The National finds excitement in the Indian art market when London lies in torpor according to Rob Dean who used to be Christie’s Indian rep but now runs his own gallery:
“From the talk here, there’s an upswing in the mood, which there definitely is not in London,” he says. “In London, having a gallery is the equivalent of art storage, beautifully presented art storage. People here don’t think it’s as bad here as they do in the rest of the world.” Neha Kirpal, the associate director of the fair, says a lot of the western galleries “are in markets which are struggling at the moment. Here, the recession has certainly lifted. There are individuals who have walked through the door and left after buying 18 paintings.
That’s because Indians have some serious untapped buying power, according to market insiders:
Vikram Sethi, who helps some of India’s richest build their collections, says economic statistics are a poor indicator of the buying power of Indian collectors. “The people who buy art aren’t people who are so much affected by the stock market and by the recession,” he says. “Our economy is not a true reflection of the money there is in India. India has so much money, we don’t even know how much money we have. There’s a lack of confidence, there’s nothing else.” Mr Dean said this buying power was now increasingly looking to buy international as well as Indian art. “In the past, it’s been quite difficult for domestic Indians to purchase foreign art because there were exchange regulations. All of those barriers are slowly being removed. The amount of money a private individual is able to spend overseas, I’m not sure it’s even limited any more.”
Indeed, some of the significant sales at the fair were for Picasso’s work. Nonetheless, Indians still primarily buy Indian art, AFP points out:
“Most Indians buy indigenous works, which is a good way to start collecting art but gradually Indian art has to step out of its own borders for wider acceptance,” said Stefan Wimmer from the Beck & Eggling art gallery in Germany, which had a display at the art summit. The rise of India’s business elite is also creating a class of people ready to splash cash on domestic art, promising a brighter future for local galleries and artists. “There are the fixed (established) clients and there are the new clients who have invested in houses, cars, jewellery but are looking for more. Art is their preferred choice,” says Shilpa Dugar of krishala arts, a gallery based in the southern Indian city of Chennai.
World’s Art Dealers Hope for Indian Summer (The National)