is slowly raising up again.

Click here to read the full Girish Shahane’s blog post.

Anupam Poddar on Art from Pakistan

Yamini Telkar of Saffronart in conversation with Delhi collector Anupam Poddar 

Famed collector, Anupam Poddar in his Delhi residence
Image credit: Ram Rahman

New Delhi: Anupam Poddar, undoubtedly one of India’s most important contemporary art collectors, hardly needs an introduction. Poddar has been acknowledged worldwide as a premier patron in the ArtReview Power 100 list and on CBS News’s and Apollo Magazine’s lists of the top 20 most influential collectors today, alongside François Pinault, Viktor Pinchuk, Eli Broad and Sheikh Saud Al Thani, the cousin of the Emir of Qatar. Based in New Delhi, Poddar along with his mother, Lekha, set up the Devi Art Foundation in 2008 to house their collection of more than 7,000 contemporary, modern and tribal artworks from across the Subcontinent. India’s first non-profit art center, it was set up to encourage the viewership of the most cutting edge and experimental work from the region. Poddar’s collecting interests have transcended Indian art to encompass Central Asian art including art from Uzbekistan, Oman and Pakistan. He and his mother travel to these countries in search of the best art and talent. The exhibitions at the Foundation are curated out of their collection. In 2010, the Foundation organized Resemble Reassemble, a cross-section of contemporary Pakistani art featuring the works of 45 artists who are part of Poddar’s collection, including Farida Batool, Imran  Qureshi, Ayaz Jokhio, and others.

Ahead of our inaugural Pakistani Art Auction, Anupam shared his insights about art from Pakistan in this tete-a-tete with Yamini Telkar of Saffronart. View the slideshow below for Poddar’s favorite works from the auction.

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Q. What got you interested in art from Pakistan?

I find contemporary art from Pakistan, honest, fresh at the same time experimental and challenging. It is amazing to see the quality of work produced by young students. During one of Rashid Rana’s visits to India, I happened to see images of some works that I found extremely exciting. Soon after, my mother and I made a trip to Pakistan to meet the artists.

Q. Having collected both contemporary Indian and Pakistani art, what according to you are some of the similarities and divergences between the two?

Despite having a shared history, I feel contemporary Pakistani art is more experimental in nature than Indian art. The artists follow their individual pursuits with convictions that are not driven by the market forces or contemporary trends; their personal expressions are highly skillful and insightful.

Q. There is a trend among the ‘culturalti’ to engage in India-Pakistan dialogues. Do you think this has any bearing on artists and the art world? Would you as a collector/institution be interested in such projects?

I don’t think so. They are very few artists who engage with the politics between the countries as their subject matter.To stay away from this, the curatorial strategy of ‘Resemble Reassemble’ was to create a playful visual narrative and not a national survey show. As a collector/institution we wanted the exhibition to challenge the preconceived notions many viewers have and at the same time set up a platform for Indian artists to interact with works and artists from the other side of the border.

Q. Based on your interactions with contemporary artists from Pakistan, what are some of their main concerns?

One of their concerns which I find very exciting is to preserve the miniature tradition. At universities, it is re visualized and presented in a way that it challenges its own boundaries and often tends to surprise the viewer with the outcome. Otherwise, works revolve around their local realities or regional issues. Due to political and financial constraints, many Pakistani artists do not get an opportunity to travel which makes their work more rooted in local realities which are far closer to them than that of an unseen world.

Q. What trends do you see marking the development and collection of Pakistani art in the near future? What is your opinion of an auction dedicated to Pakistani Art?

Compared to the past, there is a lot more interest in contemporary art in Pakistan. We see many galleries opening up in different parts of the world, dealing solely in Pakistani art. There was a presence at Documenta this year, many art fairs and international auctions. An auction dedicated to Pakistani art is a great idea. It makes it much easier for people to buy art from the region, by bypassing bank transfers/shipping/customs – which are an absolute nightmare!

Reviewing Devi Art Foundation’s Sarai Reader 9: The Exhibition

Kanika Anand visits Devi Art Foundation’s recent project Sarai Reader 9: The Exhibition, curated by & in collaboration with Raqs Media Collective

New Delhi: Raqs Media Collective has consistently been curating and creating intellectually stimulating work, even if occasionally too dense for common comprehension. And since its inception, the Devi Art Foundation has hosted meaningful exhibitions that are ambitious yet well presented. So collaboration between the two makes for a potentially successful exhibition with alternative views in both thought and creation.

A look into a work in progress at the Devi Art Foundation exhibition

The basis and impetus behind Sarai Reader 9 is its nature to draw on ‘exhibition’ as an evolving process, introducing new forms of exploring creative thought and method. Invitations are open to anyone with an interesting idea and an engaging means of presentation, limited to a fixed duration and applied in a space.

The path leading to the projection screens showing Ishita Tiwari’s ‘Amateur Film Archive’ including films like Arranged Marriage, Machli, Sab Maal China etc. with contributions from Amitabh Kumar, Aman Sethi, Jacques Ranciere, Vivek Narayanan

The curatorial format follows three episodes, each showcasing a series of the 100 projects in its nine month life. The selection of the first 40 was announced at the opening on 18 August accompanied with architectural interventions by Sayantan Maitra Boka and Zuleikha Chaudhari; experimental sounds and electro-acoustic music by Ish Shehrawat, Andi Teichmann, Brian Citro and Ignat Karmalito; amateur cinema presented by Ishita Tiwary; and the release of a book by Cybermohalla Hub. The exhibition space in its current avatar reminds one of scaffolding upon which participants will furnish their subjective particulars of expression. The space somehow maintains an air of mystery and sanctity until each proposal’s gradual and final realization, scheduled as per a time-line.

The ideation of the project is certainly refreshing, and its eventual manifestation is something that I’m not the only one looking forward to. It has proved to be a platform for young and emergent energies to partner and experiment in a space widely visited yet one that maintains the demureness of the artist’s studio.

Visualizing the Invisible- Reading & Writing Nietzsche by Belinder Dhanoa

The architectural prototype of the Cybermohalla Hub, by Nikolaus Hirsch and Michel Muller

I wish to see many more of the same endeavors!

More information on the project.

Kanika Anand is an art professional and budding curator specializing in Indian contemporary art. She holds a degree in Art History from the National Museum Institute, New Delhi, and has worked in the field for five years with leading galleries of the like of Gagosian Gallery, Gallery Espace and Talwar Gallery in New York and New Delhi. She is currently pursuing the Curatorial Training Program at the Ecole du Magasin in Grenoble, France, in line with her interest to responsibly curate projects towards making art more accessible as well as inter-disciplinary.

Dinesh Vazirani on a Panel about Contemporary South Asian Art

Elisabetta Marabotto of Saffronart reports about the talk, “New Directions in Contemporary South Asian Art”

From left: Jeffrey Boloten, Erik Wigertz, Dinesh Vazirani, Arianne Levene and Idris Khan

London: On June 6, 2012, the Arts Club in London hosted a panel discussion on contemporary South Asian art featuring Idris Khan, a contemporary British artist with South Asian roots, whose body of work explores concepts such as authorship and time; Arianne Levene, an art advisor for contemporary South Asian, Middle Eastern and Chinese art, and founder of New Art World Ltd.; Dinesh Vazirani, the co-founder of Saffronart; Erik Wigertz,  a well known Swedish collector based in Russia with an interest in South Asian art; and Jeffrey Boloten, the moderator of the panel and co-founder and managing director of ArtInsight.

The aim of the discussion was to examine the new directions that South Asian art is taking through the different perspectives and experiences of the guests on the panel.

In the initial part of the talk Dinesh Vazirani examined the reasons that prompted him and Minal Vazirani (co-founder Saffronart and his wife) to found Saffronart in 2000.  On moving back to India in the mid 1990s, Dinesh and Minal felt there was no access, transparency nor benchmarks, especially in terms of pricing, in the Indian art market and decided to establish Saffronart to fill these gaps.

Talking about the trends relating to infrastructure in the Indian art world, Dinesh argued that after an initial lack of infrastructure and support, things were slowly changing. In fact, private institutions like the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art which opened last year and the Devi Art Foundation, both located in Delhi, host regular exhibitions of modern and contemporary South Asian art and compensate for the lack of quality public institutions in the country. Arianne added that new museums and galleries, such as the one founded by Rajshree Pathy , are emerging in smaller cities like Coimbatore, spreading awareness about the arts beyond the metropolises.

The India Art Fair was another hot topic at the Arts Club, but the panel unanimously agreed that the fair had a great impact on the Indian art market, bringing together international collectors and galleries in one place, and that it also gave the opportunity to Indian collectors to meet foreign galleries and artists.

Also discussed was the fact that over the last few years, there has been a definite development and growth of an international market for Indian art. Many Indian galleries have opened branches in Europe or America, well known auction houses included Indian art in their Contemporary and Post-war art sales, and Indian artists featured in important international art fairs such as Frieze and Art Basel. Moreover, Erik Wigertz just hosted an exhibition of his collection in his native Sweden, which received rave reviews and great interest. However, a lot of the ground work for this growth was established by galleries and auction houses like Saffronart, which managed to reach non-resident Indians in various countries earlier, and helped the market for Indian art spread to all parts of the globe. Recently, however, the large established group of collectors, both individual and institutions, based in India has grown in importance and is dominating the market.

At the end of the discussion the panel was asked to make a prediction about future trends in the South Asian art world. Dinesh felt there will be a return to tradition and Indian heritage, so probably antiquities will be the next market to look at, while Arianne and Erik thought Indonesian art will be the next trend, and Idris jokingly added that he would be the most sought after artist in the coming years. So Dinesh as a joke suggested we should all buy Idris’s works before his prices reaches this peak. I guess we will have to wait to see who is right!

A very interesting Q&A session concluded the talk. One of the last questions was directed at  Erik, who was asked whether the recession and the falling prices of contemporary art ever dissuaded him from buying art. The collector promptly answered that he believes art should be bought following our personal passion and not market trends.

Audience at The Arts Club

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