Sunday, August 23, 2009

Painted with Passion !

Here we go, with the article published in "Graphiti" the Sunday magazine of The Telegraph news paper, published for the international readers of this blog. The Magazine has a print run of 0.5 million and a readership of close to 1 million. An update on the India Art Summit follows soon .......

Let me talk about some art initiatives and how some people in our country are trying their best to promote Contemporary art which will make the genre all the more sought after in years to come. A lot of private individuals are doing their bit by taking private initiatives to further the cause of Contemporary art.

Anupam Poddar took a fantastic initiative with the Devi Art Foundation by opening his collection with curated shows in the heart of Gurgaon to all. He has had students from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) come and curate a show which involved the community in the art world.

On a much bigger scale, Rakhi Sarkar has an ambitious plan to create a 10-acre museum in Rajarhat called the Kolkata Museum of Modern Art. This is being designed by the acclaimed Swiss architectural duo Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron. The project, backed by passion, will contribute to the larger cause of promoting art.

We have a history of arts and culture but if you go back before 2004, most of the earlier artists hardly had any money and what kept them going was just a love for art.

As passion, creativity and talent sometimes get blurred in a haze of commercialisation, it is refreshing to see some galleries encourage new talent just fresh out of college. Bhavna Kakar from Latitude 28 has done a show for the graduating class of Vadodara earlier in the year which featured interesting works from Shreyas Karle, Sandip Pisalkar, Bhavin Mistry and others.

Rajesh Ram’s ‘Pothi padhe padhe jag mua pandit hua no koi/ Dhai akshar prem ke padhe so pandit hoye’

I was also very impressed with what Sree Goswami is doing at her gallery Project 88 in Mumbai. In these recession-hit times, I see the galleries shying away from doing shows to keep costs low. But Goswami went ahead and did First Look 2009. It was a brave decision, without an eye on the bottom line.

She showed five artists from the graduating class of Maharaja Sayaji Rao Art college at a time when even well-known Contemporary artists are finding it tough to sell their works.

I was curious and went and had a look. I was extremely impressed with an eloquent work by Sidhartha Karwal that carried the inscription, “My generation is silent! A sign of our times as we live sometimes not saying anything till it affects our life and not speaking out for what is right”. A strong message conveyed using an installation and canvas.

My Generation is Silent by Sidhartha Karwal

This is very different art with a limited following. Art on canvas or paper still is the first choice for most collectors. This whole installation was sold for Rs 50,000 which just about covered the cost of the work.

We need many galleries like this with a genuine love and enthusiasm for art to keep shows going, downturn or no downturn. Also accolades only come with risk which may be one of the reasons that Project 88 will be the only gallery representing India at the prestigious Contemporary “Frieze Art Fair” in London.

One of the most notable initiatives without any financial gain in the art space has been Indian Art News. It started out as a simple website which delivered art news directly to your e-mail. The site sent out daily information on what’s happening in the art world — and that too on a daily basis without a subscription charge. Deepak Shahdadpuri, who is an avid collector, then took it to a larger scale by revamping the website and creating a social network

Today it has over 2,500 members exchanging views on a minute-by-minute basis, discussion forums and event updates.
If I ever want to know the latest auction results at Sotheby’s or any of the other auction houses and even information on what the atmosphere in the auction room was like, then just checking the discussion forum is the easiest and the most reliable way.

It’s a great service to the Indian art world and it helps to educate both collectors and upcoming artists. I have met so many artists on the forum and actually connected with them on buying their works and even discussed the logic behind their art.

Next week we will take a look at the recently concluded India Art Summit, where the action has been thick and fast.

Kapil Chopra is Senior Vice President of Oberoi Hotels & Resorts. He writes a blog on collecting and investing in Indian Contemporary Art at He also writes for "The Telegraph" newspaper Sunday magazine "Graphiti" every fortnight. In Delhi he has written for the "Mail Today" newspaper and "First City" Magazine.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Indian Contemporary Art - Market Perspective

Well, it has been a quiet summer for the Indian art market and the market conditions have not helped much. Whenever I meet gallery owners, the only thing everyone is really praying for is recovery of the contemporary art market. Now, the approach to a recovery is not sincere enough and there have hardly been any initiatives that I have seen which will aid this process.

Now, we had a big show in Arco Madrid where a lot of Indian galleries did participate but after that lets look at the Indian representation in the top international fairs where the top collectors from all over the world to come and have a look and spot the next talent in line. In Art Basel, we only had Nature Morte & Bose Pacia, in Frieze ( in October in London) we only have Project 88 with Sarnath Banerjee, Chemould in FIAC in Paris and again Bose Pacia in Art Basel, Miami because it is in the US and they have a gallery in New York.

This is really poor representation and when I quizzed a leading gallerist as to why the participation in key fairs is so low, his response was that the shipping bills from last year were yet to be paid. Now it is natural to cut costs but in any business in the world, if marketing costs and the search for acquiring new collectors is cut by not participating or investing in a fair, then we could be looking at darker times ahead.How many new shows can you keep on doing and selling to the same collector base ?

Also, look at some of the prices that galleries are launching new shows at they are still removed from reality, in some cases a premium of over 20 -30 % of the last auction price, well this is like the stock market for a new issue, if you are not going to leave anything on the table for the collector and peg your price higher. The only way then is to do a show nearly every month, sell 2-3 works from each show and hold the rest in stock and then pray for the markets to recover and also the speculators to come back. I believe this short term vision is really hurting the market.

The other thing which is really funny is the number of art advisors that we have now, most of them lack any depth and knowledge and are happy signing you for an annual fees or taking a 10 % of whatever you buy and what they recommend, just google Indian art advisory and see the results. In such a shallow market, where in the primary space you have everything to choose from and data is available if you are ready to invest some time, build relationships with galleries and artists, get involved and enjoy the process of collecting, where does the art advisor fit in ?

I would visit galleries and shows, read a lot,sign up for a couple of good blogs, buy an Art Tactic report, speak to a couple of top galleries and before that see whether I really appreciate a work or not, instead of losing my 10 % to an art advisor in a buyers market where not only can I choose but even dictate the price to a certain extent. Now there are a couple of top notch art advisors who are good but again of all them can see the 5 best works in an auction and advise you to bid, then what is the point, better educate yourself and learn in the entire process.

Internationally access to a top gallery and a top artist was really tough in the last couple of years and an influential art advisor would open the gates for you.Here you can meet the top gallerist and drop him an email and you will have a response within 24 hours regarding your query.Yes, that may not be the same going ahead so why not build your relationship now. The thing about investment in our country is that at any moment there are more fly by the night operators than genuine sincere people, hence you hear of a financial fraud everyday. One of the art funds launched in India is already in trouble and the NAV ( Net Asset Value) figures of the most talked about and the largest are not trusted at all, how is that for a developing market !

This is not a gloom doom post but a reality check, there are people with immense levels of knowledge and depth, there are a couple of art advisors or maybe only one that I know who is sincere about what they bring on the table, look out for those beacon of lights if you must go to an art advisor to build a collection.

Then in all this, there is Saffronart,it is always difficult for an auction house to have a clean reputation but what Dinesh & Minal have achieved in the last few years is indeed commendable, now there are chinks in every armour but what they have done to introduce price transparency in the market is not an easy job. Prices change without logic in a day and that also at the top galleries, but here is a website where you can research 4 years of auction data, look at price comparisons and take informed decisions,I have not bought much from them, but when I did, it was a clean transaction and professionally handled.

So welcome to the world of Indian contemporary art, it is definitely interesting for sure, may not be very transparent with dealers and advisors not leaving an opportunity to make a fast buck,but what the heck,I still love collecting !



Kapil Chopra is Senior Vice President of Oberoi Hotels & Resorts and writes a blog on collecting and investing in Indian contemporary art at and a fortnightly column in the Sunday Telegraph magazine "Graphiti" reaching over half a million readers.He has also written for "The Mail Today" in New Delhi and for "The First City" magazine.