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A wrap-up of Indian and international art market scene
Despite adverse global conditions, the Indian and international art auction scene gradually gathered momentum, to maintain its positive bias thus far in 2012. Top market players are focusing on quality in order to target discerning buyers. However, this is not a market for those looking to make quick money, but ideal for committed collectors, ready to pick precise works at attractive prices. Here’s a quick round-up of the art scene as recently reported by top news publications and agencies:


Georgina Maddox mentioned in The India Today report that the first auction of this monsoon season had some interesting results, referring to outcome of Asta Guru Modern Indian Art, the Mumbai-based online art auction house. It indicated a few interesting trends, including a new record set for the renowned Bengal School modern artist, Hemen Mazumdar (Rs 5.3 million for ‘After Bath’, an oil-on-canvas).

However, it was the late Tyeb Mehta's Untitled work, (oil-on-canvas; 1969), which easily led the pack; it went for Rs 3 crore. Veteran artist S.H. Raza followed him, his ‘Akriti-Prakriti’ (oil-on-canvas; 1997), fetching Rs 2 crore. The news report elaborated, ”The second interesting fact is that a new record was established for Hemen Mazumdar (1894-1948). "This is a good price for Mazumdar's work and it indicates that tastes are moving more towards old masters and classically beautiful works, People don't want to put up paintings of skeletons and grief in their living room," Vickram Sethi, the director of Asta Guru Modern Indian Art, was quoted as saying.

A new generation of buyers emerging!

A sort of ‘curious dichotomy’ has gripped the auction market, marked by a sudden boom in sales art at record prices even as global economies, including those in the US, Europe and India register a slump in growth, observed The IANS news report, pointing to a new generation of buyers showing interest in art and auctions. “It’s opening up their purse strings to acquire rare and high quality artworks. A quality consciousness seldom seen before is driving auction markets worldwide even as new segments of buyers - private archives and collectors - have emerged,” it added. According to Christie's international director (Asian Art), Hugo Weihe, the collector base for South Asian is gradually expanding.

The phenomenon is an outcome of the caution exercised by buyers after the price bubble burst, after the economic slowdown in 2008. The old masters, modernists as well as contemporary pioneers continue to command steady prices in the art auction market that is still ruled by masters like Tyeb Mehta, Raza, Souza, Manjit Bawa, MF Husain, Ram Kumar, Anjolie Ela Menon etc and legends like the Tagore brothers, Jamini Roy, and Nanadalal Bose.

Art markets remain buoyant

Heena Khan of The Business Line underlined the fact that in spite of poor economic growth and faltering stock markets globally, art markets remain buoyant. The resistance offered by them to the fiscal crisis can be attributed to the phenomenal rise of the Asian art market. In 2008, when the investment-driven art market crashed, 70 per cent of the Indian art market was led by contemporaries and only 30 per cent by masters. Now, it’s 90 percent masters. Also, what we’ve at present is a slowdown where people can plan their purchase. Art is a limited edition product. It is a buyer’s market, so it is bound to appreciate,” quipped Ajay Seth of Copal Art.

Current situation is a corrective measure

The Asian Age writer Nivi Shrivastava stated: “Indian art enjoyed its best time some years ago. But post the global meltdown, appreciation for all the finer things in life, including the Husains and Razas was also affected. With the gloom persisting, there have been a few attempts to help art appreciation at least. For Tunty Chauhan of gallery Threshold, the bygone phase was an aberration, but the current dull stage is a corrective measure. “It will eventually churn out quality work. And artworks won’t be selling purely on the basis of names,” the gallerist avers.

Art a good place to put money

Painting the global art market ‘miracle’ in glowing colors, Mike Collett-White of The Reuters mentioned: “The appetite for the most precious treasures is there for all to see. The value of private deals is even more staggering. At a time of recession, euro zone crisis, financial markets uncertainty and stagnating growth, art prices can be mind-boggling.

Yet major auction houses are relying on a growing segment of super-rich collectors London to New York and from Beijing to Moscow who view paintings as status symbols, objects of beauty, or investment tools - or a captivating combination of all three. When returns in other investments are so meagre, experts say art is as good a place as any to put your precious money. Individual collectors aside, another major factor behind the boom has been institutional buyers, most notably the Middle East and in particular Qatar, stocking up on art.

The European Fine Art Foundation valued the art market at 46.1 billion euros in 2011, up 63 percent from 2009 when it slumped. Areas of it are mostly driven by a finite supply of great objects, which will always be looked for and hence, at the top end, the prices will only get greater," stated an expert.

The Arts Trust take: What draws collector/investors to Indian art?

Apart from the investment angle, in sheer aesthetic and thematic terms, Indian art is drawing the global attention. Economic growth and urbanization coupled with the increasing intervention of cutting-edge technologies have dramatically altered India’s socio-economic landscape over the last couple of decades. Socially sensitive, talented contemporary artists highlight this irony through their practice placed in a global context. Their themes are intimately linked with the local ethos and they tactfully assess the impact of globalization and other pressure points for drastic change in a society still heavily reliant on tradition.