More foreign galleries line up, attracted by the booming art market

The show keeps getting bigger and bigger. Two years ago the India Art Summit in Delhi got 40,000 footfalls, last year the number jumped to 1.28 lakh – and art was said to have reached the middle class.

Now, in its fourth edition and sporting a new name - the India Art Fair - and at a new venue, the country's biggest art event is hoping to go even more mass.

If Wednesday's super-crowded preview at the tastefully done up 12,000-sq-m venue at the NSIC exhibition grounds was anything to go by, then festival director Neha Kirpal's optimistic projections will hold.

On Thursday afternoon, too, once the Republic Day movement restrictions were off, a large crowd could be seen entering the fair grounds. Encouragingly, many were buying entry tickets - and not coming in through the free-pass route.

Not surprisingly, gallery managers like Lloyd Tan of Indigo Blue Art from Singapore looked pleased as punch. “We had sold out our works last year,” said Tan, gleefully, as he took you around his exhibits - a mix of Indian masters like Jamini Roy and G.R. Santosh - as well as some eye-catching cat sculptures which are part of a brand new series called The Babu, the Nayika and the Cat, inspired by Kalighat paintings. This year, there has been a rise in the number of foreign galleries displaying, all clearly eager to capture a slice of the booming Indian art market. Compared to last year - when of the 84 galleries showing, 34 were international - this year, out of the 91 galleries showing, only 48 are Indian.

Big galleries like UK's Hauser & Wirth and White Cube are participating this year, and art dealers from Zurich and London could be seen at the venue.

While many of the established European galleries (from the UK, Spain, Greece, Germany) could be seen exhibiting paintings by renowned artists like Marc Chagall, Salvador Dali, Picasso and Hanneke Beaumont with eye-popping prices listed, there were younger galleries from countries like Argentina exhibiting more affordable contemporary works by younger talents. Australian gallery Karen Woodbury from Melbourne displaying the works of Sam Jinks drew a huge crowd as his silicone and silk rendition of a woman with child was so eerily lifelike that it beat any Madame Tussaud wax representation.

The rise in new media displays also showed where art is headed - with video, sound and digital media installations stealing much of the show.

(This article was published on January 26, 2012)
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