Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Tushar Sethi of ICIA on ‘India Xianzai’, The Arts Trust and art market trends

Lina Choudhury-Mahajan of the Hindustan Times had an interview with Tushar Sethi, the brain behind ‘India Xianzai’ show in Shanghai.

The Institute of Contemporary Indian Art (ICIA) and Seven Art Ltd, in a tie up with The Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA) Shanghai, displayed the works of established Indian artists.

The exhibition showcased the works of top 20 artists, including Chitra Ganesh, Jitish Kallat and Anju Dodiya. Apart from elaborating on the concept of ‘India Xianzai’, Mr Sethi also spoke about the broad art market. He feels that the ‘Recession has been good for the art market’. Excerpts from the interview:

Q: How did the idea of taking Indian artists to China emerge?
A: There has been a lot of interest by Chinese art collectors in India. Considering Indian art has never been shown on such a large scale in China, we felt it was time. We wanted to showcase the best of Indian art on a platform it deserves.

Q: On what basis did you choose the artists?
A: We tried to choose the artists whose works are varied, as they are brilliant. We tried to showcase the best.

Q: Why did you choose Shanghai and the contemporary art museum?
A: We didn’t want to exhibit these works in a gallery. Each gallery has a limited clientele; but in a museum, the footfalls are enormous. It’s not just art lovers who come, but also collectors. Unfortunately, in India we don’t have these kinds of museums but abroad, they attract huge gatherings. There’s a massive Asian art market waiting to be tapped.

Q: What has the response been?
A: The response has been fantastic. It’s been rated as one of the best museum shows ever. A few thousand people came for the opening and there has been a steady stream of between 700-800 visitors every day thereafter.

Q: What’s the price range of the art work?
A: The works are priced between Rs 10 lakh and Rs 1.5 crore but the show in the museum is strictly for viewing and not for sale. However, we are planning to keep back the works of these artists for a year and are looking to sell them to a collector, someone who can appreciate art and will value these pieces.

Q: Has the recession affected the art market?
A: Recession has affected markets the world over, including the art market but in a way it’s been good for the art market as the real art buyers are still buying, it’s the speculators and punters who have been driven out. Since liquidity started drying up, prices have gone back to sensible levels instead of being driven by speculation.

Q: Have you planned any more shows?
A: We are planning to do a show at the Moma Museum in Russia next year. The idea is to spread awareness about Indian art around the world.

Q: What about a show in collaboration with Chinese artists?
A: We may hold a show at the NGMA next year with Chinese artists.

Q: Tell us about your art portal
A: The portal was launched four years ago and gets two lakh hits a day, which is huge for an art portal. It's a platform to promote Indian art.

Q: What’s the future of art in India?A: Right now, what we’re seeing is not even the tip of the iceberg. Serious art buyers are very small percentage given our population. We have about 5,000 buyers. From the way the market is growing, and with our banks secure and recession not having hit us so badly, it will soon grow to 25,000.

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