Big foreign interest in Indian art world

New Delhi: With a recovery in the global art market during 2010 following a slump in the previous year, gallerists and art dealers worldwide are exploring younger markets like India scouting for new buyers for art.

The third edition of the India Art Summit in Delhi that features works by over 500 artists has attracted 84 galleries from all over the world, many of them drawn to the country where buyers are also seeking out works by international artists.

"The Indian market has been growing year on year. Delhi has now a international community and is quite sophisticated.

There are young Indians who are traveling more and want to hang up on their walls works from all kinds of places," says an international gallerist participating at the Summit.

Indian art market which is pegged at approximately Rs 2,000 crore has been indicated to witness a surge in momentum in the first quarter of 2011 according to art market research firms.

International artists have also experimented with Indian themes to appeal to Indian buyers.

"We took the risk of not bringing typical Indian art works. We hope it appeals to young professional Indians," says a representative of UK-based Stark+Grant Gallery which is exhibiting several works portraying Mahatma Gandhi at the Art Summit. Enzo Guaricci`s works on marble that resemble faded copies of the Hindustan Times and Il courier newspapers bearing news about Gandhi`s assassination are a case in point.

Art Gallery 21 from Lativia which is exhibiting for the second time in India and which brought works by four artists say they have had a good response. Lativian artists Mirro and Anita Arbidane spent about four months in Auroville in Puducherry in Tamil Nadu in 2009 and assimilated their experiences in the works exhinited at the Art Summit.

"Anita`s work `Waking up in India` blends Indian influences with Lativian skills. The painting along with her other work `The Game`, a humorous take on well-known French painter Georges De La Tour`s work `The Cheat with the Ace of Diamonds` were sold to Indian collectors for USD 12,000 and USD 10,000 each" .

The success of the second India Art Summit in 2009, held in the midst of a slump in the middle of a big western markets which saw business worth Rs 26 crore being raked in with over 40 per cent of first time buyers seems to have also prompted international art dealers to look at the Indian market.

Paul Greenaway of Greenaway Gallery in Australia who is exhibiting two artists Jenny Watson and Hossein Valamanesh, a Persian artist settled in Australia says, "In the next five years maybe sooner the future is from here to China. We think it is very important to reestablish the traditional connections between the countries.

"We are also collaborating with Mascara gallery from Mumbai for an exchange of artists who will be shown in India and Australia during the next 12 months," says Greenaway.

Die Galerie, based in Frankfurt and Seoul which is exhibiting at the Art Summit for the first time has brought works by Pablo Picasso and a Salvador Dali work priced at Rs 360,000 euro.

"We are looking positively at the Indian art fair and hoping to sell. We have bought some blue chip artists to show what we are capable of doing as well as some emerging artists like Torsten Holtz, F D Schlemme and Dietrich Klinge," says gallery director Peter Femfert.

He has also brought works by Joan Miro and says,"Indian collectors have been purchasing works of say Picasso or Dali or even Joan Miro abroad. We thought it is time for us to come here and offer their works."

Henri Matisse and Damien Hirst are among the other big names at the summit.

The Robert Bowman Modern gallery say they decided to participate in the Summit because of th interest by Indian collectors at their Indian gallery.

"We saw the Anish Kapoor was doing well and we have had clients from Delhi buying our sculptures from our gallery in London for their homes here. Also India with its history and legacy of sculptures so we decided to come here," said the gallery director.

The Bowman gallery bought with it approximately 24 pieces of sculptures of all shapes and sixes, the most expensive work by Auguste Rodin priced at Rs 62,000,000.

The gallery says it will not be opening an Indian chapter anytime soon but are not close minded on it. "Anything can happen in the future but for now we are not setting up a gallery here," says the director.

Collectors including institutional buyers from Hong Kong, US, Australia, Europe bought works at the third art summit with approximately 80 percent of the galleries reporting sales within two days.

Bangalore based Gallery SKE said they had sold works by Bharti Kher, Sudarshan Shetty and Sheela Gowda to institutional buyers both in India and abroad.

"Last year we had shown our space as a cafe and pretended to be like a shop getting artists to do limited editions of their works. We were engaging with the audience inviting them to play around. This time however, we stuck to our regular format," says a gallery representative.

Gallerists believe that post the slowdown collectors are a more discerning lot.

William Baars of the Amsterdam based William Baars Projects says,"India is no exception to the world where there are a lot of bad art and some good art. We like the fair which is a good combination of the west and the east and are waiting to see how things turn out on with the buyers."

Baars gallery which represents big Indian artists like S H Raza and Jitish Kallat among others has brought some of the early works of Anish Kapoor to the Summit.