In conversation with the founders of The Irregulars Art Fair
An alternative space for independent and under-represented artists
Last year, while the art world’s focus was trained on India Art Fair in New Delhi, there was a smaller show taking place not too far away, at the repurposed warehouse of a disused leather factory deep inside Khirki Village. Called The Irregulars Art Fair (TIRAF), the three-day affair was the brainchild of artist Tarini Sethi, 29, and graphic designer Anant Ahuja, 27, who wanted to create an alternative space for independent and under-represented artists. “It is difficult to exhibit your work in Delhi without knowing someone or having money,” says Sethi, who curates TIRAF. “This platform is a call for greater diversity in the field, and to break down the currently inaccessible art market,” adds Ahuja, who takes care of strategy, partnerships, and production. Now, with the second edition of the fair (January 30 – February 5, 2019), the duo is attempting to delve even deeper into questions about art, like: how does one decide what art is? Is it defined by the space it inhabits or the message it seeks to deliver? They tell us what we might expect:
ELLE: What kind of art do you find yourself gravitating towards?
Tarini Sethi: Definitely the more dystopian, surreal, otherworldly kind of visual art.
Anant Ahuja: I’m attracted to graphic work—I like grids and typography. Although, since we’ve started building TIRAF, I find myself enjoying a variety of mediums and beginning to appreciate more.
Untitled work by Aditya Verma
ELLE: Are you against institutionalised art?
TS: We are not against art fairs, and the term anti-art fair just means that its anti-establishment, not anti-art. We want to break down the currently inaccessible art market.
ELLE: Do you feel that there is a greater need for anti-establishment movements today, across fields?
TS: Definitely. I think people have started being more outspoken. And artists have started to experiment a lot more, creating work that makes you question the society we live in. Look at what happened with #MeToo, the way it escalated and took form. There is absolutely a need for more anti-establishment movements and platforms.
Signs from the leather factory
ELLE: The biggest ideological threat facing our generation?
TS: Our society is so bound by religion and its limitations that there are lines we do not cross. And while things have progressed since our grandparents’ time, we need to stake out a place where we can shake the system without shaking our core beliefs.
AA: The fear to speak out and question the norm. For me, having grown up in a conservative environment has propagated this notion even more. We need to find a platform and the strength to speak our truth.
ELLE: What compels you right now?
TS: The need to keep creating.
AA: To make ends meet, without completely losing my creative integrity.
Untitled work by Taijasi Mishra
ELLE: And what keeps you up at night?
TS: The nagging feeling that I’m not creating enough.
Untitled work by Rohit Mirdodi
ELLE: What can attendees expect at this year’s edition?
TS: We’re going to be having our main show at Studio Khirki, while also having satellite shows in a few other spaces around Delhi. Apart from this, the one thing we’ve been trying to tackle is how to make art accessible to the regular working man. It has become a rich man’s hobby, and we want to get rid of this idea once and for all. So, we are trying to figure out a way to have outdoor shows as well, so it’s even more open to the public. We’re also keen to bring in schools to participate, so that we can reach every age group.
Untitled work by Mohna Singh
ELLE: And why Studio Khirki?
TS: Khirki, being so central, is a great space to have an event. And the space [Studio Khirki] itself is so beautiful; it just needed to be activated in some way. Over the years, Khirki Village has become a great space for alternative art. There are murals sprawled across walls around the entire village, and such diversity in communities that it’s a great location to bring different kinds of people together.
So Much Water So Close To Home by Parth Gupta
ELLE: Where do you want to see TIRAF 10 years from now?
TS: In tier two and three cities, giving artists from all over India opportunities to showcase their work.
AA: What Kochi–Muziris Biennale has managed to do with Fort Kochi is remarkable. I really hope we can do that with more cities.