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Investors increasingly interested in Indian art

February 2007
Investors increasingly interested in Indian art

An ongoing exhibition of Indian paintings at Emory ("Domains of Wonder") has drawn some attention in Atlanta. But while miniatures and other masterworks from India's past have long interested connoisseurs, the really big news these days is the sizzling market for contemporary Indian art. The buzz has never been better and, in fact, 2006 turned out to be a spectacular year. A not-so-surprising secret is that commercial gain rather than aesthetic appeal motivates many buyers. It's seen as a great investment, given the skyrocketing prices and the willingness of affluent Indians to reach deep into their pockets. The craze, as a Sotheby's specialist puts it, is also "driven by the growth of the Indian economy and a raised awareness of Indian artists."

Just half a decade ago, the sale of contemporary Indian paintings fetched $650,000. In 2006 alone, however, the total came to a stunning $250 million; it was an increase of $100 million from 2005. Last year's 22 auctions involving Indian art is a record, although that's expected to be broken in 2007. And it's not just NRIs who are buying these paintings at Sotheby's and Christie's or in cities like Hong Kong and Singapore.

Business is thriving in India, too, with new galleries opening up in many cities. India-based auction houses such as Saffron Art and Osian's have taken off in recent years. Worldwide, after Tyeb Mehta's "Mahisasura" became the first Indian painting to cross the $1 million threshold, a few others have joined this exclusive club. Amrita Sher-Gil's "Village Scene" went for $1.6 million, setting a new record for paintings sold in India. Francis Newton Souza's paintings continue to generate wide interest. Before his death in India in 2002, this Goan-born artist had lived in the States for several years. His "Amsterdam Landscape" and "Man and Woman" sold for over $1 million each. Vasudeo Gaitonde ("Untitled") and Syed Haider Raza ("Tapovan" and "Climate") also belong to this select group.

Compiled/Written by Murali Kamma

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