Mumbai goes artsy: The city will see its first big art fair this November

Brought by the founders of India’s leading auction house, the contemporary art fair is set to become the second largest exhibit in India. 

Harper's Bazaar India

According to a recent report by India Art Investor, the country’s contemporary art market saw its strongest year ever in 2022 with a turnover of ₹1109 crores, a sell-through rate of 91.2 per cent, and an average price of ₹30.1 lakhs with 3,690 works of 654 artists sold and 112 successful auctions held. Why are we throwing all this numbers at you? Because it closely ties in with the announcement of Art Mumbai—India’s business capital’s foray into the art world and what is set to be India’s biggest art fair after the OG India Art Fair (IAF). 

The new contemporary art fair will take place between November 16 and 19 at the Mahalaxmi Racecourse, the 225 acres that have played host to many a grand celebration, and will feature 50 exhibitors, as opposed to the 71 that showcased at IAF 2023. 

With a primarily Indian selection, exhibitors at Art Mumbai will include leading names in the business such as Vadehra Art Gallery (New Delhi), Experimenter (Kolkata, Mumbai), Chatterjee & Lal (Mumbai), and Sumukha (Bengaluru). And the only five overseas galleries showcasing are those specialising in South Asian art—including Grosvenor in London and Aicon from New York.

“The excitement is both exhausting and exhilarating! With over 50 galleries from India and the world, foundations, sculpture walks, the best of food and music for the soul!” Dinesh Vazirani wrote in an announcement post on Instagram. Vazirani, along with his wife, Minal, is a co-founder of the one of the leading auction houses in India, SaffronArt. 

The two will work together with the dealers Conor Macklin, the director of Grosvenor Gallery, and founder of the online gallery Global Art Hub to organise Art Mumbai in an attempt to bring to the city what was always its own. After all, it was here that the Bombay Progressives—an artists group that included the likes of MF Husain, SH Raza, VS Gaitonde—were born and the works of whom, according to the India Art Investor report, were 14 of the 15 highest bids in 2022. 

Teesta Bhandare, a curator and collector from New Delhi will be directing the fair. Bhandare is known for spearheading young collector’s events across the country, and sees the Mumbai collector base include a growing class of young professionals. “They are a bit more experimental and less into brand names; they also care less about what their parents are buying—there isn’t as strong a sense of legacy in their taste,” she says in an interview with The Art Newspaper.

“From a sculpture garden to digital art, you can expect the unexpected,” she said in the same interview. According to the director, Art Mumbai will be more tightly curated and experiential. Visitors will be in for a celebration of South Asian art with a special tribute to Mumbai, along with gallery presentations, speakers, a VIP programme, musical performances, culinary experiences, and children's workshops.

With the launch of the Nita Mukesh Ambani Cultural Centre (NMACC) earlier this year, there has been a more expansive focus on the cultural interest of the city; the latest at NMACC being Maurizio Cattelan’s first solo exhibition in India, as well as the country's first Mirror Room installation by Yayoi Kusama. Art Mumbai is a step in the same direction. 

This one is definitely going on our calendars. And while we will wait to draw a comparison between Art Mumbai and IAF, what we know already stands to set it apart is the promised Bollywood glitz, with galas and parties with the Bollywood biggies in the works.