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Culture Cheat Sheet | What to say, who to know, and etiquette at the India Art Fair

Amisha posted on 28 January

By Amisha Chowbey

This week, Delhi plays host to one of the biggest showcase of modern and contemporary Indian art in the world. We’ve put together a list of things you need to know, so you’re well equipped to properly navigate the massive maze that awaits you at the NSIC grounds.


New to the art scene? Don’t be intimidated by the lingo you hear floating around! Putting catchphrases under the scanner, let’s decode what you might to hear about artworks and their genre.


Run all you want, this word will catch up with you, wherever you go. It’s just a fancy substitute for a comparison, a blatant attempt to impress.


This does not necessarily mean that the canvas {or the artist} will get offended if you say you don’t like the piece, nor will the canvas burst into flames if you touch it! A better substitute would be “thoughtful”.


Simply put, this word can aptly describe every new concept you see at the fair. If it triggers off a domino effect you cannot explain, this is your go-to word. Best usage - an elongated “Hmmmm” to start with, followed by the word in question.



Even for those who aren't art enthusiasts, you'll find familiar faces that you may not necessarily be able to place when you see them. Make a note- you could bump into one of these celebrities while walking around India Art Fair.

The Legend | SH Raza

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Always ready for a photo-op and a chat about his works, Raza is not merely an artist; a master and legend in his own right, he is an inspiration to the rest.

The Artist | Subodh Gupta

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The man of the moment! With a breath-taking exhibition on at the NGMA, and supreme international fame that's following him – he towers above the rest with his unique exploration and interpretation of common household utensils.

The Critic | Uma Nair

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One of the best art critics in India, her TOI blog titled plUMAge attracts art trackers from all over. There’s no tricking her into a good word; she has the an eye for art, and a mind of her own!

The Ace Curator | Gayatri Sinha


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An exhibition that looks seamless as one walks through it is usually rare to come by. Gayatri Sinha attains star status courtesy her ability to put up a great exhibit, with both quality and finesse.

The Suave Messenger | Dr. Amin Jaffer

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The extremely dapper International Director of Asian Art at Christie’s, he's an avid promoter of Indian art in leading international forums and auction houses.

The Gallerist | Parul Vadehra

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With the most acclaimed exhibitions being curated under the Vadehra banner, Parul Vadehra will be easy to spot at Vadehra Art Gallery's stall at the IAF.


Do’s and Don’ts

  1. Do make a note of artists that catch your fancy. The more you know, the more interesting it will get.
  2. Do NOT touch the artworks. The sight of a family plucking magnetic buzz balls out of a precious installation and throwing them in the air still gives nightmares to a certain gallery owner!
  3. Drawn to a particular piece? Do make small talk with the people standing at the piece with you – sometimes you get lucky enough to come across the artist himself/herself.
  4. Do NOT use the line, “Even my 3-year-old niece could do that”, it’s really not that easy!
  5. Do optimize your time and walk past works that don’t interest you; an artwork must draw your attention immediately in order for you to connect with it.


Having moved beyond bare walls, art fairs are no longer a drag to attend. The India Art Fair is a great place to be this weekend; art, artists, talks, performance art pieces, and a rare energy and dynamic; one that’ll put your creative faculties to good use. Being an art fair junkie, I can safely say that there's no need to ‘get’ every piece, but it can be quite interesting to see what exhibits draw you in, regardless of your motivation.


India Art Fair will be held from the 30th of January to the 2nd of February at the NSIC Grounds. For timings and more information, have a look at their website.

About the Author | Amisha Chowbey is an art-lover-turned-writer. She enjoys interacting with artists for experience-based features, with the aim of working towards restoring the fading sensitivity towards artworks. She lives and works in New Delhi.