The India Art Summit, which will take place in Delhi this weekend, is the country’s attempt at claiming a stake in the overcrowded and market driven world of art fairs. Despite a market estimated at $400 million (around Rs1,700 crore), and a growing global interest in Indian contemporary art, organizers have until now, stayed away from the art fair circuit, leaving it to individual galleries such as Nature Morte and Chemould Prescott Road to make the trek to Art Basel in Switzerland or Frieze Art Fair in London.
With this entry into the commercial world, the country’s growing art sector has a chance to attract global players, find new audiences, and most importantly, give a much needed boost to public arts infrastructure.
Untitled work by M.F. Husain
However, despite the potential attraction of a 6,000-plus audience, many of India’s big players have chosen to stay away from the event, citing poor organization, and a lacklustre roster. Prominently missing from the 34-gallery list are Bodhi, Chemould Prescott Road, Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke, Chatterjee and Lal, Sakshi, and many others. “There are really mediocre galleries coming,” notes Shireen Gandhy of Chemould Prescott Road Gallery in Mumbai. “Nature Morte is really lifting the quality of the event.” Gandhy who regularly participates in other international fairs says that the four-month notice she was given was too short a time to produce works of quality. Plus, she adds, “do we have the infrastructure to make it a success?”
This sentiment is echoed by Geetha Mehra of Sakshi in Mumbai who says she will wait to see how it goes before deciding to participate next year. “I felt it was just too small a beginning. That’s my reservation. I would have expected there to be a larger international participation, of at least 80-100 participants selected.”
Indeed, of the participating galleries, just three are international, and all from England. And though the discussion panels will include industry biggies such as Robert Storr, one of America’s most influential curators and the dean of Yale University’s School of Art, Hugo Weihe, Christie’s international director of Asian art, and Henry Howard Sneyd, deputy chairman of Sotheby’s in Europe and Asia, there is a marked lack of international participation. Indian speakers will include artist Anjolie Ela Menon, Rajeev Lochan of the National Gallery of Modern Art, Pooja Sood of Khoj, and a smattering of art critics and curators such as Gayatri Sinha and Geeta Kapur.
“I’m expecting nothing,” says Renu Modi of Gallery Espace, New Delhi, who will have a booth at the art fair. “I support it because Delhi needs such an event where people can come. It’s an ideal place where anyone can go and see art. Plus, there’s so much international interest in Indian art that it’s high time we have an art fair.”
Calls to the organizers Hanmer MS&L were not returned.
The India Art Summit will take place at Pragati Maidan, New Delhi, 22-24 August. More information can be found at www.indiaartsummit.com