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August 14, 2018

Avant-Garde Aesthetes: Jagdip Jagpal

Text and interviews by Tina Dastur and Preksha Sharma

As genres are getting redefined, the Indian art scene is being restructured using exciting new forms and cultural codes. In the first part of our series Jagdip Jagpal, director and re-inventor of the Indian Art Fair talks about the latest developments

Jagdip Jagpal
Building A Sustainable Ecosystem

What are the factors that make up a well-rounded art fair and how have you tried to incorporate them in the India Art Fair (IAF) to make the experience more holistic?
It’s important to create the right experience for visitors. There needs to be high quality and diverse art supported by the right kind of physical infrastructure to make an environment conducive to viewing and buying art. In 2018, we made some small changes to the IAF that made a lot of difference — the fair this time around saw broader aisles, an increased wall height and more glass in the structures to let in light. This refreshed and improved design enabled easier navigation and was appreciated by our gallerists and visitors alike. I’ve also been wanting to develop the fair’s curatorial focus. Going forward, we will encourage our galleries to showcase works by artists who have never exhibited at the fair before. This is both a way of promoting newer names and building a sustainable ecosystem while also encouraging that sense of something new and discovery. We will also be reimagining our collateral events programme to encourage our visitors to discover standout exhibitions and events taking place in New Delhi around the fair in January 2019. The next edition of the IAF opens on January 31 and will be on until February 3, 2019.

This year, the IAF introduced ‘I Know What You Did Last Summer’, a section that gave the public the opportunity to view art made by Indian and South Asian artists abroad. What draws you towards Indian and South Asian art?
Prior to joining the fair, I was lucky enough to have had the opportunity to interact with some leading artists and arts professionals from South Asia. I was impressed by the amount of activity taking place. As a person of Indian heritage, I feel so proud of the quality of art and ambassadorship demonstrated by our artists. I am keen that local audiences get the chance to engage with some of the works that they are exhibiting across the world.

Having spent the better half of your life in London, what would you say is the biggest differentiating factor as far as the art scene is concerned in India versus the UK?
There are far greater opportunities to make new discoveries in India. The artists have a background in multiple disciplines and are constantly developing their practice. I see them supporting and mentoring each other, often pushing the next generation to have the same opportunities that they did. There is a sense of community here, and this can only be good for the sector as a whole. The galleries and collectors are also demonstrating greater curiosity and encouraging new talent in different ways.

Art has historically been used as a medium to represent and convey the socio-political climate of the moment. What are the issues that you find young Indian artists focussing on? In today’s day and age, do you think it is important for art to say something rather than just be something beautiful to look at — or does that interfere with the visceral experience of viewing art?
As a viewer, I tend to instinctively differentiate between purely decorative and conceptual works — and I have a preference for the latter. At the fair itself, you’ll find plenty of contemporary artists addressing some of the most pressing issues of our times. Some examples from this year include Rithika Merchant’s new and beautiful drawings that capture the very essence of migration; a film by Hetain Patel, where he makes clever use of thrilling costumes and sensational soundtracks to question existing notions of gender, race and identity; and the large and seductive architectural paintings by Tanya Goel that make a strong statement on urbanisation. Personally, I really enjoy and appreciate performance art.

How is the art scene evolving as the internet increasingly provides a platform for individuals to so easily disseminate their artwork?
The internet has vastly transformed the art world and some consider it as significant a technological medium as the camera was for the last century. The young generation is experimenting a lot with the medium to produce really high quality, interactive digital works. Of course, there are many others who do not only work with the internet but instead, use it to find inspiration or share glimpses of their practice. Many of them are being discovered online by galleries, dealers and collectors.

Watch this space tomorrow for Jagdip Jagpal’s curation of innovative multidiscplinary artists to watch out for.

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