Hasan Suroor interviews Phillips de Pury’s Peter Sumner on the eve of the auction house’s BRIC sale. Suroor writes for The Hindu, so he is naturally more concerned with the I in BRIC:
How big is the international market for Indian art today, especially in Europe? How much has it expanded over the past ten years and who are the main buyers? Is it confined mostly to rich Indian expatriates?
The buyers for Indian contemporary art are becoming increasingly global. Without question, there is always a strong trend among collectors to buy art from their own country as this art is often most relevant to their background, society and context. However, top Indian contemporary artists such as T.V Santhosh, Atil Dodiya, Thukral and Thagra and Jitish Kallat employ techniques and explore themes that appeal to the global western audience, whilst maintaining an inherent Indian quality. In the past ten years, contemporary Indian art market has changed beyond recognition. International galleries are now operating out of Mumbai, Delhi, Berlin, London and New York while auction houses regularly offer Indian art within the context of western contemporary art sales. This has undoubtedly helped to internationalise the collector- base.
There is a view that Indian art is riding a market-driven bubble and would not long last. This happened with Indian writing in English which became hugely popular in the west in the late 1980s and mid-1990s but the honeymoon is now over.
The Indian contemporary art market experienced remarkable growth in 2007 and 2008. Indian art became available on the international stage and was offered in auctions in London and New York. Buyers were a mix of collectors — those looking for the latest in Indian art, and speculators buying it as investment. With the global recession also affecting the art market in 2009 there were substantial downward price corrections. Some could argue that the price bubble did burst in 2009. However, these price corrections helped to stabilise the market and have now allowed investors and collectors alike to re-enter the market at affordable and sustainable levels. At Phillips de Pury we have continued to experience strong demand for the most interesting fresh and exciting new art from young and established Indian artists alike.
How much has the global market for Indian art grown since economic liberalisation? Has it lived up to expectations?
In 2008, auction sales of Indian art raised nearly $24 million globally with Subodh Gupta breaking the $1 million barrier for the first time. This was the culmination of rapid growth of the global market for Indian art market following economic liberalisation in India. After large adjustments in the market place during 2009 India is once again becoming a focus point for the international art market — and is continuing to live up to the expectations. Confidence in long-term sustained growth is the dominant sentiment in the contemporary Indian art market. Buying is from India, U.K,, Europe and the U.S. with corporate institutions also playing their part within the context of contemporary Indian art sales.
Indian Art Goes Global (The Hindu)