New Delhi: The
recovering art market following the meltdown of the last few years
brought along with it a degree of caution, heightened awareness
about quality, more bargaining to get value for money and bigger
canvases and ambition in the world of Indian contemporary and
modern art in 2012.
India also saw the inauguraion of its first art biennale at Kochi
Dec 12, drawing on a cast of 88 artists from 34 countries and
Business picked up this year powered by the new segments of young
buyers who looked for affordable art to begin new collections,
brisk e-commerce, a diversified and bouyant auction market and new
art fairs like the United Art Fair pushing education and
hand-holding to new levels for first-time buyers.
Galleries with deeper pockets and a new rush of private archives -
owned by collectors and entreprenuers - have given fresh life to
exhibitions with multi-media displays that are more interactive,
long-haul and socially relevant. Art, in some ways, freed itself
from the confines of institutionalised spaces to move to
democratic and public venues to trigger fresh dialogues and
engagement between people, issues, aesthetics and societies at
Since the beginning of this year art was used as a frequent tool
for soft diplomacy with the government hosting South Asian art
camps and galleries choreographing their group showcases with
Asian, western and Indian artists to facilitate cultural
exchanges. The globalisation of Indian art changed track in 2012,
with art falling back on traditional roots to compete with western
ethos in international arenas - at biennales and art fairs across
Asia, Europe and the US.
Till a few years ago, an emerging group of artists was aping the
West to develop a univeral global language in art with new media
expressions - to address issues common to the world, art analysts
Artist Paresh Maity, who was honoured with the Dayawati Mody Award
for 2012 for contribution to art and culture, said: "Indian
artists could have a different language, but the content had to be
from our culture."
Two major exhibitions mirrored the nuanced history of Indian art.
"Indian Highways" was a travelling exhibition of contemporary
Indian art in China reflecting new social realities within the
mosaic of Indian sensibilities, while "The Last Harvest:
Sesquicentennial Exhibition of Paintings by Tagore," was a
collection of nearly 100 paintings that came to the country in
A series of South Asian and ASEAN artists' camps and exhbitions
backed by the government opened up new engagements in the regional
front to look at shared realities.
"Art fairs, galleries to the Kochi Biennale... Artists are getting
more ambitious. Works are getting larger but our aesthetics still
remain decorative - grounded in Indian figurative motifs. Our
legacy has always been decorative. And the world which has gone
through major changes in art is coming round to appreciating our
aesthetics. I genuinely think it is India's moment in the sun,"
art critic, curator and writer Kishore Singh told IANS.
Kishore Singh, who heads the publications, exhibitions and
curations wings at the Delhi Art Gallery, one of the leading art
houses in the capital, said the business trend in arts in 2012 has
"Buyers have been demanding more for less. I think it is a trend
which will continue for a while," he said.
The dividing line between art, sculpture and the new media has
been melting down since the beginning of this year, says curator
and writer Sushma Bahl.
"There is crossover between different art forms. Works are
conceptually stronger because artists are becoming more articulate
with stories to narrate through their art. The concepts are
serious," Bahl said.
"Post-conceptual" as a trend is being chanted by many younger
Indian artists - who are falling back on simple everyday realities
as the basis of their narrative art.
The stories told through art this year had more to do with
engagement with community, social ills, state of the country and
history. The utilitarian aspect of art was in sharp focus this
year than the years before.
A flip side in the campaign to make art more identifiable with
issues was an element of "phony conceptualisation and commitment
to causes". It crept into the works of several leading multi-media
"Everybody was trying to make art more socially revelant in an
attempt to think out of the box... I think our artists were trying
to ape the west. The western artists have been doing it (concepts)
for several years and we are years behind," Bahl told IANS.
As a result, the spotlight was back on paintings this year rather
than on conceptual aesthetics work happening. It had more to do
with the mind than the skill of the body," gallerist and curator
Sunaina Anand of Art Alive told IANS.
In terms of market, "the focus was on quality and the correct
"Several works of F.N. Souza were available in the market, but
their prices were varied. Anything and everything could not pass
off because the buyers were more well-informed and were cautious
about what they were spending on," Anand said. Masters of modern
art ruled the price chain like in other years.
Prices of quality art in 2012 ranged from Rs.75,000 to Rs.2 crore,
a senior gallery owner said, adding that it instilled new
confidence in the country's nearly Rs.2,000-crore art market.
(Madhusree Chatterjee can be contacted at email@example.com)