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Auction houses promote budding artists

olden days, artists had to achieve critical acclaim and be collected and written and talked about before they could compete in the auction arena,"

india Updated: Jun 21, 2006 13:41 IST

In what is being seen as a healthy trend, renowned auction houses are increasingly promoting emerging talent.

"In the olden days, artists had to achieve critical acclaim and be collected and written and talked about before they could compete in the auction arena," points out Shanti Dave, who is getting ready for a well-awaited retrospective in Delhi.

A look at Christie's Hong Kong Asian art sale reveals how much the times have changed. Christie's, which in the past did not believe in arching themselves out for young artists, seems to have a change of heart in terms of attitudes.

In 2000, one remembers Sotheby's specialist Robin Dean saying somewhat categorically: "I don't think an auction is a place where an artist's career should be launched. That is something that is the sole prerogative of the commercial gallery system which should nurture the evolution and motivate further progress."

Dean's viewpoint now seems to have changed somewhat with both auction houses now scouring the nation for young and emerging talent.

The thought that only well established artists can get record prices in the salesroom is also getting washed away with the new records that were set by names like Atul Dodiya, Anju Dodiya, Subodh Gupta, Jitish Kallat and Hema Upadhyay, to name just a few.

Says Abhay Sardesai of Art India: "Online art has actually given a fillip, an extra edge, as it provides a unique opportunity for emerging artists.

"Normally, the space for showing your work is limited. There weren't too many galleries around, and it was difficult for young artists to hold art exhibitions. This is why the emerging artists are enjoying their place in the auctions," he adds.

Why is this market for emerging artists taking off now?

According to Saffronart director Dinesh Vazirani: "The rules of the game are changing. The pool of buyers is also interesting and there are a lot of young buyers and collectors now. What is interesting is that there are also middle class buyers who want to invest in art."

Obviously, it is the alchemy of a newly thriving middle class hungry to express pride in its cultural heritage - and market visibility - fuelled by gallery and museum shows and auction sales, in the West as well as India, that have helped sales for young and emerging artists also.

Art auctions have become the most visible barometer for gauging the measure of success. It is the most effective measure for defining a work's monetary and aesthetic value.

"Auctions attract buyers of a different calibre from those who go to commercial galleries," says a collector who wishes to remain anonymous.

"Investing in works by young and emerging artists can be challenging because they must withstand the test of time. Collecting the works of young and emerging artists and supporting them over a period can also be rewarding," adds the collector.