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,