India’s Art Market Is Thriving—Here’s Why

It is quite evident that India is at a fascinating point in its art market evolution. Art spaces have been opening up across the country, such as the Nita Mukesh Ambani Cultural Centre (NMACC) in Mumbai, and upcoming Hampi Art Labs in Karnataka, and the Brij Museum in New Delhi.

Last year, Payal Kapoor, the founder of Arushi Arts in Delhi and long-time curator, launched Artix, India’s first-ever traveling hotel art fair. The 2024 edition will take place in Hyderabad, running from March 16th through 17th. This week, the 15th edition of India Art Fair, running from February 1st through 4th at NSIC Exhibition Grounds, will hold its largest iteration to date with more than 100 exhibitors from across India and the world. It will also debut a brand-new Design section, featuring collectibles and limited-edition designs. Local galleries participating in the fair include DAG, Nature Morte, and Sanchit Art, as well as international additions such as New York’s Marc Straus.

“Increasing collaboration between commercial galleries, patrons, and institutions has helped to support and bolster local art scenes,” India Art Fair director Jaya Asokan told Artsy. “We’re seeing a mutual and symbiotic relationship between the market and the art scene. Just as a strong economy is supporting the growth in the art market, the thriving arts and cultural sector is feeding back into and creating value for other parts of the economy.”

India’s economy has expanded rapidly in recent decades, with the International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook projecting India to become the third-largest economy in the world in less than five years, leapfrogging the U.K., Germany, and Japan, and right behind the U.S. and China.

A fast-growing economy purportedly leads to an increased desire to collect and invest in Western art within Asian art markets. Hence, it is not surprising that Mumbai—where much of the country’s wealth is concentrated—launched its own major art fair, Art Mumbai, last November.

Both the new fair and the recently launched NMACC have drawn a great deal of interest from international art advisors and collectors, such as Lawrence Van Hagen, who has just opened a new curatorial project, “Pop: Fame, Love and Power,” at the NMACC. The project “brings together 12 American pioneers of the Pop art movement, such as Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and Keith Haring,” Van Hagen told Artsy.

“Many of these artists have not yet been exhibited in India before, so it really is an exciting time both for cultural institutions in India and for the public to experience international art in their home country,” Van Hagen said. “Secondly, the recent opening of Art Mumbai, the city’s first major art fair, also signals a more international path for India’s art market.”

Back in Delhi, DAG—one of India’s most influential commercial galleries—has opened a new flagship gallery in Janpath in the heart of New Delhi, and has acquired the studio-cum-house of the late Indian modernist artist Jamini Roy, which it intends to transform into a museum.

“All this became possible due to the surge of popular interest in art that has been growing ever since COVID,” said Ashish Anand, CEO and managing director of DAG. “Not only have we seen a rise in younger collectors—we are also seeing an increase in audiences for all our events at our galleries, signaling a growing understanding of art as a lifestyle choice.”

According to Aparajita Jain, director of Nature Morte, which has branches in Delhi, New York, and Mumbai, there has been a notable diversification in the Indian collector base.

“The traditional collector base is now expanding, leading to a new generation of young, tech-savvy collectors who are attracted to affordable art,” she said. “We’ve seen an increase in first-time buyers and collectors interested in emerging artists. This trend is fueled by rising disposable incomes, increased art appreciation, and the rise of online art marketplaces and galleries in tier two cities.”

Jain shared that Nature Morte is currently adapting to this shift by hosting regular artist talks and gallery tours to introduce audiences to the artistic process and different artistic styles.

India Art Fair director Asokan also observed an increased interest from younger collectors. “Galleries are making sales at all price points to both established collectors and a new millennial generation who will be instrumental in shaping the art market of the future,” she said. “More and more younger collectors are entering the market driven by the social and emotional aspects of buying art, as well as the potential for financial return.”

To that end, India Art Fair has its own Young Collectors’ Programme. Now in its third year, the program primarily focuses on those starting out in their collecting journeys, as part of efforts by the art fair to continue to pave the way for the growth of the Indian art market.

Another notable change is the emergence of new, in-demand artists. A spokesperson from Sanchit Art pointed out that young artists such as Nandan Purkayastha and Deveshi Goswami are gaining recognition, with their works fetching substantial prices. More established artists are reaching new audiences and renewed appreciation, too.

Flight, 2016
Deveshi Goswami

Sanchit Art

Spring, 2008
Manoj Dutta

Sanchit Art

“Additionally, there is anticipation regarding the future value surge of certain artists, with experts pointing to Gulam Rasool Santosh, Ganesh Haloi, Manoj Dutta, and Neeraj Goswami, as potential frontrunners for price movement in the coming years,” the spokesperson from Sanchit Art noted. Last September, the late painter Amrita Sher-Gil became the most expensive Indian artist with work at auction following the sale of The Story Teller (1937), which hammered for $7.5 million at New Delhi auction house Saffronart last September.

At India Art Fair, these confluent factors will be on full display, highlighting a domestic art scene that is growing at a rapid and exciting pace. Ashokan, the fair’s director, added: “As we grow as a fair, we remain focused on our mission to amplify the voices of the most exciting artists from the region and to support the expansion of South Asian creativity.”

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