Sunday, October 9, 2011

Updating Again! Spotted: Indian Art at the MET

After a long hiatus.. I have decided to start updating this blog again.

The MET is now featuring an exhibition on Indian Art titled "Mother India: The Goddess in Indian Painting". Below is an excerpt from the MET's website:

The goddess (devi) is both the source and the affirmation of life. In early Indian religions, this concept is deified in a variety of forms. While we lack a historical understanding of the quasi-magical-religious function of the earliest images of the female form on view in this exhibition, we identify them as goddesses.
A bit later, we witness the emergence of deified females who have identifiable roles associated with the protection of children and with the life-affirming powers of water. The former finds expression in goddesses who originally may have been devourers of children—that is, the bearers of disease. Over time some were placated and thus acquired more benign aspects. The enthroned goddess with a cornucopia and children, from northwestern India, represents this tradition.
A second association is with the creation of life. This female principle is expressed in a number of ways; as the bearer of life, we see the appearance of the cult of the yakshi—personified female nature spirits—who embody the fecundity and fertility of nature. They survive in sculptures from the early centuries B.C.and were appropriated into Buddhist and Jain worship about the first century A.D.
The other powerful expression of the goddess as the source of life in early India is the personification of the great rivers of the subcontinent. Three rivers of northern India—the Ganges, the Yamuna, and the now-lost Saraswati—were worshiped as some of the most ancient deities of India. Sri Gaja-Lakshmi, the benign goddess being bathed by a pair of elephants—a metaphor for the life-giving powers of the monsoons—emerged to denote auspiciousness, prosperity, and good fortune. Saraswati, revered by Hindus, Jains, and Buddhists alike as the embodiment of wisdom and knowledge, is one of the earliest goddesses to have cult images made in her honor. The Jain mother goddess Ambika embodies the maternal principal.
About the sixth century a variety of early sources on devi in her myriad forms were brought together in the seminal text the Devi Mahatmya. Primarily devoted to narrating the origins of Durga and her relationship to the pantheon of male deities, the text represents Durga as the ultimate destroyer of demons. It also introduces the awesome forms that emerge from her being, Kali and Camumda, who give expression to Durga's terrible aspect, as do the seven matrikas (mothers).
The worship of the goddess continues to shape Hindu practice today, with Sri Lakshmi pouring down golden coins as its most popular expression.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Indian Art Goes Global

The Hindu
April 20, 2010
On April 23, new works of Indian contemporary art will be auctioned at London's prestigious Saatchi Gallery with those from other BRIC countries — Brazil, Russia and China — in what has been billed as a “celebration” of a renewed phase of creativity in these countries in the wake of their economic success. The event, it is claimed, confirms the increasing globalisation of Indian art which is seeing a surge in sales in the international market. While critics say it is a marketing-driven bubble prompted by the hype over India's new global status, Peter Sumner , Indian art specialist at Phillips de Pury, the auction house behind the sales, insists that the interest is “real” and here to stay.
He talks to Hasan Suroor about the event and where Indian art is headed globally.

Western auction houses and art galleries appear to have become suddenly interested in contemporary Indian art in the past few years. How much of this interest is real and how much does it have to do with aggressive marketing that has followed the opening of Indian markets and the hype over the country's new economic status?
The interest from collectors, galleries and institutions is very real. With the increasing globalisation of contemporary art market, collectors, curators and auction houses have over the last few years turned their attentions to art from ‘emerging economies.' It is undoubtedly true that creative output goes hand in hand with a strong economic upturn in a region. Lately, there have been major Indian shows in London and their success indicates that this interest is here to stay.
How big is the international market for Indian art today, especially in Europe? How much has it expanded over the past ten years and who are the main buyers? Is it confined mostly to rich Indian expatriates?
The buyers for Indian contemporary art are becoming increasingly global. Without question, there is always a strong trend among collectors to buy art from their own country as this art is often most relevant to their background, society and context. However, top Indian contemporary artists such as T.V Santhosh, Atil Dodiya, Thukral and Thagra and Jitish Kallat employ techniques and explore themes that appeal to the global western audience, whilst maintaining an inherent Indian quality. In the past ten years, contemporary Indian art market has changed beyond recognition. International galleries are now operating out of Mumbai, Delhi, Berlin, London and New York while auction houses regularly offer Indian art within the context of western contemporary art sales. This has undoubtedly helped to internationalise the collector- base.
There is a view that Indian art is riding a market-driven bubble and would not long last. This happened with Indian writing in English which became hugely popular in the west in the late 1980s and mid-1990s but the honeymoon is now over.
The Indian contemporary art market experienced remarkable growth in 2007 and 2008. Indian art became available on the international stage and was offered in auctions in London and New York. Buyers were a mix of collectors — those looking for the latest in Indian art, and speculators buying it as investment. With the global recession also affecting the art market in 2009 there were substantial downward price corrections. Some could argue that the price bubble did burst in 2009. However, these price corrections helped to stabilise the market and have now allowed investors and collectors alike to re-enter the market at affordable and sustainable levels. At Phillips de Pury we have continued to experience strong demand for the most interesting fresh and exciting new art from young and established Indian artists alike.
Where does the Indian art sell more?
Indian art is collected mainly locally and by western art collectors and institutions.
Is there a certain kind of Indian art that sells more? Who are the biggest selling Indian artists today?
There is a stable of young contemporary artists who have truly established themselves as a force to reckon with on the international art scene. The appeal of these artists comes in my experience from their ability to accurately document the massive, social and economic changes associated with the modern ‘globalised' India. In Kallat's ‘Untitled Eclipse' (a part of our BRIC sales), the artist creates a billboard sized canvas reminiscent of the many advertising billboards that have sprung up in the major Indian cities. The orange sunrays provide the backdrop to four smiling children, pointing the way to a bright new Indian future for India's youngest generation. Although malnourished and dressed in rags, their smiles betray an altogether darker, more unsettling existence, a reality in which these dispossessed youths are unlikely to benefit from the widening social and economic gap between the rich and poor. Similarly, Subodh Gupta, in ‘Idol Thief,' is able to transform everyday objects, pots, pans, milk buckets into recognisable trademarks that reflect the great changes that are happening in India today. It is this social commentary that collectors and buyers relate to and recognise.
How much has the global market for Indian art grown since economic liberalisation? Has it lived up to expectations?
In 2008, auction sales of Indian art raised nearly $24 million globally with Subodh Gupta breaking the $1 million barrier for the first time. This was the culmination of rapid growth of the global market for Indian art market following economic liberalisation in India. After large adjustments in the market place during 2009 India is once again becoming a focus point for the international art market — and is continuing to live up to the expectations. Confidence in long-term sustained growth is the dominant sentiment in the contemporary Indian art market. Buying is from India, U.K,, Europe and the U.S. with corporate institutions also playing their part within the context of contemporary Indian art sales.
What does the future look like for Indian art globally?
With prices returned to attractive levels and with the Indian economy predicted to grow at a faster rate than the more established western economies, now is an ideal time to buy Indian contemporary art. Despite the recession, contemporary Indian art has continued to capture the imagination of the International collecting audience. Major exhibitions in London and the inclusion of some of the leading Indian contemporary artists in western gallery shows prove that Indian art is now able to stand shoulder to shoulder with its more established western counterparts on the global stage. Indian contemporary art market should see sensible sustainable growth in the years to come.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Collectors Seek Works by Older Chinese Artists

Wall Street Journal
March 10, 2010

HONG KONG—In the Chinese art market, it pays to be old.

This is the lesson from the 2010 list of the top living artists from China ranked by the value of their works sold at auction over the last year. The list, compiled by Hurun Report in partnership with the Shanghai Art Museum, shows a shift in collectors' tastes toward classical art, reversing a recent trend that had favored contemporary Chinese painters. The painters whose work is benefiting the most are the ones who have been around longer.

In the top spot is 89-year-old Zhao Wuji, with total sales at public auction of US$35.1 million. That is up 32% from the previous year. He is followed by 91-year-old Wu Guanzhong with $31.7 million, up 18%. Fan Zeng, 72, came in at No. 3 with $21.7 million in sales, almost double the level from the previous year.

The average age of the top 10 artists is 77, compared to 58 last year. (A similar ranking at shows that the current top 10 living artists globally have an average age of 72.)

"This year, the preference amongst collectors for classical art is the most striking development," said Rupert Hoogewerf, founder of Hurun Report, which tracks information about wealthy individuals in China. In last year's list, classical and contemporary art sales were more or less evenly matched.

Overall, last year wasn't a great one for the Chinese art market. Works by the top 50 artists on the 2010 Hurun list sold a combined $258 million at auction last year, a 37% drop from the previous year.

Zhao Wuji, also spelled as Zao Wou-Ki, is seen in his Paris studio in 2005. The 89-year-old artist had sales worth $35.1 million in public auctions last year.

The number of painters on the list using the traditional Chinese ink style leapt to 19 from eight last year, while the number of contemporary artists on the list declined to 25 from 35.

None of last year's top three—oil painters Zhang Xiaogang, Yue Minjun and Zeng Fanzhi—ranked among the top five spots this year.

However, the most expensive artwork by a living Chinese artist sold at auction in 2009 was still a contemporary piece done in oil on canvas.

Christie's Hong Kong sold "Snow Started Falling" by 90-year-old Zhu Dequn for $5.9 million. Wu Guanzhong's 1995 work "Liu Yin Mu Niu Tu Jingxin" (roughly translated as "Herding cows beneath the willow shade") ranked as the most expensive traditional Chinese ink painting sold over the past year, fetching $2.1 million.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Art as an Escape

Even though the world of finance and investment banking swallows me up from time to time, I have realized that art will always have the effect of an irresistible drug on me. It never ceases to pull me into a dream world that escapes reality. A world which surpasses materialism, judgement and homegeneity. I hope that one day I will be able to create an art enterprise of my own that serves as an Art Escape. 

Urban Manners

The Urban Manners photo gallery has an interesting image showcasing artists such as Jitish Kallat, Nalini Malani, Subodh Gupta and Bharti Kher

In Focus : Nalini Malani

Born in 1946 in Karachi, Nalini Malani received her education from the J.J School of Arts in Mumbai. Much of her work is influenced by her experiences as refugee that took place during the partition. Her work is particularly interesting because she has emerged as a pioneer and a senior multimedia artist that achieved international prominence in the 1980s. Race, class and gender are recurring themes in her work. Since 1993 she also begun working on installations. Malani lives and works in Mumbai.


30 panel polytych, acrylic, ink and enamel reverse painting on acrylic sheet, 227.5 x 396 cm, 2009

Listening to the Shades 7
Acrylic, ink and enamel reverse painting on acrylic sheet, 2008

Indian art: What next?

March 5, 2010

The economic downturn did cast its shadow on the Indian art market. But have we hit a bottom? Have prices stabilised? Is there growth on the cards for the Indian art market?

The impact of the global economic slowdown hit the art market in 2009.Buyers tightened their purse strings and volumes of sales declined.
For Indian art in particular, the year was rough, sales volumes contracted by over 50 per cent.
Christie’s sales for Indian art dropped from a $40 million high in 2006 to $15 million by 2009.
Yamini Mehta, a specialist of south Asian contemporary art at Christie's, said, "2009 has been a very challenging year. That is when we did see the volumes of the sales drop from a $40 million high to maybe a $15 million, but I do think that we are in a position right now where again quality is selling, we are getting many more inquiries from a wider variety of clientele."
Experts suggest that prices for Indian art have begun to stabilise and an expanding buyer base is increasing the momentum for Indian art sales not only in the West but also in Asia.
Amin Jaffer, International Director-Asian Art, Christie's, said, "What we have been seeing in the last few sales is that prices have been rising sale-to-sale in a really healthy way and I think we will continue to see this, particularly for the great rare things where the supply is finite.
It could be an early Subodh that was exhibited in an early Bienalle, it could be an early Husain of a quality and type that is very rarely seen, it could be any of these things. For those things we have international demand. The bidding in Hong Kong represents all of Asia and it’s a fascinating moment that somebody from Taiwan, from Korea or from Jakarta believes that they should have Indian art in their house and in their collections."
Compared to the Chinese art market, India still has a long way to go. Prices for Chinese art can go up to as high as $20 million whereas top prices for Indian art still stand at $2.5 million pointing to the fact that there is ample potential for an upside in prices.
Hugo Weihe, senior vice president at Christie's, said, "Prices have reached within China over 10-20 million dollars already, while in western art we have achieved a 100 million dollars plus but it is going to go up there. There is no doubt because of this enormous economic power to buy back. In India its surprising that the focus on heritage has not yet happened but I believe it will happen in a much stronger way."
With room for higher prices and a critical emphasis on quality post the slowdown, experts suggest that the next upturn for Indian art will prove to be deeper and more stable.