Thursday, December 8, 2011

Masters and the economics of art

When Syed Haider Raza moved home from Paris to Delhi last December, it was a monumental decision for him. Personally, it meant the artist was giving up a city that had made him an internationally recognised artist.

Professionally, the only surviving member of the four top-selling masters of modern Indian art was shifting back to the land of his inspiration at a time when the other great of this quartet, MF Husain (1915-2011 ), had quit the country due to controversies.

Art watchers know well that any movement in the lives of Husain and Raza always came loaded with possibilities as the two, along with FN Souza (1924-2002 ) and Tyeb Mehta (1925-2009 ), commanded - and continue to command - 50-60 per cent of the total Indian art market.

Though there is no established monitor for Indian art - with the field relying mostly on independent estimates by various agencies - a majority of the experts agrees that the Big Four hold more than half of the total market. The market itself is valued at anywhere from $100 million to $ 400 million (roughly Rs 1000-1600 crore).

This is, however, a finite market, as Husain, Souza and Mehta have passed away. Mehta, anyway, was not a prolific painter and created only about 200 canvases in his lifetime though it was his 'Mahishasura' that had first crossed the million dollar mark when it fetched $1.54 million at a Christie's auction in September 2005. Husain and Souza were productive but the frequency with which their canvases will come into the market will depend on the collectors who hold them.

True to form, in less than a year after his shift from Paris, Raza mounted an exhibition of his latest works, 'Punaraagaman' (Return), in Delhi recently. Given the gestation period that each painting has to go through before it becomes hot property, the paintings may not immediately set the auction world afire. But they are important in a market that is beginning to expand beyond Mumbai, Delhi and overseas where 90 per cent of it is located.

Ashish Anand of Delhi Art Gallery, who had hosted the most ambitious show of the Progressive Artists earlier this year (Souza, Husain and Raza were founder members of this group and had blazed a trail by giving an Indian identity to modern art), says, "An established collector would aim for paintings from Raza's best phase from the past. But for those who have just got acquainted with art and want to possess one of the top signatures, these new paintings are important as older Raza paintings don't come up easily in the market. That's significant for Indian market if it wants to expand."

The Indian art market that has come under sharp focus ever since it started growing rapidly in the early years of the last decade is highly lopsided - the collector base is of just about 500, largely located in two cities. That's ridiculous if it wants to make a dent internationally like China has done. The Chinese art market is 40 times that of India's.

If the market has to grow, it will soon have to expand base to newer territories. Art watchers hope that as Tier II and III cities acquire more money power, art will find takers beyond Mumbai and Delhi. Sapna Kar of the India Art Collective initiative, whose online art fair, the first in the country, concluded last evening, says, "I have received queries from Hyderabad, Surat and Gaya. The database of Indian collectors is not more than 500 in number. How much art will an individual consume? A big chunk of the future of Indian art lies in smaller cities where the people have the money to buy art but no exposure yet." Menaka Kumar-Shah, the Mumbai-based head of New York auction house Christies, cites the example of collectors in Coimbatore who are beginning to set up art institutions.

Another big push that Indian art would soon need is in the form of non-Indian foreign buyers. Dr Hugo Weihe, who heads the Indian and Southeast Asian Art department at Christies, New York, says, "At one of our sales last year, a Husain canvas was picked up by a non-Indian American buyer for $1 million plus, and there is a lot of interest in Indian art by Chinese and Indonesian buyers at our ongoing Hong Kong sales. This curiosity will help Indian market to grow."
But even as the market grows and embraces new collectors, a demand for canvases by the big four continues to remain high because anybody with enough money to buy top-end art wants to own a Husain, a Raza, a Souza or a Mehta. The enduring popularity of the super sellers had even survived the recession with aplomb, taking a dip initially but recovering quickly. The November 2011 report on the state of the Indian art market by London-based analyst ArtTactic also says market experts remained strongly positive about modern Indian art though the overall ArtTactic Indian Art Market Confidence Indicator was down by 28 per cent from April 2011 due to a drop in confidence in the Indian economy by 69 per cent.

Maithili Parekh, director, Sotheby's India, says that it is the historicity of modern masters - a term that would also include, besides the top four, artists like Jamini Roy, the Tagores, VS Gaitonde, Akbar Padamsee, Ram Kumar and a few others - that makes them so attractive. "They forged a new identity for Indian art with their path-breaking work when a newly independent India was seeking its own identity. They captured the strong political and social influences of the time beautifully," says Parekh. Arun Vadehra, Christie's consultant in India who also heads the Delhi-based Vadehra Art Gallery (and host of Raza's latest exhibition), adds that buying a canvas by a top-end modern master is like buying "a piece of history."

As Published in the Times of India

Profile of S.H Raza

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" ;-)



Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Arpita Singh's mural to create a new record in Indian art

ARPITA SINGHWish Dream, 2001, Oil on canvas, 287 x 159 in

NEW DELHI: The leading ladies of Indian art seem to be on a roll. Just five months after Bharti Kher's elephant sculpture fetched a record Rs 6.9 crore, Delhi artist Arpita Singh is set to establish a new high. The sale of her mural — estimated at Rs 8-10 crore — will make her the country's top-selling woman artist.

The 16-panel mural, an impressive 24 ft x 13 ft in size, will go under the hammer on December 9 at the Saffronart winter auction. Thus far, women artists were not in the all-male charmed circle of sky-high prices.

Both Kher and Singh are changing that. So in art, as in life, does gender matter? Not for the flamboyant Amrita Shergil , the first to reach the crore-mark, but then came a slump. Says Dinesh Vazirani of Saffronart, "During the era of the Moderns, male artists such as those from the Bombay Progressive group dominated the art scene."
In a way, it's fitting that Arpita Singh has turned the spotlight back on female artists. The unbeautiful middle-aged woman has always been a central figure in her paintings. "I begin by painting a figure and it turns out to be a woman," Singh said.

The work going on sale has two women as pivotal figures, both elevated to goddess-like beings that seem to hold together and direct the rest of the painting's diverse cast of characters and everyday objects.

Times of India 16 Novermber, 2010

Bharti Kher's Elephant

Monday, November 15, 2010

Affordable Art Market Picks UP

Untitled, R.B.Murari, 2010 -
coutresty Monsoon Canvas

The art market has had a spate of activities in the recent past with a lot more slated to happen in the next few months. Despite the increase in the number of events and exhibitions, sales in the primary market are yet to reach the levels seen prior to 2009.
However, there are indications that there is a rise in sales of art which can probably be categorised as 'affordable' and is in the range of Rs 20,000 to Rs 75,000. This segment is probably expanding and benefiting the most. Artworks by young contemporary artists, especially those who have created a niche for themselves in the last few years and have also sustained themselves through the period of recession, continues to find buyers.
This segment, although priced higher, is sustaining itself thanks to a loyal buyer base, and it is clear that the artists benefiting the most are those who have continued to focus on quality and have been less prolific than others. A recent survey of confidence levels in the art market which based its analysis on results from secondary sales and auction reports indicates that the strength shown earlier in the year was unable to sustain in the recent months.
According to the report, 'The Indian auction sales season failed to meet market expectations. The total auction value for modern and contemporary Indian art at Sotheby's, Christie's and Saffronart came in 20 percent below the low presale estimate'.
However, it goes on to clarify that a probable cause for this could be 'over-ambitious valuations' and 'lack of quality works' which may have put off buyers. But, the overall prognosis suggests that the market is levelling out after a period of recovery. Interestingly, although there is a marginal dip in the positive sentiment in the market, the report suggests a promising short-term outlook in the next six months, although the pace is likely to be slow.
Economic Times online 15 November 2010

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Auction House Favourites of Indian Art

The Indian art market is predicted to touch the $1 Billion mark this year (2010). This is not much for the world art market but this is about a 10 fold growth for the Indian art market from the mid 90s. Read the profiles of the artists that is responsbile for this growth.

India, being slated as the next world power with a growth market has had its effects on the Indian art market too. In the recent years Indian Modern art has found favour with international collectors and investors. The increase in domestic affluence and in international interest in Indian art has given a substantial impetus to the Indian art market. The Indian Modern masters have evinced interest of the international art market and the growth has been quite phenomenal.

Of the $1 billion Indian art market, the modern artists contributed approximately 50-60 percent last year (2009). S.H.Raza, 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.

S.H Raza’s Saurashtra has been the most expensive Indian painting auctioned. The painting was auctioned for $3.5 million by Christie’s in 2010. This is followed by F.N Souza’s ‘Birth’ sold for $2.5 million in 2006.

Here is a popular list of the top 5 most expensive Indian paintings ever sold. You will see that S.H Raza and F.N Souza dominate the list followed by Tyeb Mehta. (To see the top 10 images click here)

Saurashtra S.H Raza, $3.5m

Birth F.N Souza, $2.5m

La Terre, 73 S.H Raza, $2.45m

La Terre, 85 S.H.Raza $2m

Untitled Tyeb Mehta, $1.84

Thursday, September 16, 2010

S.H.Raza sets another record in Indian Art

"Bharatiya Samaroh", S.H.Raza, 1998

S.H.Raza is currently the reigning king of the Indian Modern Art. His paintings seem to be a darling of investors in Indian and Asian art. His latest painting fetched an amount which is still unheard of for Indian art. Although his most expensvie painting was sold at $3 million.

Syed Haidar Raza, modern Indian painter, has fetched Rs 4.07 crore ($879,897)  for one of his earliest works "Bharatiya Samaroh" which topped the recent Saffronart's 2010 autumn online auction.

Held on September 9-10, the auction which offered a collection of 90 works by 43 modern and contemporary Indian artists, registered 70 percent sales grossing Rs 29 crores ($6,269,582), a tad short of the lowest total pre-sale estimate of Rs 29.5 crores ($6,377,687).

Influenced by European painters such as Cezanne, Van Gogh, Picasso and Gaugain, Raza had over the years created a style of his own. The "Bharatiya Samaroh", is one of his earliest and largest fractured geometric paintings which highlights distinct symbols in differently patterned squares coming together to form a whole construct.

His 1998 canvas fetched Rs 4.07 crore ($879,897) more than the expected higher estimate of Rs 3.72 crore ($8,042,373). Raza had previously in June this year set a world auction record for modern Indian art when his 1983 painting "Saurashtra" was sold at Christie's London for Rs 16,2387474.7 ($3,486,965).

It broke the previous record held by the master artist for "La Terre" which sold for Rs Rs 8.56 crore on June 30, 2008.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Corporate Art

RB Murari, 2010, Courtesy: Monsoon Canvas

Corporate Art – History and time line

Corporates as art collectors existed right from the 15th century. The Medici bank is said to be the first recorded corporate art collector. The Medici bank commanded respect and good reputation in whole of Europe and were promoters of art and architecture. The Medicis were responsible for sponsoring most of the Florentine art during their reign. There were other banking houses during the Renaissance period that collected art and displayed them in their corporate offices.

In the 19th and the early part of the 20th century art was mainly used as part of a company’s marketing strategy to attract customers and promote the companies brand name. This was art used in a commercial sense.

Around 1940s it became prestigious to support art and culture and multi national corporations like IBM and others supported art shows and events to establish their importance in the corporate world. This trend caught on and by 1980s there was a boom in corporate art purchases. By the late 1980s, it had become such a popular phenomenon that the majority of the Fortune 100 and a large number of the Fortune 500 companies collected and displayed art in their workplaces.

Deutsche Bank, Microsoft, Progressive Insurance, UBS are some of corporate that maintain a world famous collection of art. It is also to be noted that these collections are primarily focused towards contemporary art. After the Monarchy, the Church and the Nobility, corporates have become the new patrons of art.
With well over 1500 corporate collections around the world, described in the International Directory, it is a very important phenomenon in the art market. The corporate art buyers have over the years become a lot wiser and more knowledgeable about art.

Why do corporates invest in art?

There are several reasons for corporations to invest in art. Although pure financial investment is one of the reasons, it does not fall into the primary motive of investing in art. Corporations are more interested in enhancing their corporate image by developing and maintaining art collections, as part of Corporate Social Responsibility programs. The Corporates being the new patrons of art are shouldering the responsibility in promoting art and culture within the society they belong to.

But the fundamental reason that encourages corporate art collecting is the fact that there has been several studies that indicate an increase in productivity and work satisfaction among the employees. A survey conducted, quite some time a go by BCA (Business Committee for Arts), with more than 800 employees working for 32 companies throughout the United States showed that art in the workplace helps businesses address some key HR challenges like: reducing stress, increasing creativity and productivity, enhancing morale, broadening employee appreciation of diversity and encouraging discussions, and expression of opinions. Art at workplace also helps in enhancing customer and community relations by promoting networking opportunities.

Corporations however are not overlooking the capital appreciation that art could bring them. They pay reputed art consulting companies to select, organize and maintain their collections. Since the selection of the artwork has been outsourced to professionals, it ensures investment of corporate money in high potential artists and artworks.

Earlier art was purchased without much planning but now art is chosen by, corporations with great care to match the organizations culture, brand and outlook. The works are closely examined for their capital appreciation potential too.

The Corporations have now become a very high determined of the contemporary art market due to their large purse strings and the number of works purchased.

Top Corporate Art Collections

There are approximately 1500 serious corporate art collectors. Here are some of the famous collections.

Progressive art collection – consists of 6500 artworks

Deutsche Bank art collections – 56,000+ works of art

UBS art collections – consists of 35,000 works of art

Microsoft art collection – 5000 works of art 

Sources used in the article:

List of Corporate Art Collections

The corporate art brief -