Indian Art Market – powered by millennial masters and new collectors

The pandemic period has been quite interesting for the art market. One might have assumed that the promotion of contemporary Indian art would have taken a big hit, but that is far from the reality. They held the fort like progressive modern masters.

While masters are still bought on accumulated wealth and not current earnings, their valuation has not even been hit during the global recession. But at that time, contemporaries were dealing with falling disposable income.

However, the contemporary market may have seen a slight correction, but overall it is doing fabulously well. Millennials and Generation Z buy contemporary art. For them, it’s more about an alternative asset class than building a collection. The recent Saffronart sale also surpassed Rs 100 crore, making it a record auction.

A work by Atul Dodiya

The State of Art Market 2021 report contained some interesting facts. FY21 was touted as the best year for the Indian art auction market. Collective art sales revenue reached Rs 880.9 crore in FY21. Juxtapose that with the figure of Rs 13 crore in 2000.

On a yearly basis, comparing FY20 to FY21, there was a 57.3% jump in Indian art auction market turnover.

A long conversation with Kiran Nadar, the founder of the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art at the parallel India Art Fair, provided some insight into the market.

Traditional buyers remain a driving force in the market. The entry of new collectors who find in art a safe investment option despite economic uncertainties is quite visible. Nadar is one of the biggest driving forces in the art market and gives it the necessary impetus. It promotes emerging and contemporary artists as well as masters.

His opinion is that the masters who hold the fort well today are still Gaitonde, Souza and Husain. Asked about the record sale of 1961 ‘Untitled’ by Gaitonde selling for nearly Rs 40 crore, setting a new record for Indian art, she explained how sometimes the price some masters command is due to the sudden availability of this works in the market with collectors all bidding and vying to add it to their collection. The non-availability of masters is usually what causes a stir in the market when certain works are introduced.

A work by Somnath Hore.

Coming to NFTs, there is a definite chatter. There is undoubtedly a new breed of investors interested in NFTs. But to say that it replaces or is likely to replace the traditional art form is a long way off. Raghava KK, in fact, was one of the very first artists to make a splash in the NFT, selling for $94,500 at Sotheby’s, New York.

Is the art market at the same level as during the 2008 financial year? The clear answer is no. But experts say it’s getting there. Which makes it a very interesting time to collect art with appreciation potential in mind. Masters like Amrita Shergill, Gaitonde and even Raza are on course to return to FY08 levels, one of the finest years in the Indian art market.

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