welcome to collectors mind

This is a forum for sharing knowledge, gaining insights and shaping opinions. We will not sit on the fence here or play favorites. The language of art has changed in a blink of a year– today there are market makers, power brokers, savvy investors, flippers, fakes and fund managers. Collectors are nearly extinct. Why? Because collectors can see and COLLECTORS MIND. So together, let’s take a small step to make today’s buyers into tomorrow’s collectors. The future of art depends on it!

Thursday, May 01, 2008


The Sotheby’s Indian Art sale in London tomorrow (May 2nd 2008) is a much anticipated event especially for those who have a stake in the Indian art market. This is a good size catalogue with two thirds of the total 123 lots devoted to modern pictures and the rest made up of contemporary works of art.

A quintessential Bharti Kher bindi work from 2006 titled Missing adorns the catalogue cover while the honors for the back cover goes to her more illustrious husband Subodh Gupta a.k.a. the 'desi' Damien. The work is one of his many air bound luggage series painted on canvas. The inside front cover has a Thukral & Tagra spread (no pun intended) and appropriately titled Stop Think Go, while the inside back cover features a T.V. Santhosh work from 2003, a period before the huge ascent in the market, and when he was arguably doing his best work in the now patented negative photorealism style. What is telling of the times is the prime real estate devoted to contemporary works despite strong representation by the modern masters. Especially mind numbing is the step child treatment given to lot 22, a seminal work by Akbar Padamsee. It is the best that we have seen from this master in recent auction history and this 1956 untitled nude is by far the strongest lot in the modern section of the catalogue. Considering its vintage, rarity, provenance and superior quality, it most certainly deserved to be elevated in the catalogue but I am sure authentic buyers will give it a fair treatment with the paddle when it comes up for sale

However for now, the new and the fresh have usurped the attention of the buying public and this is not without reason. Globally, post war and contemporary is the biggest money spinner across all auction categories and works by some of our artists have done exceedingly well in recent auctions in Hong Kong and New York. (Not counting the like of Indian born Raqib Shaw and Anish Kapoor who have made London their permanent home during their formative years as artists and except for convenience sake can’t exactly be clubbed as ‘desi’). There is ton of foreign interest in snapping up works of newly minted stars before they reach unattainable heights. Furthermore, the market trend is much more in favor of contemporary where the supply is almost limitless compared to quality works by more senior artists. All of these factors go in favor of auction houses putting their chips behind the young guns. Although I have to say there are some overzealous entries and less then stellar works by auction newbie’s like Karan Khanna, Vivek Vilasini, Piyali Ghosh, Anju Chaudhuri amongst others featured in this sale

This leads me to my final observation that much of the art market is driven by two of the strongest human emotions - fear and greed - and from that respect it is not much different than the stock market. With demand soaring and prices rising, collectors from home and abroad are lured to sell recently acquired works and book hefty profits, (no fewer than 20 lots including those by Subodh, Bharti, Jitish, Thugral & Tagra, amongst others are being offloaded by European collectors in this sale) while much of the buying is based on the fear of missing out on the next big thing (examples like Chinese Yue Minjun whose prices went from few hundreds of thousand dollars to few million dollars in matter of few years spur speculators to look for equivalents in parallel economies). This artificial benchmarking is one of the major reasons for the current speculative environment, and in these tremulous times I would like to point out that public popularity and soaring prices are nothing but social yardsticks - that have little bearing on the quality or the endurance of otherwise precious works of art!

On that note, let me wish you good luck and a happy and safe summer holiday