Tradition, transition, modernity
The Story of Indian Art
सत्यम शिवम सुन्दरम
Satyam Shivam Sundaram
Truth is Shiva, Shiva is Beauty.
The story of Indian art is a sparkling one and one wedded to beauty. From the narrow caves of Bhimbetka to the cutting-edge creations with augmented realities, the story of Indian art is indeed unique. From myths to epics, from magic realism to the academic, from philosophy to pop, Indian art presents a thrilling epic of visual delight.
From the compelling frescoes of Ajanta to the vibrant murals of Mattancherry in Kerala, from the exquisite miniatures of medieval India, Mughal, Rajasthani, Pahari to the personalised language of the Indian masters from Raja Ravi Varma, Amrita Sher-Gil, Rabindranath Tagore to the big boy of international acclaim Subodh Gupta who took Indian contemporary art to the galleries in Paris, Indian art has never been as busy as an ant, as it is in the present times.
Art from numerous subcultures of India, alongside mainstream and traditional cultures, bring cultural diversity and pluralism to what we know as contemporary Indian art. Each art movement in India contains a multitude of untold stories, which are waiting to be told. Not to forget there are many Indias. Amidst this rich diversity, art forms such as the folk and the tribal hold equal importance. These artists serve as the custodians and culture bearers of our Indian art, culture, and heritage. Contemporary Indian art, embedded with all the Indian stories, is set to showcase the myriad of narratives that emanate from the wondrous nation, which is India.
Methods and Materials
The Creative Genius of India
Yet another story in the evolution of Indian Art is one that revolves around the materials. India, a nation comprising 29 states and 8 union territories, boasts a diverse physical landscape encompassing deserts, beaches, mountains, and flatlands. With such a diverse climate pattern and geography, the array of materials available to artists is enormous. The creative genius of Indian artists uses everything from squirrel hair for fine brushes to pigment colours, from lapis lazuli to gold and silver. From the urine of the jaundiced cow for ochre to lamp black, Indian traditional artists have left no material untouched.
In painting, some of the materials used are natural pigments on taal and tamrapatras, handmade paper, lavish use of gold and silver, oil paints, acrylics, water colours, pen and ink, gouache and conte. In creating sculptures the range becomes even more diverse. The biodiversity of the land provides a veritable feast of materials for artists, ¾ stone, granite, lapis lazuli, straw, copper, bronze, marble, varieties of fabric, ¾ the range has a surfeit of materials. Ceramics, pottery, textile art, photography and printmaking bring in their own cache of materials. And then the rich landscape of folk and tribal art bring in the trajectory of sustainability, and ancient wisdom.
From the exquisite Chola bronzes to the transient mandalas and floor patterns made by indigenous communities as signs and symbols, to the autobiographical works of contemporary Indian artists, Indian art has an unbroken tradition. Technology is the latest medium to enter the domain of mark-making by Indian artists. The Art of India will cover the wide canvas of Indian art from traditional art, medieval art, modern and contemporary art, prints, ceramics, textile art, painting, sculpture, photography, videos, indigenous, folk, tribal, and the vernacular. Through an abundance of artists and art forms, the Art of India showcases the wide-ranging material culture of artistic practices.
From pre modern to tomorrow’s blue chip
The Third Trilogy of Indian Art
While the Indian market is growing exponentially, from the 20th century onwards it is the Masters who are becoming the gold standard for Indian art. While for most of them the pricing has crossed the double digit crore mark to under a lakh, great news awaits collectors. Works by iconic artists like Amrita Sher-gil, V.S Gaitonde and S.H Raza have been sold for record-breaking amounts. At Rs. 61.8 crores, Amrita's 1937 painting, "The Story Teller" still holds the record for highest price achieved by an Indian artist.
By incorporating a major section on Indian folk and tribal art, the Times of India is creating a new platform for Indian contemporary art practice, by showcasing an entire body of art that unveils and reveals the intangible heritage of India’s great wealth.
From tomorrow’s stars to the neurodiverse, from queer to the avant-garde, those creating a new language through their bold innovation in art, gender, sexuality, identity, inclusiveness, coupled with lens-based art such as photographs and videos, and AI art will be displayed for the sheer joy of celebrating art in its full glory. This exhibition is a must for all art lovers, young collectors, those who want to expand their collection and most importantly, those who wish to celebrate art.
This edition, which is the third edition of the Art of India, is creating a democratic platform for the dissemination of Indian art practices, for the understanding of the process of art making, and most importantly for the sharing of ‘adbhuta’ rasa, or the wonder of Indian Art. The idea is to celebrate the creative genius of India, and encourage people to buy art and add to the cultural capital of India.
The Art of India is a platform where the producers and consumers of Indian art come together to build a strong, healthy and democratic ecosystem where the masters and tomorrow’s blue chip walk hand in hand; where you my dearest buyers, contribute to the health and wealth of not just the nation, but put the wind under the wings of emerging artists who need your vital support.
By buying their art you help the artist to fly higher with this new energy and resource to experiment and push their creativity. The third edition which unfurls the story of Indian art literally lays out for you our great unbroken tradition of Indian art practice.
Summary of Financials in the Indian Art Market according to an article published by Fortune India online indicates that: A Market Resurgence can be understood by looking at Indian art auction houses that were previously in a slump, but now experiencing a vibrant and thriving market. Approximately 60% of the artworks sold in March exceeded the upper estimates, indicating a strong demand.
A Valuation Surge was also noted to take place in the market when significant price increases were observed, illustrated by a watercolour painting by Paresh Maity, initially estimated at ₹8-10 lakh, selling for over ₹40 lakh. The overall market has grown to about ₹3,000 crore or $400 million in registered auction sales, representing a remarkable 600 times increase in less than three decades.
Financial experts like Nikhil Kamath, co-founder of Zerodha’s observations indicate an arbitrage opportunity in Indian art, considering its undervaluation compared to Western peers. Acceleration in sales, with FY23 being the highest-selling year for auction houses in terms of Indian art. This could be deduced by the observation of the emergence of galleries in Mumbai and the expansion of existing ones. This indicates increased market activity and interest.
The fact that new artists are in demand is a show of the increase and expansion of the art market. Emerging artists like Raqib Shaw, Nikhil Chopra, Shakuntala, and Parag Tandel are gaining attention, with their works fetching varying price ranges. Despite the positive trends, the market size is still a fraction (less than half a percent) compared to the global art market ($70 billion). An expectation for the art market in India to grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 20%. The current number of serious buyers at auctions is relatively low, and there is room for growth. From all this it is derived that we have not reached the full potential of our capabilities. Art is still not accessible to all. It is a mission that many gallerists and art events like India Art Fair are undertaking to increase the pool of art buyers so that it is not full of the crème de la crème.
Grant Thorton Bharat Online reads - Founder of Indian Art Investor, Arvind Vijay Mohan, adds, “The Indian art market is at an all-time high. Data from the report reveals that the auction market has grown by 265% since FY13. The mean auction estimate for FY23 stood at $93.1 million. At a turnover of $144.3 million, the market recorded a positive deviation of 55% from its mean estimate. There were a total of 164 artists who set new records this year and every year is witnessing new records, rising volume and increasing sales turnover. All these are indicators of buoyancy and positive sentiment in the Indian art market.” It is a poorly-kept secret that high-net-worth individuals see investment in art as a way of diversifying wealth and creating value. Although this makes for a great way to expand the art market, we must all try to create meaning and desire for buyers in our quality of art.
For Indian art to reach its potential it should reach a stage where it is on par with the international standard of art, whether that is by diversifying the buyer pool or by seed funding talented artists so that the ability to create art is also not looked at as a leisurely privilege as is the ability to buy it, or by doing both!
Dr Alka Pande
Curator, Art Historian, Author