Indian art market is hot. And it sizzled at the three-day India Art Summit that ended on 23 January 2010 in New Delhi. Minor Picasso and Rodin originals – at over one a million dollars each - were exhibited and so were thousands of other artists, mostly Indian. The Summit touched new heights for Indian art. A total of 84 galleries, including 34 from many countries round the globe, came to exhibit. Galleries from Britain, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Singapore, Canada, Austria and other countries staged their artworks. Many Indian and foreign art magazines also exhibited their publications. Over 120,000 suave art lovers thronged to this mega art show triple the figure for the last year. The brainchild of a young MBA graduate, the Delhi event reached the top in just three years and dislodged Mumbai from its prime spot as an art centre.
The organiser, 31-year old Neha Kirpal, claims, “It is the single largest and the most exciting platform for art in India.” Visitors could buy art books and bric-a-brac at an art shop, right next to the VIP enclosure where the top artists and gallery owners hobnobbed with each other.
About 80 per cent of the galleries sold works, valued from $500 to over a million dollars each. About ten per cent of the exhibitors sold out all they came with. Over 120,000 art lovers paid Rs 200 (about $5) to enter the exhibition. Curators, art critics and art editors took part in a full programme of events with famous names on the world of art and sculpture like Anish Kapoor and Don Graham. Works by master painter Maqbool Fida Husain, who recently joined the million-dollar club of Indian artists, were exhibited after pulling them off initially because of possible protests from Hindu activists but later exhibited under heavy security.
India's economic boom has not only enabled Indians to buy houses and cars, but also to purchase expensive art. High income overseas Indians are also avid investors in Indian art. Modern art from India and China is being lapped up by collectors at top auctions like Southby’s and Christie’s in the art capitals of the world like Paris, London and New York.
When stock markets were booming before 2008 crash, a Mumbai auction house sold 160 works of Indian artists for $ 15.3 million. The highest bid was for the Paris-based artist S. H. Raza, whose work titled Climat went for a mind-boggling $ 1.4 million. A painting by Tyeb Mehta fetched $ 1.10 million. Now with India’s economic boom, the colour is back into Indian art. Prices are moving up again. A painting by Maqbool Fida Husain was sold for $4.4m. Saurashtra, a massive 79x79in acrylic on canvas by Syed Haidar Raza, one of India’s veteran masters, was bought for a hammer price of $3.5m.
For the new rich, showing off paintings or sculpture is a clear message that one has arrived on the scene. Of course, they acquire the services of art critics and advisors in what to invest but show off this knowledge as their own once they purchase these artworks. Whether at a corporate or an individual level, art always adds value to one’s status plus keeps on appreciating as an investment. With this new cash flowing into the art market, no wonder new art galleries are sprouting in Indian cities and the India Art Summit has become its Everest.