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International media turns the spotlight on Indian art.
“Indian art draws on a rich tradition, which goes back thousands of years and what we’re now seeing, is its commercial and artistic evolution. A whole new generation of artists and art lovers are definitely driving Indian art and pushing its boundaries. The country's growing economy has also thrown up new buyers. This in turn has led to a mushrooming of art galleries,” mentions an extensive BBC News report by Sanjoy Majumder.

Gareth Harris of The Financial Times notes that Charles Saatchi is planning a show of Indian art at his Chelsea space early next year, whereas The New York Times proclaims that Asian interest in Indian art is gradually picking up. Depicting the broad picture, Hillary Brenhouse of The NYT wrote: “When Christie’s first offered modern and contemporary Indian art as a single sale category in London in 1995, it took in just £390,482, or $613,837 (at the exchange rate then). Last year, the category took in about $45.3 million in London, NY and Hong Kong. Contemporary Indian artists are beginning to gain a foothold in East Asia as a result of increasing exposure at art fairs, biennials and exhibitions.”

Taiwan that has a long history of investing in cultural commodities, is acting, with Hong Kong, as a regional entry point for contemporary Indian art, including into mainland China, the essay point out, lauding the recent ‘India Xianzai’ (India Now) at Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA) in Shanghai. It stated: “The Institute of Contemporary Indian Art was one of two Indian galleries, which recently helped organize the first large-scale, public exhibit of contemporary Indian art in China, displaying over 60 works by 21 artists, including wall-sized installations, photography and video, a testament to the growing presence of Indian art in the country.” In fact, by the time it closed, no fewer than eight private Chinese galleries had made approaches to express interest in teaming up with the ICIA to stage contemporary Indian shows in Shanghai, Mr. Tushar Sethi, director of Mumbai-based ICIA, was quoted as saying in The NYT.

Giving an enhanced sense of the Indian art market, renowned publication Economist noted, “The prices of paintings by known artists such as the late F.N. Souza and M.F. Husain have fallen over the past year. Prices of works by younger contemporary artists have also slumped, which has brought a sense of reality to the art market. The prices were driven up less by collectors than by investors, most of them rich Indians living abroad. This type of investor vanished from the market once the financial crisis struck last autumn. However, collectors began to return two months ago, bidding cautiously at auctions in London and India.”

Underlining a few fundamental problem areas, art expert Maithili Parekh mentioned to BBC News: "India is lacking enough curators and critics and art publications. We’ve little institutional and museum collecting to help make art much more accessible to the public." But things are definitely changing. Grasping the ‘Winds of Change’, Georgina Wilson-Powell of The Khaleej Times, made mention of Art Expo India 2009, an event in Mumbai that hoped to raise awareness of modern Indian art on the international stage.

Rob Dean, a former India representative of Christie’s auctioneers who now runs London’s Rob Dean Art gallery, was quoted as saying in the UAE based publication, The National: “From the talk here, there’s an upswing in the mood, definitely not so in London.” Giving a broader perspective, art expert Vickram Sethi, ‘who helps some of India’s richest build their collections’, stated, “Economic statistics are a poor indicator of the buying power of Indian collectors. The people who buy art aren’t people who are so much affected by the stock market and by the recession. Our economy is not a true reflection of the money there is in India. India has so much money; we don’t even know how much money we’ve. There’s a lack of confidence, there’s nothing else.”

Echoing his views, Mr Dean felt that the ‘new-found’ buying power was now increasingly looking to buy international as well as Indian art. Checking Indian art’s bumpy ride in the market, an insightful essay in the prestigious UK publication, Financial Times wanted to find out how hard the economic downturn had hit modern & contemporary Indian art? The hyped Indian art scene, according to artist Subodh Gupta, meant that college students in India were making works with the market in mind, ‘which is dangerous’.

The FT pointed out: “In general, the dearth of committed contemporary art buyers in India poses a dilemma for domestic dealers. However, foreign buyers were quick to spot the potential of Gupta and his compatriot artists. These include Gupta’s wife Bharti Kher, T. V. Santosh, Sudarshan Shetty and Jitish Kallat. British buyers include Frank Cohen and Charles Saatchi. Subodh Gupta has been a pivotal player in that drama, so his new UK show will be a barometer of market recovery. The Indian art world eagerly, and nervously, looks to London…”