Happily irregular

Blessy Augustine | Updated on July 15, 2019 Published on February 02, 2018

By a canvas: Tarini Sethi, artist and curator of The Irregulars Art Fair (TIRAF) azra sadr   -  Azra Sadr

On the floor: TIRAF will be held in a factory that no longer makes furniture   -  Aparna Mohindra

An ‘anti art-fair’, meant for independent artists, will run parallel to the eighth India Art Fair in Delhi

As Delhi gears up for the eighth edition of the India Art Fair (IAF), artist and curator Tarini Sethi is challenging the norm with The Irregulars Art Fair (TIRAF) — an anti art-fair for independent artists. Beginning on the same day as the main fair, February 9, TIRAF will take place in an empty factory in Khirki Extension. Instead of a marketplace, TIRAF promises to be an immersive experience, showcasing the concerns of India’s young artists.

BLink caught up with Sethi to know more about the latest addition to Delhi’s bustling art scene.

What is an anti art-fair?

It’s a rebellion against the rules of the art fair and the way the art market works. We are not anti art-fair in the sense that we are trying to put down everything it does. I would love to be part of the India Art Fair at some point. The Irregulars Art Fair is about giving independent artists a more transparent platform to exhibit their works.

There are quite a few anti art-fairs that happen around the world. They too happenalongside the main art fair in those cities. Again, they are not anti art-fair per se, but are trying to do things differently.

What do you aim to achieve with TIRAF?

Firstly, it’s about opening up the art market. The art market in India, especially Delhi, is meant for people with money. So, galleries prefer promoting art that is meant to be put up in living rooms and office spaces. People aren’t open to representations of nudity or buying art that is inexpensive. We want to change that. We want to show all kinds of art and make sure that at least some of it sells. So, we have been actively reaching out to collectors and patrons.

Secondly, it’s about repurposing space. TIRAF will take place in a factory that used to produce furniture. Instead of booths, we will have long hallways and staircases. It’s another way of opening up the idea of where you can see and/or buy art.

On the floor: TIRAF will be held in a factory that no longer makes furniture   -  Aparna Mohindra



What made you, an artist, take up this role of a curator and organiser?

My own work is very sexual. It is filled with weird human and anthropomorphic figures that are all naked. When I came back to India in 2014 after completing my BFA in drawing from the Pratt Institute in New York City, I realised that there wasn’t space for my kind of work. Firstly, because it involves nudity, and, secondly, because drawing isn’t considered a worthwhile investment. I realised that because of the art market’s hang-ups, a lot of amazing work wasn’t getting shown or encouraged.

Opening up the market also means opening it up for all kinds of viewers. I want people to get up on a Saturday morning and say, “I have a free day, let me go see some art.” A select group does it, but it’s not as common as going to a dance performance or music concert. Even though established artists are able to price their works high, art is very low on the totem pole of our cultural imagination. As an artist I want my work to matter, and that meant taking up all these other roles as well.

What does TIRAF’s lineup look like?

Of the 200 submissions we received, we have selected works by 45 artists. Apart from the display by these artists, there will be poetry sessions and film screenings. The artists at TIRAF are much younger than those exhibited by established galleries. So, you will get to see the issues my generation is concerned with. It is rebellious and much of it deals with politics and social issues. If one artist engages with the concept of “fair and lovely”, then another thinks about the safety, or, rather, non-safety of being a woman. There will be murals, drawings, and live printmaking as well.

How do you see TIRAF growing?

I’m hoping that there will be enough encouragement for TIRAF to become an annual affair. We need more artist-centric spaces. So, I’m hoping to convert this factory into a permanent studio and exhibition space. It will work on membership basis and have printmaking and screen-printing equipment for common use.

(The Irregulars Art Fair will take place in Studio Khirki, S-4 Khirki Extension, from February 9-11)


Blessy Augustine is an art critic based in New Delhi


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Published on February 02, 2018
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