New Delhi: The third edition of the India Art Summit opens for the public on Friday with 84 galleries exhibiting their modern and contemporary art collections at a three-day event held at Pragati Maidan in New Delhi.

Rare opportunity: The India Art Summit will open for the public today; (right) works by Pablo Picasso. Photos: Javeed Shah/Mint

In 2009, many of the international galleries exhibiting works —mostly by Indian-born artists living abroad—had come to test an uncertain market and network with old clients. This year, things have taken a sharp upturn with international galleries bringing some of their best works, including works by Pablo Picasso and Auguste Rodin. The summit ends on Sunday.

Peter Femfert, founder of the 32-year-old Frankfurt-based Die Galerie, is exhibiting in India for the first time. His stall hosts works by the European modern masters such as Picasso, Andre Mason and Salvador Dali priced around €360,000-390,000 (Rs2.2-2.4 crore). Among the exhibits is a rare 1925 Mason painting that he hopes a museum will acquire. Fermbert has participated in fairs in South Korea for six years.

“When I started participating at the Korean International Art Fair six years ago, the Korean market was small and not very well educated," he said. “It’s booming now and I see a similar growth for India."

The Sundaram Tagore Gallery which has branches in New York, Beverly Hills and Hong Kong, is also exhibiting in India for the first time. Run by Sundaram Tagore, a New York-based art historian of Indian origin, the gallery features works by 24 Indian and international artists, the most impressive being a painting by celebrated Japanese artist Hiroshi Senju for $380,000.

Neha Kirpal, director, India Art Summit, said that more than 100 private collectors from the US and the UK and around 500 from India were specially invited for the VIP programme of the summit. In addition to attracting the attention of galleries from around the globe, the summit also has representatives from 19 museums, including the prestigious Tate, Louvre and Guggenheim, on its guest list. “We’re very pleased about this twofold surge of interest, both from private collectors as well as museums and global art institutions," said Kirpal.

At the last India Art Summit, the biggest sales were made by the Lisson Gallery of London, which sold two works by Indian-born sculptor Anish Kapoor for £400,000 (Rs2.908 crore) each. This year too, they host one of the most high-valued works at the summit: a 2010 mirror sculpture by Kapoor priced at just under £1 million. An Auguste Rodin sculpture priced at $1.3 million and hosted by another London gallery, Robert Bowman, comes a close second.

In 2009, the total value of the works at the India Art Summit was Rs50 crore, of which Rs26 crore was sold.

While the exact valuation of the art summit this year is not yet available, it is likely to be more than Rs180 crore according to Kirpal.

“A good art fair does 20-30% sales—that’s the international standard," said Kirpal. “We crossed the 50% mark in our second edition itself. This year promises to be better."

Tagore believes that this global participation has been facilitated by a combination of two factors—an improving attitude towards art from abroad and better infrastructure. “A few years ago, one simply couldn’t bring art into the country legally without paying an enormous bond to the Indian government. That’s changed now. The government is possibly seeing the benefit in opening up," he said.

Some chinks in the system still exist though. A much awaited art work at the summit —an etching by controversial artist Damien Hirst—has been held up by the customs authority in Mumbai. The 4ft by 4ft etching on paper from Hirst’s Sanctum series has never been shown in India. It was to have been shown by Mumbai’s Volte Gallery. The gallery’s director, Tushar Jiwarajka, hopes to have it released in time to exhibit at the summit.