Indian art shines in foreign markets

Works by veteran artist V.S. Gaitonde that were sold during the recently-concluded auction of modern and contemporary South Asian art in London.

Works by Indian masters sell for £13,70,000 at a recent auction.

Modern and contemporary Indian art has had much success at auctions held overseas, with international buyers taking note of the talent and works by artists from India.
At a recently-concluded auction organised in London by Bonhams, works by masters like S.H. Raza, Krishen Khanna, M.F. Husain and V.S. Gaitonde sold for a total of £13,70,000, with over 90 per cent of the lots being sold.
Six works by Gaitonde, estimated between £20,000 and £35,000 each, sold for a total of £7,27,000. The works were from the same series of drawings that are part of the same set as a collection in the National Gallery of Modern Art here.
A work by Husain, “Untitled (Self Portrait)”, sold for £56,250, while a work from his horse series sold for £47,500. Tahmina Ghaffar, a specialist in modern and contemporary South Asian art at Bonhams, said each of the works was fiercely contested at the auction. She added that in a market dominated by buyers of Indian origin, international buyers of non-Indian heritage too have started taking note and participating at a high level.
Ms. Ghaffar feels that various institutions and biennales have contributed to global attention Indian artists have been receiving of late and there has been a notable interest from international buyers in works by modern Indian artists in recent years, which is not just a fad.
Earlier, she said, artists were casually disregarded as imitators of western modernists, but they are finally being recognised for their distinct prowess across the globe. Currently, the market is strongest for modern masters, Ms. Ghaffar said. However, contemporary art by Indian artists is forging its way internationally as contemporary artists are tackling the unanswerable questions of place and identity, much like the modern artists of post-Partition India.
“In an increasingly globalised society, this process of achieving self-awareness appeals to an international and not solely an Indian audience. As a result, we are finding more international buyers of contemporary art at auctions,” she added.
Former international director of Asian art at Christie’s Hugo Weihe, who is currently CEO at Saffronart, said Indian art has been extremely well-received internationally, notably in New York and most recently in London, and there is now a global interest in all things Indian.
He feels that while the masters represent well-established values and are, therefore, a safe bet, less time has elapsed to fully evaluate the works of contemporary artists.
But all art was once contemporary then and now it is important to understand the creative process in the context of its time and think about who will hold up to be a “modernist” in the future.
On the lack of experts who can authenticate Indian art, Mr. Weihe feels his new role in this organisation will contribute to nurture specialists and provide pertinent information and historical context for collectors to make an educated decision.

Source - The Hindu - Updated: June 17, 2015 07:36 IST 
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