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India Art Fair in New Delhi draws art-hungry middle class

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India Art Fair in New Delhi draws art-hungry middle class

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Visitors to the seventh edition of the India Art Fair in New Delhi were able to admire the works of more than a thousand different artists from all over the world.

Most of the fair’s 80,000 visitors were from India’s rapidly growing middle class, and most of the buyers were under the age of 30. Six out of the ninety booths sold out completely.

A crowd puller at this year’s event was Nandita Kumar’s booth, featuring a long scroll of paper and a drawing machine that looked like a typewriter. The artist invited participants to hand-write letters, which then became part of a performance piece in which the machine mimicked the handwriting.

“So, I invited people from all across the world to write letters with love, but love meaning how you intelligently communicate with one another,” said Nandita Kumar.

“It’s about emotional consciousness and language, the use of language. So, this scroll which you saw actually right now is where this drawing machine is mimicking all these handwritings. And every time the machine finds a more difficult handwriting, it has to stop and think and that thinking process is recorded through the pen bleeding into the paper.”

The Mumbai-based artist uses the magic of technology to highlight human nature through her art works:

“I converted those dots into sounds by sending it across to five different musicians in different parts of the planet and consolidating that as a sound piece,” she said.

With his 3D wooden model of Mumbai’s legendary Victoria Terminus railway station – which was one of the targets of the 2008 attacks on the city – Indian artist T.V. Santhosh wanted to explore the idea of shifting historical perspectives.

It was US artist Clara Brinkeroff’s first time at the India Art Fair and a chance for her to display her peacock-themed artwork.

“It’s one of my favourite birds because it’s so majestic, so beautiful, so elegant. And so, when my husband and I decided to come here, of course I was going to bring the peacocks, being the national bird of India,” she said.

The crystal-encrusted birds are worth around 15 000 dollars each.

“It’s my first time in India, period. And my first time in the fair and I’m just overwhelmed with how nice everybody is, how much attention we have gotten. I’ve already sold many of the peacocks and it’s not going to be my last time. For sure, I’m coming back,” enthused the artist.

Though sales were up on last year, some gallery owners were unhappy with the absence of proper Wi-Fi connectivity, which they said made them incur loses. Foreign exhibitors also complained about poor logistics, including the transport of art works and what they called prohibitive custom duties.

However, many visitors and gallery owners welcomed the wider space and better quality of art works compared to previous editions.

In order to better cater to an Indian crowd, many of the international galleries offered a mix of foreign and Indian artists.

Among the foreign works on show were the sculptures of world-famous Israeli artist Ruth Bloch. Poised between two- and three-dimensionality, her Giacometti-style figures engage physically with the gallery space and the viewer.

Organisers also curated so-called “art walks” throughout the fair for novices to the art world. Guided tours led by trained experts offered visitors a chance to better understand the world of arts.

With a middle class estimated to soon make up one fifth of the country’s population, and a national GDP exceeding 7 trillion dollars, India, like China, has one of the most buoyant art markets in the world.

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