Sunday, September 20, 2009

A Broader Canvas - India Art Summit - Reflections

Dear Friends,

Here is the latest article published in "Telegraph" newspaper for your reading pleasure!

The India Art Summit 2009 is over but memories of the event that drew some 40,000 visitors will linger for a long time to come. For a start, it must be said that this has been the first really successful art fair in India. There were over 55 galleries taking part including 18 international ones, which is a record. On show were works by the legendary Pablo Picasso and our own Mumbai-born Anish Kapoor, the sculptor well known for his large public works.

Top class international galleries like London’s Lisson and Arario from Beijing were also in attendance at the summit, which was spread over three sprawling halls at Delhi’s Pragati Maidan.

Visitors at the India Art Summit 2009

The art on display was in some cases exceptional, especially the Moderns. Both Delhi Art Gallery & Dhoomimal gallery exhibited very good collections of S.H. Raza and F.N. Souza. They had good quality works from all the important time periods on display.

By contrast, the Contemporary part of the Summit was a bit lacklustre. The major galleries in the Contemporary space did not put on show their ‘A’ list of artists. Instead they featured a lot of emerging artists and in some cases trotted out for the summit their second and third lists of artists who had not sold in recent shows.

Subodh Gupta’s Alibaba (2009, oil on canvas, 6.5ft x 12ft) at Trident,Gurgaon show

Nevertheless, the art summit was a laudable initiative even if some of the galleries insisted on thinking short-term, trying to flog art which was not the best they had to offer. This attitude will need to change in the future if the India Art Summit is to move up from here and be considered a truly serious international-level art fair.

Still I was impressed with the roster of opening and collateral events from Anant Art Gallery, Talwar Art Gallery, Gallery Seven Art and also a fantastic opening show at the Devi Foundation in Gurgaon. These events kept the fair busy and exciting.

Interestingly though, I was even more impressed with the international galleries. Arario, the powerful Beijing gallery, actually showed a big installation by L. N. Tallur, the promising Korea-based Indian artist and a large Jitish Kallat canvas. I also took to the fact that international galleries had really a very eclectic range of art to show. They seemed to be quite serious about their display and were looking at the lucrative potential of acquiring a new Indian collector base.

Turning to the speaker forum, the organisers had put together a very good mix of top artists, galleries, curators and collectors. Frank opinions were aired and there were some heated debates on the commercial aspects of art. Amrita Jhaveri, who runs an art advisory spoke about all the stakeholders in the circle of collecting art and the conflicts of interest that they sometimes have. Nitin Bhayana, one of India’s top collectors, shared his insights on how to build a great collection.

Bharti Kher’s The left-over DNA of a little mouse that the cat ate (2009, bindis on painted board, 72in x 96in) at Trident, Gurgaon show

Peter Nagy of Gallery Nature Morte was clear on his views from a gallery perspective and stressed he always was particular about the collector who was buying the work in order to promote genuine collectors and discourage speculators. Finally Anders Petterson from ArtTactic, the research think-tank, said stated categorically that, in his view, we are close to the bottom in both the Modern and Contemporary art space price-wise, according to his surveys in the Western world and even in the Indian space. He feels, however, that real recovery is still 12 months away for the Contemporary art space.

From the quality of Contemporary art presented, Nagy from Nature Morte saved the best for the last, with his show, Realisation of all Possibilities, at the Trident Gurgaon, which hosted the VIP Closing party (I must state an interest here as I was the show’s host).

The roster of artists were the best in the Indian Contemporary art space and the scale of the works was exceptional and not seen often with a 12ft x 6.5ft canvas by Subodh Gupta, a 8ft x 6ft canvas by Bharti Kher and a 6ft x 5ft work by Bharat Sikka.

Also there was a 12ft x 8ft canvas by Bari Kumar and a towering 14ft Transformer sculpture by Thukral & Tagra, and a 10ft x 5ft work by New York-based Seher Shah, which was also shown at The Armory Art Fair in New York. The scale and size of works from such important Contemporary artists in one show has not been seen in at least a year.

In the wake of the huge crowds that turned up for the summit, many commentators suggested that it showed the art market was on the road to recovery. I wouldn’t put big bets on that yet, but good quality art will always have buyers. So until you get that exceptional piece of art, hold your purse and don’t get carried away!

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


Ilango said...

Hi..Kapil Chopra,

I have taken the liberty of adding your blog in my blog list under a separate title "For the art lovers".

It has been long overdue. What do traders do once they make money trading nifty..Invest some of them in equities, precious metals. ART , I feel, not has been understood by the mainstream public well enough. And I am sure your blog will educate all about art investing to my readers.

Best regards.


ravi said...

Hello Kapilji,

I came to know from your blog through Ilango sir. I love art and paintings. My budget does not allow to buy these beauties so i collect them as soft copy. Can you publish in your blog if u find Raja Ravi Verma's paintings. I really love paintings of him and other artists of previous generation. I think i am quite immature to understand modern paintings.

Best Regards,

kiran said...

Hello sir,
I like your writings!
my solo show is running now at reflection art gallery and studios,40A,shawpurjat,New Delhi.
I did townscapes of my town (Tirupathi,AP)focused on wires,lights and poles.Please have a look and need your comments please!