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Feature - Contemporary Indian Art

Source: bCA Galleries

India, the land of culture and tradition has always had a close association with the fine arts. From the cave sculptures and paintings, tribal arts like the Madhubani and Warli and Mughal miniatures which thrived under the patronage of emperors, India is not a stranger to the development of art. The post-independence era saw the germination of contemporary Indian art with a decided move away from the traditional art forms. Abanindranath Tagore is often regarded as the pioneer with his use of Japanese and Chinese techniques in his works. Others like Nandalal Bose, Samarendranath Gupta, A.K. Haldar, Jamini Roy and Amrita Shergill have together been credited with laying the foundation of modern Indian art.

While the 1970’s saw a spurt in the Indian art market, it was nowhere close to the juggernaut it is today. Earlier, Indian art at foreign auctions was represented by a few antiquities. It was only in 1995 Sotheby’s held its first auction of Indian art and sold a Tyeb Mehta for approximately Rs. 3.75 lakh that most felt that Indian art had finally got the recognition it deserved. In today’s date this seems like a paltry amount with Tyeb Mehta’s canvases and those of the Indian masters like Souza, J. Swaminathan, Raza and Hussain commanding crores at most auctions. A huge demand has developed also developed for the younger artists most of them are in the age group of 35 and 50 years, Surendran Nair, Ravindra Reddy, Rekha Rodwittiya, Nataraj Sharma, Paresh Maity, Shibu Natesan, G R Iranna, Jitish Kallat, Subodh Gupta, Anju Dodiya are just a few of the names to reckon with and their numbers are steadily growing.

While many speak of the gentle grace and finesse of the Calcutta artists, Mumbai and Delhi are the prime centers for art in India. The interest in art is of course a national phenomenon with galleries mushrooming in major cities and even big business houses investing in gallery space. Art critics are sought after and owning an impressive collection of art is now considered a status symbol amongst the rich and famous!!

Art is now seen as a good investment with funds being set up for those who wish to invest but do not have the requisite knowledge in art. Paintings are vying with gilt edge securities and gold as investment options. According to Yamini Mehta, specialist head of modern and contemporary Indian art at auction house Christie’s, "Buyers of Indian art have been, for a long time, Indian themselves. Now, there has been greater numbers from outside of India who are interested in Indian art. There is a lot more awareness to what is happening within India.” The Indian art market is poised to touch the Rs 2,000 cr mark this year, from just Rs 10 cr in 2000, and is becoming a force to reckon with in the world arena. “Awareness of Indian art, the element of wealthy Indians and the ability to spend has all added to this phenomenon,” says Katriana Hazell, cultural director of Asia House Gallery, London.

However, there are many who bemoan that in the race to earn more some artists are sacrificing quality and aesthetics. In fact M F Hussain has himself being quoted as saying, “See, it is easy for these people to talk in terms of lakhs and crores today. But please remember, I had to struggle for decades before I could barely make my ends meet. I hope that young artists don’t get carried away by all this hype and hoopla.” The escalating prices has also brought with it the problem of circulation of fakes which in recent times had also led to several Indian art works being withdrawn form an international auction. The Indian artists would do well to take note of the words of Octavio Paz, Mexican writer who received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1990, “....... one must not confuse the hegemony of the market place with fruitfulness, imagination, and power to create".

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Picture 13 is by an artist called Ram Kharatmal - Quilt series

Rajesh - a serigraph

Her-2 is by artist SAchin Shinde

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