India Art Fair 2024: The Dazzle, Design, And Drama Of Art

From MF Hussain to Andy Warhol and many names from the realm of contemporary art, the 15th edition of the India Art Fair was truly an iconic affair
GALLERIA CONTINUA BoothCourtesy of India Art Fair

India's modern and contemporary art scene is fast evolving, with a vast variety of artists taking the art world by storm. For artists, collectors, curators and enthusiasts, the India Art Fair has become one of Delhi's most anticipated and defining annual cultural events. India Art Fair (IAF), the leading platform credited for showcasing modern and contemporary art from India and South Asia, recently concluded its 15th edition in the national capital. This edition was the biggest yet, with over 100 exhibitors, including more than 70 galleries and seven design studios.

Art History 101

IAF was conceptualised by Neha Kirpal in 2008 in the wake of the Indian Art Boom. Drawing inspiration from globally renowned art fairs like Frieze London and Art Basel, Kirpal envisioned the fair as a private venture to catalyse interest in Indian art and forge connections with galleries and collectors.

Formerly known as the India Art Summit, the event has been instrumental in fostering commercial interest in Indian art and is revered as a premier platform for seasonal sales of Indian and South Asian art in the subcontinent.

Sheetal Mallar's Braided photo series
Sheetal Mallar's Braided photo seriesAntaraa Chatterjee

Spanning four days, the IAF reserves its first day for VIP invitees, predominantly collectors and gallerists, granting them exclusive access. Held at the NSIC Grounds in Okhla, New Delhi, the fair transforms tents into white cube gallery spaces, complete with restaurant, cafe, bar sections, and food stalls for visitors. The fair's programming encompasses diverse activities, including lectures, performances, and guided tours, enriching the experience for attendees.

IAF 2024

Siddharth Gohil aka Khatra, is the visionary behind the 100-meter-long carpet leading you onto the India Art Fair Grounds
Siddharth Gohil aka Khatra, is the visionary behind the 100-meter-long carpet leading you onto the India Art Fair Groundsindiaartfair/Instagram
Quirky installations were interspersed throughout the venue
Quirky installations were interspersed throughout the venueAntaraa Chatterjee

This year's vibrant art extravaganza saw many artists exhibiting in exciting booths. The fair, held between February 1st and 4th, housed a repository of fresh voices and familiar names in the art world. Upon entering the NSIC exhibition grounds, a few installations greeted you. Among them was a particularly arresting piece. Titled 'Transformations', the immersive installation was a collaborative effort by Skarma Sonam Tashi and Philipp Frank, supported by the Ladakh Arts and Media Organisation and the German Embassy. Built with sustainable materials such as reused bamboo, clay and papier-mache, it mirrored the rugged terrain of Ladakh.

The many tents at the fair were divided according to the exhibits inside. There were three divisions: the main tent spanning multiple smaller tents with the bulk of the exhibitors was the biggest one, the auditorium where the talks and sessions were held and the digital art tent.

The Stand Outs

The MF Hussain stall had a guard stationed outside
The MF Hussain stall had a guard stationed outsideCourtesy of India Art Fair

While the MF Hussain stall had a guard stationed outside, the Akar Prakar and Carpenters Workshop Gallery piqued the interest of most visitors. As the world vouches for the subjectivity of art, here are some stalls this year that truly spoke to me.

Carpenters Workshop Gallery: Making its IAF debut, the Carpenters Workshop Gallery was truly an experience to be had. Carpenters Workshop Gallery, in collaboration with renowned designer Ashiesh Shah, presented a joint booth centred around the theme of "Querencia" – a Spanish term encapsulating a place of safety and inspiration akin to a cherished home. The carefully curated selection of artists featured seasoned veterans like Karl Lagerfeld, Wendell Castle, Nacho Carbonell, and Ingrid Donat alongside emerging talents, showcasing a fusion of local and international artistry to the Indian audience. Additionally, Shah introduced his own pieces in partnership with the gallery.

Karl Lagerfeld's Untitled XIII Fountain Arabescato
Karl Lagerfeld's Untitled XIII Fountain ArabescatoCourtesy Carpenters Workshop Gallery

Janhavi Khemka's Waiting for the Dawn: In the digital auditorium, Janhavi Khemka's installation really stood out. Khemka, a hearing-impaired artist, made animated lip patterns from woodcut prints and projected them on a vibrating platform. The dark room had digital artwork on the walls depicting an open faucet gushing out water and overflowing the basin, thunderclouds gathering, and someone knocking on the door-- all of the things that are identified best by sound, but the artist is unable to hear any of them. These animated projections were so realistic that in the stark silence of her sark booth, all you could feel were sounds.

Jitish Kallat- Antumbra, FICA: This immersive installation could be best described as the passage of time. The installation included the phases of the moon and sun, creating cycles of days and nights, Nelson Mandela's blood pressure readings as noted on his prison calendar pages, and his desk calendars spanning 1976 to 1989 and chronicling tumultuous events in South African and global history. These images were juxtaposed deliciously with striking images of lush meadows and majestic mountains. The breathtaking beauty of the world versus the bleak surroundings of prison showcased the dichotomy between freedom and confinement in perfect harmony through Antumbra. 

From Sunaina Bhalla's Incursions, Incisions and Renewal
From Sunaina Bhalla's Incursions, Incisions and RenewalSunaina Bhalla

Sunaina Bhalla's Incursions, Incisions and Renewal, Exhibit 320: Artist Sunaina Bhalla delves into the depths of human contradictions in her poignant artwork, shaped by her battle with breast cancer. Employing techniques such as burning and tearing, she metaphorically represents life's cyclical essence. Through the fusion of traditional crafts like ajrakh block printing with medical elements, Bhalla captures the stark duality of pain and healing, isolation and connection. Her creations offer a raw portrayal of personal turmoil while expressing a profound longing for acknowledgement and understanding.

The miniature Péro dolls
The miniature Péro dollsAntaraa Chatterjee

Other notable works: Gallerie Nvyā showcased old favourites-- Jamini Roy and SH Raza, along with Paresh Maity and KS Radhakrishnan. Gallery Maskara T Venkanna's 'Strong Desire', a beautiful pencil and hand embroidery on linen, depicted the unending lust for life. The Péro 100 Limited edition saw the miniature versions of life-sized garments from the brand's collection fashioned on dolls. 

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