India Art Fair postpones 2022 event as Delhi imposes restrictions to curb Omicron variant

South Asia's largest art fair has been forced to reschedule its 13th edition from February to April in light of rising Covid-19 case numbers

India Art Fair held its last physical edition in January 2020. © India Art Fair

India Art Fair held its last physical edition in January 2020. © India Art Fair

India Art Fair (IAF) has announced it will reschedule its 2022 event in New Delhi from 3-6 February to 28 April-1 May. This decision follows restrictions issued by the Indian government on Tuesday as the Omicron variant of Covid-19 spreads across the country. Case numbers have risen to their highest rates since early June, when India experienced a devastating second wave of infections.

Delhi is particularly affected by these restrictions, having been issued with a yellow alert banning cultural festivals and business-to-business exhibitions, under which the fair is categorised. The alert has also shut down schools, while forcing museums and non-essential shops, including commercial galleries, to operate at a reduced capacity.

As of earlier this month, 75 galleries and institutions plan to exhibit at IAF 2022. This is slightly down from the 81 that participated in IAF 2020, the fair's last physical edition, which took place shortly before the onset of the global pandemic.

So far, all 75 participants have agreed to show during the rescheduled dates, and IAF's director Jaya Asokan says that she has received "unfettered support from all exhibitors and partners". Should the fair not be able go ahead in 2022, "galleries will then be offered the option to roll their participation costs over to the next scheduled fair", she adds. Asokan was appointed to run the fair in March; this edition will be the first under her leadership.

The number of international galleries taking part is noticeably lower this year compared to 2020—down from 11 to four. David Zwirner, which has participated in previous editions, will not return this year as it is "slightly reducing the number of art fairs it is participating in 2022", according to gallery director James Green. However, he adds that David Zwirner intends to return to IAF for its 2023 edition.

International galleries that will still take part in the rescheduled event include neugerriemschneider (Berlin) and Grosvenor Gallery (London). They will be joined by many of India's largest galleries including Chemould Prescott Road, Nature Morte and Chatterjee & Lal, as well as less-established spaces such as Exhibit320 (New Delhi) and Apre Art House (Mumbai).

A number of non-commercial organisations that were forced to cancel their 2021 events will also have a presence at the fair, including Serendipity Arts Foundation and the Kochi-Muziris Biennial Foundation.

India has reported 13,154 new Covid cases and 268 deaths in the past 24 hours. The nation's Omicron tally has risen to 961, as per government data. Restrictions have also been enforced in Mumbai, where Mumbai Gallery Weekend is currently scheduled to take place from 13-16 January.

Ranjana Steinruecke, director of Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke, who has organised Mumbai Gallery Weekend, says that the event will take place unless goverment restrictions make it impossible. "Cases aren't expected to peak until Feburary, some weeks after our event. Plus, works have now already been shipped for the exhibitions, so we plan to go ahead," she says. "Being private spaces, galleries can control and monitor attendance easier than a public event such as a fair. We've been through this before—everyone's vaccinated and knows to how to behave in these situations."