The global economic slowdown did restrict "impulsive buyers" from splurging at the four-day India Art Fair (IAF) but it didn’t defuse the enthusiasm of the national and international galleries from participating in the annual event, despite not generating enough sales. For the majority, participation is a way of educating people in contemporary arts and building a pool of future collectors.
The seventh edition of the IAF concluded Sunday at which about 3,500 artworks from 85 galleries in a total of 90 booths were exhibited at the spacious NSIC Grounds, Okhla. And this time, the organisers had focussed on employing a rich diversity of mediums, different avenues like curatorial walks and art talks to educate the people on the subject itself.
Continua, which has galleries in Italy, France and China, has been participating at the IAF for the past four years, and not every time does it go back with good sales report. Nevertheless, this hasn’t deterred it from coming come back every year.
"Sales do matter… but they are not everything. We are here to promote culture and show the people what could possibly be art and where the global art is heading to," gallery director Mylene Ferrand told IANS.
"We have many conceptual art works and we know that they will not sell here. But they would be noticed and people would see a different kind of art. This is will help us in building a base for future collectors," she added.
The Indian art market is slowly regaining its momentum after facing a deep slump post-recession. According to London-based independent art market researcher ArtTactic, "The Indian art market’s confidence indicator rose a slight six percent from the last reading in May 2014, now standing at 79 percent and is the highest reading since November 2007."
This renewed energy in the art market does attract international galleries to test new waters in India which is still not a lucrative market like China.
Bert-van Zetten, director of Spain’s del Villa Arte galleries, calls India a good market for the kind of art they sell. Sales were "excellent" last year and many queries have already been registered in their log book for this year.
"Fairs like these help the audience here to look from artworks beyond India. This awareness is extremely important because it will educate them about different forms of art. One just needs to be a bit persistent to encourage their buying," Zetten told IANS.
Similarly, Israel-based Bruno Art Group’s artworks have resonated with the taste of Indian audience, who seemed to have loved the pop-flush of their objects.
"Art has to have a universal appeal and this is the philosophy that drives us," owner and CEO Motti Abramovitz told IANS.
"It is also important to offer best prices that are genuinely saleable," he added.
While these international galleries are waiting patiently to seek genuine transactions from the audience, many gallerists feel the absence of "art education" has made it a flat ground.
"The best way I can describe the Indian art market is that it is flat. People don’t understand contemporary art. When someone gets wealthy, only then they start buying art. So that sensibility and vision are missing among the people," Luciano Donatini, owner of Italy-based MK Search Art, told IANS.
"People have to change their mindsets and start investing in contemporary art because someone they are buying today would be a star tomorrow. There definitely is a huge market in India, but no education," he added.
To fill this gap is why the Delhi Art Gallery took a brave move by capturing the development of Indian modern art from the 19th century at the fair to educate the people about how this genre developed in the country and how various prominent artists contributed to the making of Indian art history.
"It was important to chronicle this journey because art is not taught in schools in India and hence people don’t know how to appreciate art," Kishore Singh, head,
publications and exhibitions, Delhi Arts Gallery, told IANS.
"Even people who know about art, don’t know about major developments. So, in the absence of state patronage, private institutions have to do their bit to support art," he added.
On the global stage, especially in the South Asian region, the India Art Fair has left an impressive imprint and the credit should go to the organisers for initiating engagements that would revitalise India’s lost interest in cultural activities.
"Everybody wants to sell their art, but what we are trying now is to create a space for younger buyers. We want to encourage people buying out of income and not wealth," Neha Kirpal, director and founder, India Art Fair, told IANS.
"And this is the reason why this time there was a focussed approach to invite corporates and investors to the fair to inculcate the habit of buying among them and help them connect with the artists fraternity," she added.
This year, the presence of galleries from Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan reaffirmed Kirpal’s efforts of placing Indian art on the global map and seeking genuine engagements to promote art in India’s diverse ecosystem.