IN EARLY 2007, a couple of representatives of Hanmer & Partners (now, Hanmer MSL) visited me; at the time, I was the art critic at the Hindustan Times, Mumbai. I was informed that they were doing recon for an art project, the nature of which was made as unclear to me as possible by the garbling duo. And, what was a PR company—I had known of Hanmer as a PR firm, their present-day website, however, states that they are ‘a multi-disciplinary communications firm’—doing with art anyway, I had muttered under my breath. When I was asked if I’d be in a position to contribute to their processes, I had muttered over my breath, a polite we’ll-cross-that-bridge-when-you-get-to-it.
A year later, the India Art Summit was inaugurated. Post-event, there was substantial talk, although doubts were still rife. In 2009, I attended the second edition. I bit my lower lip and acquiesced; to my surprise, Hanmer MSL had managed to pull off a vibrant and streamlined event that would eventually become an international player in its own right. The recently concluded third edition managed by Fourth Dimension—Hanmer’s spin off company—with Neha Kirpal as its new director has impelled the Summit further in that direction.
Eighty-four galleries, of which 34 came from overseas, set up their booths at Pragati Maidan. The Summit drew in a footfall of 128,000, up from the 40,000 visitors from the last edition. And most significantly, it successfully managed to pull in buyers and collectors. To ignore what the fair has done—for one, it has managed to take truckloads of (reluctant) Mumbai art peeps to Delhi—would be foolhardy. However, stating the obvious was not one of my principal motivations when I agreed to write about the Summit. Rather, it was one of the queries posed to me before I began writing that got my interest: “Did the Summit ‘bring art to the people’?”