Art collectors’ tribe growing in India (Feature)

26 Sep

New Delhi, Sep 25 (IANS) Emerging art collector Prerna Kohli is not as intimidated by art galleries as she was 10 years ago.

‘I want to own works by Paresh Maity and Jayasri Burman, a friend, but they are so expensive,’ Kohli, a prominent socialite, told IANS.

A small tribe of Indian art collectors in the last decade has grown marginally to 1,500 from a paltry 500. Art collection in India is growing, though still slow, say experts. The Indian art market is valued at a little more than Rs.2,000 crore.

A recent outreach initiative, Collectors’ Circle by the India Art Fair, has connected to collectors of Indian art across the country and abroad for the first time.

It aims to bind them together as a community with the help of international art institutions and galleries to educate and identify potential new collectors and strengthen the existing base.

A year-long programme in the run-up to the art fair in January 2012, the circle is open to all those who want to learn about art for a membership fee (Rs.7,000 to Rs.10,000), said Neha Kirpal, founder and director of the India Art Fair.

‘This country has a number of potential collectors who have to be identified. The next five years will see the emergence of many new collectors because this is a period of collective enterprises and community building in Indian art and its promotion,’ Kirpal told IANS.

‘The number of high-end art collectors – people who would spend in millions on art – in India is still a trickle when compared to the number of millionaires in the country,’ said Sandy Angus, co-founder of the Art Hong Kong, one of the biggest art fairs in Asia.

‘There are very few contemporary art museums of stature in this country,’ Angus told IANS.

Angus and his associate Will Ramsay are partnering with Kirpal for the India Art Fair in 2012.

‘This country has simply got to attract people to appreciate and buy art,’ Angus said.

‘When you go to Europe, there is so much more happening around art…In India, access to art is still the privilege of a few. The country needs a lot more education, curiosity, access and willingness to be part of the artistic heritage for collectors to emerge and grow,’ said Priyanka Matthew, head of the sale of modern and contemporary Indian and Southeast Asian art at Sotheby’s in New York.

Collection is happening but the process is very slow, the Sotheby’s expert told IANS here.

A few private institutionalised collections include those of Tina Ambani, the Lekha and Anupam Poddar collection, the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art Collection and the collections owned by top line galleries.

Several leading industry barons like Basant Kumar and Sarla Birla, Suresh Neotia, Harshavardhan Neotia, Parmeshwar Godrej, Mahinder Tak and Sangita Jindal have built enviable collections of modern and contemporary art over the decades, said art writer Pavan Malhotra, co-author of the ‘Elite Collectors of Modern and Contemporary Indian Art’.

According to Ajay Seth of Copal Art, his ‘art promotion platform has compiled a database of 1,000 new collectors in the last four years’.

‘People have more disposable incomes now to collect, but they have to be convinced about putting money in an art work,’ Seth said.

‘They have to be guided with frequent hand-holding workshops and they look for affordable art. Education and collection are just taking off,’ Seth told IANS.

‘Art collections are handed down the generations and visiting museums has never been on the top of the agenda of Indians,’ observed Bhavna Kakar of Delhi-based gallery Latitude 28.

Parul Vadehra of the Vadehra Art Gallery said her family-owned art house was trying to encourage new collectors through its Foundation of Contemporary Art Programme, an education and awareness outreach programme.

‘I have only 20 loyal collectors,’ septuagenarian artist G. Gajwani told IANS.

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