By convention, art fairs tend to be large in scale. However, efforts are being made to explore a format that could be intimate in its viewing experience. Artix, which is being positioned as the country’s first hotel art fair, is one such endeavour. “Sometimes in large-scale fairs, young viewers and collectors can feel a little lost and directionless,” says Payal Kapoor, founder of the Delhi-based art space, Arushi Arts. She, together with Malvika Poddar and Timsy Anand, have conceptualised Artix, which is taking place at the Taj Palace Hotel, New Delhi.
While the concept is new to India, hotel art fairs are extremely popular internationally and have taken place in cities such as Tokyo, Paris, Los Angeles and London. Some of them shine the spotlight on a specific aspect of the art ecosystem. For instance, the inaugural edition of the Dallas Invitational Fair, held between 22-23 April at the Fairmont Hotel, focused on upcoming galleries. “There’s no application process or open call. It’s a fair essentially, but it’s more of a curated gathering of like-minded dealers,” the organiser James Cope, founder of the Dallas-based gallery And Now, told The Art Newspaper.
The idea behind hotel fairs is to offer an immersive experience, wherein hotel rooms turn into art viewing spaces, allowing for a smaller gathering and a more intimate experience. According to Anand, Artix hopes to address the gap in India. “Hotels lend themselves as ideal venues. With ready infrastructure, the suites of a floor convert into art galleries,” she adds.
For its debut edition, Artix includes 20 galleries, 10 solo presentations, and a display of personal collections by three collectors. Anant Art Gallery is showcasing two promising artists such as Abhishek Narayan Verma, who uses printmaking to create intricate imagery based on the politics of a ‘demanding’ society. Often satirical and autobiographical, he comments on the dysfunctional aspects of the contemporary urban milieu. In contrast, Digbijayee Kathua—the other artist whose works have been brought to Artix by Anant Art Gallery— explores various dualities of the urban and rural, of home and the world. Another Delhi-based gallery, Art Centrix Space has a solo presentation by the Jaipur-based artist Manish Sherma. His art attempts to preserve images of the lost history and disappearing heritage of his hometown, Bikaner. Architectural elements like the stepwells and havelis take a new form in his sculptures and paintings.
For its debut edition, the fair has focused mostly on Delhi-based galleries. But going forward, they intend to take the event to other metros and tier 2 cities as well. The curation includes mostly paintings, which can be viewed easily in a smaller space. There is a sizeable showcase of modern masters. For instance, Art Pilgrim is displaying rare works on paper by M.F. Husain and Sohan Quadri. While Husain’s untitled work is figurative acrylic on paper, Quadri’s work features his signature abstract style. The gallery is also showcasing Himmat Shah’s bronze sculpture from 2019. Dhoomimal Gallery is showcasing works by Manu Parekh, F.N. Souza, and Amrita Sher-Gil. Viewers have a rare opportunity to see a painting by V.S. Gaitonde, sourced from a private collection, which has not been shown in public before.
The fair has regular walkthroughs and panel discussions on collecting art with the likes of Lekha Poddar of the Devi Art Foundation. While the event is not ticketed, and the hotel is accessible to anyone, the fair positions itself as a luxury do. One wonders if making it a thing of indulgence is not defeating the very purpose of an art fair—which is to take art to the masses.
Artix is taking place at the Taj Palace Hotel, New Delhi till 27 August, 2023, 11 am to 9 pm