Delhi’s Art Summit was a massive success, closing last Sunday with the organisers announcing an astonishing total of 128,000 visitors over four days. This vastly exceeded expectations, and the figure has even surprised some exhibitors. It makes the event one of the world’s most popular art fairs, even though it was only the third time that it had been held.
Substantial sales were reported by many galleries, including five works above Rs4.5 crore ($1m, £650,000). Several private and institutional collectors bought art works for double that amount.
Neha Kirpal, the founder and director of the show, says that the unexpectedly high attendance figures, which more than trebled the last summit’s 40,000 in August 2009, were partly the result of extensive marketing to India’s art community, schools and colleges, and cultural organizations over the past year.
Visitors came from 17 Indian cities and from 67 cities globally – both high figures that demonstrated growing interest in modern and contemporary Indian art. The attendance peak figure given by the organisers was a surprising 70,300 last Saturday.
But the art fair ended untidily when, without warning, the organisers discovered last Sunday afternoon that Sonia Gandhi, leader of the Congress Party and India’s governing coalition, had arrived and that the police had blocked entry to the exhibition hall without warning. That meant that entry was barred 40 minutes before the scheduled time of 4pm.
Ms Kirpal takes a philosophical view on this, regretting the inconvenience but stressing how valuable it was to have Mrs Gandhi’s interest and government support for such a private sector venture.
“I am delighted that she came – it was very important for us,” she says, adding that India’s recently appointed Culture Minister, Kumari Selja, was there earlier.
The show’s 84 galleries (from 20 countries) sold an average of four to five works each, and some said they had sold all they had on display. At the top end, works by F.N.Souza, one of India’s most celebrated and highly priced modern artists, accounted for the largest number sold with prices from Rs500,000 ($11,000) to over Rs9m ($200,000).
Several international museums commissioned contemporary works. Among European modern artists, six works by Pablo Picasso topped the sales with prices rising to over Rs2m ($44,000). Other international sales were booked for later completion abroad.
At the same time, works priced between Rs100,000 and Rs500,000 (roughly $2,000 to $11,000 or £1,400 to £7,000) sold most, which tallied with some galleries reporting that up to 80% of sales went to new and first time buyers.
This shows, as I’ve written before, that the Art Summit neatly fulfils twin tasks . It is putting Delhi and India firmly on the international art circuit at a time when the market is picking up after the slump of two or three years ago. It also makes modern and contemporary art accessible for people who would not happily venture into a smart gallery but feel comfortable in Delhi’s Pragati Maidan exhibition grounds.
A great success – as was the Jaipur Literary Festival that will be up next on this blog.