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Global stage: India, China both big on art

When auction house Sotheby's opens the exhibition for its forthcoming sale of Indian art, you can be sure that it is not just Indians who would be interested in the paintings and jewellery on display. Radhika Pancholi reports.

india Updated: Feb 26, 2008 23:07 IST
Radhika Pancholi

When auction house Sotheby's opens the exhibition for its forthcoming sale of Indian art, you can be sure that it is not just Indians who would be interested in the paintings and jewellery on display.

Indian art has clearly come a long way. "The spurt especially began from the last quarter of 2005 and has carried well into 2006 and 2007. Since then, the prices for Indian art have increased almost 10-fold," said Anuradha Ghosh, deputy director, Indian and South East Asian Art, told the Hindustan Times. Ghosh is overseeing the sale that is slated for March 19 in New York.

She cites a case in point. "When a Subodh Gupta painting titled 'Sunday Lunch' was sold in a New York charity auction, it fetched a princely sum of $462,000 (approximately Rs 1.84 crore) and was bought by an American."

In fact, Indian art, which was till recently the cynosure of Indian art collectors across the globe, has suddenly found an emerging market among western buyers. A stark contrast to Chinese art, which has not only been around for a longer time, but has elicited an interest in Chinese circles only now. "Chinese art has been popular with a lot of non-Chinese clientele, unlike Indian art, which has so far had a bigger clientele with Indians globally. However, this is changing as both economies grow strong financially," Ghosh said.

She said while a number of westerners were looking at Indian art in a new light, Indian collectors were now looking beyond India and "while they may not still be buying a lot of Western artwork, there's an increasing number of them bidding for those lots".

A growing interest in art and its related fields, especially among Indians has got Sotheby's upbeat on the market for Indian art.

"In 2007, the sales of Indian Art totalled to $40.69 million (Rs 162.39 crore)," Henry Howard-Sneyd, deputy chairman of Sotheby Europe and Asia, said, adding that Indian collectors globally were an important force for Sotheby's existing and future international business.

"We do think that the Indian market is very interesting and this is the right time for such exhibitions as it fits with the financial condition of India, which is showing a rise in wealth and we hope and expect that this will continue to grow," Howard-Sneyd said.

Sotheby's is also displaying some rare jewels that will be a part of the sale, along with the paintings at the exhibition that is slated to open in Mumbai on Wednesday.