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Vibrant Indian art becoming a significant global phenomenon
Though Indian art as a cohesive phenomenon has been in existence for several centuries, its impact and influence on the international horizon has been rather limited. The country’s millenarian culture has continued to indeed capture the fancy of the west, including its aesthetic, the captivating color and the mesmerizing effect - creating an awe and fascination. During the post-Independence period, Indian artists started exploring the various new forms of expressions – inspired both by Western modernism and their own distinctive culture. Over the last six decades, new artworks that embody socio-political critiques and trends have gradually surfaced.

There is now so much more to today’s complex and dynamic India. Along with philosophy, religion and traditions, the new wave of changes in form of information technology, biotechnology, luxury items, low-cost cars, rising wealth indicators – are palpable all over. New ideas of ‘Indian-ness’ are propelling a culture, which is cool and fresh. Simultaneously, the throbbing contemporary Indian art scene is rapidly spreading its wings, and has been rightfully drawing a great deal of attention both at home and abroad, as the socially aware and astute aesthetic comes across as a vibrant reflection of the country’s religious, socio-political, and historical developments in recent decades.

The new generation artists now come up with innovative works that powerfully respond and sum the rapidly changing lifestyles. They reflect the phenomenon of globalization, urbanization, economic development and new-grown consumerism. The idea on their part is to explore changes in Indian society and mass culture, from literature to films. No surprise, they have attained prominence globally, seeking deserved attention and interest than ever before in the Western world, offering immense scope for Indian art practitioners, now considered a major creative force.

Several galleries, museums and institutions across the world are focusing on Indian art, proving to be the perfect launch pad for the best of contemporary Indian art. Apart from their dominance in the international art realm, the gallery scene and larger market is also witnessing a steady rise back home, in major metros as well as the peripheral art centers. On the one hand, the focus is often on its diverse social fabric, a rich cultural heritage, turbulent history, even touching upon Bollywood. On the other hand, the artists strive to summarize the evolving present-day scenario– the dreams and hopes of Indian people, the underlying contradictions and complexities of the multi-faith society.

A series of comprehensive and elaborate surveys of contemporary Indian art have tried to fill in the gaps by hosting works of top artists to express their reactions and perceptions of the changing social realm and, in the process, alter the view point of those less conversant with the modern India. Many of the world’s leading and most prestigious museums host grand exhibitions that throw light on subtle undercurrents of new India - now more dynamic, creative and equally confused. The meticulously curated and thoughtfully conceived showcases refer to an intriguing mix of media and themes, forms and subject matter, to signify the spirit and ethos of new-age India, laced with a touch of tradition! They examine how the artists employ their insight and observation power to review the reality, taking their themes from day-to-day life, social interaction and ubiquitous objects.

India has steadily emerged and on the verse of establishing itself as a new hub in the global art mart in the 21st century, leading to the appreciating quality and value of its artists, backed by private collectors. Even as the focus remains on the top modernists, there are several contemporary artists like Subodh Gupta, Atul Dodiya, Reena Kallat, Anju Dodiya, Bharti Kher, and Jitish Kallat among many others, experimenting with different forms, themes and mediums, to build an identity of their own. They have left a distinct mark on international art scene with their distinct motifs and dynamic themes. Practitioners like Riyas Komu, T.V. Santhosh and Iranna G.R. depict figuratively, yet their work is of a tremendous spiritual depth. Bose Krishnamachari and Murali cheeroth lead into a world of psychedelic.

The new, emerging talent from the country is also in spotlight for the creativity, sensitivity and intensity of their practice that explores socio-political concerns. Practitioners, such as Vibha Galhotra and Vivek Vilasini allow dismaying elements to act. The encoded pictures of Sachin Karne and their reference to art history show the intensiveness of the heritage from the past used and molded. Manish Pushkale and Akhilesh explore emotions by way of linear contours, whereas Chandra Bhattacharjee and George Martin P.J. let elements of Pop art intermingle with super-realism and expressionistic abstraction. Importantly, most Indian artists enjoy a high resale value, constantly surpassing expectations over the past five years.

Though concerns about the shape of global recovery are not still fully erased, the art market and that of India in particular, is exhibiting a marked resilience against the prevailing economic uncertainties. It’s staging a strong recovery after meltdown in the heat of the global financial crisis largely because of avid collectors, fund managers, auctioneers and dealers, who emphasize that art as an asset class is on the verge on a smart turnaround trajectory. Bidders are back to salesrooms, prices are moving up and new benchmarks are being set once again.

In a quest to target today’s discerning and choosy buyers, the top auction houses are choosing to focus on quality works. The current conditions provide investors with a good scope to acquire some quality works. Seasoned collectors in Europe and the US still seeking potential bargains represent a bit of skepticism prevailing out there. But they are facing greater competition from the new enthusiastic Asian bidders. Though investor confidence is still a bit circumspect with a touch of caution about aspects like long-term prospects, short-term liquidity situation, and provenance, the interest in the market has certainly returned as indicated by a series of recently successful art auctions.