Last summer, a friend pointed me to Saffronart, an online auction site that features artwork by both better and lesser-known modern and contemporary Indian artists. You can browse for works based on the artist, how much they cost, or look at specially organized collections. Itâ€™s addictive enough for those of us who are suckers for eye-candy, but itâ€™s very interesting to see what you can get for your money, or somebody elseâ€™s money.
As most of you probably already know, over the last decade, the market for Indian art exploded, to the extent that it was considered a â€œsensible investment.â€ (Snarky aside to all those artsy types snickering at the thought of bankers, engineers, and doctors suddenly interested in Indian art: they paid your rent.)
Of course, weâ€™re in a different world now. A painting by a giant like V.S. Gaitonde can still be expected to yield an impressive sum, but since March thereâ€™s been some buzz suggesting that the market for Indian modern and contemporary art is heading south. As of May, itâ€™s pretty clear that consumers are losing their confidence in Indian modern and contemporary art as an investment; London-based research company ArtTactic suggests global consumer confidence levels in Indian art have dropped 63%, and in contemporary Indian art, 90%.
While I was living nearer to New York a few years ago, exhibitions and galleries focusing on South Asian modern and contemporary art were a cheap thrill on a graduate student stipend. You still can see amazing things, but having made the mistake this morning of looking at my last TIAA-CREF statement, I worry about how all these riches will last. (Ok, to be honest, I’m wondering if I myself will last. Breathe in, breathe out.)
What do those of you who buy this art and follow whatâ€™s going on in the art world make of all this? [Edited: if you’re not an Ambani and don’t follow art, you’re also welcome to dish.] And if youâ€™ve been to any amazing shows lately, by all means, spread the word!