The United Art Fair (UAF) is a unique take on an art shows in India. Here’s what the Johny ML, project director, has to say about it:
“We travelled all over India and found that the young artists needed patronage. UAF is all about collapsing the monopolies developed in the art scene during the boom years. We are taking artists to the patrons directly. The fair is an interface of creativity and commerce.”
2012 is the first edition of the UAF and is being held from 27-30 September, 2012 at ITPO, Pragati Maidan, New Delhi, India and will be showcasing the works of over two thousand artists, featuring paintings, sculpture, drawings, photography, installations and video art.
Anurag Sharma, founder and director of the UAF talks of monopolisation of aesthetics:
“I have been instrumental in the handling of the India Art Fair. Each time I saw an art fair I realised that some form of monopolisation of aesthetics was happening in each of them. This is not the case in India alone. It happens in most major art fairs. My travels across our country made me realise how varied the works of art produced by different artists living in the different nooks and corners of India are. This made me think about having a fair for the young and upcoming people who are not really represented by India and are out of the monopolised aesthetics of art fairs.”
and continuing this philosophy, in an interview with the Times of India, he said:
“On the commercial front, it is a major exercise to implement some corrections in the art market. During the boom years, we were mindlessly buying and selling. But now, to promote art, profit cannot be the only driving force. We need to attract more and more art collectors to the scene. We need to tell them that they are the real patrons and it is a process of mutual cultivation”
In essence then, UAF is about releasing art from the dominance and grip of select elitist galleries and showcasing to art lovers (and buyers) the spread and extent of art that India produces. The founders of the UAF discovered that many artists could not afford the initial fee that UAF was asking, so waived the entry fee to all participants. And although the UAF has commercial interests at heart, this in true sense is equitable access – for the artist definitely, but more so for the audience. It brings to mind, what John Dewey had said in Democracy and Education, when speaking of The Democratic Conception in Education (and even if it was about education, it makes perfect sense in this context):
Lack of the free and equitable intercourse which springs from a variety of shared interests makes intellectual stimulation unbalanced. Diversity of stimulation means novelty, and novelty means challenge to thought. The more activity is restricted to a few definite lines — as it is when there are rigid class lines preventing adequate interplay of experiences — the more action tends to become routine on the part of the class at a disadvantage, and capricious, aimless, and explosive on the part of the class having the materially fortunate position.
It’s perhaps ushering in the era of democratisation of art, in the true sense of the argumentative tradition of India. The narrow packaging of the Indian art scene has now been suitably widened and the audience has the option of experiencing the panoramic breadth of the scene.