What It’s Like To Helm South Asia’s Biggest Art Fair | Verve Magazine
India's premier luxury lifestyle women's magazine
January 29, 2020

What It’s Like To Helm South Asia’s Biggest Art Fair

Text by Shraddha Jahagirdar-Saxena

Jagdip Jagpal – festival director of the India Art Fair – on the art that adorns her walls, advice for young aficionados and curating the fair for the third time

Art aficionados, diehard art patrons and art collectors have reason to rejoice – as the 12th edition of the India Art Fair is all set to unveil a spectrum of art from South Asia at the end of this week (January 30-February 2). Since 2018, the fair’s identity has been strengthened, as Jagdip Jagpal, the fair director, points out, ‘to become South Asia’s leading platform for discovering modern and contemporary art.”

The 2020 four-day showcase is the centrestage for Verve’s latest art collaboration. In a bid to continue the discovery of diverse talents Verve is collaborating with three young artists who lend a visual interpretation to the word ‘Ambition’, which is the theme of our current issue. Their exclusive artworks will appear for the first time on thoughtfully created, for-sale, fashion lifestyle products that can be seen at the Verve Design Gallery, Booth No 7.

On the eve of the commencement of the prestigious art fair, Jagpal engages in an interaction with Verve….

This is your third India Art Fair. What would you say is new or different about this one?
For the first time in its 12-year history, India Art Fair will host five incredible Artists in Residence who will engage with visitors. Artists range from; Gagan Singh who is known for his laugh-out-loud funny drawings and will hold free drawing classes while artist Chetnaa will explore the use of straight lines in her workshop; leading contemporary artist and paper aficionado Manisha Parekh will share creative ideas of reusing old paper – from newspapers and magazines to receipts, letters and junk mail – to create beautiful personalised gift objects and artworks; collage-making sessions by Renuka Rajiv; and a workshop on zine-making by the multi-talented artist collective Bombay Underground; as well as a session by Marcel Dzama who will screen and explain the making of his famous Dadaism film A Jester’s Dance.

In 2020, we are also bringing an expanded performance programme following the success of last year’s debut. Known for marrying the personal with the political, four dynamic interdisciplinary artists – Maya Krishna Rao (New Delhi), Jelili Atiku (Lagos), Raisa Kabir (London) and Piyali Ghosh (Vadodara) – will present performances addressing social, religious, political and cultural issues of today.

Not to be missed at the entrance of the fair and throughout is artist Sameer Kulavoor’s façade design covering four large-scale exhibition structures of India Art Fair. As India’s biggest commissioned canvas, the design titled This is Not a Still Life will celebrate and pay tribute to the ordinary men, women, objects and traditions that make buzzing cities burst with life and colour.

Another new addition to the India Art Fair, the Bookshop & Cafe will be an international standard museum-style retail space. Designed to offer something for everyone, its offerings will range from art books, exhibition catalogues, and zines to art supplies and artist-designed lifestyle products, as well as the annual issue of the IAF Magazine. The Bookshop & Café will invite both students and collectors with a daily programme of workshops, masterclasses, book signings and screenings in the Learning Space located in the same tent, aimed at engaging and educating audiences about South Asian modern and contemporary art in a quick and fun way.

What makes the Indian imagination stand out on the global stage?
A lot of art is inspired by what’s happening around us. And that’s the real talent: to be able to capture contemporary society in a simple yet impactful way.

Who was the first artist who had an impact on your mind?
I think, Picasso. I remember reading about the bombing of Guernica in middle school. I was so deeply impressed by how he was able to represent this moment in history in such a dark, realistic and powerful way. Years later, I visited Reina Sofia in Spain to see the mural – it was enormous and exceptional to experience first-hand.

Which was the first artist/artwork you ever bought?
Christopher Corr. He is a London-based artist and I bought one of his bright, colourful illustrations from a gallery in Mayfair in the ’90s. It was inspired by his travels to India.

 Which are the artists that adorn your walls in London?
Most of the artworks I own are with me in Delhi and the majority of them are by women! Each work is special and means something to me – whether it is Yasmin Jahan Nupur and Naiza Khan from Bangladesh and Pakistan respectively, or their Indian counterparts: Rithika Merchant, Aditi Singh, Dia Mehta Bhupal, Renuka Rajiv, Tehmeena Firdos or Arshi Irshad Ahmadzai. I also have works by Nikhil Chopra, Neeraj Kadamboor, Mahesh Baliga, Kundan Mondal, Jagannath Panda, Fahd Burki, and the late Krishna Reddy.

How did you pick them?
At India Art Fair! It is the perfect place to discover modern and contemporary art from South Asia, available across a variety of mediums, sizes and price-points. Moreover, we also spotlight emerging trends, through artist presentations, live performances and conversations in our Auditorium – ideal for anyone who is looking to deepen their knowledge of art.

And which work/artist is your favourite?
It is very difficult to choose! My favourite painting is Rembrandt’s portrait of his son, Titus.

Do you personally favour any particular art form?
I like watercolours on paper. Contrary to how it appears, watercolours are actually very difficult to master. When you work with it, you kind of have to mean it. You can’t paint over it or take it away. There is a finality that comes with it that I really like.

What do you find inspirational about art?
Art has an affective, emotional impact. Whether it is the use of particular colours, representing certain scenes or communicating symbols that work on a subconscious level, each work of art conveys a message or an emotion, be it anger, delight or disgust.

Do you remember your first exposure to art?
I used to go to Sunday school at a neighbourhood church when I was young. There, they taught us clay modelling as well as held regular competitions, which I won two years in a row – I have certificates for proof!

Would you put your money on an established artist or opt to buy talent that is on the verge?
Contemporary art all the way. I feel it’s incredibly important to support the talent coming out of India and South Asia. After all, the moderns were contemporary too.

Have you ever been inspired to create a work of art yourself?
Like most people, I also enjoy DIY art. This is one of the reasons why we decided to introduce a new Artists-in-Residence programme this year – to give audiences a closer understanding of art-making. And what better place to create art than at India Art Fair! Visitors can sign up for fun workshops and masterclasses led by some of the most exciting contemporary artists, including sessions on drawing, illustration, collage, paper making and zine making. Regardless of age or ability, this is an opportunity to slow down, learn something new, refine a skill, and explore their hidden creative genius.

We would like you to give some advice to art aficionados and collectors.
Firstly, I suggest that first-time buyers go and see as much art as they can. This first-hand approach is a fantastic way to learn about what kind of art interests you as an individual.

When you visit an exhibition, don’t hesitate to speak to the curators or gallerists. If you are lucky enough the artist may also be there. They are the resident experts on the works they’re exhibiting and will be delighted to answer any queries regarding the artwork, from the logistics of the sale – like framing, installation and transport – to details of the artist’s practice and background. You can consider a wide variety of art forms – including sculpture, painting, print, drawing and installation. However, before making your purchase, consider a few key things: the size of the artwork, where you intend to place it, and, most importantly, what you like.

I also advise that you set a budget and stick to it. Make sure that you understand all costs, including purchase, delivery, insurance and any applicable taxes. And remember to collect all the right paperwork after making your purchase, whether it is an invoice from the seller or any document relating to provenance.

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