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Chinese art is priced higher than Indian

Dated: 05-02-2008
Source: Times of India

Philip Hoffman is the founder of UK-based The Fine Art Fund. Recently, he launched The India Fine Art fund, a $25 million close-ended fund that will invest in Indian art. He talks to Anubha Sawhney Joshi about art becoming a new asset class in India, and how it compares with Chinese art:

Why has India suddenly become the focus of your fund?
We believe that modern and contemporary art has long been undervalued as compared to other areas of the art market, and with the boom of the financial markets, real estate and all other asset classes in India, many new art collectors are establishing themselves and purchasing works from artists of similar heritage. We believe there is a high level of creativity and talent in India, which is going to make this market move even further, and with continued global exposure in 2008, we think that this is the right time to invest in Indian art.

Profile a typical investor in Indian art…
There is no typical investor. An investor could be anyone from a very wealthy NRI to a hedge-fund manager from New York to a private banking client of one of the major European banks. Indian art has such a strong profile right now that people from all over the world have been reading about the artists and movements, and have taken an interest in investing in this area.

Has the aesthetic appeal of art lost out to commercial prospects?
I think that is something that one must always take into consideration when purchasing younger artists, and even more in case of established artists. For example, we might be interested in M F Hussain and S H Raza, but in their earlier works, rather than those recently produced, as some critics find their later commissioned works to have been influenced by commercialism. That said, high commissions could allow an artist liberty to express himself that he might not have been able to afford previously. A good artist will always be faced with the dilemma of success and money.

How does Chinese art compare with Indian art?
Chinese contemporary art is very different from Indian contemporary art, as a lot of what you see in Chinese art has a political theme, and can have a slightly harder edge than Indian art. Both groups use traditional techniques and motifs in their works but the political element in Chinese art appeals to a great number of global collectors. Because of this element, I think that western collectors were intrigued earlier by Chinese contemporary art and started to talk about it about 10 years back when only a few major collectors had access to these works. Prices have risen sharply with this strong buzz, much higher than for Indian contemporary art, but I think that Indian contemporary art prices are due to follow. Whether it’s to the same level, we will have to wait and see.


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