Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Elusive Buyer !

Over the last few months, many people have asked me why no one is really buying art and each time I am reminded of a phrase a hotelier friend of mine uses quite frequently, that “we need to concentrate on building lifetime engagements rather than episodic engagement".

That is the problem with Indian art too. Whether it is artists who keep the values at ridiculous heights hoping that some gullible or aspiring collector would buy their works, or galleries who sometimes price new artists at prices that defy logic, everyone is just looking at the next deal. No one is looking at long term engagement and reassuring collectors that they will always be valued and taken care of. So finally, collectors lose confidence.

So, if the Indian art market is based on this foundation, the only way it can go is down. In the past few months, I have met many ardent collectors who have given up collecting Indian art. Some of the recent auctions are also a pointer in that direction with prominent collections being on sale.

How will this scenario, really change? What is the future of young artists who dream of being recognised for their passion not only in India but globally? How will Indian art get its ever elusive buyer? The need is for a major mindset change and new energy to take Indian art to a new level.

Santiago Sierra at Kochi Muziris Biennale 2012
Let me share some thoughts on this new order with you...

Logical artist pricing - Artists need to lower their prices, period. Established artists, need to quote 30 % lower than what they quoted last month as buyers can acquire the same for 35% less from the secondary or auction market. The only established artist who I thought is smartly pricing his works is Atul Dodiya. His canvas works are priced very close to  what they would sell for in an auction, so if you like a work and buy it, it may not appreciate but you won’t come out a pauper either.

Bharti Kher is another established artist who comes to mind, but she is maybe the only Indian artist who attracts enough demand to sustain her supply. Hence her pricing is logical as collectors do not lose money when they buy her works.

Just because a person loves art does not give anyone the license to take the him or her on a ride. Most artists need to take a reality check on their pricing before they stop selling completely. And that will happen. I predicted in 2009 that the Indian art market was on a shallow base and will crash completely; my blog is a testament to that.

‘Leave your shoes here’ by Hossein Valamanesh
Gallery Loyalty - Many artists would disagree with this truth that if a gallery is selling your works in Mumbai, a different gallery in Delhi and another in Bangalore, then you are simply encouraging all these galleries to look at you as a transaction instead of promoting you. So you deserve to have your work be oversupplied, collectors to lose money and finally people to stop buying you.

This is the worst thing an artist can do to his or her gallery which made their career and some of the established artists in this country have been very selfish on this count. I admire TV Santhosh and Thukral & Tagra to be standing by Guild and Nature Morte respectively.Through good times and bad times, they sold their art and not their loyalty.

Mahabubur Rahman for India Art Fair 2013
Wake up or Perish - Galleries who build on an old order, family and the story of “I have been around two decades”, need to wake up and smell the coffee. The game has always been to sell to a couple of museums, attend some art fairs and sell some art to old collectors. That won’t sustain them or their artists. They need to be work on their marketing, have a better online presence, engage with collectors and be active.

Works by Jitish Kallat
When was the last time, you saw some good advertising by any gallery? They are full of creative people but there is no outreach program or an interest to build an art community. If you do not have an advertising or marketing budget, then you would rather be out of business. Posting your event photographs of the same 30 people who attend your art openings every month on Facebook is not marketing!

Also, often galleries ignore press calls and requests for interviews. How, then, will they ever build an art culture or an inclusive environment? All they are bothered about is protecting their near negligible turf. and Glenfiddich’s Emerging Artist of the Year Award, 2013
Events around the year - It is important to have art events around the year like the art nights hosted by the Mumbai galleries and the Lado Sarai art district galleries. How about attracting new collectors? Do not sell anything, but align with a major bank and get their top customers on an educational platform on collecting art. Help them, guide them and build a new breed of collectors. This is hard work but as the collectors evolve there will be new people buying Indian art.

HFV Project by Ariel Hassan,Kochi Muziris Biennale 2012
As some of us have done in the past, we will ensure people get art news,  will ensure that there is transparency and if you do not want to be on the train to be changing the art world in this country, we will just request you to please step aside for the sake of hundreds of artists who wake up every morning with starry dreams in their eyes!

Yes, there is hope and there is optimism for a new tomorrow led by completely different people who will get Indian art the respect it deserves.

Warm wishes


Kapil Chopra is President of Oberoi Hotels and Resorts.He writes a blog on collecting Indian Contemporary Art at is also a mentor to India's leading art magazine, The Wall at and also which helps EWS patients get hospital beds in private hospitals free of cost.In addition to this he also the Founder of India's largest selling art gallery,

Sunday, October 27, 2013

United Art Fair - A story of guts to glory!

Dear Friends,

My post on United Art Fair published in the latest issue of The Wall, please do read it here or on Your comments and feedback is much appreciated.

Art needed a new platform away from the gallery structure that characterises a typical art fair. Not that, the gallery structure is not important but it can then showcase only limited artists and hence an art fair which encompasses more artists than pretty much the entire gallery system, always make you curious.

I said it earlier and will say it again, to run an artist art fair in this environment is evangelical and maybe a bit suicidal ! Annurag Sharma did a bit of both, pulling off a very well laid art fair. In terms of design and execution, I have always admired India Art Fair because with every passing year, they have set the bench a bit higher. Annurag did not disappoint on that front and the layout was spacious and not cramped at all, in fact in terms of layout and the ease to move around, he even surpassed India Art Fair.

This is not to compare both the art fairs but to appreciate both of them as having a unique contribution to the art world. But then the credit of this layout and curation should definitely go to the genius of Peter Nagy and his curatorial team. Peter is an inspirational gallerist and curator, someone who has made an exceptional contribution to the Indian art world. Now. Some people would hate to admit this but then the art world is a bit like a tank full of crabs, no crab wants the other one to get out and do better, so they criticise everything that someone does.

For all his genius, Peter seems a lot bothered about what other people have to say in the art world, although he always denies it. So all this talk about his doing United Art Fair had a lot of negativity but I was happy to see that this negativity did not carry forward to the fair as I saw everyone who mattered in the Indian art world at the fair. For all the galleries and artists who decided to sit out, maybe it is time for them to slowly start moving out as the art world has moved on and most of them actually do not matter in the new equation.

The opening day was really good and it was good to meet a lot of people and I could see that the buzz was just coming back a bit. Did this translate into sales ? Definitely not, sales were less than robust and although I thought a sale figure around 2 crores was an honest number it could have been much better. I think, where the curators and the organisers could have done better were the prices, why do I say that ? All artists had to give a work free and got 50% on the second artwork, what that meant was, that in order to get their money back,the works were at least priced 50% higher in most cases. Now, this could have been avoided but the curators and the organisers needed to sit it out and actually ensure that pricing could have been more reasonable.

Like it happens in every art transaction, curators and artists say that they do not want to get involved with the price, but that is as false a statement as can be. If they were not involved, then important from them to be, so that a collector could get value and make an instant purchase, this is an affordable art fair.

But then, this is not criticism but just an area that could be improved upon, in my view, I would rate the fair a very good 8/10 on all parameters and a commendable effort. Human effort can conquer anything and both Annurag and Peter actually did that with a leap of faith. The right way to realise the expenses incurred and also keep the interest alive is to do a collateral event every month showing some of this art at attractive prices for collectors to collect. That is a commitment that I would always love to help with and I am sure that next year with sponsorship support and a year of marketing, this will be a fair to reckon with.

Till then, here are some of my personal picks from the United Art Fair!

Parag Sonarghare 
I perform therefore I am
Acrylic on canvas and used clothes
Dhara Malhotra
Silent Hymns - I
Acrylic and mixed medium on canvas
Soni Jogi
Red bird on yellow
Acrylic on canvas
Yuvan Bothysathuvar
Canson paper on plywood
Rashmi Kaleka
Austral Visit
Mixed media acrylic on canvas feather glue plastic bags
Prathap Modi
Unheard Voices
Wood carving and oil on wood
Kundan Mondal 
Possibly Political - 2
Wood with digital print and acrylic on paper
Prittam Priyalochan
Performer with his pink umbrella at IGNCA
Ink, charcoal and acrylic on paper

Kapil Chopra is President of Oberoi Hotels and Resorts.He writes a blog on collecting Indian Contemporary Art at is also a mentor to India's leading art magazine, The Wall at and also which helps EWS patients get hospital beds in private hospitals free of cost.In addition to this he also the Founder of India's largest selling art gallery,

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Hybrid e-com art startup wants to give a platform to budding artists, to launch high-end art portal ArtDistrict13

Dear Friends,

Please scroll down for a great coverage that, The Wall and have received on and and get ready for, which will be Indian Arts most influential art gallery in the years to come !

Join us on this journey and see how we have contributed in our small way to the Indian art scene !

Warm regards.......

Hybrid e-com art startup wants to give a platform to budding artists, to launch high-end art portal ArtDistrict13

Owned and operated by Gurgaon-based Insignia Art Collect Pvt Ltd, wants to give a voice to budding artists in India, as well as make art affordable to collectors in the country.

“I have been an art collector for a number of years now; whenever I was buying art, I observed that it was only the top 10-15 artists in the country were getting consumer eyeballs and making sales,” said Kapil Chopra, founder, BestCollegeArt, and group president (for India), The Oberoi Group. He started the venture in his personal capacity.

He said every year over 1,200-1,500 artists pass out from various colleges and art schools, but they eventually give up their hopes and dreams to take up small jobs because of lack of exposure, little or no sales, and because they do not have a platform to showcase their talent. “But while people lament the system and the government, they do not take any measures personally. It is with this thought that I started BestCollegeArt.”

The site

Artists can upload up to five works (no minimum limit)—including photographs, paintings, sculpture, prints and works on paper—at a time on the site, which is displayed on it for four months. Post that, all designs are deleted and the artists can upload new ones (again the limit is five), ensuring that new art is always added on the site.

Uploading is free; however, for every art sold, the company takes a 40 per cent cut as operational expenses (for running the site, sales and marketing, paying salaries, etc.). “I have never drawn a salary from the company and we don’t take any profits; everything we make is invested back to fuel growth, apart from paying salaries of the seven-member team,” said Chopra.

For sales, the company follows a hybrid online + offline model, where collectors can buy directly from the site, or purchase artwork at one of its offline art shows (the company does around six in a year). As of now, online only constitutes of 25 per cent of the total sales, while the rest is a mix of people selecting products online and buying them offline and pure offline purchases.

In addition, to give critical acclaim to artists who are better than the rest, the company has also introduced an ‘emerging artist of the year’ award in partnership with liquor brand Glenfiddich that provides a Rs 10 lakh cash award, a three-month stay in Scotland and a solo show at Nature Morte, a leading art gallery in Delhi-NCR owned by American artist and art curator Peter Nagy.

Artists have freedom in terms of pricing, but it has to lie in the range of Rs 1,000 to Rs 2 lakh. The company, however, does advice on pricing if a work is over-priced. It does not hold any inventory; it instead procures the artwork work from the artist once it is sold. Artists are paid within 30 days after the artwork is picked from them.

Revenues and transactions

Started in September 2010 with an investment of only Rs 3 lakh, in its first year of operations, the company claimed to record revenues of Rs 82 lakh, increasing it to Rs 1.3 crore in the last financial year. It is now looking to grow 40 per cent this fiscal to Rs 1.8 crore in revenues. According to Chopra, the company has sold 800 artworks to date, and is currently selling a work a day. Apart from India, the company is seeing purchases from markets like Switzerland and Dubai (by non-Indians).

The site is getting around 80,000 visitors a month (a limited number since it is a niche e-commerce site), and at any given time, artwork from around 600-900 artists is displayed on the site. All artwork on the site is exclusive to it, since artists are not allowed to display the same anywhere else (for the duration of four months).

BestCollegeArt promises delivery within seven days, and for logistics, it has partnered with United Arts Logistics (for both India and abroad) instead of the regular ones, since art needs special handling. It also offers a buyback option for regular buyers (collectors making at least three purchases a year), according to which they can return any one of the artwork bought from the company and in return get the entire amount they paid for that particular work.

Why the name BestCollegeArt?

“All of us are continuously learning in our lives and are always in the ‘college of life’. Hence artists, no matter when they passed out, are always welcome on the site. We are not a site for students in art colleges, on the contrary, most of our artists are much older and the median age is close to 30,” said Chopra.

Other ventures

The Wall: The parent company has also launched an online monthly art magazine called and claims to have a reader base of 10,000 for the same. While subscription to the magazine is free of cost for readers, for revenues, the company looks at advertisements. According to Chopra, the new venture has also achieved profitability.

Charitybeds: The company also operates a not-for-profit website called that provides updated information on availability of medical facilities in the Delhi-NCR region. “According to a Supreme Court order, over 43 hospitals are supposed to provide free beds to poor patients in the country,” said Chopra.

The site offers information like names, addresses and contact details of hospitals in the region, along with an updated list of the number of beds currently available in those hospitals. Users can also search for hospitals according to area or specialty.

What’s next?

The company is planning to launch a new high end art portal called that would be more of an offline cum online venture, with offline primarily focused on the high end luxury space- in six months, which will help ‘select’ young artists in the country take their work to the next level. “If BestCollegeArt is an incubation portal, ArtDistrict13 will feature the cream of the artists that are chosen from it,” said Chopra.

It is also planning to completely revamp the BestCollegeArt website later this month, and going forward could also look at the art gifting sector. Also, while the company does not have any fundraising plans as of now, since it is profitable (with money in the bank and internal accruals), it could look to raise funding to expand into other markets like Dubai and Europe, in order to take Indian art to a global stage.

Kapil Chopra is President of Oberoi Hotels and Resorts.He writes a blog on collecting and investing in Indian Contemporary Art at is also a mentor to India's leading art magazine, The Wall at and also which helps EWS patients get hospital beds in private hospitals free of cost.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Indian Contemporary Art - The Road Ahead and being on The Wall !

Dear Friends,

My apologies for not being regular in updating this blog.

I guess with the downturn in the Indian art scene,  you may think that even keen collectors like me had also lost all hope for any recovery. Contrary to that, I continue to believe in the Indian art scene.

The reason for not updating this blog was two fold, the key being more professional responsibilities in  my job as a hotelier and the second being, that every month, we were bring art news to your computers and iPad's with The Wall.

The Wall, is today, India's most well read art magazine which I guess is an easy achievement, there are no monthly art magazines in India, so in most of the magazines, you read the summer show review, 6 months later in the winter.They do not come out more than 3-4 times a year, while The Wall comes out on the 1st of every month at

The achievement though was that it was an official media partner to Art Basel, Hong Kong this year and also, withe very passing, the number of subscribers keep on going up.

So, I was being true to my mission of increasing the coverage of arts in the country with complete transparency as you all had witnessed in this blog.

I will definitely try and keep this more active and share much more with you as we go through this journey in the world of Indian Contemporary art.

Warm wishes


Kapil Chopra is President of  Oberoi Hotels & Resorts and Trident Hotels.He is mentor to India's most read art magazine published every month called "The Wall" which is available for a free download at He also supports, India's largest selling art gallery and is a key force behind the "Glenfiddich and Emerging Artist of the Year award ".