Art of the matter

Art of the matter

New Delhi: It seems to be a glorious time for Indian art. Even the younger artists are seeing greater demand for their work, and galleries are mushrooming across metros. But this surging interest is not just for art’s sake. The art market in India is growing at an unprecedented 30% annually, and is currently worth Rs1,500 crore. As many other options for investment are dying out, experts say there’s a growing interest in buying local art. But sometimes what the investors buy are not necessarily the best art works.

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5b5fd904-8f08-11dd-a604-000b5dabf613.flv“This is an investment avenue that is opening up where returns are very high, says Indian Council for Cultural Relations director general Pawan Verma. But not everyone who invests in art can distinguish good art from bad art, he adds.

The trend is disappointing for artists like Papia Ghoshal, who has successfully sold her works abroad for over 11 years. “Most of the Indian people who are in the art business are mostly in trade and not exposed to the world of art. As far as I see the scenario, the art dealers have no exposure to the art world," she says.

For veteran artists such as Anjolie Ela Menon, the commercialisation of art is a new phenomenon, and it’s something she chooses to stay away from. She says she hasn’t exhibited her work in nearly two years, nor has she participated in any auctions.

“… We are the artists that belong to that art for art’s sake era, that when we first started we didn’t even think about money," she says.

The picture, however, is not entirely bleak for true art lovers. Menon herself says she’s starting to see a growing appreciation for art. At the last couple of auctions she attended, it wasn’t just the big names that sold but quality paintings as well, she says.

Experts agree that the market for Indian art is in a fluid state and more awareness is needed, both within India and abroad, to appreciate Indian art beyond what’s available in auctions at Christy’s and Sotheby’s. And it is to ensure such exposure that the Indian Council of Cultural Relations is for the first time taking an Indian art exhibition on a world tour. The exhibition includes digital reprints on canvas of 14 contemporary masters. The effort is aimed at bridging the gap between the growing popularity of Indian art and the degree of its exposure globally.