29 Jul 2009

Price Wise

(By Nalini S Malaviya)

Last week, I wrote about how the recession gloom appears to be lifting, and as a subsequent result the art market also appears to be looking up. This does seem to be happening, but, what is surprising is that there are a few artists and galleries who have marked up the prices of their art significantly. Apparently, this is in response to the better than average auction results posted about a month ago.

In my opinion, this is the wrong time to raise prices. Auction reports cannot be directly correlated or extrapolated to justify a raise in price in the primary market, as well. While, it is true that some of the auctions did perform well, it helps to remember that the works that went under the hammer were also of good quality, and, in fact, there were some exceptional pieces as well. As a result, these went for a good price. To expect the same response for all gallery works could be optimistic.

When the general feeling is that the market is looking up, it implies that the art scenario is more ‘happening’ than before. It means that there are more events taking place, footfalls have increased in galleries and shows, and sales have begun to pick up. But, prices should remain competitive.

To go back in time, and think about the art bubble where art prices spiked sky high in a short period of time, most people knew that this trend would not be sustained for long. And, as predicted the bubble did burst and prices crashed significantly. It is unlikely that a similar situation will occur again. Prices are unlikely to shoot up drastically in a short span of time. The biggest advantage today is that the buyer is much more aware. He understands art, quality, artists, price curves and market trends. Especially, the ones who either lost money or got stuck with art that they could not resell, are wiser now. Such buyers will not buy a painting for Rs 5 lakhs when they know that the market price is around Rs 3 lakhs. They will also not buy a painting if it is of poor quality.

So, even if the market appears to be picking up now, the trend could see some ups and downs before stabilization happens. In such a scenario it would be better to go easy on the price front.

(Published in Bangalore Mirror)

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