Over The Years
A well-known news reader of yore makes sure her guests sit at a dedicated space in her living area and spend most of their time there. Apart from the comfort, her interest lies in her central wall where she has hung a four by six feet original MF Husain. Other luxury articles in the living room take a back seat, as she rightly claims, “I have been offered around Rs 7 Crores for the painting Husain saheb gifted us nearly two decades ago.”
In a strange irony of life, the artworks, produced mostly by cash-strapped but passionate artists and sculptors, end up being an elite phenomenon sold, bought and invested for lakhs and crores in current India.
A quick look at the trends in art sales indicates an upward movement. The first ever Indian artist Tyeb Mehta sold one of his paintings in 2002 for a whopping Rs 8 crore at a Christie’s auction. Mehta, since then, has reached a figure of a whopping 19.78 crore for his work ‘Mahishasur’. Indian auction house Safforn Art has also managed a cool Rs 5.71 crores for Subodh Gupta in 2008, and Arpita Singh and Bharti Kher earlier between an estimated Rs 6 and 9 crores.
Inside The Fair
Cashing in on its golden goose trait and a huge potential at domestic and international market, India Art Fair, earlier known as India Art Summit, invested much of its expertise in making it a calendar event on the Delhi horizon. Flaunting the best of Indian and international art galleries, a careful selection of art works, influential partners and presenters like BMW, Yes Bank, British Council and so on, it has managed to pull the who’s who of the country including ambassadors and Indian ministers. The footfall includes collectors, buyers, investors, veteran artists, art students, hoteliers, et al.
As always, the 10th edition of the four-day Art Fair that concluded on February 12 lived up to its reputation. This time it saw a change of guard, with Jagdish Jagpal at the helm of affairs as the Fair Director. Unlike the last few years, it emphasised more on domestic art and buyers, and few signature international art galleries.
The otherwise uneven NSIC Grounds at Okhla Industrial area wore an eclectic look because of the Fair. Bright silken white booths were dotted with architectural marvels designed by renowned Joint Studio and a snake-shaped seating arrangement by Six Inch, held eye balls. The official partner BMW flaunted its swanky car painted in a multitude of bright hues.
Joined by its new majority shareholders MCH Group Basel and Montgomery Arts UK, the international booths boasted galleries like David Zwirner (London/New York/Hong Kong), Blain | Southern (London/Berlin), Sabrina Amrani (Madrid) and Aicon Gallery (New York) . This year, particularly strong representation from the domestic front, was the key catcher. Hence, leading Indian galleries, namely Chatterjee & Lal, Jhaveri Contemporary and Chemould Prescott Road (all Mumbai), Experimenter (Kolkata), GALLERYSKE (Bengaluru/New Delhi), Vadehra Art Gallery, Gallery Espace and Art Heritage (all New Delhi), had their best artworks on display, making the fair quite a deal among the buyers and investors. India’s most influential cultural organisations partnering with the fair included Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, Foundation for Indian Contemporary Art, Korean Culture Center, and the Institut Français en Inde.
Works of Art
A step inside the booth ‘Projects’ greeted one with a massive show of black and white photographs of Amrita Shergill, shot by Umrao Shergill largely from 1930-37.
G Ravinder Redyy’s mammoth fibre sculptures of nude unshapely women with protruding eyes and a stern gaze also caught a lot of attention.
The site of Indian galleries bore a brighter and warm look as a representative of our vibrant culture. From Seema Kohli’s Golden Womb paintings and sculptures, Dimpy Menon’s lyrical bronze dancers, SK Radhakrishnan’s trademark bronze images, exquisite tribal art by Jangarh Singh Shyam to Shampa Sircar Das’ meditative moods in mysterious shades ensured the Indian side was certainly worth a dekko!
The Indian galleries were happier with most galleries selling 90 per cent of their exhibits. “I sold 90 percent of my works,” shared Director Aaakar Prakar Gallery, Reena Lath. “I sold Satish Gujral’s sculptures and one of my new artist’s works to the Korean Ambassador,” said a chirping Sunaiana Aanad of Art Alive.
Buying & Selling
So, who are the buyers who make art fairs a luxurious and elitist affair? These are new millionaires, corporate houses, entrepreneurs, start ups that have suddenly overwhelmed the art markets. The price tags at the fair, for instance ranged from Rs
5 lakhs to several crores. Interestingly, demonetization and GST haven’t affected the niche art market.
“The Art market reflects India’s growth,” said Reena Lath, who sold 90 per cent of her works including S H Raza’s last works and Debanjan Roy’s mammoth fibre glass sculpture Selfie with Cow in which Mahatma Gandhi is taking a selfie with a cow, a sharp comment on the current Indian political scenario.
Lath observes: “Some 20 years ago, there were barely 500 buyers in the country. Today with new millionaires, corporate houses and new museums and regular fairs, buyers are more liberal and knowledgeable.”
With this change now among galleries, there is more level playing field. Barring natural jealousies, they are largely united because every gallery sells something or the other to a growing numbers of investors and collectors. The upper-middle class has also started investing in art. Popular culture arts are largely bought by corporate houses while serious art buyers opt for seasoned artists.
Art, therefore, has always been an elitist phenomenon. Earlier artists were patronised by the royalty. Now, art galleries, foundations and institutions support promising artists. Hence, an art fair of this size and potential is a great encouragement for artists of all kinds and galleries while also adding positively to the economy. Art, as they say, will always remain in vogue!