(By Nalini S Malaviya)
More than anything else, art has emerged as a prized asset to be owned and flaunted. This is evident from the fact that buyers and collectors ask each other not what are they buying, but, who are they buying? The bigger the artist the greater the snob value, if you have his work in your possession. Investment and aesthetic value not withstanding, a work of art, rather, the signature on the canvas can make a dramatic difference to the owner’s social standing.
An artwork can define a space completely, and if it is a known and an established artist it becomes more than a conversation piece. A prized possession that can be displayed with pride it defines the status of the owner. This is probably one of the reasons why buyers tend to look for work by specific artists. The demand begins with the name of the artist - works are sifted through and zeroed upon, rather than the other way round.
As one goes up the social ladder, the status is reflected in the choice of art. One may begin by buying a painting worth Rs.10,000 in the initial stages. The budget then progressively increases and can go on to a crore or more at the end of the spectrum. Owning a masterpiece is a way of signaling of having arrived in the big league.
Most people who begin collecting art and have the liquidity to support their high-end preferences, tend to buy works by old masters. However, the collector who has been buying art for sometime tends to collect contemporary artists as well. As buyers continue to pick up art, they not only gain more knowledge and experience about art, but also grow in confidence and this is reflected in the choice of their art.
(Published in Financial Times)