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‘Now is a perfect time to get into contemporary Indian art.’
In past decade or so Indian art has gradually albeit firmly established itself internationally. Underlining this aspect, The Tate Modern director, Chris Dercon, recently quipped: “We believe and have for a very long time that South East Asia has important visual artists - both modern and contemporary -which speaks to an international public. The Indian community in London is an extremely exciting public to work for. This is just the beginning of the Indian journey of Tate.”

Most market participants expect a positive development in the second half of 2012, indicating the overall optimism that prevails in the Indian art market. As has been rightfully observed, it's the Asian artists and buyers that are keeping the international art market afloat. Fueled by the strong economic parameters, the growth in this dynamic region has been accompanied by an increasing interest in more traditional Indian art forms, as well as the continual growth of modern and contemporary art, mentions a recent report in The Independent, UK.

In fact, 2011-12 has proved to be a satisfying phase on the auction front for Indian art, despite the prevailing pessimism. Leading players focused on quality works, to target the more discerning buyers/ collectors. There is a rising international attraction and appreciation for the quality works of Indian and South East Asian artists. According to art market experts, demand from Asia continues to lead the global recovery of the auction market and to drive the growth.' Experienced market players are focusing on quality works in order to target the discerning buyers’ category. Incidentally, most top lots at prominent sales are dominated by traditional and modern art.

Top quality art with stellar provenance and in good condition finds buyers in India and world-over. Artists with strong international backing and visibility like Bharti Kher and Subodh Gupta seem to have greater scope and speed of recovery. Progressive modernists, such as FN Souza, VS Gaitonde, Tyeb Mehta, Raza and Husain are also witnessing good demand. The depleting number of senior artists after the demise of Jehangir Sabavala, M.F. Husain and Sohan Qadri - is prompting the slow ascent of a second generation of talented young contemporary artists, mentioned an interesting IANS news report.

With top-end modern artists having stated a rather strong comeback, a definite revival of interest in contemporary Indian art market is visible. Though the sentiment for contemporary artists hasn't picked up favorably, they are likely to bounce back. What remains to be seen is whether the art prices actually reflect the market size or supply demand equation. In spite of a vibrant art culture in India, the rather narrow collector base remains a worry for the art market. It has tremendous potential that still remains to be tapped. Thankfully, a more mature collector base is gradually coming to the fore. "Collectors realize the difference between good, better and the best (art)! They no longer look just at the price tag, but also at the works itself!" an art expert observes.

Indian art is collected primarily by western art collectors/ institutions and at local level, Peter Sumner, the Indian art specialist at Phillips de Pury, had rightly observed. He stated: “There are talented and young artists who have strongly established themselves on the international art scene. Their appeal lies in their unique ability to document the socio-economic changes in the modern ‘globalized' India.” For example, in ‘Untitled Eclipse' put up for sale at BRIC sales, Jitish Kallat created a billboard sized canvas reminiscent of the ad billboards in the major Indian cities. The orange sunrays offered the backdrop to smiling children, to point out the way to a bright future for India's new generation. Though malnourished, their smiles betray a darker existence, a reality in which they are unlikely to benefit from the social and economic progress, only widening schism between the rich and poor.

On the other hand, Subodh Gupta in his work transforms everyday objects into recognizable trademarks, which reflect the great changes taking place in India today. It’s this pointed social commentary collectors and buyers identify with, relate to and recognize. Apparently, the market is now getting more discerning. Masterpieces and quality works have grown in demand, reaching high values thanks to the growing affluent Indian middle class. There is a better appreciation of art among new breed of collectors. In effect, buyers are looking to acquire works more from a collection point of view than sheer investment purpose.

Explaining the extent to which the market for contemporary Indian art has grown and whether it has lived up to expectations and the hype, Peter Sumner had revealed: "After large adjustments in the market place during 2009 India is once again becoming a focus point for the international art market — and is continuing to live up to the expectations. Confidence in long-term sustained growth is the dominant sentiment in the contemporary Indian art market. Buying is from India, Europe, the UK, and the U.S. with corporate institutions also playing their part within the context of contemporary Indian art sales.” With affordability being the bottom line in a volatile market marked by extreme swings in the last few years, once viewed as a dilettante's passion or an elitist fad – contemporary Indian art is now firmly entrenched in the popular imagination.

As art forms have gradually diversified - video art, photography, performance art, and installations - so have their locations and audiences, mentioned a recent insightful and interesting editorial piece in The Times of India publication. While, discussing whether the blurring of line between art and commerce is justified, it made the following points:

• The contemporary Indian art market has transformed beyond recognition in the last decade. Gone are the days when artists would dig a lonely furrow, or scan an uncertain future, scouting around for patrons and money. Today, India's vibrant art world is ready to compete with the best in the international arena. That's because commercialization and branding have acted as catalysts for creativity.

• Globalization of the art market has propelled our artists on to the international stage. Exhibited and sold in foreign markets, their clientele has widened in an internationalized art collection scene. Their works find takers in top galleries and auction houses, alongside items from emerging economies like Brazil or China. In this exciting background, artists like T V Santhosh, Atul Dodiya, Jitish Kallat or Subodh Gupta have transgressed artistic boundaries, experimenting with forms as well as material.

• In India, exhibitions and fairs have taken art out of museums and to the masses. Breaking down barriers between 'high' and 'low' art, such events have popularized art among the general public. Once seen as esoteric, the art world's being opened up and democratized. The culture of acquiring artwork too is no longer limited to the privileged few. Moreover, even tribal art and artisanal traditions have gained from the push of commercialization, which has brought them to the attention of appreciative buyers. Why, then, view art and commerce as mutually exclusive?

With prices having reached attractive levels and with the economy set to grow faster than the western economies, providing an impetus to stable and tangible asset classes, now is a perfect time to get into contemporary Indian art.