Masters of art
Madhusree Chatterjee

IN an interesting trend in the Indian art market this summer, parity in prices between works by contemporary artists and modern masters is prompting buyers to settle for the latter.

A large body of first-time buyers are choosing works by established artists primarily because of the timeless quality and the brand attached to their works. According to industry estimates, the Indian art market is valued at nearly Rs 500 million. A painting by top line contemporary artist Subodh Gupta now costs almost the same as a small "good quality" canvas by M.F. Husain measuring 3 feet by 3 feet.

According to Ashish Anand of the Delhi Art Gallery, a buyer would rather settle for a painting by Husain priced at Rs 10 million than a big canvas by Subodh Gupta for the same amount. "Primarily for safety’s sake. It is always reassuring to buy a masterwork. One has to be very discerning to buy contemporary art," Anand said. Works by top contemporary artists like Atul Dodiya, Anupam Poddar, Sudarshan Shetty, Mithu Sen, Anju Dodiya, Sibu Natesan, Jagannath Panda and Bose Krishnamachari are priced in the same range as Satish Gujral, F.N. Souza, M.F. Husain, Ram Kumar and S.H. Raza. It is not that buyers are rejecting contemporary art. Works by artists priced between Rs 100,000 and Rs 1.5 million are selling well, but there is a lot of resistance when the prices shoot past the Rs 1.5 million-mark, says Anand. Modern masters, on the other, are priced at Rs 3 million to Rs 4 million on an average. "So buyers are willing to fork out a little more to take a master home," says Anand. The astronomical prices commanded by leading contemporary artists acts as a psychological barrier, says veteran art promoter Sunit Kumar Jain. "There is a rethinking at the top level about contemporary versus masters. Masters are time-tested and potential investors look for value for money," he says. — IANS