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Book Review : A new study on Confidence Indicators of Indian art and artists
The latest research document on the contemporary Indian art market recently released by ArtTactic has extremely encouraging indicators.

The critical Confidence Indicator of the globally reputed art analysis firm for the contemporary Indian art market has more than doubled, thus help revive the confidence of investors and sending positive signals to them in the new year. In fact, much awaited recovery in the Indian art market could occur earlier than expected.

The report by the London-based art market firm suggests there is renewed confidence evident in the market that incidentally had dipped to an all-time low only six months ago. Their official note mentioned: “The current Confidence Indicator now standing at 49 indicates that there is an equal ratio between positive and negative responses regarding the short-term outlook for the overall Indian art market. The findings hold significance since ArtTactic, set up by Anders Petterson almost a decade ago, is an internationally reputed agency. It comes up with research and commentary by combining both quantitative and qualitative tools. Its studies are backed by an in-depth knowledge of the art markets.

According to experts, the report is of immense value as currently it’s the only available quantifiable study of the Indian art market. The firm employs analytical frameworks and methodologies for the art market often employed by economists and the financial experts. It strives to give art market analysis a new dimension. Mr. Petterson elaborates, “The survey sample is a cross-section of key players in the Indian art market many of whom have a long-term interest in it, and hence their answers are not driven by short-term decisions.”

Its Confidence Indicator for the Indian art market, according to the new document, is now pegged just under the 50 mark, at 49. The 50 mark importantly, suggests there are an equal number of negative and positive responses on the outlook for the art market in the near term. In May, the indicator was well in the negative territory, pegged at an abysmally low number of 20. The survey paper showed zero confidence in the higher-end of the modern Indian art market. However, more than 15% of the respondents were positive to the top end of the Indian art market (works over $1 million) in the latest reading in October 2009. Nearly 25% of the respondents were positive to the $500,000 to $1million price bracket.

Analyzing the report, a news column in The Mint, a leading business publication, noted: “The data is based on interviews with 89 players in the Indian art market. While only 19% of the respondents in May believed the Indian contemporary art market would recover within two years, this has now gone up to 33%. Sales figures released by art auction houses corroborate these sentiments.”

Subsequently, success of the winter 2009 auction by Saffronart only substantiates the theory of renewed confidence in the art market, a ToI news report, quoting PTI claims. The auction included sculptures, paintings and drawings by several renowned contemporary artists like Raqib Shaw, Jagannath Panda, Subodh Gupta and Anju Dodiya all of whom did well. An untitled canvas by late Manjit Bawa went for a whopping Rs1.7 crore. This set a new record for the legendary artist from the country for his work.

Incidentally, six months ago the overall ArtTactic Indian Art Market Confidence Indicator had dropped by a whopping 63% from the pervious reading in October 2008. The loss in confidence was on the back of deteriorating economic climate, and a significant drop in prices and liquidity, in both the modern & contemporary Indian art markets.

The firm has launched the Survival Rating methodology for the Indian art market, pioneered for the US and European art markets in 2008. The measurement seeks to capture the long-term belief whether the artists' markets will be of Low, Medium or High importance. This can be quite useful in the current uncertain environment, where the market is trying to decipher which artists will survive the test of time.

Artists Confidence Indicators and Survival Ratings included in the report cover F.N. Souza, M.F. Husain, Ram Kumar, Krishen Khanna, Rameshwar Broota, S.H. Raza, Akbar Padamsee, Jogen Chowdhury, Arpita Singh, KG Subramanyan, Vasudeo S. Gaitonde, Tyeb Mehta, Anju Dodiya, Atul Dodiya, Shibu Natesan, Sudarshan Shetty, Ravinder Reddy, Nataraj Sharma, Surendran Nair, Subodh Gupta, Bharti Kher, Jitish Kallat, N.S. Harsha, T.V. Santhosh, Justin Ponmany, Riyas Komu, Rashid Rana, Thukral & Tagra among other modern and contemporary artists.

Among the modern masters, indices of artists F.N. Souza, Zarina Hashmi and Jagdish Swaminathan, already in the positive territory, display a greater positive swing. Amongst the contemporaries, most striking are the indices for Thukral and Tagra, Bharti Kher, N.S. Harsha, Jitish Kallat, and Subodh Gupta. Their indices are back in positive territory after hitting the lows in May 2009.

Clearly, the market is on the threshold of an upswing in terms of investor confidence. This really is a positive indicator coupled with the Indian economy that is showing early signs of revival in the context of earlier negative picture.