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Last Updated: Friday, 11 February, 2005, 07:38 GMT
Boom time for Indian modern art

By Jayshree Bajoria
BBC News, Mumbai

Lot 24, untitled, by VS Gaitonde
Lot 24, untitled, by VS Gaitonde

Contemporary art dealers in India say they have never had it so good.

This week the art market witnessed a new high when an Indian painting sold for more than nine million rupees ($215,000) at a public auction in Mumbai (Bombay).

VS Gaitonde's untitled oil on canvas was sold to an art collector living in Dubai.

Ninety-nine works were sold in the auction, fetching a total of more than 63 million rupees ($1.4m).

Neville Tuli, the founder and chairman of the art auction house, Osian's, says the sale reflects a growing maturity in the Indian art market.

He says Indian art is fetching better prices and more Indians are buying art because they realise that "art is a good, safe and stable investment".

"In the long run, there is no investment like art if there is knowledge and systematic understanding of the subject," he told the BBC News website.

"In another five to 10 years, art will witness more individual and institutional investment."


Indian art hit international headlines two years ago when a Japanese art collector paid $317,500 for a triptych by painter Tyeb Mehta at Christie's in New York, making it the highest priced Indian contemporary painting so far.

The price that a work by an Indian artist fetches is in no way comparable to that of artists from other countries
Art consultant Anupa Mehta

Since then, the art market has grown by leaps and bounds.

Two months ago, Saffronart, a Mumbai-based company specialising in online auctions of modern Indian art, broke records by selling 140 works for 122 million rupees ($2.8m).

On 1 March, the company is auctioning 45 artworks by nine of India's most sought after painters.

The works by artists like MF Hussain, SH Raza, Akbar Padamsee, Jehangir Sabavala and Francis Newton Souza will be shown at the Berkeley Square gallery in London next week.

MF Husain
MF Husain features in the Saffronart sale

Saffronart founder Dinesh Vazirani is sure the auction will do well. He says the market for Indian art is very strong at the moment.

"Indians have changed their mindsets. Earlier they wanted to invest in gold and jewellery, but now they place value on art as well."

One reason the art market is doing so well is the increasing interest non-resident Indians are showing in Indian art.

Art patron Sangeeta Kathiwada says: "Living away from their country, their fondness for it grows, so they show more interest.

"Increasing disposable incomes have enabled them to patronise it and this also forms a way for them to keep in touch with their roots and educate their children about Indian culture."


According to some estimates, Indian modern art auctions in New York are now raking in five times what they made just four years ago.

Osian's auction site
Osian's auction site

Experts say the Indian market is growing at 30-40% annually and there is huge potential.

But art consultant Anupa Mehta dismisses the hype and says Indian art still has a long way to go.

"The price that a work by an Indian artist fetches is in no way comparable to that of artists from other countries."

She says Indian modern art tends to be showcased abroad because of existing laws.

"There are restrictions on taking works of art outside India if they belong to a time period beyond what is stipulated under law.

"But there is a market for all kinds of art, which we still need to tap. For this, we need a system that will allow an easy transfer of art."

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