India Art Summit spotlight on market

New Delhi: The market and infrastructure for art are expected to be highlighted at the India Art Summit 2011 beginning this week. The event promises a large variety that could make collectors out of visitors and experts are hoping it will help position Indian art globally.

The Jan 21-23 event will see seminars and discussions.

"The market is yet to recover, but the auction calendar has been busy. Those who buy art have continued to buy art because for collectors, collection is the main agenda. The summit will at least give people an opportunity to see variety in art," Ajay Seth, CEO of Copal Art, told reporters.

"A layman can also become a collector after visiting the summit. What the summit needs is a realisation how to make more Indians buy Indian art - and create a larger body of collectors," he added.

Seth, who will address the summit, says though "Indian art matches international art in terms of quality, heritage and archives, the country has not been able to place it globally".

"With a market size of $60 billion, where 60 percent is controlled by the US and Britain (with 30 percent share each), China takes up 18 percent of the global share. India does not figure significantly. The Chinese are buying back their art. Hence, the challenge for the summit is to act as one of the tools to position Indian art globally," Seth said.

Seth said his "art sales support and promotion platform" has been conducting "extensive hand-holding exercise for Indian buyers to walk them through Indian art with literature and awareness programmes".

Elina Zuzane, a spokesperson for the Latvia-based Art Gallery 21, which is taking part in the India Art Summit 2011, said "the Indian market is continuing to expand".

"This is a great sign. The India Art Summit proves this. To organise such grand international art fair confirms that both Indian collectors and global art investors are interested in this market and the artists it produces," Zuzane said in an e-mail.

"We feel Indian collectors are open to international contemporary art. But it is remarkable that the Indian market has managed to preserve its national identity within the global contemporary art market," Zuzane said.

The year 2010 was marked by numbers - big money and big sales. Records were set by S.H. Raza`s "Saurashtra", Bharti Kher`s sculpture of an elephant, 12 of Rabindranath Tagore`s compositions at Sotheby`s and Arpita Singh`s "Wish Dream".

"But the prospect of growth of India as a nerve-centre of international art still draws from its infrastructure," said Lalit Kala Akademi chairman Ashok Vajpeyi, who will anchor a session on infrastructure at the summit.

"In terms of advantage, the presence of a large number of galleries has made art more dynamic. Display space has expanded at the National Gallery of Mordern Art (NGMA) in Delhi and Bangalore has an NGMA wing as well.

"But the flip side is we do not have a large body of curatorial and art historians. The celebrated faculty of art history at the Baroda Art School has virtually closed down after the removal of the dean. The condition of most art educational institutes in the country is appalling. Private corporate enterprises should invest in promoting art education as a corporate social responsibility," Vajpeyi said.

Rough headcounts by several art publications show that 15 top-of-the-chain art schools and nearly half a dozen smaller ones train nearly 3,000 to 5,000 graduates every year.

Some of the country`s top art schools are the Sir J.J. Institute of Applied Art, Vishwa Bharati University, Government College of Art and Craft in Kolkata, the art faculty at Baroda University, College of Art in Delhi, Patna and Chennai.

"Visual art is no longer an aesthetic activity but also an economic industry. Artists are well-placed and are making a livelihood from art. The art institutes will have to be upgraded to evolve a better art education system," Vajpeyi said.

According to Pooja Sood, chairman and coordinator of the Khoj International Artists` Association: "Delhi is privileged in terms of infrastructure. It not only has galleries, but the embassies, culture centres, private museums and the universities are potential display and art promotion platforms."

"But there is no awareness about public art. The government has to look at conservation policies and new spaces for public art," she said.


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