Indian Art Acquires a Democratic Hue
By : | February 18, 2017

India’s evolving art landscape is no longer ruled by just a few well-known artists. Art events, ranging from the famed Kochi-Muziris Biennale to the India Art Fair are making the market more accessible even to amateur artists even as they draw in newer audiences.

Renowned fashion designer Tarun Tahiliani talks about his interaction with India Art Fair over the years.


Gone are the days when only celebrity status in the elitist clique of Indian art and a portfolio of masterpieces that fetched millions of dollars would ensure that an art gallery in Mumbai, Delhi or Kolkata commission an artist to exhibit. With events like the Mumbai Gallery Weekend, the India Art Fair and the world-famous Kochi-Muziris Biennale gaining ground, art is now reaching to an entire new generation of aficionados and art connoisseurs.

Indian leading sculptural artist Sudarshan Shetty curates the current edition of Kochi-Muziris Biennale


Only in its third edition, the Kochi-Muziris Biennale permanently put India on the world art map, right since its inception. The current edition runs till the end of March, but it has already driven so much traffic to ‘God’s own Country’ that the Kerala government has started rebranding the state’s tourism with the hash tag, #LandoftheBiennale. “When I started off my career, there was no acceptance for novices in the art space. It was the international galleries that supported me,” says sculptural artist Sudarshan Shetty, the curator of the current biennale.  He sounds protective about young Indian talent when he says, “There are 98 artists participating in this edition of the biennale. It is a very deliberate decision not to involve celebrity artists and big names. A biennale isn’t about the artists but about their work and the conversations they generate.” Artists to watch out for include Yang Hongwei and Dai Xiang, Sunil Padwal, Zuleikha Chaudari, Desmond Lazaro, Yardena Kurulkar, Wura-Natasha Ogunji, Yuko Mohri and Istvin Csikiny.

The Biennale has moved beyond the traditional confines of art, embracing themes from theatre, meditation, music and poetry; the Biennale Foundation has even organised mini-biennale where art by students is exhibited. “The Kochi-Muziris Biennale has filled a huge gap in how contemporary art is looked at. Once, art was essentially a market in India. Fortunately, we have been lucky that the India Art Fair, which has been around in Delhi for almost a decade, has changed perceptions about art,” Shetty concludes.


Founded in 2008, India Art Fair is the bedrock of a booming cultural community with connections to every level of the market. While the focus has been on indigenous art, the Delhi-based trade event even attracts bigwigs from the Asian art market. From the 2016 edition, IAF started expanding its programming to reflect South Asia’s immense diversity in the visual arts. 2017 witnessed participation from several art world industry luminaries, with 72 exhibitors and art collectors from 19 cities across India and 23 countries around the globe, further consolidating the international focus on the South Asian market.

Interesting artists who exhibited at IAF included multi-media artist Reena Saini Kallat who depicted nature struggling against urban constructs; Owais Husain’s two-part video installation called ‘The Mythology of Choice’ on how culture, politics and history as social paradigms can shape, manipulate and distort perceptions; Jewel house Amrapali exhibited antique tribal jewellery collection from its historic archives, while Sumakshi Singh exhibit for which she used pressed-and-dried flowers and stalks to manifest a levitating, effervescent garden.


An initiative set up by leading art galleries in Mumbai – Chatterjee & Lal, Chemould Prescott Road, Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke, Gallery Maskara, Lakeeren Gallery, Project 88 and Sakshi Gallery – Mumbai Gallery Weekend’s last edition wrapped up on the 24th of January this year. Engaging both the avid collector and the amateur art enthusiast, a series of special events, including exhibition openings, artist and curator talks and late openings unraveled an interesting arteratti affair.


The elusive Princess Pea was in India for the Mumbai Gallery Weekend

Interesting art exhibited at the Gallery Weekend: ‘Fold/Unfold’ by video artist Sonia Khurana at Chemould Prescott Road that depicted feminist aesthetics; Tanmoy Samanta’s iconographic imagery of otherwise ordinary objects in ‘Portraits in Time’ at Tarq; ‘Footboard Rider’ by Gieve Patel at Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke captured everyday occurrences from the vibrant city that Mumbai is. The showstopper was virtual celebrity ‘Princess Pea,’ who was last spotted at Sakshi Gallery!

Art in India is clearly acquiring a democratic hue and reaching to a much wider audience courtesy such high-profile events that draw them in.

For someone who began his media career as a freelance journalist, Nolan Lewis is now quite convinced that life as a media hack isn't as glamorous as it is made out to be. Over a year of living life in the fast lane, late night networking events and crazy deadlines writing for, and editing magazines later, he has added the digital media to his portfolio and is now Consulting Editor (Digital) for Eat Stay Love and Blackbook magazines.