Friday, April 2, 2010

‘Expect Indian art market to be 5% of the world market by 2018’ - Tushar Sethi

Tushar Sethi spoke with Ritwik Mukherjee of The Financial Chronicle on a wide range of subjects. Here we reproduce excerpts of the talk:
Q: Why did Indian art sales worldwide drop in 2009?
The art market is driven by supply and liquidity. There is a lack of supply in Indian art. Unlike world markets where a collector or buyer has 600 years of art to pick from, India has only 60, and there are only 40 artists worth looking at. In 2007-08, every two months a new record price was being set for artists; this was because of a lot of liquidity. What one needs to understand is that art buying is a passion of the very wealthy. The first thing they would cut if the market slows down is art. That’s the reason why the art market last year saw a drop in sales worldwide.

Q: What would be the contribution of Indian contemporary art out of the total sales of $375 million in 2008 or $250 million in 2009?
To answer this question, firstly, one would have to take into consideration private, gallery and auction sales. In 2007-08, it was 40 per cent, 55 per cent in 2008-09 and 30 per cent in 2009-10.

Q: What is the expectation for 2010?
One would expect the contemporary market to remain slow for another two years. It will be around 20 to 30 per cent of total sales. This is because the market is consolidating. There will be a big churn in the contemporary art market as a lot of the artists could disappear and there will be a new set of contemporary artists.

Q: Why do you say that contemporary Indian art is well positioned to advance its value in future?
Given that the world sees China and India as the next global economic leaders, liquidity will be driven towards them. If one looks at the art market in China, it is 10 times larger than the Indian market. The average Indian contemporary artist would sell at Rs 15-25 lakh and the top 3 artists starting with Subodh Gupta selling at Rs 1 crore followed by Jitish Kallat selling at Rs 60 lakh and T V Santosh selling at Rs 35 lakh.

Contemporary artists in China sell at over Rs 5 crore. Given the fact that India has more millionaires than China, and the new-generation Indian artists are making their mark, contemporary Indian art is very well positioned to exceed old price highs.
Q: Where does India stand vis-à-vis other countries globally in terms of amount being invested in art?
The current Indian market is very small. India currently contributes 0.55 per cent of the world art market. But we expect the Indian art market to be 5 per cent of the world market by 2018, which is ten times the current market.

Q: What is the average value of works of Indian contemporary artists in the domestic market and abroad?
This is a very difficult question as there are too many variables. I would like to make this as simple as possible. The younger artists ra­nge between Rs 2-5 lakh. The established artists range from Rs 5 lakh to Rs 25 lakh. There are three contemporary artists who have a market above Rs 25 lakh. The good artists from the US, UK, China, Russia would sell for Rs 5 crore. The most expensive painting ever sold is a Jackson Pollock — for Rs 750 crore.

Q: How much of this total sales volume is generated through online trading?
I would estimate that 10 per cent of art sales in India would take place online. Online auction is a major part of the Indian auction market; one could put it at around 25 per cent. This could go up to 60 per cent in ten years. Christies and Sotheby’s are major players in the auction market and once they start an online presence in a big way, one would expect the world art auction market to be 60 per cent online.

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