The Indian art market is more alive at present than it has ever been before. Since the global economic slowdown in 2008, there has been an impressive increase in the number of art initiatives—fairs, biennales, museums, auctions, not-for-profit public projects, and many other initiatives. All these have supported the art market by broad-basing participation and bringing a deeper exposure and understanding to a wider community of people. These recent years have also seen the internationalisation of Indian art with our own international India Art Fair, our participation in the Venice Art Biennale, the establishment of the Kochi Biennale and the first Christie’s auction in India. These demonstrate the level of commitment and investment that has gone into building the India art market, and the best years are still to come. That’s not something most art markets can claim today, so we are in a coveted place globally as well.
Since India Art Fair began, there has been a growing level of engagement and participation in the cultural scene across a broad range of sectors, including corporates, design, retail and real estate. The art market has steadily grown, although of course there have been peaks and troughs. As an alternative asset class, art is increasingly becoming a sunrise investment option, especially as it is considered to be an effective hedge against inflation, with defensive characteristics during weak economic periods. India Art Fair presents a positive environment to buy art, creating an open market that is fair and transparent and inspiring confidence in the much larger buyer-base that exists for both the Indian and international community.
The India Art Fair has been advocating, since its inception, for more governmental support to promote contemporary art in India. Being on the FICCI Art Advisory committee is an added incentive for voicing the cause of the community. The private sector provides the main financial support for the contemporary art scene in India, and despite virtually no government support, the Indian art market is today making its mark globally. Its rate of growth is slow and steady, and is banking on the strong domestic market base rapidly growing in India and in addition international patronage from museums and private collectors based around the world. Increasingly, we can see how the global appeal of Indian art is on the rise. India allows for a degree of exchange and easy interaction with the markets and global creative communities. The country’s future in the global art market is secure as it is a promising emerging market with new ideas coming from the socio-political and economic realities of a developing nation.
With the ongoing support of the India Art Fair and several other initiatives that have given such a boost to the arts in India, the market has grown from its nascent stage into a wider representation, and an influx of new artists and new bodies of works are now being seen. This is a natural progression for any growing market and the expansion is necessary to create a sizeable volume of activity. This does not mean quality works are not being produced, but that the market is coming alive. As against the past, where there were just a few stars across the modern and contemporary landscape, at the present there is a much larger number of artists creating works of art at a scale and quality that India never witnessed before. So in relative terms, it’s a case of plenty, with a long way to go in terms of quantity and some filtering to be done in terms of quality.
The author is the Founding Director of India Art Fair