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How is the road ahead for Indian art market?
A leading global art market research agency, ArtTactic, regularly publishes Confidence Surveys that provide an in-depth analysis of the market conditions on basis of field data and analytic tools such as a risk and speculation barometer. By collating and dissecting aspects like sales volume, average price and bought in rates, they judge the success ratio of auctions by comparing pre-sales expectations with final results. Their periodic Global Art Market Outlook reports examine the prevailing trends within Indian markets as well as other top art markets. The latest Indian Art Market Confidence Survey released by the agency (Researchers: Anders Petterson and Nathan Engelbrecht) offers some interesting insights. Some of them are listed below:

•Most experts feel the Indian art market will need at least a couple more years to find its feet again and recover. The overall Confidence Indicator for it is down marginally from October 2011 (by just 2 percent). The confidence in the economy has gone up to 45 percent from 28 percent, off-setting a 9 percent fall in confidence levels for the Modern art market, and a 24 percent fall for the Contemporary Indian art market.

•In spite of the slightly negative market trend, experts are positive about the near-term future of Indian Modern art market (the next 6 months). The round of auctions in March 2012 for Indian was rather disappointing, as the Modern & Contemporary art market witnessed another season of decline, touching a total sales volume worth $10,438,532, down 27 percent lower than March 2011 and 9 percent from September 2011.

•The art market has experienced a steady fall in the last 20 months as far as India is concerned. Current sales volume are more than 60 percent lower than June 2010. In comparison to a period 6 months ago, the survey respondents are getting more nervous and negative about the market. The latest Indicator is at 45, down from 55 (-18%) in October 2011.

•The short-term outlook, as gauged by the Expectation Indicator is at 58 (up from earlier 50). It implies that the experts are a bit more positive about the coming 6 months period in comparison to the current situation. The hesitance is also apparent when one considers what the experts are thinking the Indian art market direction will be in the coming 6 months.

•About 30 percent of the experts feel the For the Modern Indian market will go up (34 percent in October 2011), and nearly 70 percent feel it will remain flat (66 percent in October 2011). In fact, an immediate recovery appears to be some distance away, with close to 50 percent of the experts believing the Modern Indian market will need two more years at least before a broader recovery will happen.

•Among the artist covered in this report are Subodh Gupta, Maqbool Fida Husain , Vasudeo S. Gaitonde, Francis Newton Souza, Sayed Haider Raza, Akbar Padamsee, Tyeb Mehta, K.G. Subramanyan, Ram Kumar, Krishen Khanna, Himmat Shah, Arpita Singh, Zarina Hashmi, Jogen Chowdhury, Rameshwar Broota, Ravinder Reddy, and Rashid Rana.

Trajectory of Indian art market
An Art Market Confidence Survey late last year stated that the confidence in the Modern market of India remained high, in spite of negative economic outlook. The overall Market Confidence Indicator was down by close to 30%, as the confidence in the country’s economy significantly dropped. In spite of this, experts remained positive about the Modern art market, with some confidence returning to the contemporary art market. On the other hand, according to the Indian auction data analysis publicized a couple of months ago on basis of most recent sales by the key auction houses, the Modern & Contemporary art market experienced decline.

The nascent Indian art market, still awestruck by the prices Tyeb Mehta, F N Souza, S H Raza, or Subodh Gupta command, is largely echoing the Western market (trend) in appreciating values for historic or rare works. However, there is a lot of scope for Indian masters as well as globally-recognized artists to grow, an opportunity that the country is probably missing out on owing to lack of infrastructure and the state support those like in China do. Writer and art critic Kishore Singh explains, `to an extent, private entrepreneurship can be credited with building up exposure, prices and knowledge.’ While any hope of a recovery is premature yet, individual works have been drawing buyers at record-selling prices. He adds, “This is perhaps because rare works entering the market to create liquidity for their owners are attracting those with wealth but no previous access to high-value masters. The trick is to buy quality works in developing countries could soon become the proverbial flood, but what lessons are there in it for India?

Art market in India is on stable ground After a roller-coaster ride, the art market in India now seems to be on stable ground, The Wall Street Journal news report by Margherita Stancati and Shefali Anand had observed. The duo mentioned: “Collectors still see artworks by artists of Modern India School of painting, a movement spearheaded by Souza, Raza and the late MF Husain, as a safer investment than contemporary art. Widely seen as a status symbol, the works of this older generation of painters have quite often broken the $1-million barrier, something happening less frequently with contemporary artists. The financial crisis left this segment relatively unscathed. Works by the younger generation of artists are widely viewed as a riskier investment option than modernist paintings. And their prices suffered the most during the financial meltdown. However, the relatively low prices mean that savvy collectors could stand to gain.”

Contemporary & modern Indian art prices began soaring around a decade ago or so, setting the industry wheels fast in motion. Even while sales patterns suggest the art market is showing signs of recovery, few really expect it to reach pre-2008 levels. After the financial downturn hit global markets, India wasn’t spared either. Indian art prices fell in that period, by more than half. It took a heavy toll on many art funds set up a few years earlier. Though it is not realistic to expect prices to soar anytime soon, that’s not necessarily such a bad thing, with some terming it an artificial hype!