Sunday, March 13, 2011

What’s the secret behind the demand for the top Indian modern artists?

Indian modern art

S.H.Raza, F.N Souza, Tyeb Mehta, V.S.Gaitonde, M.F Husain, Amrita Shergil are the current auction house favourites of the Indian Modern art market. The paintings of these 5 artists form the top 10 most expensive Indian paintings sold till date.

How were these artists able to influence western art collectors and create a million dollar market for themselves? A careful look at their careers show that there are some common factors between them

One of the most uniting factors is that all the above artists except Amrita Shergil were part of the Progressive Artists Group. Infact F.N Souza, S.H Raza and M.F Husain were the founding members along with two other artists.

The Progressive artists group was founded in 1947, after the Indian independence, in Mumbai. It was formed as an antithetical movement to the nationalist style of art followed by the Bengal School of Art (the foremost art institution in Indian at the time of Independence). The Progressive Artists Group combined Indian subjects with post-impressionists style, cubism and expressionist styles. The group was a key influence on the way Indian art evolved from then.

The second factor that binds the Indian Modern Art favourites is that most of them either lived or worked in centres of western modern art like London, Paris or New York. The only exceptions were M.F Husian and V.S Gaitonde. Their works were influenced by the styles and techniques of the western artists.

S.H Raza graduated from the Ecole Nationale des Beaux-Arts, after which he lived in Paris with his wife. Amrita Shergil was born in Hungary and also graduated from the Ecole Nationale des Beaux-Arts and worked in Paris for 5 years before moving to India. F.N Souza and Tyeb Mehta spent a good part of their careers in New York and London.

One could assume that the combination of a style that the western art market is acquainted with and the exotic Indian subject could have made art collectors gravitate towards these artists. The western audience would have preferred styles that they were familiar when venturing into foreign territory.

The third common factor is that 4 of them, Husain, Gaitonde, Souza and Tyeb Mehta, are alumni of the JJ School of Arts in Mumbai and Raza and Shergil from the Ecole Nationale des Beaux-Arts in Paris.

"Well, I think we have a winning combination to pick Indian modern artists – progressive art group members who have extensive exposure to western art markets and alumni of either the JJ School of Arts or Ecole Nationale" ;-)