Art goes hot

The success of the first-ever auction held by Christie’s in India is a sign of the evolving and developing art market in India. It came as a surprise that the auction fetched about Rs 96 crore which was much beyond expectations for a first time event. Another pleasant surprise was that a work by the late Mumbai artist VS Gaitonde fetched Rs 23.7 crore, which was three times its reserve price. In dollar terms it is a record price for an Indian work of art.

 Another painting by Tyeb Mehta sold for Rs 19.78 crore. Other Indian artists like Bhupen Khakar, Ganesh Pyne and Manjit Bawa also received very good responses and their works sold for high prices. Major international art auctions have not been held in India. Sotheby’s had made a presence some time ago, which had also been well received. But an auction by Christie’s makes a difference and is a recognition of the possibilities of the art market in India.
India’s art market has not received  much attention in the past. The economic downturn had especially cast a shadow on it. But there are clear signs of improvement now. The art market all over the world has a direct relationship with the economy. Art sales in China have shown a remarkable uptick in the last few years. The Shanghai auction is a major world event now.
 Chinese art purchases now account for 25 per cent of the world sales against 33 per cent by US buyers. India’s wealthy have not been very active in the area till now. But with economic prospects improving and the number of people in the top income bracket increasing the situation is likely to take a better turn.

The market has over the years seen a change of perception and attitudes. For a long time art business has been seen as the activity of connoisseurs. But now it is also considered as an important area of investment which can give high returns, comparable with or even exceeding returns from conventional avenues. The temptation to be seen as having high tastes and promoting art is also real and strong, when there are more people and even corporates who have much disposable income. Art is often seen as for the sake only of art and for the pleasure of the art lover. But it assumes other dimensions also in an increasingly commercial world. 

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