(By Nalini S Malaviya)
The recent incident of fakes at a Delhi art gallery has once again brought focus to this persistent problem. Fakes have plagued the art market for a very long time, and copies of works by Indian artists have also been highlighted in the media in the last few years. To beat the issue, what is required is awareness on the part of the buyer or collector, a conscious effort on the part of the gallery to ensure the work is original, and a system by which artists and collectors can register their works and collections. A concerted effort from all members of the art fraternity will ensure a greater transparency in the market, and may deter the occurrence of fakes to an extent. The concept of a centralized art registry has been there in the West for quite some time but is yet to catch on in India. A few agencies have been known to be working towards this idea but one has to wait and watch to see how it evolves and how effective the implementation is. The Indian art market as a whole is a fairly unorganized sector where various players function independent of each other. There is no centralized database which keeps track of artists, artworks, transactions and sale figures. The lack of access to information and the availability of data make it easier for unscrupulous elements to take advantage of the situation.
As a buyer if you are spending lakhs of rupees on a work of art and if the work turns out to be a fake, you end up as the biggest loser. Therefore, when you are buying any artwork try to ask the right questions, find out about the provenance of the work, buy only from credible sources, and in general do not hesitate to obtain all the relevant information before making a purchase. In case there is any doubt about the authenticity of the work, it is better to not buy it.
(Published in Financial Times)