There is a general feeling in the art market that the focus has shifted somewhat from Indian modern artists to contemporary artists. In fact, a trend that has become more noticeable now is that buyers and investors are backing younger talent. There are even reports that some senior artists are not finding any takers at all. Whether this is true it is difficult to say, but prices of some of these artists have definitely gone down. Paintings by a few well-known artists that were selling for Rs 12-15 lakhs (market price and not their auction price) are now barely holding out in the Rs 5 lakh range. It appears that there is a greater confidence in the contemporary art market.
There could be many reasons for this downward trend. According to an art collector, quality is a prime factor. As all works by the same artists are not of the same quality, the poorer works are now being reflected in their prices. Another theory is that the buyers are simply bored and find art from younger artists more exciting and refreshingly different. Contemporary artists are more open to experimentation when it comes to medium or concept. Brands and signature styles seem to be getting outdated. The new buyer now wants something ‘different’. Originality of thought is also considered to be one of the parameters that is now defining the art market.
Again, one must remember that the buyer profile has also changed in the last few years. Investors and collectors are getting younger every day and probably that is why they relate better to works by their contemporaries. It is also believed that contemporary artists have a greater international appeal as compared to modern artists. Having said that there is no guarantee that all contemporary artists will continue to perform well. Some of them are bound to lag behind over time when it comes to their investment potential. Similarly, it is very unlikely that Indian modern art will continue its downward trend, but how long it will take to bounce back it is difficult to predict.
(Published in Financial Times)