The Business Standard in India does a lunch with Neha Kirpal, founder and head of the India Art Fair:
Someone gave her a ticket to Frieze, the annual art fair in London. She came away dazzled but none the wiser. An abracadabra moment followed. On a domestic flight back from an assignment, she drew a marketing model for an art fair – “it was more diagram than plan” – on an air sickness bag and presented it to her boss at Hanmer MS&L. He believed in her and gave her a few lakh rupees to try her luck. So started the decorously-named India Art Summit (she was wary of calling it a fair) at Pragati Maidan in 2008, with 34 galleries, mostly local. Mumbai’s galleries cold-shouldered her. “They waited and watched but Delhi gave me the thumbs up.” When she buttonholed Shireen Gandhy – today one of her biggest supporters – of Mumbai’s hoary two-generation-old Chemould Gallery at Art Dubai, she was cut short in chilly tones with, “And who are you?”
In a few years she had given her employer such a healthy profit that she was able to buy him out. She and a couple of co-workers in a slummy office were maniacally managing phones and the media – plus licking invites -when, at Frieze 2010 in London, she ran into two Scotsmen, Will Ramsay and Sandy Angus, owners of 22 art fairs, the world over. They believed this convincing, plain-spoken charmer and injected 49 per cent funding into her business. They are silent partners; she owns the rest as sweat equity and controls the show.
Kirpal wears the title of IAF top boss lightly, with seven 30-something fleet-foots, who work round the year 24×7 (on improved premises, she adds), to produce an art event whose importance is matched by its burgeoning profile.
Lunch with BS: Neha Kirpal (Business Standard Column)