Sunday, March 7, 2010

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.

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