Most experts feel it’s indeed an opportune moment to enter India (either as a collector or as a market player). No surprise, they are looking at every aspect of contemporary Indian art and those associated with it from a broader global perspective.
What excites international art market experts like Anna Zegna, Milan-based Ermenegildo Zegna’s image director is a wide pool of younger artists working with alternate media and innovative forms! She has been quoted as saying in an interview: “The canon of the Indian art world is expanding, which is really exciting. Everyone knows the Bengal masters, the progressive masters. However, the challenge right now is exposing new buyers to this fast-expanding canon. Many of these emerging collectors might not intend to spend a quarter or half a million dollars to purchase one of the great masters. But they seek real art on their walls.”
Meanwhile, in an elaborate interview with Sidin Vadukut of the Mint Indulge publication, Yamini Mehta shared her vivacious vision for the art market of South Asia, and India, in particular. She mentions that it’s equally about the way sales are structured to maximize their potential, depending on where they the clients are, according to her, at a given point of time. After more than a decade long stint at Christie’s auction house in New York, where she played a major role in establishing the comprehensive Indian art section, she last year switched to Sotheby’s in London. As their new international South Asian art head, she now oversees focused development of a fast-growing market segment, which has witnessed its share of ups and down, ebb and flow.
Mehta would prefer to see the segment expand incorporating the wider spectrum of South Asia beyond India and China and to consider works of real quality. She is eager to further expand and diversify on the present ideas related to modern & contemporary to leverage the great scope in the promising region. For example, an art curator or a portfolio investor looking to add the modern masters of Bengal to the collection can sort of see ‘across the river’. One may perhaps look at what has been happening in Bangladesh or go back to the 1960s-70s. In essence, this will demand a more curatorial and meticulous methodology to map out this region’s art. The other aspect to her work is of course to target the audience internationally for contemporary art in today’s challenging times.Even though India and china dominate the Asian subcontinent’s art market, countries like Bangladesh and Pakistan deserve their fair share of attention. Yamini Mehta underlines the fact that there are several shared aspects in the domain of art of in the region, though other markets are much smaller. She gives an example of artist Rashid Rana, hardly visible at prominent auctions few years ago, but has scaled new price peaks in no time to become one among Pakistan’s highest selling practitioners ever with a top international gallery promoting his works.
She thinks that the ecosystem is already there in Asian countries though the overall gallery infrastructure is still small and rather new. Previously, accomplished gallerists and curators from abroad sort of parachuted in to organize shows, which didn’t help the artists much. This happens in the secondary art markets like ours. Once they develop, there is going to be far better appreciation in every sense, which will helps them focus on quality. To her, both the curatorial environment and the auction environment need to function together for a solid ecosystem
Against a back of these developments, there have been immense changes in our art scene in the last decade. It has become more dynamic, and there’s interest in art production across diverse audiences, which encourages global players to launch art initiatives centered on India. ZegnArt project nurtured by some perceptive curators is a testimony to this trend, allowing India’s talented artists to collaborate and enter into a dialogue with them. The project specific to Indian art and history, especially Mumbai, has led to a lot of buzz even in the general public.
A meaningful partnership between Mumbai’s historic Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum and the Zegna Group from Italy is a perfect case of fruitful public-private collaboration, being tried out in India, probably first time ever. Anna Zegna emphasizes this is a good time to be closely looking at India’s art world. The undue hype has vanished and people are not saying any longer something like ‘buy big!’
Keen to leverage the condition, Sotheby’s New York are selling a modern Indian painting collection this month consigned by Amrita Jhaveri, formerly with Christie’s. The 43 artworks, by many renowned modern painters like MF Husain, FN Souza, Tyeb Mehta, Vasudeo Gaitonde, and SH Raza are estimated in the price range of $5m and $7m, most of them bought at the auction house’s landmark sale of the Herwitz collection a decade ago, the first one that probably put Indian modern art on the global art map. It’s the first ever evening Indian art sale being held outside the sub-continent.
To sum it up, astute collectors have an excellent scope to consider and time their purchases at very attractive good prices so it’s sure a correct time to enter the Indian art market.