INDIAN CONTEMPORARY ART MARKET OUTLOOK
CEO of on-line Indian auction house Saffronart explains that the collector base for Indian art is changing
Dinesh Vazirani is the CEO and Co-Founder of Saffronart, the world’s largest online auction house for fine art and jewelry. In the Podcast interview with ArtTactic, he reviewed the performance of the Indian art market in 2009. He also shared his observations on the changes in the Indian art market in the recent year. Moreover, he shared part of his formula of success in running an online auction platform of such scale.
How was the performance of the Indian Art Market in 2009? To what extent has the Indian Art Market recovered from the financial crisis in 2009?
A lot of changes happened in the post financial crisis period. The initial six months was a difficult time for the art market. The base of the investors and collectors changed quite dramatically. Investors and speculators that are active in the post financial crisis disappeared from the market. There are real collectors looking for good value and premium quality. In the later part of the year with the Indian economy getting better, confidence and perception changed. We saw some of the collector base come by and want to buy the best of the best.
In the early part of the year, prices of modern art retreated by around 30-50% and contemporary art by 50-80%. Modern art prices recovered by 15-30% later in the year and contemporary art came back by 10-15%. In 2009, the Indian market underwent a transitional change. The players changed. Some galleries and auction houses shut down and some opened.
How is the heavy presence of speculators a threat to the sustainability of the Indian Art Market?
Speculators come into the market and drive up the prices. In 2005 to 2008, prices rose dramatically which brought in a whole slew of speculators, investors, private dealers, collectors and funds. In 2009, after the financial crisis, these players disappeared but they will come back if the value is right. However, it is not expected that they would be jumping into the market as fast as in 2005. This downturn in Indian Art is the first ever downturn in the history of Indian art. Most people have not gone through a downturn to understand the implications of it.
What pattern has been developed in the collector base?
The previous collectors of Indian Art are large corporate houses and business houses in the India subcontinent. However, in the last five years, the collector based has moved from a business house concentrated end towards a broader collector base, which constitutes a lot of professionals, younger collectors from the finance field and young business people. Interestingly, some are from outside of India. In 2006, more non-Indians collected Indian contemporary art and wanted it as a cultural bridge.
What is your outlook for the Indian art market in 2010?
Players will be coming back to purchase work and a new base of buyers are expected too. There were people wanting to come in to buy during 2005 to 2008, but the price rose too sharply then, so they want to come in now and see if they can get premium values. 2010 will be dependent on two things. One is the perception and confidence of the Indian base customers and the other is the participation of non-Indian buyers in the post finance crisis period in the art market.
Why has Saffronart been so successful as an online auction house when no auction houses have found equal success in this format?
For the past 10 years, we have been building up the collector base, giving them the confidence and transparency and improving the technological platform. On the other side, we have been doing physical exhibitions and previews all around the world, including San Francisco, L.A., Mumbai, New Dehli, Hong Kong and London. To make people confident, we added the brick and mortar side. It is the “the click and the brick” that has made Saffronart so successful. Nearly every business is heading to the direction of going online.
Is the art market fundamentally changing because of the web?
Over time, there will be a strong shift towards online transactions. People will transact more online or even leaning more to mobile bidding platforms. These mobile bidding platforms have been enormously successful.
To listen to the original Podcast, please click here. Arttactic has a range of fascinating interviews with art market influencers and is worth a browse.
- “The Empire Strikes Back – Indian art Today” at Saatchi Gallery: critics’ review roundup
- Indian art consultancy threatens to sue US-based internet platform Ning
- India Art Summit sponsor Rajshree Pathy has big plans for new art institute in India
- Indian artist Reena Kallat’s work mutates in Mumbai