Issue 19

India Art Fair 2022: Director Jaya Asokan On What to Expect This Year

The India Art Fair is the leading platform to discover modern and contemporary art in South Asia. In anticipation of its upcoming 13th edition – taking place in New Delhi from 28 April till 1 May 2022 – Jaidev Pant has an insightful conversation with Jaya Asokan, the Fair Director.


The India Art Fair has become a trademark exhibition for modern art, with people from all over the country looking forward to the event. What can one expect this year? What should audiences watch out for?

The upcoming edition of the India Art Fair will be first and foremost a celebration of the strength and resilience of artists from India and South Asia. From the monumental fair facade being designed by the young Indian artist Anshuka Mahapatra, our pick from an open call we led in partnership with The Gujral Foundation, to a long and diverse list of names being shown within our exhibition halls for the first time, the aim is to give a platform to new talent and to present the bright future of South Asian art. 

Along with the stellar list of 60+ galleries from India and abroad presenting at the fair, an exciting new dimension of this year’s fair will be the unprecedented number of non-profit art institutions, museums and artist collectives. From a large-scale mural celebrating gender and creative expression by Bangalore based transartist collective Aravani Art Project supported by Saffronart Foundation, spotlighting grant-winning projects of Serendipity Art Foundation and Space 118 to incredible presentations by legacy arts organizations such as the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, Kochi Muziris Biennale, Chennai Photo Biennale and many others, we hope we bring the crucial work being done at the grassroots level in India into focus.

At the same time, we will have an eye to the region’s rich art history, with a newly revamped ‘Platform’ section being led by curator Amit Kumar Jain, and including a selection of masterpieces of Indian living traditions, including Madhubani paintings, primitive bhuta masks and bronze sculptures. We believe in the dynamic cultural scene of India today, the binary classification of folk and contemporary art simply does not hold, and we are pushing to place both at a level playing field.

You can also expect to see important and iconic works by India’s most loved modernist artists from Amrita Sher-Gil to M.F. Husain –– a perfect gateway into understanding and appreciating our art history. At the same time, our public programme of talks, performances, outdoor art projects and artist-led workshops will show off the contemporary voices and presentations, giving audiences an opportunity to participate and take a closer look at the variety of works on display. 

Do you think the rise of NFTs and technology in art has changed what kind of art and artists sell in the market? Will the fair be incorporating the NFT currency or conversations around it in any form? 

The fair is a place to reflect on and give shape to contemporary art world trends. For the 2022 edition, we have invited, a pioneer in this field in India, to present digital and NFT works by young Indian artists like Amrit Pal Singh, Khyati Trehan and Laya Mathikshara in a dedicated space at the fair. We will also have a talk around NFTs through which we hope to shed some light on the blockchain model and how artists are using it. 

I feel modes of circulating and selling art are always changing, and whether it is art that goes through traditional routes or NFTs, ultimately the story and work put into the piece will always be most important, along with the community of people it inspires. We are looking to NFTs as an exciting possibility, the full potential of which has not yet been fully explored, and are keen to lead the discussion in this space. 

Do you think with the pandemic and the consequent shift to mostly virtual art exhibitions and viewings, more diverse audiences are becoming interested in the art world? Or has the digital divide in India further limited who can access art-related events? 

For sure! Digital has allowed art to flourish beyond the big cities, where most galleries are located, as well as become an important means for both collectors and creatives to discover and follow the works and careers of their favourite artists. Although it can never fairly replace seeing and experiencing art in flesh and in person, the power and potential of the online cannot be understated.

Social media especially has become a major medium for sharing and consuming art, and from a market perspective too, it’s having an incredible impact on the art world. Art can be shared, admired and bought all on a smartphone. In very concrete terms, the result is that we are seeing millennials and young buyers buying art online and on social media, without ever having to visit a physical gallery, art fair or auction house.

Galleries have been quick to jump on board too and are using social media and other digital platforms to expand their presence, publish prices and increase exposure for their artists. And both galleries and artists are seeing a growth in art transactions originating online, even among their more traditional “offline buyers”.

I also see digital spaces and communication as an opportunity for knowledge sharing and cross-boundary collaboration. In fact, we recently held a fully virtual international symposium on the future of South Asian art titled ‘Staging the Contemporary’ with Ishara Art Foundation in Dubai, with tremendous results. Artists and practitioners from all across the region from Mizoram and Assam, Delhi, Colombo, Karachi and Kabul were able to come together with a global audience — a feat that is only possible online.

As per you, what kind of art is more popular in the country currently? Are people gravitating towards more traditional artworks and artists or has the modern art space with emerging artists taken over the scene?

Even though there is an active and growing interest in digital art, photography, performance art and so on, the buying we are seeing currently largely remains in the domain of more traditional art forms like painting, prints and sculpture. The fair is the perfect place to discover art, across a range of mediums, styles and price points. Wherever possible, we attempt to push these boundaries and bring in new visions of what art can be to our audiences.

What vision do you have for the Art Fair 5 years from now? Where do you think the art world will be in terms of artists, gallery owners, and consumers?

India’s art market is dynamic with strong domestic demand. The market has been resilient and the pandemic year sales recorded an increase of 57% from the previous fiscal year sales of ₹560 crore / US$ 75 million. 

We’ve seen greater collaboration and curiosity amongst art world players to learn, experiment and adapt to changing audience needs, whether it’s galleries coming together under collaborative digital efforts such as South-South, InTouch and TAP India to sell works, or engaging local audiences under Mumbai Gallery Weekend and Delhi Contemporary Art Week. Auction houses have upped their digital games and artists too, with online sales initiatives such as Art Chain India, and supporting each other through the challenging times. 

As a fair, we are striving to take this upward trajectory further, in terms of continuously bringing not just fresh new artists but also nurturing new and young collectors. The art world can be daunting and opaque, and a big aim of the fair is to open access, whether through the strength of our editorial and social media voice or year-round programming to give local and international audiences an insight into India’s dynamic arts scene. 

Moreover, the boundaries of art are certainly blurring, and we welcome it. A big aim for the future is to build more and more bridges with other creative fields such as design, fashion and architecture — continuously welcoming people into the world of visual art from neighbouring territories and renewing our idea of what art can be. 

Finally, I believe the future of art will be incredibly diverse. I really hope we’re able to broaden our horizons and champion artists across different backgrounds, genders, age groups and abilities. 

Jaya Asokan is Fair Director at India Art Fair, where she is responsible for the strategic and curatorial enhancement of the fair, and increasing its footprint in India and internationally. Bringing over 20 years of experience in numerous creative industries including arts, culture, design, fashion and luxury, Jaya has played an important role in repositioning the fair whilst spearheading international gallery and institutional participation along with overseeing the partnerships and production.

We publish all articles under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives license. This means any news organisation, blog, website, newspaper or newsletter can republish our pieces for free, provided they attribute the original source (OpenAxis).

Issue 9

Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience

Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience is a 20,000 square foot, light and sound show. It is a two-story projection of the artist’s most compelling and famous artworks. With a 360° view of the paintings in high-dimension, the Immersive Experience is one of the most captivating experiences in the 21st century. It is an art exhibition that not only introduces you to the life of Van Gogh but also immerses you in his world. The multi-sensory experience gives you an escape into the world of Gogh’s beautiful paintings, allowing you to be a part of them, even if it is for a few moments. 

A one of a kind Virtual Reality Interactive, the Immersive Experience gives you a taste of the brilliance of the artist by taking you on a ten-minute journey through a section called, “A day in the life of the Artist”. Walking alongside Gogh, you experience a rich and peaceful journey and inspiration behind eight of his iconic works including, Vincent’s Bedroom at Arles and The Starry Night

The Immersive Experience is open to guests of all ages. This rare experience, however, is held in multiple cities globally for a small amount of time. Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience is something one should at least experience once in their lifetime.

To catch a glimpse of what is Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience, visit: 

Picture Credits: Van Gogh’s The Starry Night, Museum of Modern Art

Issue 9

Democratizing Art: How the Pandemic Has Transformed Art Spaces

While excitingly going through the crown jewels in The Met Museum’s American Wing, I wonder if I could get a look at the souvenirs in the gift shop to take something back with me. I unfortunately cannot. I am met with the same experience while exploring the British Museum and the Van Gogh Museum. The experience of looking at paintings and artefacts from my computer screen in pyjamas rather seems impersonal. The enthusiasm of dressing up to explore the majesty of Art Institutions gets lost when one has to do so sitting on their sofas at home. Things are near and yet so far.

For an industry that thrives on in-person connection and networking, the lockdown has been especially hard-hitting on both Artists and Institutions. Virtual Tours, prior to the lockdown were created by many Institutes to allow better in-person access and experience of the galleries. However, during the lockdown, virtual tours became the only means of experience that people could have access to. Several Institutions designed their own virtual tours, giving a 360° view of the most visited sections of their galleries, while smaller institutions relied upon Google’s Street View, to make their experience available virtually. These tours were considered far more useful than paper maps, during in-person experiences, however, with a worldwide pandemic, can virtual experience and tours replace the experience itself. 

Any analysis of whether the experience of galleries and museums would yield an affirmative response. The exploration of these spaces are sensory experiences that stimulate individuals’ hearing, sight and smell. For when one is exploring New York Botanical Garden’s Spring Bloom, they not only look at the flora but also smell it in the air, while hearing the chatter of the fauna it coexists with. The murmurs of the people make the whole event a collective one. However, with virtual tours in place, it is only the sight that gets to partake in the process, making it terribly one-dimensional. For an experience that was created to help people tackle the isolation of being at home, the Virtual Tours are dreadfully isolating and lonely, due to persisting images of empty halls of the galleries, corridors and gardens available to the visitors. They take away the intimacy of being in a space and experiencing its physicality. Moreover, the paintings, artwork, artefacts in a virtual tour, become mere objects that one gets to see or know about. You do not get to understand the intricacies of each and every artwork, like the purpose of the painting, the placement of it in a particular collection and so on.

The Louvre, Paris, France.

Virtual Tours and Experiences have made Museums and Galleries a more democratic space, opening doors to people all around the globe, to explore the history that they could not have done earlier due to economical, social and cultural gaps. However, simultaneously it has also raised questions about the ‘commodification’ of historical artwork and artefacts. Does art need to be confined to the four walls of the museum? Should some people have to pay to participate in the process of experiencing history, that should be equally accessible to everyone? 

It is rather the ‘fetishization’ of the exhibition that museums and galleries bank upon. The increasing tendency to sell the place, rather than to experience the artwork, has also allowed Institutions to charge a high entry fee. This is also exaggerated through aggressive marketing campaigns about the grandiosity of the collections that the places are exhibiting. With things going virtual, people from all walks of life are getting to participate in the experience, which has raised the question, whether the experience of art should be sold as commodities in exchange for monetary value when the intent behind these creations has never been, financial benefit. Art is considered to be an extension of the self, an expression of one’s emotions, desires and inhibitions. Thus, when these artworks are displayed in exhibitions for consumption especially against a price, they are reduced to mere objects. Most people do not visit the Louvre to learn about the history of Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and the mysteries that underlie the process of her creation, but rather to gain bragging rights of having seen and experienced the painting in person.

The attitude of the majority of the people towards artwork is what has given Museums and Galleries a leeway into selling experiences as commodities. This has also facilitated some museums, with resources to climb up the ladder of popularity by conducting annual charity events with celebrities for advertisement. The virtual tours, therefore, are not only a threat to the revenue that these places generate but also to the exclusivity that these places create by including only economically and culturally niche groups of people.

Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Looking at the capitalist approach that Museums, Galleries and Art Institutes are taking, is there any scope for understanding the reason behind it. When analysing the financial position of these Museums during the pandemic, it is revealed that several museums have incurred heavy losses due to the lockdown. The Met Museum, The Museum of Modern Art, The Duomo, to name a few were expected to incur losses of over 150 million dollars in 2020. Money is required by these Institutions not only to maintain the space but also to pay a large number of employees, from restoration artists to museum guides to the general support staff that would otherwise be laid off. Moreover, since each painting and artefact is unique, they require special care and maintenance which require a huge financial investment. However, this cannot justify the expansive commodification of experiences. The need is to create a more inclusive and democratic space so that people get to experience the same things in person that they did sitting at their desktops in pyjamas. Virtual Tours have opened up the field of Art History to the larger population, however, what lies ahead this road is Museums’ efforts in continuing to do so.

Muskaan Kanodia is a junior at Ashoka University, double majoring in English and Sociology. When she is not drowning in books, you can find her drawing and smiling at strangers on the ghats of Banaras.

We publish all articles under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noderivatives license. This means any news organisation, blog, website, newspaper or newsletter can republish our pieces for free, provided they attribute the original source (OpenAxis).