Friday, September 4, 2009

An upswing in the mood

A recent news report in the world’s top financial magazine Economist suggests that India’s art market is back in business.

It states: “The price of paintings by such renowned artists as the late F.N. Souza and M.F. Husain have fallen at auction by 30% or more over the past year. Works by younger contemporary artists like Subodh Gupta, have also slumped.

This has brought a sense of reality to the art market.”Putting things in perspective, it refers to sums paid at New York and London auctions in the first half of last year, which included $1.6m for a Husain, $1.2m for Subodh Gupta’s installation of shiny stainless-steel kitchen pots and pans and $2.5m for a Souza.

In fact, the three highest price tags achieved by Indian art works all came last year. FN Souza’s ‘Birth’ fetched 112m Indian rupees at Christie’s, setting a new record in June.The Economist article points out that the art prices were driven up more by investors than by collectors, a majority of them rich Indians (NRIs) living abroad, especially in the US.

This class of investor vanished from the market after the financial crisis last autumn, and they have not yet come back, say gallery owners and auctioneers, it adds. “Collectors started to return a couple of months ago, bidding rather cautiously at auctions in India and London. "

Significantly, an impressive $597,200 was paid for ‘Daydreaming’ by artist Jogen Chowdhury at Sotheby’s in London. Galleries and auctioneers apart from relying on their old collector-clients are now eyeing young professionals. They are obviously expecting the collector base to broaden, and the art market to deepen in the coming months.

Another news report quoted a former India representative of Christie’s, Rob Dean, as saying, “From the talk here, there’s (obviously) an upswing in the mood, definitely (is) not in London where he runs Rob Dean Art gallery. Mr Dean states the increasing buying power means there will be keenness to purchase Indian as well as international art.

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