Observing the progress of the Indian art market from the outside one sees many parallels with other relatively new markets in recent memory. Often there is a surge of interest generated by rapidly rising levels of personal and corporate wealth, followed by irrational, ill-informed speculation, generating an overheated market which is always swiftly followed by a crash. Shock waves from this continue for several years until a second, more solid phase of activity resumes, with a graph pattern more like a range of hills than a jagged mountain range with peaks and precipices.
A mature art market contains many facets of activity, and it is very important that each sector is active for the whole to prosper. These include a strong and diverse collector base, motivated more by passion than profit and with multiple outlets for collectors to see and enjoy and learn about art. The commercial and public sectors need to operate side by side, with museums and galleries and art fairs and auction houses all active and flourishing.
And perhaps most importantly there needs to be a very broad spectrum of art and artists, both from home and from overseas, for collectors and enthusiasts to enjoy.
Right now India falls well short in these areas, proportionately there are very few public museums and art galleries, very little non-Indian art to be seen or traded and a general lack of confidence in the sustainability of the sector. I am sure this will change soon, and when the market takes off it will do so quickly, sadly in part motivated again by speculation but also boosted by an increasing number of serious private collections. The private sector needs to play its part with gallery owners prepared to take risks and put on major world class shows, the public sector also needs to step up, with bigger and better exhibition spaces showing international art of the highest quality. If that happens the public will respond for sure, the sooner the better for what should be and could be one of the world’s most important art markets.