In yet another sign of the burgeoning Indian art market: Sotheby’s will hold its inaugural Indian auction in Mumbai this December.

Just over a decade ago, the International Herald Tribunepublished an article with the triumphant headline, “India’s art market booming.” The boom, however, didn’t last, and the market deflated following the financial crisis. Fast forward to 2018: Similar stories on the rising Indian market have begun to surface again. But is the country’s art trade really in a more stable position for long-term success today than it was in 2007? Depends on who you ask.

Sotheby’s, however, have decided to trust this area, and they  announced new live Indian auctions was , Sotheby’s established an office in Mumbai in 2016 and will hold the sale at Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in December. The auction house had previously ventured into the region; it held a lone sale in Mumbai in 1992, but deemed the market was not robust enough to sustain regular auctionsMeanwhile, rival Christie’s began holding live sales in Mumbai in late 2013, but canceled them last year.

Sudipta Das’s installation A Soaring to Nowhere (2018). Photo: © Andy Barnham 2018. Courtesy of the artist and Gallery Latitude 28.

Jan Prasens, Sotheby’s managing director for Europe, Middle East, Russia and India, said: ‘In recent years, we have witnessed both the ever-growing presence of Indian collectors in Sotheby’s global auctions, and the development of an increasingly vibrant domestic Indian art market.Given these promising signs, and the projected economic growth for India in the future, it is the right time for Sotheby’s to further expand the services we offer our clients in the region, and to bring our auctions directly to the doorstep of the many collectors who live there.’

Also according to last Deloitte Art& Finance Report the South Asian art market was a ected by the global downturn in 2016 and is now struggling to gain momentum South Asian auction sales of modern and contemporary art decreased by 24.4% in 2016 compared to the previous year. The first half of 2017 raised US$20.8 million in sales of modern and contemporary sales across Sotheby’s, Christie’s, and Sa ronart.

Indeed, there have been recent signals of a strengthening Indian art market: Since 2009, the South Asian art market has seen 8 new biennials and festivals, which include: the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, Dhaka Art Summit, Colombo Art Biennial, Pune Biennial, and the Serendipity Arts Festival. A further two biennials planned for Lahore and Karachi will open in 2017, which could inject even more energy into the regional art market.

From Deloitte
Art&Finance Report 2017

Moreover, Contemporary South Asian art have also received more museum exposure in 2017 in major museum venues all over Europe  : In March 2017, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam will present the exhibition entitled “Nalini Malani: Transgressions.”, later in the year from October 2017 to January 2018, the Centre Pompidou in Paris put on a retrospective of Nalini Malani, making her the first rst Indian artist to have a retrospective at the prestigious venue. The major institutional support through 2016, 2017, and 2018 is likely to increase the international focus on South Asian modern and contemporary art.

But also India’s economy is  expected to grow quicker than China’s in the next year: according to recent forecasts India’s wider economy began to improve in the last quarter of 2017, fuelling optimism in the art market. A notice published by ABN Amro Bank in January, researchers anticipate the country will become “the fastest growing giant again.” They expect the country’s economy to experience 7.5 %growth between March 2018 and 2019, compared to slower forecasts for China (at 6.5 %). With growing wealth India saw an 8.9 percent increase in its UHNWI population in 2016 according to Wealth-X.42 These individuals accounted for an estimated US$604 billion in wealth, representing a 4.7% rise in 2016. This makes India the 11th largest UHNWI nation, but among the fastest growing. The projected growth in India’s UHNWI population is forecast to grow by 150 percent between 2016 and 2026.

Others, however, see healthier signs this time around. Chatterjee says that collectors’ approaches are different now than when his gallery started out in 2003. “People aren’t being told that art is an alternative asset class anymore; there are no longer weekly graphs of an artist’s performance in our newspapers, for example,” he notes.

Meanwhile, some note that a new generation of collectors has emerged with a healthy mindset not warped by the last art-market boom. Art adviser Arianne Piper, who has been visiting India since 2006, notes that “a lot of the collectors in their 30s today were only in their 20s then and not ready to collect.”

According to Gaurav Bhatia, managing director of Sotheby’s India, the number of Indians across all Sotheby’s sales has almost doubled in the past 5 years‘Indian clients have bought over $250 million of art over this period,’ he said.‘We have an increasingly growing base of collectors; in our most recent sales of Asian art in New York in March, 40 percent of buyers were new to Sotheby’s.

Locals emphasize, however, that there is no shortcut to building a more meaningful contemporary art market. “The commercial scene in Mumbai only really had critical mass from about 2000, and even then we’re talking around a dozen galleries for a population of about 20 million,” Chatterjee says. “It’s not reasonable to imagine that you can just go online or have a pop-up show and make it work.”

‘Boundless: Mumbai’, will be the first in a series of those scheduled sales, will be held at landmark venue, The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai. The sale, led by Tyeb Mehta’s seminal work Durga Mahishasura Mardini (1983), will comprise not only the work of South Asia’s great artists, but also that of western artists influenced and inspired by the art, culture, geography and people of South Asia. Described by Yamini Mehta, international head of Indian & South Asian art at Sotheby’s, Mehta’s important work is expected to fetch in the region of $3 million. Indeed, as a “leading figure in the history of Indian modernism” the artist’s current sale record set by Christie’s in London last May is $3.6 million.

‘It is only fitting that Mehta’s exceptional work is offered as part of our inaugural Mumbai auction. It has been an absolute privilege to work with the owner of this seminal painting, and be able to bring it to sale for the first time.’

Further details about works offered in “Boundless: Mumbai” will be announced later this year. Ahead of the sale, highlights from the auction will be exhibited internationally and in India.’

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