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The Colour of Money

Dated: 17-07-2008
Source: Bombay Times

     Inflation is currently at an all time high, yet, ironically, the Indian art market is continuing to set new records globally. Melting markets, rising commodity and oil prices and plunging stock markets, but the rich are not thinking twice before purchasing art . Inflation or no inflations, the consumerism in the art market remains unperturbed, and the Indian art boom is making its presence felt the world over. The latest figures of sales at the Christies and saffronart auctions that concluded last month are a testimony to this fact. Artist Subodh Gupta broke his own record by selling for Rs.5.71 crore; Justin Ponmany too made a record breaking sales of Rs.94 lakhs and even new entrant Hema Upadhay sold for Rs.54 lakhs! What is the reason for this boom in hte art market , despite the gloom in other sectors?
               "The reason why the buying capacity of art collectors is not getting affacted is because they are buying out of accumulated wealth. Such macro-economic conditions have little or no bearing on this income group," informs Minal Vazirani, co-founder of the Saffronart auction. "In fact, this is a good time to invest in art as the prices of Indian works are observing an all time high and global eyeballs have turned towards Indian modern and contemporary works," adds Vazirani Galleries Farah Siddiqui agrees that art as an industry remains unaffected by national and international economic equations. "People who have suffered in the stock markets are now seriously looking at art as an alternative investment. This is one industry that does not fall pray to the pressures of inflations. It is an independent industry and buyers here do not fall in the middle income group who get the most affected by inflations. High quality works by established artists will never suffer. on the contrary, they will only appreciate in value," says Farah
               So who are the 'high quality' artists who are performing exceptionaaly well at international auctions ? Tyeb Mehta, MF Husain, Justin Ponmany, Subodh Gupta, Jehangir Sabavala, Jitish Kallat and Atul Dodiya are a few names that came to artists' minds. Increasing sales for contemporary art also reflacts a growing appeal for this category among Asian collectors. "The global appeal of this category is steadily growing demonstrating exciting cross-currents within the Pan-Asian art context," says Hugo Weihe, International Director of Asian Art, Christies. "The Stock market and the art market have always functioned independently. If you look back in history too, the stock market's upswings oe downseings have never affected sales in art," adds Ganieve Grewal, Indian representative of Christies.
                While this is the case with painting, what about new media art and installations? Curator Priyasri Patodia who is doing plenty of work in this area, elucidated, "This is the best time to pick up video installations and other new media works. Those who bought a Jagannath Panda or Subodh Gupta when their works didn't cost a lot are today sitting on a pot of gold. The same goes with Indian new media works. If you buy them now, you can do so at a relatively low price, and their value is certain to increase in a few years." But she cautions that there is also market dynamics of demand and supply at play here, and an artist is just like any other commodity. " Prices and appreciation of works also depends on how popular the artist is, and how well he is promoted by the gallery," adds Priyasri    

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