Everything You Wanted to Know About Contemporary Indian Art
. . . But Were Afraid to Ask!
The single best story to read on the boom in Indian art comes from Abu Dhabi’s The National. Click through to read the whole story. It’s worth the time. If you’re not convinced, here is a capsule version:
Bharti Kher [is] one of India’s rising art superstars. A year ago, the 39-year-old was part of a growing group of struggling artists whose work was virtually unknown outside of India. [ . . . ] As interest in Kher’s work balloons, so have prices. Misdemeanours, a piece of sculpture of a snarling hyena made from fibre glass, wood and fur that examines the shattered harmony between man and nature sold for $167,000 (Dh613,000) at an auction as Sotheby’s this summer. Another work, Missing, sold through the auction house for $210,900 (Dh774,600) in May, while An Absence of Assignable Cause – a giant heart of a blue whale cast in fibre glass and festooned in bindis – was snapped up by Charles Saatchi [ . . . ]
Although she’s lived in India since 1992 and her work is conspicuously from the subcontinent, Kher was born and raised in Britain. She arrived in Delhi and ended up marrying a small town boy from Bihar who had not long arrived in the Indian capital himself. His name is Subodh Gupta, the current king of Indian contemporary art, who was the first Indian installation artist to sell his work for more than $1 million (Dh3.67 million). [ . . . ] Kher and Gupta symbolise the breakthrough of Indian contemporary art onto the international scene as it rides the wave of the nation’s fast-growing economy. Works are reaching prices never previously seen – or imagined. In the last three years alone, Gupta’s prices at auction for an oil painting increased by 5,000 per cent, while modern Indian artists, such as the 82-year-old Tyeb Mehta, who has lived a lifetime of financial struggle, have seen their paintings suddenly fetch more than a million dollars. [ . . . ]
(The best stuff, after the jump.)
The boom was kick-started by wealthy Indians, mainly those living in the US, whose pride in India’s rising economic status spurred them to acquire art from back home. Never before had Indians or Indian expats invested in art, signifying a cultural shift in values.This trend was dramatically revealed when a New York-based Indian hedge-fund manager stunned Christie’s in 2005 by paying $1.6 million (Dh5.8 million) for one of Tyeb Mehta’s paintings titled Mahisasura, of a Hindu buffalo-demon. At the time, nobody paid those prices, but it proved to be a canny buy. [ . . . ]
The best-known gallery owner in the Indian capital is not Indian, however. Peter Nagy is a self-proclaimed New Yorker who arrived in New Delhi in 1992 and within five years had set up Nature Morte, more an incubator of the hottest artistic talent in India than a gallery.
“In terms of the international scene, interest in India in still nascent,” Nagy argues. The gallery remains the first and only one from India to be included in international art fairs, such as Art Basel and Miami and FIAC in Paris. But the 49-year-old gallery owner, who backed artists such as Subodh Gupta long before they were feted outside of India, says Nature Morte is today “swamped” with inquiries from curators, private collectors, galleries and foreign journalists. [ . . .]
Escalating prices are not just due to new Indian money, but also to the internet. Several online auctions have instantly connected hungry buyers to once-obscure artists. The pioneer of the model is Saffronart.com, which burst onto the scene with a $1.5 million (Dh5.5 million) sale of a painting by Francis Newton Souza, one of India’s modern artists, in 2005. It gave buyers price transparency where previously there had been none. “Giving buyers information gave them the confidence to spend. As traffic increased among the Indian diaspora, the confidence effect trickled down to Indians inside the country,” says Dinesh Vazirani, co-founder of Saffronart.Around 40 per cent of the 12 million hits on the website are from interested buyers within India – a huge rise from the 20 per cent they represented when the site was launched in 2000. Meanwhile, interest from international buyers with no family connection to India has risen from five per cent to 12 per cent. But increasingly, users are the young, newly wealthy executives living in smaller booming cities such as Bangalore and Pune, Vazirani says.
If that peaks your interest, here’s more on the financial side–especially the speculation from South Africa’s Business Report:
Art dealers and experts said the Indian art market was still undervalued and there was money to be made for those with the means to pay the six-figure prices. “I think Indian art is a one-way bet in the long term,” said Philip Hoffman, who runs the Fine Art Fund in London. “That’s why I will allocate money to it. If you look 50 years down the line, what you pay now is peanuts compared to what you will have to pay for the great Indian artists,” he said at an Indian art summit last month. [ . . . ]
“The growth potential is huge,” said Hugo Weihe, the international director of Asian Art at Christie’s. “The Indian art market is particularly strong within India, and that’s different from the Chinese contemporary.” Yet until recently Western collectors had not taken much interest in Indian artists. That is starting to change. Weihe predicted that Indian art sales at Christie’s auctions might reach $30 million this year. [ . . . ]
Neville Tuli, a manager of a $400 million Indian art fund, said Indian art would appreciate by between 18 percent and 25 percent a year, adding that art was now seen as a capital asset. But there are risks. Art fund managers said the Indian market was different from the Western markets, as art was viewed more as a financial investment than a collector’s item in India. “It has gone up 200 times in five years,” said Hoffman, adding that the Indian market was 70 percent speculators and 30 percent collectors. Rapid buying and selling make it difficult to predict long-term value. Collectors and dealers abroad face bureaucratic hurdles such as permits to export art and requirements to register antiques are headaches.
Indian Artists in the Spotlight (The National, Abu Dhabi)
Indian Art Emerges as High Appreciation Investment at Volatile Time (Business Report)