India Art Fair 2024 Expands, Delights with Art in Myriad Forms

India Art Fair 2024 was at its largest ever, with a focus on design.

By: Suman Tarafdar

Posted on: February 6, 2024

India Art Fair (IAF), one of the country’s leading annual art events, marked its 15th anniversary at the latest edition, which was held from February 1 to 4, 2024. And it’s been a remarkable journey for the fair. To its credit, it has taken art out of museums and galleries, and brought it to a significantly wider audience. Of course, as a platform, it showcases a fairly wide diversity of art – Indian and even some of the biggest names in global art such as Ai Weiwei.

Visitors at India Art Fair 2024

A visitor at Chemould Prescott Road booth at India Art Fair 2024.

The 2024 edition of IAF was the largest to date, with more than a hundred exhibitors, including galleries, institutions and design studios from India and around the world, points out Jaya Asokan, Fair Director, India Art Fair.

Charming art

While most of India’s leading galleries were represented at the fair, there was a significant international presence in the main galleries section, including renowned galleries such as Carpenters Workshop Gallery, Marc Straus, neugerriemschneider and Galleria Continua, who brought works by not only global headliners such as Olafur Eliasson, Eva Jospin and Ozioma Onuzulike, but also the contemporary South Asian artists in their rosters, such as Shilpa Gupta and Nikhil Chopra. Ms. Asokan points out, “We had Galerie Geek Art showing coveted Japanese artists like Takashi Murakami, Indigo+Madder from London showing some of the most exciting young South Asian and diasporic artists working today, and Saskia Fernando Gallery from Colombo showing Sri Lankan master artists.”
Creditably, the art on display – and sale of course – seemed to be more varied than recent editions. Sure, the usual heavyweights from Ai to crowd favourites such as Tayeba Husain Lipi – known for blade-based art – were present. As were Indian Modern Masters such as Husain, Raza, Souza et al. And you can’t ignore the biggest names of Indian contemporary art such as Subodh Gupta, Shilpa Gupta and Paresh Maity. 

KM Gupta India Art Fair 2024

K.M. Singh Untitled. Stone paint and gold leaf on fabric. Showcased by Gallery Ragini at India Art Fair 2024.

Another difference was that affordability seemed important. Instead of the usual profusion of eye-catching installations, there seemed to be much more wall art and traditional Indian paintings. Anecdotal evidence suggests the sales have been “very encouraging” - as one gallerist put it. 
Outdoor art projects, a regular feature of the fair, included a video work by Irish artist John Gerrard supported by the Los Angeles Museum of Art (LACMA); the winning installation by the first ever MTArt Agency x India Art Fair Artist Prize, Sajid Wajid Shaikh; and installations by artists like Shun Sudo, Gigi Scaria and Pulak Sarkar.

Art talk

Ashiesh Shah Naga Chair

Ashiesh Shah's Naga Chair at India Art Fair 2024.

IAF 2024 hosted some of the world’s leading voices in art, design and culture at their Talks Programme this year, including artists like Rana Begum, Anita Dube, Jitish Kallat and French-Cameroonian artist Barthélémy Toguo; museum directors like Michael Govan, CEO and Wallis Annenberg, Director at LACMA, and Klaus Biesenbach, Director of the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin; and leading experts like art market columnist Melanie Gerlis, Sonal Singh - Managing Director of Christie’s India, and Darshan Mehta - President of Reliance Brands Ltd. It was a who’s who of some of South Asia’s most path breaking curators and changemakers.

BMW continued to be ‘presenting partner’ for the eighth year, including three years of the ‘The Future is Born of Art’ Commission, one of the largest artist commissions in the country. The theme for this year’s The Future is Born of Art was ‘Forwardism’, and the winning artist, Sashikanth Thavudoz, unveiled an immersive multi-sensory installation titled ‘Symphony of Nature: The Harmonic Forest’, using natural and manufactured materials to speak to the fragility of our ecological balance. Unlike earlier cars, which had the selected artist of the year working on the car’s surface itself, Mr. Thavudoz chose to highlight the car with brightly lit stalactite like illuminated pillars.  

Karishma Swali Chanakya India Art fair 2024
Karishma Swali & Chanakya School of Craft presented the embroidered Forest Dwellers 2023 at India Art Fair 2024.  

Other partners for the fair included Rado, JSW, India Sotheby’s International Realty, and SoulTree. New partners included Vianaar, Tarun Tahiliani Design Studio, Chandon, Faber-Castell, Aava and The Marg Foundation. Chandon even launched their first made in India red wine – Aurva – at IAF.  

Designers guild

Design makes a major entry into IAF this year, with the inaugural Design section becoming one of the biggest highlights. “We spotlight seven pioneering design studios making collectible and limited-edition pieces,” says Ms. Asokan. The highlights included brass repoussé work by Vikram Goyal, a collaboration between Rooshad Shroff and artist T. Venkanna, reinterpretations of Indian craft objects by Gunjan Gupta of Ikkis, innovative jewellery by Studio Renn, Karishma Swali & the Chanakya School’s work with master textile artisans, Atelier Ashiesh Shah’s work with India’s craft traditions, and hand-painted wallpaper by global design house de Gournay.

Rooshad Shroff India Art fair 2024
The Rooshad Shroff X T. Venkanna Deoch & Doris Coffee Table 20023 at India Art Fair 2024 - made with recycled old burma teak wood, natural PU polish and marble.

“We firmly believe that there are no boundaries when it comes to creativity and artists of all kinds have always been in dialogue to broaden their practices and generate new ideas,” explains Ms. Asokan. “The inaugural collectible Design section at India Art Fair is built upon this fundamental principle. The worlds of art and design have always been in conversation with each other, and the aim of the Design section is to promote even greater cross-pollination among creative disciplines.”
There are already fairly well-established design fairs in the country, including in Delhi. The design studios at IAF showed limited-edition, handmade and unique pieces that are conceptual and deeply process driven — and explore dimensions of design objects beyond the purely functional. “South Asia is quickly becoming a global design destination, with design studios from the region being shown around the world,” stresses Ms. Asokan. “Our Design section showcased some of these pioneers, paying homage to South Asia’s long history of craft while making contemporary interventions and defining a new South Asian aesthetic.”

Studio Renn India Art fair 2024
Studio Renn's Strangler Ring at India Art Fair 2024.  

The pioneers seemed to be excited to be part of the fair. The lines between art and design are more blurred than ever, says Rahul Jhaveri, Creative Director, Studio Renn. “Over the past few years – there have been considerable inter-disciplinary dialogues between designers and artists, the result of which was that designers began to approach their work with an artistic sensibility, and artists through a designer lens. This undefined blurry line would disappear over the next few years. IAF is at the helm of this movement through its maiden Design section, and it is a privilege to be part of that stance. We exist at the fringe, pushing things beyond and into the unknown. Showcasing our work at IAF is part of that journey.”
“Being part of the maiden Design section is an honour as it allows us to shape new narratives and blur the boundaries between art, design, and craft,” says Karishma Swali, Creative Director, Chanakya International and Chanakya School of Craft. “In our practice, we navigate the intersections of art, craft, design, and innovation. While we may assign labels such as art or design to creative expressions, the essence lies in the overarching concept of exploration. It is this spirit of exploration that not only defines the importance of artisanal legacies within tradition but also propels us into exciting new territories.”

Vikram Goyal India Art Fair 2024
Visitor at Vikram Goyal's booth at India Art Fair 2024.  

For designer Vikram Goyal, the past few years have seen incredible innovation in design, including with craft, “which makes this a great time for design to be part of IAF. The collectable design market in particular is growing the world over, and India is following suit. We have so much to offer from a craft perspective, and that creates so much potential for design.” The studio’s seminal artwork this year was Silken Passage, a 28 ft mural crafted in the studio’s signature repoussé technique. This rather arresting work shimmered in gold as it spread across an entire side of the stall, is a tribute to the historic Silk Route, interweaving ancient metallurgy with a contemporary design vocabulary to create the perfect consortium of traditional and modern elements. “I am optimistic that the design showcase at IAF will encourage more international buyers to see India as a potential market for collectable design. The design scape emerging in South Asia is an exciting one, and IAF will highlight that.”
For the fair to have survived several changes of ownership, not to speak of global economic downturn when disposable income effectively vanished, 15 years is testament to its survivability and India’s growing art market. “This is a pivotal time for Indian and South Asian art,” points out Ms. Asokan. “India Art Fair has paved the way for this immense growth, serving as the catalyst for the market and the meeting point for collectors, gallerists and artists over the years.” Whether the entry of Design can play an even more transformative role in the fair’s future, however, remains to be seen. 

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