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  Life   Art  04 Feb 2017  High art, low price

High art, low price

Published : Feb 4, 2017, 12:09 am IST
Updated : Feb 4, 2017, 4:30 am IST

Affordability is the buzz word in this edition of the India Art Fair as the art mart deals with the ripple effects of demonetisation.

A booth showcasing works of artist Ketna Patel
 A booth showcasing works of artist Ketna Patel

In the run-up to the India Art Fair, there was one question doing the rounds — would demonetisation impact the Indian art market? Though business got going on a brisk footing with galleries registering queries and sales, what is conspicuous this year is that galleries have kept price points in check. There is also an increase in the number of works by newer artists on display as compared to contemporaries and masters. And most galleries are either showcasing small format works of prominent artists or have not revised their prices at all.

A sculpture by Venkat BothsaA sculpture by Venkat Bothsa

“This time we have definitely kept the prices affordable for buyers,” shares Priyasri Parodia, founder, Priyashi Art Gallery who is showcasing works by eminent artists Jogen Chowdhury and Akbar Padamsee in her booth. “Keeping in mind demonetisation, I have curated a show wherein I requested the artist to create small format works and they happily agreed. So, a small format sketch can be bought for Rs 2 lakh onwards,” she explains. Priyasri had at the end of the first day sold two works worth Rs 2.5 lakh and Rs 3.5 lakh respectively, and received several queries from prospective buyers.

An artwork by artist Jagannath PandaAn artwork by artist Jagannath Panda

Adding to the point, an industry insider on request of anonymity states, “I see a slight dip in the prices of certain contemporary artists at this year's fair.”

“This was meant to happen,” believes art curator Alka Pande. “I see a good mix of works this year, with galleries focusing on showcasing interesting artworks and not rallying behind big names. Finally the bubble has burst for Indian contemporaries, who were selling their works at sky-high prices. But stating that it’s because of demonetisation won’t be absolutely correct. There are other factors too, like the price points of certain artists had gone very high. Collectors have started looking for newness in their collections and young talent is creating some extraordinary work that is catching the right kind of attention.”

An artwork on display at the ongoing India Art FairAn artwork on display at the ongoing India Art Fair

Certain eminent contemporary artists who had the backing of corporate houses and had hiked their prices are now climbing down a few rungs in the price ladder, shares another artist. “Not all contemporary artists were selling at huge price points. Those who had increased their prices are the ones who are forced to sell for a lower amount now. We must understand that the collectors are looking at the market value of the artworks too. And they are not investing in works that are bought at a high value and might not get good returns from the market. Also, certain galleries are cashing in on the situation by asking artists to reduce their price points.”

Contemporary artist G.R. Iranna shares that demonetisation has not had much of a direct impact on the Indian art market. “Presently, this is a lull period because the businesses of patrons have been affected due to demonetisation. At the same time, art is not acquired like a commodity wherein such changes impact the scenario completely. After recession hit the market in 2008, almost all artists reduced their price by 20-25 per cent and the market hasn't changed much yet.”

A sculpture by Veer MunshiA sculpture by Veer Munshi

Talking about a shift in buyers' interest from eminent artists to upcoming talent, Alka adds, “The collectors are looking for works that either add to their collection or are valued high for the future. But we must not forget there is still a huge market for the masters that has not gone down.”

The prices of young artists have also gone up, shares collector Shallu Jindal, “With the present scenario of cash crunch, one must think twice before buying artworks. And the prices of upcoming artists have gone up too. I really liked a work by Benitha Perciyal but I had to request the gallery to ask the artist to negotiate on the price.”

Tags: india art fair, demonetisation