Arts & Giving | Diary of a Somebody

Neha Kirpal – Day 1

Winter sun in Delhi is the perfectly cool backdrop for the art fair director’s many thrilling distractions

Neha Kirpal – Day 1

January 22 2013
Neha Kirpal

Day: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

It’s the 21st of January 2013 and it’s a beautiful, crisp winter morning in Delhi. There are only 10 days to go till the fifth edition of India Art Fair opens its doors once again.

The sun is out and the city is looking its best, as it does at this time of year. With world-renowned Sufi musicians infusing life back into 16th-century monuments, international jazz stars playing to a trendy crowd all night in the park, and a string of literature festivals and major art exhibitions opening, this is Delhi in its element. It’s a vibrant cultural centre, and a promising modern city with some serious historical clout. It is also the setting for India Art Fair, with its own week-long string of VIP and collateral events: previews, parties and performances every day of the week.

For the next week or so, the people working night and day to put up a successful fifth edition are more than colleagues or vendors; they are like one big family, racing to the finish line together. It’s an adrenaline rush, and it’s not for the faint-hearted. There is so much to be done in so little time. We work on the fair for the whole year, but nothing can change the intensity and precision needed in the final run-up.

Today I’ve been busy with a prominent journalist from a leading Indian newspaper. She’s been to the fair several times, and this year wants to take a deeper look behind the scenes. We chat about the excitement, which is palpable, though we’ve done this before. I tell her the tents and flooring for the 20,000sq m custom-built venue for the fair have arrived from Germany, and work has commenced. Our production companies include consultants from Dubai, the UK and India. We chat about how much planning goes into preparing the show, the space design, and how eager everyone is to see the façade that Sumant Jayakrishnan – one of the most talented designers in the country – is putting up. Sumant’s design this year is nature inspired. The concept is contemporary, sleek and intrinsically Indian at heart – like the identity of the fair.

India Art Fair has come a long way since I founded it in 2008. The works of more than 1,000 artists – from Picasso to Anish Kapoor to Subodh Gupta – will come through the gates in a few days, arriving from Moscow, Sydney, Singapore, New York, London, Paris, Mumbai, Dhaka and many more cities around the world.  

Collectors from all over India and six continents will be in attendance. Most are flying in a day before the preview on January 31. The number of calls to my mobile is on the rise. Today I’ve spoken to a prominent young designer who’s also a collector, and another collector with a fabulous private museum. There’s a lot of excitement about the preview to the fair. Who gets the first pick? I say the preview opens around 3pm; the answer comes back promptly: “Can I come an hour earlier?”

There is something else, and entirely different, underscoring all of the excitement for me. This year, my own life has taken a completely new turn. My husband and I have a new addition to our lives: a baby girl, Ruhi. She was at the office and at the venue for the fair today. She’s a bundle of joy, and puts a smile on everyone’s faces.

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People, Neha Kirpal