Taking Indian art to the next level

She is vivacious, “ridiculously well-travelled”, doesn’t like to be at a place for a longer time, is a pro in long distance relationships and has an impressive resume that maps her achievements from the days at Oxford University to her last stint at Art Dubai(2009-2014) as an Assistant Fair Director. This powerhouse of energy and experience, Zain Masud has been roped in as India Art Fair’s International Director for an “indefinite” time to bring in world perspective to this home-grown property.

“I think I have a unique and special experience and have been fortunate to make many connections through my work as my previous role took me to different countries and in turn helped me to understand different markets,” says Masud. “I think, this gives me a wide perspective and confidence, especially in this market’s ability that will grow exponentially in the next few years,” she adds.

One of the leading art platforms in South Asia, India Art Fair has been growing strength-to-strength since its inception in 2008. Globally, the art market witnessed sluggish growth post recession, but Indian art scene has managed to sail through, and Masud feels the time is ripe to take this nine-year-old entity to the next level. And this, she says, will be done by improving the quality of the five-day fair by scaling down its size.

“By scaling down I mean by cutting down on the number of galleries and this immediately means that you are lifting the quality of the fair by becoming selective... and I think that is very important,” she tells Metrolife.

“This restructuring is a natural progression for an event like this which is an incredible property. Each fair needs to evolve and refresh, so now we need to think about India’s position with the rest of the world.”

One of the important ways of bringing art into everyday life, according to Masud is, to give ownership to the people. “We will be developing year-long programmes to engage the audience around the country. This is ‘the India Art Fair’ and we want to give ownership to the people,” she says, adding there would be a greater focus on South Asia.

Born in Saudi Arabia, she travels between London, Beijing and Moscow where her mother, father and fiancé live respectively. “I am like a sailor and I have a friend in every port.” But the petite and unassuming Masud is happy to be in India and confesses “if the market didn’t have potential, I wouldn’t have been here.”

“When I think of other market climates, India has all the ingredients: the economy, the intelligence, the education, aspirational youth and a growing middle class who understand literature and are well travelled. This is what makes India a dynamic country,” she elucidates.

Nothing changes overnight, Masud is well aware of the fact, and hence would be drawing a long-term strategy for the fair and would eventually build closer ties with the Middle East
and Africa.

“The art fair has to think about how it balances market, education and exposure. So we have been thinking about these things. Things are not going to change overnight. But I am really excited about how the fair will look in 2016. The experience of our exhibitors and people navigating the fair will be very important for us,” she says.

“I would be really focussing on how to build strength, address areas that need to be improved and how to build lasting relationships,” she adds.

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