The Last Impressions

The booths have been dismantled, the tents are coming down and the artwork is wrapped and ready to return to the galleries from where they were transported to the India Art Fair (IAF) that concluded on Sunday. Even as Neha Kirpal, founder-director, IAF, and her team put the final figures together sales and footfalls in their East of Kailash office, gallerists are ready with their feedback. "The reactions to our works have been impressive. For us, the quality of the crowd is more important than the quantity, which was the case here," says Yuli Karatsiki of Kalfayan Galleries from Greece. "It's very important to build relations with local collectors. Compared to last year, there were more Indian collectors this time," she adds.

Some big galleries that participated last year, including Hauser & Wirth (New York and Zurich) and Britain's Lisson Gallery, were absent this time, but the fair did have its share of first timers some of whom seemed to be happy with their India outing. "We were told that the Indian market is difficult to tap. But even though contemporary international artists such as Pakpoom Silaphan and Ye Hongxing are relatively unknown to Indians, universal themes appeal to everyone," says Jag Mehta, director, sales and marketing, SCREAM gallery, London. At his booth one saw Hongxing's canvases with patterns made from crystal stickers and Silaphan's pop art that used coke billboards imprinted with images of popular figures such as Mahatma Gandhi and Frida Kahlo.

While Ashish Anand, director, Delhi Art Galley, shared that he sold works of over 20 masters, it was not just the veterans who found buyers. At Shrine Empire Gallery, red dots were seen besides works of New York based-artist Samantha Batra Mehta and Sri Lankan artist Anoli Perera. "We sold over 50 per cent of the works," says gallerist Anahita Taneja. Among others, Perera's mixed media installation Memory Keeper: The Blue Cupboard that borrows from the troubled political times in Sri Lanka sold for Rs 3.75 lakh and Mehta's installation of antique objects, The Sum Total of Our Existence, went for Rs 2.5 lakh.

Bhavna Kakkar of Latitude 28 gallery, who sold her entire solo booth of Dilip Chobisa at the IAF 2012, did well this year too. "We had around 10 works of various contemporary artists at our booth and sold almost 70 per cent. Some negotiations are still on," says Kakkar. Salsali Private Museum in Dubai bought three works from her, while two of Kathik Sood's mixed media works went for Rs 2.25 lakh each and Chobisa's untitled mixed media graphite on paper sold for Rs 3.60 lakh.

Experimentation proved fruitful. So miniatures of veterans such as A Ramachandran, Jogen Chowdhury, Laxma Goud and Satish Gujral found buyers at the Gallerie Ganesha booth. Malini Gulrajani, director of Dubai-based 1x1 Gallery, managed to sell works of Middle Eastern artists. Samira Alikhanzadeh's diptych Family Album and Cristiana de Marchi's Shine, embroidery on golden beaded fabric, sold for Rs 2 lakh each.

Word of advice comes from Tunty Chauhan, director, Gallery Threshold, who had a solo booth of V Ramesh at the fair. "The fair should be more representative of work from different parts of the world," says Chauhan. She says that the quality and numbers of collectors at the fair this year was impressive. "There were a lot of international collectors as well as collectors from Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai," she says. She sold works worth almost Rs 20 lakh at the fair.

The positive sales figures, do not necessarily indicate a healthier market, notes Renu Modi, director, Gallery Espace. "It could just be sparks, we have to wait and see," she says. She refuses to divulge details, but says, the sales this year at the fair "was better".

"Apart from Indian collectors, we sold works to an American and Australian museum," she says. Maren Kirchhoff of DIE Galerie from Frankfurt adds, "The customs duty and taxes are horrible. The laws and regulations have got to change. For private pieces, the tax rate often goes up to 45 per cent and there are problems with payments, the interest and shipping."

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