Sotheby’s digs deeper into South Asia contemporary art – Livemint interview

Can an auction market help incubate emerging artists?

In an interview with Livemint published on 25 January 2013, Yamini Mehta, Sotheby’s International Head of Indian and Southeast Asian Art, announces an expansion into wider South Asia for the international auction company. She hopes to draw collectors’ attentions to unfamiliar artworks being produced in the region.

Sotheby's International Head of South Asian Art Yamini Mehta.

Sotheby's International Head of Indian and Southeast Asian Art Yamini Mehta.

When asked by Livemint what her goals for Indian art acquisitions at Sotheby’s are, Mehta said,

I would say that I would like to see us expand and look at the wider South Asia. And really look at works of quality. We need to start looking at what is happening in places like Pakistan. I’d gone to Bangladesh for the first time earlier this year for the Dhaka Art Summit. I am really looking at the wider region.

Mehta names Bangladesh and Pakistan as having a lot of potential for the art auction market. She cites the case of Pakistani contemporary artist Rashid Rana, who in just a few years went from “barely visible” in the auction scene to an art world superstar with exhibitions in leading international museums.

Auctions, curatorship must go hand-in-hand

The auction houses play a critical role in an the art world beyond just the market, she says. By generating interest from collectors, institutions are established and artists have the motivation and financial backing to support continued innovation.

Nascent art scenes with limited government support, such as South Asia and Russia, have been much slower to develop than those with strong backing, like China. However, the growth of non-profit institutions and high-profile museum exhibitions centred on the region may be indicative of a shift towards a more booming art market, as indicated by Mehta in the interview.

Is growth really happening in South Asia? Evidence

In April 2012, Bangladesh hosted its first art fair, the Dhaka Art Summit, which aimed to compensate for the country’s lack of galleries and art institutions. For the upcoming 2013 India Art Fair, artists from other countries in South Asia will be given particular focus, hosting four leading Bangladeshi artists at the fair for the first time. In a meaningful move, the Guggenheim chose South and Southeast Asia to be the first regional subjects for its Global Art Initiative, breaking down the borders between countries in the region.


Related Topics: South Asian artists, market watch – auctions, Asia expandsart investment

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