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For Mumbai's canvas

The city’s art aficionados can look forward to a generous dose of art, courtesy the India Art Festival (IAF) this week. Renowned artists including Arzan Khambatta, Yusuf Arakkal and Lalitha Lajmi as well as British artist Damien Hirst will be part of this event. Bandra’s MMRDA grounds will be abuzz with activity with 175 air-conditioned booths for art galleries and artists, a dedicated sculpture park, a VIP Lounge, an art bookstore and an auditorium for discussions.

Most major galleries across India and a select few international galleries will participate at the festival along with conversations convened by cultural theorist Ranjit Hoskote featuring artists such as Atul Dodiya and Baiju Parthan, historians, critics, cultural commentators and editors. Other firsts include book releases and poetry readings at the festival.


Il Fico d’Oro1 by Anita Klein

Festival director Rajendra (he prefers to be addressed by his first name) is upbeat, “This is an initiative of Kalavishkar, a registered charitable trust. Kalavishkar has been promoting fine arts since 2001 and also publishes the Indian Contemporary Art journal (he is the editor). In India, private art galleries represent only 20% artists and the remaining 80% artists rely on public galleries. There is no platform in metros like Mumbai. India Art Festival is created to provide a platform to galleries as well as such individual artists.”

The festival features 40 art galleries from across the country, and over 300 individual artists. Rajendra adds that the IAF conversations are a must-attend, as these will feature speakers and cultural commentators who have been invited from across India. “English poetry reading sessions and multilingual poetry reading sessions (on December 1) are also significant as they will feature 20 poets,” he adds.

While other cities also boast of prominent annual art festivals, Rajendra feels that the IAF is unique because of its focus: “The India Art Festival brings together individual artists (including lesser known names from semi-urban and rural areas) and art galleries under one roof. It’s not a fully commercial art fair as artist are given space at nominal rates.”

Funding was a major problem for the IAF: “Few corporates or organisations come forward to support art fairs in India; commercial viability is difficult. Further, in Mumbai we not have good venues like Delhi’s Pragati Maidan. Organising a fair in an open ground like MMRDA is very costly, as you have to start from scratch. Bringing together artists and galleries is also daunting. In such a recessionary market, it is difficult to attract promoters as well,” he shares.

On why only two international galleries are at IAF, he explains — “This is the second year; we are yet to reach to a global audience. We have only one international art magazine as our media partner i.e. Art Monthly Australia.” He is sure that they will be able to attract more international galleries over time.

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