Original art is not just for the rich,say organisers of Asia’s first affordable art fair. Should you buy the theory?

Written by Georgina Maddox | New Delhi | Published on:October 24, 2010 4:13 pm

Original art is not just for the rich,say organisers of Asia’s first affordable art fair. Should you buy the theory?

We have heard of mad scrambles at Zara and Mango sales,or fairs where one is willing to brave the claustrophobia of crowds to grab a good deal on books,home décor and electronics. The latest in the genre of “everything-must-go” fairs is the Affordable Art Fair (AAF) that comes to Asia for the first time this year. From November 19-21,an F1 pit in Singapore,that shopaholic’s dream city,will host an art bazaar,where nearly 8,000 people are expected to come bargain-hunting.

India is taking part in the AAF but not with too much gusto: two lesser-known galleries have signed up for it,Himalaya Arts,Mumbai,and Calcutta Arts Club. Neither can boast of curating big artists,nor have they made a mark in the Indian art scene. The artwork to be exhibited is in the price range of Rs 50,000-Rs 3 lakh. The artists showing at the fair are no big names either.

Back home,though,affordable art is gaining a following. Mumbai-based curator Sunil M Mehta has started an organisation called Art4All,to promote affordable art,mostly landscapes. JW Marriot in Mumbai hosts Friday art evenings with Gallery Angel Art,where the jet-set are tempted with affordable art. The India International Art Fair recently held in Delhi exhibited art by newcomers,that was easy on the pocket and attracted new buyers. Anupa Mehta,who owns Gallery Loft in Mumbai,agrees that the popularity of affordable art is growing. “An increasing number of people are becoming conscious of the need for aesthetics in their surroundings. Value and return on investment,however,still play an important role for the Indian consumer,” she says.

“If art is available for less,buyers don’t seem concerned. They simply respond to a work and buy it,” says Ranjana Steinruecke,co-owner of Galerie Mirchandani+Steinruecke,Mumbai. Steinruecke,who has curated artwork by many new artists,says art priced between Rs 15,000 and Rs 35,000 draws a lot of new collectors. Some artists who exhibited at the first AAF held in London in 1999 are favourites of celebrities like Jude Law and Christiana Aguilera; Indian artists are hoping for similar “success”.

The AAF was started by self-taught abstract artist William Ramsay,who wanted to offer people the opportunity to buy contemporary art,and show them “that you don’t need to be a millionaire with a doctorate in fine arts to buy it.” The AAF has been in cities all over the world,including Amsterdam,Brussels,New York,Sydney and Melbourne. With more than 60 galleries from Singapore,Asia,Australia and Europe taking part,the AAF will showcase contemporary artwork priced between 100 and 10,000 Singapore dollars; 75 per cent of the art will be below 7,500 Singapore dollars. “The myth that original art is just for the rich needs to be debunked,” says Camilla Hewitson,AAF Singapore’s director. “Indian contemporary and traditional art is wanted around the world,but the price of work by contemporary artists like Sudharshan Shetty and Riyas Komu has soared so high that they are no longer affordable. We are providing a platform to up-and-coming artists,who have a …continued »

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