Jagdip Jagpal, Director, India Art Fair
When you took over as director of the India Art Fair (IAF) in August 2017, you said one of your objectives was to make it South Asia centric. Do you feel that has been achieved?
The fair has a distinct identity, where the focus is on South Asia, and every year we are building on that. This year, for the first time, we have a gallery from Sri Lanka (Saskia Fernando Gallery). Every year we have works by Pakistani artists. There is art from Nepal and Bangladesh too. This year we have not-for-profit initiatives such as the Nepal Picture Library, and Britto Arts Trust from Bangladesh. We do a lot of primary research. The international art fairs are not our primary source; several of them are mainly blue chip and not as diverse as we would like.
How important is it for you to showcase diverse art at the fair? It is also promoted as a platform for contemporary art, is that vis-a-vis modern art?
There are a fixed number of artworks of the modernists that are available. So we try to bring the best that we can, and the works of a number of modernists. There is a selection committee, which includes artist Ravi Agarwal and museum director Tasneem Zakaria, who also make sure there is diversity. We are also mindful of the provenance of these works, and there is a contractual arrangement with the galleries for that. There is a strong secondary market for the modernists, and the fair also plays a key role in creating a primary market for contemporary art. Today’s contemporary art is tomorrow’s modern.
Throughout the year, we also use our social media platform to tell stories. There are works by young graduates, who are making a mark, besides the well-known names. There is also a feature on Nasreen Mohamedi in the IAF magazine — offering five different perspectives from varied time periods — from Manisha Parekh, who was her student at MSU and gallerists Mortimer Chatterjee and Tara Lal, to her friends Nilima and Gulammohammed Sheikh.
Avinash Karn’s Nataraja The Dancing Shiva, 2018, Madhubani acrylic on clay-coated jute (Photo Courtesy: Arts of the Earth)
There is also a lot of emphasis on interaction with artists, including talks and workshops.
We are in a privileged position that we have contacts with artists and can learn from them. We want to make art accessible to people, whether they can afford it or not. We have talks by artists such as Nilima Sheikh and Pallavi Paul. We also have the performance art segment. There are workshops too. Gagan Singh, known for his comical drawings, will be conducting a drawing workshop. Manisha Parekh will make art from waste. Seeing the process of the production of art also helps understand art better.
In the platform section, we focus on art that might be otherwise overlooked. It is a springboard for artists, art practices and collectives from South Asia. We insist that the artists are credited and not just the artform. This year, among others, Delhi Crafts Council will present the work of brass metal artist Chanchal Chakraborty, and Gallery Ragini will show the work of Gond artist Dhavat Singh. We also have self-published books by artists at the fair.
Have you been looking at the posters and art being produced as protests against CAA/ NRC? Will they be represented at the fair as well?
Art is a way of communicating. It reflects society and politics. We have the Nepal Photo Library that has a visual archive of women’s movements in Nepal, that could connect with what is happening at Shaheen Bagh. We try to support these shared values. Sameer Kulavoor has made a small work related to the protest. There are also several hashtags, such as #createnothate, that have resonated with people. Maybe, next year, we could reflect on works created around what is happening currently. We will be providing a platform to discuss creativity reflecting sociopolitical issues.
This year, German gallery neugerriemschneider is showing works of international biggies. We usually don’t see much of international art in India otherwise.
With international art, we are very careful about the selection of galleries. This year will see Ai Weiwei and Olafur Eliasson, whose works in recent times have been much talked about. David Zwirner is bringing Marcel Dzama. The gallery has some works specially created for India. So it is not like you bring in works from the cupboard that the western world did not want.