NFTs have expanded the market for art and artists: India Art Fair's Jaya Asokan

NFTs have expanded the market for art and artists: India Art Fair's Jaya Asokan

In a free-wheeling conversation, Jaya Asokan, Fair Director, India Art Fair, talks about the Indian art market, NFTs, what to lookout for at the fair and offers tips for budding art collectors.

Jaya Asokan, Fair Director, India Art Fair Jaya Asokan, Fair Director, India Art Fair

After two years, India Art Fair – the leading platform to discover modern and contemporary art from India and South Asia -- has returned to a physical format. The upcoming edition, taking place from April 28-May 1, 2022, will have 77 exhibitors. The fair spotlights the next generation of artists alongside modern masters through initiatives including auditorium talks, performances, outdoor art projects and artist-led workshops. 

In a free-wheeling conversation, Jaya Asokan, Fair Director, India Art Fair, talks about the Indian art market, NFTs, what to lookout for at the fair and offers tips for budding art collectors.    


BT: What can we expect at the India Art Fair this year and how is it going to be different? 

Jaya Asokan (JA): This edition marks the fair in its physical format after two years. We are looking at it being a big celebration of Indian and South Asian art. Also, to show solidarity within the arts community in India, we are working with an unprecedented number – 14 -- of grassroot foundations and NGOs. Of course, the art and the artists are at the fore front of all this. We are looking at innovative ways to change the dialogue of what art is today. We have been doing a lot of active programming last year with regard to emerging artists and the next generation. Some are more curatorial, some are more for the public. We are also doing a lot in terms of educating people which we have not done before. We are giving them exposure, access to more information, so that the art world becomes less daunting for them. We are providing people a lot more intimate view of artists and their studios through our films. This has been a marked difference in this edition compared to previous editions. Going forward the idea is to look at it as a 365-day format where we do different things throughout the year and the culmination is the fair. 

 BT: You said there will be more focus on emerging artists? 

JA: Definitely there will be. We do feel that in some ways they are the ones who have been hit the hardest by the pandemic. And they are making their foray into the art world so the idea is also to give them a very solid platform to showcase their work.  

BT: How are NFTs disrupting the traditional art market? 

JA: I feel the emergence of NFTs is just broadening the conversation. I think in the way that they are presented they appear very disruptive but they are just broadening the conversation of what art is. They have just expanded the market really for art and artists. For me, whatever may be the format in which the art is conveyed, it is still the content that is key.  

We do have NFTs at the fair. They are definitely a part of the conversation. What comes along with the NFTs are the stakeholders in this new market. So be it the collectors, the buyers, the artists, there is this whole new group of stakeholders who are very much a part of the conversation. We are very happy to welcome them to the growing world of the Indian art market. 

 BT: Is there a growing interest in NFTs? 

JA: Yes definitely. In India you now have galleries representing artists with NFTs. We have seen artists like Raghva KK who was one of the first entrants into the NFT space from India and who sold at a record price of $94,500 at Sotheby’s New York. Does the interest in NFT overtake the interest in the traditional art form, perhaps not at the moment. But is there a curiosity and an interest to understand this space better, of course.    

Where do you see the art market headed? 

JA: On the whole the Indian art market is picking up at quite a record rate. Despite the challenges of the pandemic, art has done very well. Be it the masters or contemporary art, sales have done well. We are also seeing new galleries emerge in the country. India’s art market is quite dynamic with a strong domestic demand.  

What would you recommend for anyone who is just starting out as a collector?  

JA: For one, see as much as you can. Educate yourself about the art form you are personally drawn to. Understand a bit more about the artist’s journey, their affiliations, their method, their process, which makes it also very interesting. Try and interact with the artist. It is also about building relationships, which is what makes the journey fun. Young artists need patronage too. So, connect with artists of your own age group and then you grow with them.  

BT: What are the few things we should be looking for at the India Art Fair this year? 

JA: Definitely the facade, which is probably the biggest canvas in Delhi. There is a very young artist called Anshuka Mahapatra who has designed the facade. Apart from that we have a great performance art platform as well. We have artists in residence who do performance art. We are working with trans artists collective and they are doing a huge mural for the entrance to the fair. We do believe in diversity and inclusion so we are very excited about that as well. 

BMW, which is our primary sponsor, has done something very interesting. They have done an open call for an Indian artist to design the ramp for their electric car. It was a jury-based competition where we had the public vote as well. So, you will see that at the fair as well.  

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