First things first. The art market is not as unpredictable as the world is making it out to be. It is not ruled entirely by knee-jerk reactions and passing fancies. Having said that, although it’s too early to interpret the new interest in sculpture as a resurgence or a boom, it’s safe to say that it was long in the reckoning.
We went into saffronart.com’s spring auctions early last month, knowing that collectors would break some bidding records for sculpture. I wasn’t in the least surprised when Ravinder G. Reddy’s works fetched a crore of rupees.
Reddy is not a prolific artist; he produces only a few works every year. But his works have gone to just the right places abroad—from SoHo to the Grosvenor in London. He has his own stamp—a tribal-kitsch-pop twist to very traditional fibreglass moulds—in all his works, and if exposed in the right places, they are very recognizable. The demand for his works has been slowly building up.
I see two kinds of buyers emerging after this initial hype about sculpture is over. Those who will buy works for the right reason: to display, preserve in their collections or to have something solid, tactile and immediate to round off their painting-filled walls. The second kind would hoard works thinking sculpture would go the way paintings have gone—purely for the purpose of selling.
It’s too early and difficult to predict whether sculpture will ever cut into the paintings market. Sculptures and installations come with their own set of problems—besides demanding a lot of space, they are not easy to manoeuvre. That’s also one of the reasons big installation works are not going to find takers easily. Unless a collector is interested in building museums and big art institutions, he would never go for multi-level or multi-room installation works.
The other, more visceral, reason that might have generated an interest in sculpture is that the new Indian buyers want to carve their own cultural identities through art. With the whole world’s attention on India, they want to reinforce their Indian identities and sculpture is one of our most ancient art forms.
In my experience, there’s only little that you can talk about the market and let it inform your choices. After a point, our decisions lie in the realm of culture, which is the fabric of society.
(Vazirani is the CEO of Saffronart Pvt. Ltd, Mumbai)