Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Indian art – an alternative investment option

Just barely recovering from the stock market fiasco, investors are beginning to rethink the logic of diversification of their portfolio. Many investment advisors are turning to Indian art as an emerging alternative investment option.

Although the concept of investing in art is relatively new in India, art has always been a viable investment option in the west. Art investment in India is gaining momentum with the works of M.F Husain, Tyeb Mehta and F.N Souza being lapped up by international collectors. FN Souza’s work ‘the Birth’ sold for $2.3 million, setting records in valuing Indian art. MF Husain and SH Raza are currently valued anywhere from $200,000 to $1 million. Industry experts expect prices to shoot up to between $5 million to $10 million in the next few years. The growth in Indian contemporary art also reflects the same trend. The prices of works of several famous artists like CF John, TM Azis, Yusuf Arakkal, Atul Dodiya have increased considerably since Indian art reached the international stage.

The potential for further rapid growth of the Indian art market makes it a viable investment alternative. For example, the ET art index (Art index by the Economic times) has grown phenomenally from just 116.53 points in 2000 to 3106.47 in September 2008. According to Arttatic, an independent research firm, the Indian art market in 2008 was valued at approximately $70 million from the $40 -$50 million level in 2007.

Let’s take a look at the top 3 reasons for the growth in the Indian art market which would serve as the foundation for art becoming an alternative investment option.

The increase in demand for Asian (Indian) art by international collectors

  • Auction houses like Christie’s and Sotheby’s realizing the potential of Asian art, opened up the international art market to Asian art. The results from the recent auctions at Sotheby’s, Christies and Saffronart have been encouraging, with a total of almost $7.7 million worth of art being sold in the summer sales 2009.

  • A new generation of art collectors from emerging economies, with their rising income levels, has created a market for Asian art internationally. The nouveau collectors relate more to art from their own cultural background which is especially true in the case of NRIs (Non-Resident Indians)

  • The Indian art market also benefited from the recent boom which increased the disposable income in the economy and bought with it slow but steadily growing group of art aficionados. Interestingly art auctions in India have been rising steadily starting with only 3 auctions in 2003, to 14 auctions in 2005 and approx 40 auctions in 2008.

The rise of an organized art market for Indian art

  • With the advent of international Auction houses, there has been a standardized approach to valuation of art, promotion and sale of Indian art. These guidelines will enable the efficient and consistent functioning of the art market in India.

  • There has been a growth in the secondary market for art with a number of art galleries, art advisors, auction houses (India’s own Saffron Art) and corporate collections established within the past decade. The secondary market provides a platform for trading in art.

Increase in liquidity of Art as a medium of investment

  • Liquidity is a prime factor in decision making for any form of investment. Over the years, liquidity in the Indian art market has increased considerably with a number of financial institutions introducing Art investment services in the form of art advisory or art funds. Religare, Yes Bank and Bajaj Capital are some of the traditional investment houses that have begun offering art as an alternative.

  • There also a number of art funds set up as an investment vehicle like Osian’s Art Fund, Crayon Capital, Yatra Art Fund etc. The Osian's Art Fund, worth over Rs 100 crore, oversubscribed within a few days of opening allotment.

  • Art Summits like India Art Summit 2009 in New Delhi and the Art Expo 2009 in Mumbai, play the role of developing the art market by creating a venue for promoting Indian art.

  • Indices like the ET art index and the involvement of SEBI (Securities Exchange Bureau of India) has given art additional credibility and liquidity it needs.

The Indian art market is currently in a very nascent phase, where the stage has been set for enormous growth. The increase in activity from the various players could take this market much higher than predicted. All said, one should however be careful to take professional advice before plunging into the art market.