Evaluating the current scenario in the art market

rt in India has been sluggish since the onset of the Covid pandemic. Artists have suffered the most during the period which saw low sales and almost no patronage. Fast forward to 2023 and The Indian Art scene has seen a steady rise with beneficiaries being Art Galleries, Auction houses, artists and most of all Art collectors. It’s interesting to note how collectors’ art have benefited in this and how. The Pandemic time saw a steady rise in Distress sales of Masters Assets by Indian Artists, and this turned out to a massive opportunity of a lifetime for many collectors who has the means to collect.

Many who dreamt of a large MF Husain, A Raza or a Tyeb Mehta were pleased to acquire some rare works by masters which were a dream come true for many of them. This brought about a much needed impetus to art collection, and on the contrary where people expected art to take the downward spiral route, it took a U-turn of sorts, and art collection and sales went up north. Because now was a time where masters like MF Husain, Gaitonde, Raza, Tyeb Mehta were all within the reach of a normal collector with enough bandwidth to buy. Of course the artworks were collected with the relevant documents. These artists made a beeline to be the most sought after. MF Husain always tops the list along with VS Gaitonde whose works are scant in the market, Syed Haider Raza, Tyeb Mehta and Manjit Bawa, Krishen Khanna turned out to be favourites.

The key to a successful art collection is to curate a select set of artists one intends to buy and search the market for authentic works of art that are available for a steal. For example, assuming one has a budget of over 2 crore, it is best to buy two to four artworks by artists like MF Husain, Raza, Manjit Bawa and so on, rather than buy a single work of art at that price. Utilizing one’s investment smartly is the name of the game and the art market today is open to negotiation, unlike the pre covid times, where there was a cap on the works of these artists. It’s always advisable to have an art expert or curator in tow before buying art so as to understand that you are buying the real deal.

One might encounter authentic work in the weirdest of places, but they might come without documents. Still they might be original works of art, like the Salvatore Mundi work which was sold to a dealer for a pittance ended up getting a massive 450 million dollars in a private auction. What was more impressive to see is that South Indian collectors collected a lot of these works with private collectors from Bengaluru and Hyderabad topping the lot. Apart from collecting masters, Art in cities like Bengaluru also made new inroads. Many Prominent art exhibitions and retrospectives were held in the city between mid-2022 to mid-2023. Amongst the most revered and most visited were Retrospective of Krishna Setty in National gallery of Modern Art, G Subra’s retrospective, Chronicles of Tales Retold, art show curated by Jitha Karthikeyan to name some.
There was a private auction held in association with Mettaloid in Hyderabad at Sattva Knowledge city which had an ensemble of masters like MF Husain, VS Gaitonde, Akbar Padamsee, Raza and others. New galleries like Gallery Duomo at Skyye in Bangalore showcased a women centric show curated by Sujata Sah Sejekan and some individual well curated shows by Sublime Galleria and Indian Institute of world culture and solo shows by senior artists like Gurudas Shenoy. Public art engagements like Art Park Bengaluru helmed by SG Vasudev and his core committee and Chitra Santhe turned out to be big draw game changers for the art scene in the city. This year will also see the return of the much famed Art festivals in Bengaluru.
Art is set for a major overhaul, and things haven’t looked so good for art since a long time. The Art market in general has flourished in cities like Delhi and Mumbai with Bangalore and Hyderabad, the south Indian cities having made their presence felt. Art is the winner eventually, and be it the masters or the emerging artists, collectors, galleries, auction houses and dealers have been doing their best to resurrect the Art world and it stands to go north from here. Educating collectors of art is also of paramount importance which shall help the next set of collectors.

  • By Harish Kumar U Sejekan, an Art Curator.