Beyond the canvas

Beyond the canvas

Visitors and buyers at the India Art Summit 2009, which opens in New Delhi’s Pragati Maidan on Wednesday, can go beyond two-dimensional large format canvasses. The annual four-day art fair (19-22 August) has several new features in its second edition, including dedicated spaces for sculpture, video and installation art.

Arvind Vijaymohan, director of the Indian arts advisory council Japa Arts Pvt. Ltd, attributes the focus on experimental and digital art to a market of young buyers. A keen observer of the contemporary arts scene, Mohan adds that the summit programming is perfectly on target this year around with an interesting array of three-dimensional art, and educational and networking platforms. “The timing is perfect too. August-September is the start of the art buying season and the recession has weeded the market of purely investment-driven buyers," he says.

Click here to view a slideshow of the India Art Summit 2009.

Though the impact of the economic slump and the presence of a grey market make it difficult to predict exact figures, summit organizers estimate the current value of the Indian art market at Rs1,500 crore. According to research figures employed by the organizers, India is the fourth most buoyant art market in the world, with an annual growth of 30-35%. Maithili Parekh, Sotheby’s deputy director of business development in India, points out that this is a great time for buyers. “The market has just recalibrated after the price inflation that had flooded the art market pre-recession," she says, adding, “The summit has some great masters from Subodh Gupta to Anish Kapoor and F.N. Souza. We, however, urge our clients to do their homework thoroughly."

In its first year, the summit had at least 10,000 art collectors, investors, artists, critics, curators and students from across India and overseas. This year, organizers expect bigger numbers, with the exhibiting galleries having gone up from 34 to 54. There is also a bigger representation from the international circuit with 17 overseas galleries.

Priya Pall, who curated the video and sculpture segments of the summit, says that while it was initially difficult to source video art, submissions picked up rapidly. The summit will exhibit 99 works of video art by 55 Indian and 19 international artists on a continuous loop between 20-22 August in a specially designed video lounge. While prices vary, Pall shares that one of the most expensive video works on display is by the Russian group AES+F who are being represented by Arario Gallery, Beijing. The work is priced at €200,000 (Rs1.4 crore).

Interactive work is another unique feature. An interesting international collaboration to watch out for is Devi Art Foundation’s one-year drawing project that is an exchange of experimental drawings between four artists from Sri Lanka.

Experimental work aside, the summit is a serious business platform for all participating entities. Gaurav Assomull, CEO of Marigold Fine Art, an Indian gallery that specializes in European contemporary art, says that though the price range of works in their three New Delhi gallery branches goes as high as Rs50 lakh, the price range of the Salvador Dali and Picasso works on exhibit at the summit are between Rs2 lakh and Rs25 lakh. “The Indian market is a potent one, but we want the artworks to move fast," Assomull says.

A few glimpses of India Art Summit 2009

1. Gandhi’s Three Monkeys by Subodh Gupta (2008).

2. Overdose by Manjunath Kamath (2009); digital print; installation on The Purple Wall Project. Price: Rs5 lakh

3. Common wealth by Arpana Caur (2009). Price: Rs9 lakh

4. Backslider (left) and Red (right) by Osang Gwon (Korea) (2008). Price: $40,000 (Rs19.5 lakh) each

5. Mirror (2009) (left) and Fly on the wall (2008) (right) by Girts Muiznieks (Latvia). Estimated price: $7,000 (Rs3.4 lakh) each

Photographs by Ramesh Pathania / Mint