Art Fair Turns Indian Capital Into Cultural Hub
India’s biggest art fair opened in New Delhi this week with a focus on homegrown artists and exhibits inspired by contemporary themes such as the worst floods in the Kashmir region in more than a century.
A smorgasbord of works by 1,100 artists lured art lovers, gallerists and gawkers to a cavernous exhibition space in the capital, cementing the annual fair’s reputation as one of South Asia’s top cultural events.
Each year, an estimated 100,000 visitors flock to the four-day fair with entry tickets that cost no more than $6. The seventh edition of the fair opened for public viewing on Friday.
“We’ve had five or six sell-out booths and several galleries have done exceptionally well,” founder Neha Kirpal told Reuters.
India’s art scene has been expanding for the past few years, with auctioneer Christie’s second Mumbai auction in December generating sales of $12 million. A report by analysts ArtTactic said confidence in the market was at its highest since 2007.
A life-size wooden replica of a typical Kashmiri house lies on its side at the fair’s entrance, a reminder of the destruction wreaked by floods in the Himalayan state last year.
Kashmiri artist Veer Munshi, who lives in Delhi, took nearly three months to complete the house, and said he would use proceeds from its cost of about 3 million rupees ($48,500) to rehabilitate artists and writers from his native land.
Among an array of paintings, sculpture, video installations and photographs is another wooden exhibit - one inspired by a militant assault on the city of Mumbai in 2008.
Mumbai artist T V Santhosh’s installation tilts the city’s historic railway station at an angle, with several digital clocks on its walls counting down time in the Mumbai landmark.
Like other years, customs duty and red tape threatens to temper the enthusiasm of Western gallery owners attending the fair.
“I was told that a lot of the galleries from the United States stopped (coming) because of all the taxes and all the paper work involved,” said Clarita Brinkerhoff, whose Florida-based gallery is exhibiting for the first time in India.
Brinkerhoff’s metal sculptures of peacocks, India’s national bird, studded with Swarovski crystals found favor with the Delhi crowd, with five of her exhibits sold on the first day.
She wants to be back next year and hoped “the process would not be so complicated”. It may be years before New Delhi can hope to match art fairs in Hong Kong or Dubai, but Kirpal is unperturbed. “The good news is that we are at the beginning of our growth curve for the market,” she said.