Art Blues

In 2007,when Sanjay K Sharma completed his Masters in Fine Arts from College of Art,Delhi,Indian art was riding high...

Written by Vandana Kalra | Published: February 16, 2009 11:53:22 pm

Emerging artists and art students change plans as they struggle to find clients in the economic downturn

In 2007,when Sanjay K Sharma completed his Masters in Fine Arts from College of Art,Delhi,Indian art was riding high,evincing interest worldwide. While Indian masters were inviting record bids at international auctions,back home it was not uncommon to find young,new,contemporary artists selling at a whopping price too. “There was a lot of interest in younger artists,” notes Sharma,33,who has participated in several group shows during the last two years. Sitting at his studio in Indirapuram,as he looks forward to his solo exhibition scheduled for end of this year,he reckons that the scene has altered drastically since then. “The initial exposure assured that people take notice of my work,but several of my batch mates have been affected by recession. Some have taken commercial work and others have started teaching due to financial constraints,” he says.

As the art graph takes a sudden downturn,with even art by established artists failing to lure buyers,the young artists — who were students till recently find themselves in an unexpected flux. Even though their work is attracting attention due to the relatively low price tags,the need to prove their talent has become paramount. “Some of them were hugely successful in a buoyant art market despite being unproven. Now they have to work at making every canvas sell,” states Nidhi Jain,director,Ragini Arts. “The prices have taken a dip of 30 to 70 per cent. Those affected range from masters to young contemporary artists,” she adds.

With the art connoisseurs not willing to splurge,the recent art graduates are finding it a challenge to make their mark. “Collectors have become very conscious. The interest shown in purchasing the work was certainly more during a group exhibition of young artists that I participated in Mumbai in August as compared to one in December. Discussion with friends often revolves around recession and I know several artists who have reduced the price of their work,” says Swetha BV,25,who completed her masters from MS University,Baroda,in 2008. Her batch mate Sandip M Pisalkar adds,“Some young artists have reduced the cost of the work by an approximate 30 per cent.” Winner of the Foundation for Indian Contemporary Art award,2008,as Pisalkar,29,readies to attend an art residency in California next month,he is hoping that the market will take a turn for better by the time he has a solo at Vadehra Art Gallery,the date for which is still to be announced.

In Delhi,Vidhi Tayal believes that it will take some months for prices to escalate. The domestic industry is grim,but the fine arts postgraduate from College of Art,Delhi,has foreigners buying her canvases. “I’ve got clients in Hong Kong and Italy,” she says,even as she points out that there is often a request for discounts from collectors. “Some of them look for bargains,” she adds.

Uday Jain,director,Dhoomimal Gallery,has also entertained requests for similar discounts. “The number of transactions have drastically reduced in the past few months and in a market like this people who are buying look for discounts. At times we give in to the demand and offer a price cut up to 20 per cent,” he observes. Jain,on the hand,points out that distress selling could also surface. “People have approached me to sell artwork from their collection at a rate that is an approximate 30 per cent less than what they paid for it,but I have advised them to hold on. There should be a stabilisation soon,” she notes.

Final year MFA student at College of Art,Delhi,Megha Katyal,hopes that Jain is correct. The 24-year-old is looking forward to getting feedback from gallerists and connoisseurs during the annual exhibition of the institute scheduled in March. “This is not the best period for artists but it is a learning experience. I intend to use the time to enhance my skills,” she says as she prepares to join the artist fraternity hoping,like several others,that the art graph takes an upward slant soon.

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