‘There’s no greater thing than the magic of a shared experience’

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From experiencing weekly concerts her grandmother hosted at home in Chennai to her formative education at the Jiddu Krishnamurti School, where her love for art and culture really took off, by the time Jaya Asokan, Director of India Art Fair, scheduled to take from April 28 to May 1 in the Capital, finished school, she went on to study Fine Arts at Stella Marris and Graphic Design at Parsons in New York.

Since then, she has worked broadly in diverse creative roles across design, fashion, jewellery as well as at an auction house and gallery.

“The learning throughout was the value of continuously making bridges across fields, and to work to bring in new ideas and audiences to any creative endeavour. At the India Art Fair too, our hope and mission is to broaden our base of collaborators, collectors and visitors by continually creating exciting content and programmes,” she tells IANS.

Asokan, who took over as Fair Director in April 2021 says it has been a year of learning and experimentation, not just for her, but for the whole team, and that they used as an opportunity to trial and test new ideas to adapt to changing conditions.

“Through the lockdowns and pandemic, we realised the immense potential of art and culture, as entertainment, therapy and an object, which led us to evolve the fair strategy and transition from a 4-day event into a year-round brand with 365 days of presence, whether through pop-up events, programming or editorial.”

Thrilled to return to the physical format in 2022 in partnership with BMW India, the director adds they have expanded our digital activities massively with the goal of becoming a year-round platform championing Indian and South Asian art and artists.

“Our refreshed website with newly commissioned artist films and stories, IAF Parallel exhibitions and events, a Noticeboard section with opportunities for artists and arts-professionals, virtual walkthroughs and workshops around the year will serve as the go-to source for all things Indian and South Asian art,” she says.

However, she feels there’s no greater thing than the magic of a shared experience, and we really look forward to experiencing art in real-time and real space, instead of on screens.

One of the major and most visible highlights will be the fair facade, which will be transformed into a work of art by the young artist and printmaker Anshuka Mahapatra, celebrating ideas of hope, love, life and togetherness through phrases taken from poems in seven Indian languages.

The exhibition halls will welcome some of the most prominent galleries while the fair outdoors will be dotted with monumental art commissions, from the colourful 50-feet long mural titled ‘The Future is Femme’ along the front walkway of the fair created by trans and cis-women artists of Aravani Art Project supported by Saffronart Foundation, and a impressive metal sculpture made of reused silencer pipes evoking optimism in challenging times by the young Kolkata-born and bred Narayan Sinha supported by the Arts Ananda Trust.

Asokan says that besides hosting some of the biggest collectors and art-patrons, we are launching a revamped Young Collectors’ Programme to empower the next generation of collectors with the know-how and confidence to make their first purchases, as well as support artists as patrons.

Talk to her about the fact that Delhi heat in April end might keep many visitors away, and she asserts: “This is the first time that India Art Fair will take place in May, and we look forward to a memorable summer celebration. As always, the fair will ensure the comfort of visitors and will have fully air-conditioned exhibition space and sufficiently shaded outdoor areas.”

With a major focus on inclusivity and accessibility, India Art Fair will be working with ‘Access for All’ so as to create experiences that are welcoming to our diverse audiences. “We are committed to providing similar, if not identical experiences for all visitors participants regardless of their ability and strive for equity, accessibility and inclusion,” she adds.

The exhibition halls will show works of some major artists like Amrita Sher-Gil, V.S. Gaitonde and Nasreen Mohamedi (Chatterjee & Lal), and also contemporary ones Sujith S.N, Faiza Hasan and Subodh Kerkar who will reflect powerfully on climate change and sustainability.

Achia Anzi, Kumar Misal and Baaraan Ijlal for who the personal is political; Tsohil Bhatia, Anupama Alias and Shine Shivan, Suchitra Mattai and Bushra Waqas Khan will make the viewer look at gender and sexuality with new eyes.

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