Amin Jaffer, international director Asian art for the Christie’s feels that the new, globalized Indian is good news for Indian art.
Christie’s is organizing an auction of South Asian modern and contemporary art in New York on 16 September where works by Indian artists such as M.F. Husain, Tyeb Mehta, S.H. Raza, Ram Kumar and Subodh Gupta, as well as Pakistani artists such as Rashid Rana will go under the hammer. Jaffer, who was recently in the Capital for a preview of the auction, spoke to Lounge about the growing profile of Indian art and artists.
What role do international auction houses such as Christie’s play in promoting Indian art and artists?
Christie’s began selling Indian art in the 1760s. Through our auctions we showcase modern and contemporary Indian art internationally. Indians are a highly globalized community now and we sell art globally.
Click here to view some of the works being auctioned
An auction house deals only in works by established artists. Do you have any indirect role in promoting new and upcoming artists?
More than just an auction house, we are an art business. We also have, for instance, private sales and art education programmes. Artists with local markets find a global market through Christie’s. Chitra Ganesh (whose works are on sale in the New York auction) is not so well known, but she does have a following. We are about the marketplace; if a market is there, we will offer her work.
Could you give a rough break-up of Indian and non-resident indians (NRIs) buyers of Indian art?
Such statistics are not available and these things vary from sale to sale. Moreover, it is becoming increasingly difficult to classify Indian versus NRIs, as people now have two or three residences. It is true, though, that the market for Indian art was driven and developed in the early 1990s by NRIs based in the US. Now we have participation in the art market by Indians based in the Gulf, Hong Kong and Singapore. Though, some of the biggest collectors now are from Delhi and Mumbai.
Any comments on the preferences of buyers of Indian art? Are they partial to any painters, style or period of painting?
Contemporary Indian art is integrated internationally more than ever. Indian buyers are increasingly becoming adventurous and are developing a taste for the contemporary and avant garde in art. So, besides the modern artists such as (Francis Newton) Souza, Raza and Husain, contemporary artists such as Riyas Komu, Subodh Gupta and Jagannath Panda are finding a growing international collectorship. The market is becoming deeper and more varied.
How has the art market here evolved in the decade since Christie’s set up shop in India?
India now has sale rooms, galleries, gallerists, publications, museums and fairs—a lot of infrastructure has developed and more is developing.
Does economic recession affect you, or is the art market recession proof?
There exists a loose correlation between the financial market and the art market. Of late, the financial market has been a bit up and down but that has not been reflected in our sales. When they get an opportunity to buy a good work, buyers are willing to pay. In June this year, Francis Newton Souza’s Birth sold for a record £1.27 million (around Rs10 crore, now).