The Financial Times examines the Indian art market where they discover a lot of strength among Modern Indian art even if recent auctions have come down significantly from the market peak of mid=2008: “Christie’s June sale in London made £2.4m in total (the June 2008 sale reached £5.4m) with an average lot price of £31,977.”
Indians based abroad played a strong role in the revival of the Indian art market in the late 1990s when “NRIs in cities such as Dubai, New York and London, flush with new-found wealth, joined the rush to buy art. They turned to a critically underrated tradition of postwar Indian painters such as FN Souza, MF Husain and SH Raza. Prices for this school, known as the Progressive Artists Group, went through the roof,” according to Harris.
This stampede peaked when the Bollywood star Tina Ambani paid £1.3m for FN Souza’s “Birth” (1955) at Christie’s, London, in June last year. In fact, the excitable Indian modern art market has been driven almost exclusively by Indian money, both at home and abroad. “I was surprised to see how strong the local market was in India for modern art, unlike in China where foreign buyers mainly sustain the market,” reiterates Gunnar Kvaran, director of the Astrup Fearnley museum in Oslo, which is currently hosting the Indian Highway exhibition.
Figuring out the depth of this Indian money is the new priority for the art trade whether that’s Indian galleries or western galleries selling art in India:
Representatives from local venues Vadehra Art Gallery and Gallerie Nvya trumpeted that the fair was “extremely busy” with “better than expected” sales. Cautious Indian collectors outnumbered buyers from Hong Kong, London and New York while “price points for modern art ranged from Rs15 lakhs (£18,500) to Rs90 lakhs (£114,000), with discounts of 20-25 per cent. For contemporary Indian artists, prices went from Rs50,000 (£600) for small paper works to Rs50 lakhs (around £62,000) for larger works,” says Mamta Singhania of New Delhi’s Anant Art Gallery. Talk of the market bottoming out dominated the stands. Nagy is nonetheless refreshingly honest about the post-crash dynamics of the sector: “Contemporary art prices have come down 25-30 per cent, some artists have dropped as much as 50 per cent.” The bubble has deflated at auction for modern art, with Raza’s top price this year ($211,936 for a 1969 medium-sized oil) a far cry from the eye-watering $2.5m paid last year for his larger acrylic work “La Terre” (1973). Husain’s market remains steady with oils selling for an average of $130,000. Souza fetched wildly contrasting prices at Sothebys’ London Indian art sale in June, from £46,850 for “Death and the Maiden” (1966) to £403,250 for the larger work “Orange Head” (1963), the top lot. Total sales for 59 lots were just more than £2m, with an average lot price of £35,040.
Indian Art’s Bumpy Ride in the Market (Financial Times)