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Fair Trade

Gallerists from India and abroad reflect on the experience and business at the recently concluded India Art Fair.

Written by Pallavi Pundir, Vandana Kalra |
February 7, 2017 1:37:23 am
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It’s all in the game,” says Diego Alonso, director of Mondo Galeria, one of the 23 international participants at India Art Fair 2017. As the fair drew to a close on Sunday, with the NSIC grounds in Delhi’s Okhla teeming with visitors and gallerists scrambling about their booths, finishing off last-minute deals or chatting up interested onlookers, the Spanish gallerist’s words rung true to the spirit of the fair. The game, as is evident, is the game of numbers, as well as of carving a place for themselves in the the Indian art market, attempting to build a collector base within a span of four days. Alonso, whose highest-priced work for Rs 12.6 lakh — titled Empty Illusion by Venezuelan artist Alberto Echegaray Guevara — comprised shredded Rs 1 crore demonetised Indian currency, seemed pleased.

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“Compared to the last few times, I have been here, the interest has definitely increased,” he said, adding, “People are aware about how to buy a conscious collection. I have been contacted by some really interesting collectors, both Indian and foreign. Sachin Tendulkar was here the other day and he found Alberto’s works, which deal with the concept, taboo and illusions of money, fascinating. After all, it’s all about economics, isn’t it?”

Guevara’s works seem to be a perfect departure point to the conversation about the business at the IAF.

The fair, with its 72 exhibitors from 19 cities across India and 23 across the globe, claims to have seen strong sales this year; 90 per cent of the galleries, according to its estimates, reported strong sales (94 per cent of Indian galleries and 85 per cent of international galleries sold).

The fair also reports that 60 per cent of the 72 exhibitors made sales to new and international collectors, while over 30 per cent were made to collectors under 40.

“It’s my first time here and I feel that it is a very strong event. I didn’t expect this kind of quality. It’s very professional. Indian art lovers are more open minded and I made good contact with the local as well as international collectors,” said Lukas Feichtner of the Lukas Feichtner Galeris from Vienna.

Demonetisation, for one, was a subtle reminder in this game of numbers. The international contingents felt the pinch mostly.

“The sale has been okay. The market is not ideal but it’s not very bad. Demonetisation has affected the market, people who would have bought works from the money they had in different places aren’t buying as much.

But it hasn’t really affected serious collectors,” said Jana Soin from New York-based Aicon Gallery, which was here with works by artists such as Anila Quayyum Agha, Rasheed Araeen and MF Husain.

“This year is different. People are more concerned about international transfers. There are a few big buys and everybody is a bit wary about spending money. There is no advance cash, for instance. I felt it the moment I landed here. It was difficult even to change currency,” says Alonso. Malini Gulrajani, director of UAE-based 1×1 Gallery, added, “The sales haven’t been bad. We have sold 7-8 works and some are on hold.”

Some, on the other hand, were visibly disappointed.

“This is our fourth year at the fair. The business this year is around 50 per cent less. I guess that is because of demonetisation. Art is not an article of necessity and several people only put money in art if they have extra money,” said Joan Gaspar Farreras, director of Galeria Joan Gasper, based in Barcelona, who was showing works of masters such as Pablo Picasso and Antoni Clave with the works of younger artists at the fair.

The Indian galleries, feels Baudoin Lebon of the French gallery Baudoin Lebon, had an edge over the international ones at the fair.

“They make more sales than we do. The local galleries know their clients. I keep telling the organisers that they should put out information for the media about our booth, but that doesn’t happen,” he says.

Most Indian galleries agree, even dismissing demonetisation as a factor in sales. “It’s been all right,” says Ankita Munial, assistant manager for Palette Art Gallery, “We don’t have experimental art works, maybe that’s why we don’t feel the pinch. We sell only contemporary works, and we have made sales as expected.”

Manan Relia of the Ahmedabad-based Archer Art Gallery adds, “We mostly target young collectors and buyers with our serigraphs of the masters. Our works are priced between Rs 2,000 and 4 lakh, that people can afford it.”

Delhi’s Vadehra Art Gallery was there with all new works. “We usually show new works by artists at the fair and that works well for us. So the sales have been good, some things are in process,” says Parul Vadehra of VAG.

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