Economy paints a bleak picture for art market

Economy paints a bleak picture for art market
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First Published: Thu, May 22 2008. 11 51 PM IST

ArtTactic study finds a significant decline in market sentiment, but experts say prices will still continue to rise
ArtTactic study finds a significant decline in market sentiment, but experts say prices will still continue to rise
Updated: Thu, May 22 2008. 11 51 PM IST
Mumbai: The air of vulnerability that has increasingly become associated with the India story over the past six months has had an impact on the Indian art market as well, with a report released Thursday by a London-based art market research and analysis firm showing a significant decline in sentiment in the market. However, experts downplay the effect this will have on prices over the next few months.
ArtTactic study finds a significant decline in market sentiment, but experts say prices will still continue to rise
ArtTactic’s latest survey of the Indian art market shows a 13 percentage point dip in its Indian Art Market Confidence Index, a measure based on the responses of 80 experts to questions on the current and future prospects of the economy and the primary and secondary markets for art. While there has been a 17 percentage point increase in the confidence index for modern art and a six percentage point increase in the confidence index for contemporary art, these ga-ins have been offset by a 54 pe-rcentage point fall in the confidence index on the economy.
The sample of 80 respondents includes a mix of collectors, gallery owners, auction houses, dealers and advisers. It includes no artists.
“The difference here is that people are feeling less positive about the prospect of the economy,” said Anders Petterson, managing director of ArtTactic. “This is partly because of the global picture and what impact it might have in India, as well as internal factors like inflation, high oil prices, and other uncertainties.”
Experts believe that the increase in the index for modern and contemporary art indicates that prices in both categories will continue to rise.
“Like anything, the economy is an external factor that one needs to take into account, but that doesn’t mean that people are feeling negatively or they will act differently,” Petterson said. This is particularly relevant in the modern art sector, which rebounded after a gloomy prognosis late last year.
(ART OF INVESTING) Recent record-breaking results for masters such as Ram Kumar, F.N. Souza and M.F. Husain, whose Battle of Ganga and Jamuna: Mahabharata 12 set a personal best at $1.6 million (Rs6.9 crore) at Christie’s March auction, have helped spur buyer confidence after two years of price corrections.
“There might be a slowdown in external factors, but Indians still have the money to buy,” said Ganieve Grewal, Christie’s representative in India, who was in Hong Kong just ahead of Saturday’s Asian contemporary sale which will include 30 works by artists such as Subodh Gupta, Atul Dodiya and Jitish Kallat.
According to Petterson, runaway prices at recent auctions have led to an increase in perceived risk levels, up 8 percentage points from last year. “The potential risk is that prices run ahead of their actual artistic foundation or merit. This could be potentially damaging if the prices move too quickly and then people start asking questions if it is justified.”
In the past year, works by Subodh Gupta and Atul Dodiya have crossed the $500,000 mark, with T.V. Santhosh’s works seeing a particularly staggering rise, from $15,000 to $280,000 . Some dismiss this as the vagaries of a bullish auction market that arguably has little effect on the primary market (composed of galleries and other exhibition spaces where an art work is first put up for sale). “His own prices in the primary market are the same as they were one year back,” said Arun Vadehra, of Vadehra Art Gallery in Delhi.
“What did happen and what is happening today is that people are ready to pay top dollar for very good work,” added Grewal. “When you see really good work it achieves good prices. If the works are average, people are mature enough to be able to distinguish between a good work and an average work.”
The ArtTactic India survey is carried out every six months and was first carried out in May 2007.
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First Published: Thu, May 22 2008. 11 51 PM IST