Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Economist : A proper temple

Giving Indian modern art the museum it deserves

Jul 14th 2007

THE new Kolkata Museum of Modern Art, or KMoMA, is anything but unambitious. It is intended to be India’s answer to the Tate Modern, the Guggenheim and, of course, New York’s Museum of Modern Art. The brainchild of the chief minister of West Bengal, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, and a determined group of artists, collectors and assorted Indian-art lovers, it will present both international and Indian art from the 18th century to today. Its opening, in five years at a cost of well over $100m, will, its backers hope, confirm India’s role on the world stage of contemporary art, not just as a new country to plunder, but as a centre for critical debate, creative experiment and art-historical study.

To help the museum meet these grand goals, next week Sotheby’s will hold an auction in New York on behalf of KMoMA, selling modern and contemporary Indian art.

The timing is impeccable. With collectors in a buying frenzy and the search for ever newer artists intensifying, Indian contemporary art is the latest craze in the international art market. A few years ago it was Chinese art that was at the centre of attention. International curators, museum and gallery directors, auction-house specialists and eager investors descended on Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, thrilled by the prospect of exploring uncharted artistic waters. Leading figures of the Chinese avant-garde have since graduated to international contemporary sales at Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Phillips de Pury, and are found in museums and private collections around the world. Those hungry for the new are now setting their sights on India.

There has, of course, always been Indian art and there have always been Indian-art collectors. But in the past the market was a largely local affair. In 1995, looking for new areas to develop and recognising the early signs of resurgent Indian wealth, Christie’s started to nurture a fledgling market. As Yamini Mehta, head of modern and contemporary Indian art at Christie’s in London, says: “There wasn’t a foundation for an art market then...what we were trying to do was to establish a benchmark.” International collectors, meanwhile, were still scarce; a punitive tax regime made it difficult to bring contemporary art into or out of the country.

Since 2000 all that has changed. Taxation has eased, wealth has grown and rich Indians, both at home and abroad, have increasingly sought to buy contemporary art. This demand has in turn encouraged younger artists to travel and find recognition abroad, joining the international artistic elite who, while grounded in their local traditions, share ideas overseas.

In response, new collectors from Europe, America and beyond have begun to take keen interest. This spring the Tate Modern staged an exhibition of work by a glamorous Indian modernist, Amrita Sher-Gil, who died in 1941, aged 28. The Gulf Art Fair in Dubai this year included many Indian artists, including Jitish Kallat, a young favourite. The director of this year’s Venice Biennale, Robert Storr, invited the 36-year-old Riyas Komu, a rising star in Mumbai, to be part of his main exhibition. And the Arts India group, run by two America-based brothers, Prajit and Projjal Dutta, recently opened a flagship contemporary gallery in Larry Gagosian’s former spot on Heddon Street in London.

The sales figures in New York, Dubai and, increasingly, London, reflect the surge of excitement around Indian art. An Indian sale at Christie’s in New York in 2000, which featured modern and contemporary work as well as traditional Indian art, achieved a total of $600,000. So far this year Christie's sales of modern and contemporary art in New York, London and Dubai have together topped $21m. At the Christie's sale in New York in March, a painting by Tyeb Mehta, an established artist from Mumbai, broke the $1m barrier.

As Zara Porter Hill, head of Sotheby’s Indian art department, suggests, it is a sign of KMoMA’s importance to both artists and collectors that so many have donated works to the benefit sale next week. Both Riyas Komu and Tyeb Mehta have given pieces: Mr Komu offers a steel sculpture reddened by car paint, estimated at $12,000-18,000; Mr Mehta presents a forbidding green, black and white image of the Goddess Kali, transformed from a local deity into a universal image of strife, estimated at $400,000-600,000 (pictured). Also featured are a lusciously coloured canvas by Bose Krishnamachari and “The Child”, a haunting painting by Yusuf Arakkal. It is hoped that KMoMA will at last give these artists a proper shrine—and pulpit.

Sotheby’s auction to benefit the Kolkata Museum of Modern Art is in New York on July 17th.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

DNA : Meet Tyeb Mehta’s successor

His grandson artist Ali Akbar, who suprisingly wasn’t influenced by the famed painter to take up art!

Turning artist is hardly surprising when you have an artist as reputed as Tyeb Mehta for a grandfather. But Ali Akbar Mehta is quick to dispel the notion that it was his grandfather who influenced him to take up art.

“Not really. I was born in Mumbai but brought up in Delhi for the first 10 years of my life. In fact, I always wanted to start an animation studio but since we did have enough institutes on animation, I got myself enrolled at the JJ School of Arts. And it was my stint at JJ that made me turn to art,” he asserts.

But he admits that it’s great to be the grandson of Tyeb Mehta. “I am proud to be a part of his family and as an artist it gives me great pleasure to share the same platform with him. Moreover, having an artist of his calibre around us is such a privilege,” he affirms.

What is even more interesting is that both grandfather and grandson have painted individual canvases for an upcoming charity auction being organised by the NGO Khushii. While Ali Akbar’s painting is about relationships and hope and is yet to have a name, Tyeb Mehta’s painting doesn’t have a name at all.

“The painting does not have a name. It’s just a human face but then again, I thought a human image would go well with this project,” explains Tyeb.

As far as their inspirations are concerned, Tyeb insists that there is no such thing called inspiration in real terms. “What I look for is something that would move me or surprise me,” he notes. Ali Akbar, for one, is inspired by life and its situations. “It could be a milestone or even a social condition, say the rains and the riots,” he elaborates.

However, ask them about art in India today and the duo agrees that Indian art has definitely come a long way - mainly because art can today be considered as a career option as opposed to earlier when it was frowned upon. “That said, those who t ake up this profession for quick fame will live lavishly only for a while and not in the long run,” warns Tyeb, adding that many Indian artists today do exactly what you’d want him or her to do instead of using their own imagination.

That brings us to their future shows and both admit that work is still on; only in Tyeb’s case, he’s taking things easy. “I have never planned a show in my career. I always work when I feel like it and whenever I am ready, I put up a show,” smiles Tyeb.

Lastly, what is it like for Tyeb to see his works fetch humungous amounts of money? “Well, there are many other great artists in the industry, but it feels great to know that your work and your art are appreciated. Nevertheless, my works fetching such sums has nothing to do with me; once the collector buys the work it’s totally up to him and at what price he wants to sell it. So it’s all based on chance,” he signs off.


Business Standard : Art for a cause

K S Shekhawat / New Delhi July 14, 2007

With the season's first charity exhibition kicking in, it's time to examine what keeps them ticking.

For some time now Bollywood beefcake Salman Khan has been making news as a painter, but Saif Ali Khan? Aishwarya Bachchan? Vijay Mallya? Or for that matter the Indian cricket team, Praful Patel or Parmeshwar Godrej?

Last year, Ratan Tata picked up the brush and, with artist Laxman Shreshtha, did his bit with oil on canvas in an effort that went on to be auctioned for Rs 70 lakh (I know � blame it on the spirit of charity!). There�s something about art and charity that seems to go together, and as the season kicks off this weekend, it is with another charity exhibition for art.

Art for Prabhat is not new. It started in 2001 in a small way and has been an annual event since, though it got larger last year. This year, it seems to have set its sights even higher, though the money it hopes to make from it � Rs 10 lakh � might appear laughably small to those who surprised themselves by bagging more in the kitty than they had even wildly hoped for.

What�s creditable about the Art for Prabhat exhibition (July 15-17 at Habitat�s Visual Arts Gallery) is that the works � or a majority of them � have been made on paper that has been created by children as part of its �trash to cash� programme. Children at the Delhi-based NGO Society for Child Development convert the debris collected in its backyard into paper that is then made available to artists and art colleges. �What�s special about it is the people who�ve made the paper,� says Prabhat director Madhumita Puri.

With 113 artists having contributed to the effort, the exhibition features works by those who may not be as well known as, say, those participating in the Khushii auctions, but that doubles up as an advantage: it showcases several artists into a mainstream fold at a very public platform (a great time to invest, therefore, in new talent) and prices are contained within the Rs 25,000-4 lakh band, these even for better-established names such as Anjolie Ela Menon, Jatin Das, Laxma Goud, Manisha Gera Baswani, Thota Vaikuntam and Yusuf Arrakal.

It�s not strictly charity, of course � the artists get 60 per cent of the proceeds, so for them it�s pretty much like any other show. �And why not?� asks an agitated artist who for reasons of correctness must remain unnamed, �why is it that every time money has to be raised, artists are asked to donate their works, as if we have no requirement for money ourselves.� Ouch!

But then, frankly, �art for charity� is long dead and buried, even though Khushii�s Harveen Kapoor rises to their defence. �The artist community is very supportive,� she insists, �they are the nicest people.�

But if artists are demanding their spoils in the charity art market, to an extent rising prices in the art market have been responsible for this, though just as culpable are greedy fundraisers who want to make money without spending any. They earn the ire of artists and, often, also of collectors who do not want to spend large sums in the guise of charity that isn�t.

In this milieu, the Khushii auction (October 28 at the Turf Club in Mumbai) is at least as organised as it is, well, well-meaningly extortionist. Its winning formula is to pair India�s leading artists with celebrities, translating into great media PR on the one hand, and into a hands-down money-spinner on the other.

Reason it out for yourself: with family or senior colleagues from the company (of which the founder or CEO has �painted� a work), it�s imperative that they bid or at least increase bids in an effort to �save face�. If that seems far-fetched, it does explain why so many works sold at the Delhi auction found their way into the market soon after at rock-bottom prices!

Even so, at least the artists had reason to be happy. With the strong bidding for what were, after all, mostly mediocre works, even at 25 per cent �the artists almost reached their reserve prices�, reminds Kapoor. It has to be seen whether Khushii�s Mumbai auction will go the way of the Delhi one, or whether Mumbai�s more mature art market will have more substance and less frenzy, but till then the more modest Art for Prabhat exhibition, at least, is kicking off the season with options that are affordable. For that alone, maybe we should say Amen.

The Times of India : Look, who's buying?

13 Jul 2007, 0000 hrs IST,Deepika Sahu,TNN

In Gujarat, young professionals seem to be investing in art.

Art and money? Puritans might have scoffed at the combination a few years ago. But youngsters in post-liberalisation India find 'art for art's sake' idea too cliched. Thanks to the tremendous growth of Indian art market in recent years, many young people are now looking at art as a means of investment.

"Most of our buyers are below 35 and their number is increasing . Due to a rise in disposable income, youngsters are now ready to put their money in art. We prepare a portfolio for buyers according to the amount they are willing to invest,'' says Khanjan Dalal, owner of a leading art gallery in Ahmedabad.

Undoubtedly, the 'quick moolah' factor is the reason. Sample this - a 15"X 20'' work by late Bhupen Khakar used to fetch Rs 30,000 in 2002, and today the same work will fetch you Rs 15 lakh.

Chaitya Shah, a student of final year BBA programme, spends his spare time studying about art and artists. He is slowly building up his modest art collection. "With my pocket money, I invested in works of young artists two years ago," says Shah, adding, "Shares and mutual funds don't excite me. The best part of investing in art is that one can enjoy the work and it can give high returns as well."

Says Shvetal Nanavati, a young entrepreneur , "I believe in investing in different set of assets. Art is one of them and I am happy about the fact that it will give a decent return in due course of time." His collection includes works by Amit Ambalal, Haku Shah and Yashwant Shirodkar.

Talking about the growing number of young art buyers, Hitesh Rana, owner of a Vadodara-based art gallery, says, "These days 70-80 per cent of buyers are young professionals or entrepreneurs. They are willing to take risks. Older people are not keen to buy works of art at a higher price. The Internet has also played a vital role in this as there are more choices and options available to art buyers."

Senior artist Vrundavan Solanki feels, "This is the golden phase of art all over the world. Most of the queries regarding my work are now coming from young buyers. Increase in income and growing awareness about art has brought in the change of buyers' profile."

The burgeoning Indian art market has even taken artists by surprise. But, then, not many sound happy about the 'number game' . Karl Antao, a leading sculptor says, "Art has become the flavour of the season. There are many youngsters who are even buying drawings by MSU Fine Arts students for Rs 1,000-2,000 and then reselling them. Lots of people are now making a quick buck by buying works of Indian artists and selling them abroad."

Gallery owners also feel buyers should do their homework "before investing their money . They should be able to distinguish fake art from real. Simply going by the names is not an exciting idea," says Rana. It's the same old story - don't invest if you don't understand. Says Antao, "Whenever you are buying art, you should be able to understand the language of the artist. Therein lies the true investment."

Moneycontrol.com : MF Husain holds art show in US

MF Husain is in self-imposed exile, living outside India even as he faces legal charges back home. However, the 91-year-old artist still remains active as he works in London and in Dubai, where he has been living for the past few months. His next cinematic venture, a comedy, is expected to take off this October. He is now in the United States, having staged an exhibition featuring his paintings on the Mahabharata in Boston.

'Of Images and Illusions', an exhibition at the Tamarind Art gallery in Manhattan featured five young Indian artists but the centre of attention was the Guest of Honour at the opening reception - MF Husain. The veteran artist has now lived overseas for over a year since facing legal action in India. But Husain maintains he is living outside India voluntarily.

Artist, MF Husain told CNBC-TV18, "Anytime I can go, there is no restriction. Normally, I used to come out. For the last 50 years, I�ve worked in New York, I�ve worked in Paris, in London. At the moment, I�m working in Dubai. I�m building a museum there. I�m building a museum in London also. This is the thing. No restrictions whatsoever."

While the cases against Husain were filed over the alleged obscene depiction of Hindu deities in his paintings, the artist is confident this attack on art will be shortlived. Husain says, "Nothing has happened. I don�t feel sad. Because this is modern art, it takes time. When the Impressionists came after the Renaissance, the whole society revolted against them. I�m just taking it as a work of art. That�s all. People could interpret it any way, they�re all free, it�s a democracy in India."

Even as Husain faces legal charges in India, he is working on a project for the Indian government to mark the 60th year of independence, depicting India through the eyes of an artist. It will be unveiled in New York this September.

His work may attract controversy, but there�s no controversy over the fact that MF Husain is India�s most high-profile artist and the right choice to chronicle on canvas, the 60 years of the country�s independence.

Anirudh Bhattacharyya

Globandmail.com : India through unblinking eyes

As much a political-science lesson as an art show, Hungry God squarely confronts the issues of the subcontinent

From Wednesday's Globe and Mail

July 11, 2007

The current exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario, Hungry God: Indian Contemporary Art, is a success, though a diminutive one.

Excerpted from the much larger exhibition that opened last year in Beijing, the touring exhibition was whittled to its current state (just five of the originally 12 artists) by AGO head of programming Bruce Ferguson.

On the whole, it appears he has wielded his penknife masterfully, striking from the Toronto show some of the work that looks from the catalogue to be weaker and less resolved. What we get is the core, and it has real resonance for Canadian viewers who share India's post-colonial legacy, with the attendant discontinuities of privilege that arise from it. This exhibition directs your attention squarely at the social conditions of the subcontinent, and as a critic evaluating it I found I had to keep my wits about me. Is this good art or good political science? Having an interest in both, I found myself vacillating back and forth between two different kinds of satisfaction.

The standout work in the show, quite literally, is Jitish Kallat's 422-centimetre-high black lead sculpture of a boy holding an armload of hardcover books. Instead of shoes, his feet originate in crude shed-like structures, which seem to root him to the ground. Kallat has said the image is drawn from the street life of Mumbai, where the artist lives. There, young street children can be found peddling books in the midst of blistering afternoon traffic jams, often quoting verbatim learned quotations about the novels as they make their sales pitch. The irony, of course, is that almost all impoverished Indian children are deprived access to education. In this work, Kallat gives them their books, and a full belly too; The boy's soft flesh swells above the waistband of his track shorts. This is a monument to the possible.

In Kallat's other work in this show, titled Death of Distance (2006), the artist turns an analytical eye on the economic system underpinning these social inequities. A giant rupee coin, cast in lead, stands upright, the size of a man. On the wall behind it, lenticular panels tell two tales; the first, the death of a 12-year-old Calcutta school girl who committed suicide when her mother denied her one rupee's worth of food (valued at about two cents); the other, a news report about the launch of the One India plan, providing further benefit to the already privileged users of cellphones in India.

Starting last year, users can place calls anywhere on the subcontinent for just one rupee a minute. With the increased volume of calls, the telephone company has become even wealthier, while normal citizens, like the mother in Calcutta, are left behind in the dust. I can't say this is a particularly gratifying work of art from an aesthetic standpoint, but, coupled with the other work by this artist here, it left a strong impression.

Of the artists in Hungry God, Subodh Gupta is the best known on the international stage, known largely for his compilations of shiny stainless-steel cookware, which he displays sometimes in piles and sometimes on racks. This show includes one such work, Curry (2005), an orderly inventory, one presumes, of the vessels required in the making of this famous traditional dish. In contrast to a typical home, with its funky, cobbled-together domestic accessories, Gupta's display conjures the institutional sterility of the hospital or restaurant kitchen, evoking an urban rather than a rural space.

Here, Gupta appears to reflect on the new twin gods of Indian society, commerce and consumerism, paying homage to their powers to seduce. His large painting, installed nearby (from his series Idol Thief), presents a slightly blurred field of vision; a pile of pots and pans seen in extreme close-up. As viewers, we can't stand back to take the measure of where we are; instead, we are mesmerized by the lustrous surfaces and their dazzling newness. Decorative, highly coloured or shiny surface treatments have always been a feature of sacred Indian art. Gupta similarly relies upon the visual allure of these objects to fix our attention on his society's current obsessions.

Tallur L.N. is also showing work the brings old and new worlds into collision. Harvesting abandoned wooden religious carvings that he finds in his native coastal region of Karnataka, he retools them as contemporary artworks. In one, a crudely carved wooden tiger appears on a cart above a stack of Indian daily newspapers, making (to my eye) a rather pedestrian point about our collective indoctrination by the media.

His other sculpture in this show is more successful. A roughly carved human figure, barely discernible from all the insect damage and ravages of weather, appears in a silver gilded palanquin fitted out with black velvet cushions, as if prepared for a holy procession.

Around its abdomen, the artist has placed a shiny bronze girdle, a startlingly new contrast to the degraded wooden carving. These are presumably intended as acts of restoration and re-imagination, but with their jokey titles (this one is called Bulimia - God knows why), I was inclined to see them as sight gags.

My favourite pieces in the show, though, are Bharti Kher's dizzying large-panel works arrayed with bindi dots, which she applies to the surface in surging, swirling patterns. Traditionally, the bindi was applied to the skin of women's foreheads using fresh ground pigments; the resulting mark designated a woman's caste and marital status.

Today, its traditional significance has been diluted to the point where it has become a fashion accessory. Bindis are now available commercially in the peel-and-stick format Kher uses to make her art.

In these multipanel works, she seems to unleash them in a flood that overflows the strictures of hierarchy and decorum. The dots and multicolored and many-sized, suggesting a maverick multiplicity.

Most bindis are round, but these days even these ancient modes are up for revision. One panel, from her triptych Itch, Scratch and Raw (2006), is covered with bindis in the unmistakable shape of human sperm. As a design for female adornment, it is more than a little surprising in this still restrictive society, but Kher jumps on it. Appropriating this male fertility symbol, she makes of it a churning sea. Nature and culture collide in a free-for-all. A new world is in gestation.

Hungry God continues until Oct. 7 at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto

Business Standard : No more romancing it

Prerna Raturi / New Delhi July 7, 2007

Kolkata is getting ready for its first engagement with an art auction house.

Kolkata has decided to regain its position as one of the prominent hot-spots for art in India, albeit commercially this time.

In another three months, the city will be home to the first art auction house in eastern India. A brainchild of R S Agarwal of the Emami Group and Chisel Crafts, the parent company of Kolkata-based Aakriti Art Gallery, the auction house will hold its first auction this December.

There was clearly a need for such an outfit here. �West Bengal has contributed a lot to the Indian art scene, but no younger or contemporary artist from the state has had a chance to feature in an auction house, except the odd Chittrovanu Mazumdar and Jogen Chowdhury,� laments Vikram Bachhawat, director, Emami Chisel Art.

Also, with Christie�s and Sotheby�s representations in India confined to Delhi and Mumbai, there was no one to check the art scene in Kolkata.

Bachhawat feels even Baroda has started to garner more interest among art circles, perhaps because of its proximity to Mumbai. But now with a significant number of art collectors based in Kolkata, the newly formed company will have a good chance of acquiring good art from the region.

For Agarwal, the idea was a personal passion he wanted to invest in. An art collector himself, Agarwal boasts of a sizeable collection of Ganesh Pyne, Ganesh Haloi, Shyamal Dutta Roy and the likes. But the initiative goes beyond personal interest � the auction house makes good business sense, too.

The house will hold live floor as well as online auctions. The buyer will enjoy the benefit of 12.5 per cent waiver from value-added tax (VAT), since it has not been implemented in the state.

Also, when art investment funds coming into India consider liquidating their art after the mandatory lock-in period, the auction house hopes to be a window where they can offload their art works. With four auctions slated in a year, the company hopes to make Rs 50 crore in the first year, and Rs 200 crore by 2010.

But what about art itself? Is it really that easy to get your hand on good art that easily? While agreeing that it is a challenge, Bachhawat reveals that the Aakriti Art Gallery has a moderate-sized collection of its own.

Moreover, the selection of art is going to be almost foolproof. �Our aim is to make this a professionally managed auction house. A piece of art will get entry only if it is considered a �must� for the auction,� he says.

Committees at three levels have been formed for the purpose. The selection committee, which will be responsible for selecting art from various sources � leading galleries, collectors and artists themselves � will comprise of artists such as Chhatrapati Dutta and P Tulsyan.

The expert committee, which will judge the art pieces for their value, authenticity and auction viability, has art critics and art historians such as Pranab Ranjan Ray on its panel. The advisory committee will comprise old art collectors and experts such as the Bangalore-based K Kejriwal and K N Mimani, ex-chairman, Ernst & Young; this committee will look at brand-building exercises for the auction house.

Apart from that, an in-house authentication department will also verify art collections for their value and auction possibilities; living artists will be contacted to re-authenticate works, and experts will authenticate the works of artists who are dead.

The auction house will start accepting art consignments for the first auction in October. It will also feature major works by Sayed Haider Raza, Bikash Bhattacharjee, Manjit Bawa, Ganesh Pyne, Ganesh Haloi, M F Husain and so on.

The major attraction, however, will be an 8 ft x 12 ft oil on canvas by Shyamal Dutta Ray, which very few people know of. The auction house also plans to host a big sculpture auction next year.

The 14,000 sq ft area will also house two sister divisions; a publication division that will publish books, art journals and so on. An art investment division in the same premises will not only guide buyers through investments, but will also act as an art bank that will have a corpus fund for future investments on behalf of the company. There will also be a section for an art library and archives.

Designed by Mumbai-based architect Hafeez Contractor, the auction house will be furnished by Chisel Crafts (an arm of Chisel Art), which has been known for exporting furniture to Hollywood who�s-who. The company also designed furniture for the Harry Potter movies. The entire initiative will cost the Emami Group Rs 30-50 crore.

Hindustan Times : India’s first world-class art museum coming in Kolkata

New Delhi, July 06, 2007

France has the Louvre, America MoMA and Britain, Tate. For all the buzz that Indian art has been making across the world, we still lack a world-class international art museum. If everything goes according to plan though, five years down the line, the Kolkata Museum of Modern Art (KMoMA) will fill the void.

On July 14, auction house Sotheby’s will place some 90 works of art by 70-odd artists including Tyeb Mehta, Somnath Hore, Ram Kumar, Jogen Chowdhury, FN Souza and Ganesh Pyne, under the hammer in New York. The proceeds of the sale — expected to be between Rs 10 crore and 20 crore — will go to the KMoMA kitty.

According to a McKinsey feasibility report, a whopping Rs 570 crore is needed for a first-tier museum. But as Dadiba Pundole of Mumbai’s Pundole Art Gallery, and consultant to Sotheby’s says, "The amount expected is minuscule. It’s really about creating a buzz."

Rakhi Sarkar of Kolkata’s Centre of International Modern Art, and Managing Trustee of KMoMA, agrees. "I have been travelling in Europe and now in America and the response has been incredible, not only from galleries but also from governments."

This will be the first time that private players and the government will partner in a mega cultural-artistic project.
"In other countries, the state takes a great deal of initiative and interest in culture. Sadly, that’s not the case in this country. And when the government does get interested it takes over, choking any artistic enterprise," says Pundole.

KMoMA trustee and artist Jogen Chowdhury agrees, "To get one thing moving you need to fill up five forms. Bureaucracy can be extremely constricting. Private participation in art happens everywhere else, so why not here?" So why need the government at all? "Issues like permissions, insurance and country-to-country exchanges make government participation necessary," says Chowdhury.

Sarkar underlines the fact that West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, the chief patron of KMoMA, is extremely enthused about the project. "During his first term as chief minister, Buddhadebbabu was quite appalled that the travelling Picasso exhibition could not be hosted in Kolkata due to lack of proper facilities," she says. "KMoMa will not only provide worldclass infrastructure for such exhibitions but it will actually facilitate in bringing them here under one roof."

The Bengal government has already provided a 10-acre area in Rajarhat near Kolkata for the project. And there is talk of the proceeds from the sale of land that had earlier been sanctioned to KMoMA coming handy.

Help has been sought from the Centre. Culture Minister Ambika Soni has given a verbal assurance to Sarkar that New Delhi would chip in. KMoMA, to be designed by a yet-to-be-commissioned international architect, will have three wings catering to 18th century-contemporary art from India, the West and the Far East, and another wing dedicated to research, conservation and curatorial practices. "It will cater to the best of world art, visiting shows and even cultural experiences that include food," says Sarkar.

So if things go well, you may not have to go all the way to the Munch Museum in Oslo to view Edvard Munch's The Scream or to the Prada in Madrid for those masterful Goyas. You could simply go to Kolkata for your dose of art.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Moneycontrol.com : Indian art market valued at $350 million

July 04, 2007 | 15:12 IST

So much has happened in Indian art in the last four years. Values have changed completely; Indian art has been noticed globally.

It is said that there is a $350 million-art market now in India, but that, of course, is dwarfed by the market size in China, which is higher than $1.5 billion.

But we are getting there and as far as the total auction market size goes, it has changed from $5 million in 2003 -- just four years back -- to nearly $150 million this year: that has been the scope and the extent of the rise in the Indian art market.

However, as with all bull markets, we need to take stock of the situation from time to time, particularly so because in the last few weeks and months, there has been a general sense of softness in the Indian art market with prices and the way the last few auctions have panned out.

In the last one year, a lot of new money has come in; many people are wondering whether art prices can continue going up and how the market is evolving between modern masters and contemporary artists? Answers are not easy, because it is a nascent market.

Dinesh Vazirani of Saffronart Gallery; Arun Vadehra, who represents Vadehra Art Gallery; Swati Piramal, an art collector; artists Akbar Padamsee and Baiju Parthan; and Sumeet Chopra, art collector; speak on what is happening in the Indian art scene.

Excerpts from CNBC-TV18's exclusive interview with Dinesh Vazirani, Arun Vadehra, Swati Piramal, Akbar Padamsee, Baiju Parthan and Sumeet Chopra :

Over the last couple of months a lot of people have been wondering whether post Christie's, Sotheby's there is a certain kind of softness, which has come after four years of a run. Are you sensing any kind of softness in the Indian art market?

Vazirani: There has definitely been a consolidation; we have seen in the last four years a very rapid escalation of prices and have also seen a buyer base, which has grown by leaps and bounds. I think the entire market now is digesting what has happened in the last four years. We have seen the top-end prices stabilise.

In fact the highest price ever achieved in Indian art was in September 2005, where Tayab Mehta sold for $1.58 million in New York. Since then, of course there have been about 20 paintings that have crossed a million dollar mark but none has surpassed that high of 2005.

What has happened is that the buyer base is got adjusted to this price level and it is taking stock, like you said what has happened and at the same time there is a gestation period between new buyers coming in at those price levels and buyers in the past who have got used to it. So, yes there has been a consolidation, a bit of breather in the market.

What is your perspective sitting there in London? Do you think the market is softening out a bit or is this just a gentle consolidation and sideways phase, which will again result in another breakout?

Vadehra: My take is that the market is very strong. A whole lot of non-Indian buyers are in the market. Especially in the Hong Kong auction we had as much as 60% sold to non-Indian and finally the prices is normally achieved by a great quality painting.

Let us not forget that Tayeb Mehta's Mahisasura, which tests $1.6 million was a top quality Tayeb Mehta and thereafter as Dinesh mentioned we have achieved a million dollars for 20-odd paintings, but sadly there is no great painting, which has come into the market in the last two years. I can pinpoint the paintings if they were to come into the market they can make an excess of $3-4 million too. So I think the market is very strong.

From an industrialist and a collector's perspective what is your take on how prices have moved in the last couple of years and where they stand today?

Piramal: I think prices have gone up astronomically; buy a painting one year and next year its value by the same artist is nearly double. So, for collectors it is quite difficult but the other side of that is that the collectors have begun to go directly to the artist and getting younger artist thinking, buying what they like, buying what is beautiful and then that goes up later. So that is an investment.

Coming from the collector's perspective what is your sense, because in the last few weeks there been a bit a buzz in the market with the cover of the Sotheby. The Gaitonde did not sell and a whole lot of worlds from masters did not sell in a couple of the global auctions. Would you say candidly that the market has gone a bit soft?

Chopra: I am going to disagree a bit with what Dinesh and Arun have to say; consolidation means if the prices move in a band of about 5-10% up and down, but in these recent auctions we have seen 30% fall, down from the highs of last year. I definitely do not think it is a consolidation right now; I think the market has softened, it has softened to 2005 levels. So it has definitely softened and probably will soften little more before it starts getting better.

Can you give us some examples of the 30% price correction that you spoke about? Which artists and just illustrate your point?

Chopra: We saw Shibu's, whose big canvases were available last year at Rs 65-70 lakh, which has gone down to about Rs 45-50 lakh and even that is a difficult sell; and that is on the top of my mind. Ganesh Roy, who use to sell at Rs 30-35 lakh for canvases, is down to about Rs 22-23 lakh and there are lot more. I can't put my figure on to it right now, but definitely the market has softened for sure.

As an artist and an important contemporary artist are you sensing that because prices have pretty much moving one way over the last two years?

Parthan: In a way, from an artist's position, one is little confused the way the prices go up because it invariably affects how you relate your work. One hears that the prices have sort of stabilised or softened but from my position I think it is like almost in a race, one stopping and catching one's breath situation. I think it would stabilise and then be little more of a discerning buying will happen and much more of a quality conscious buying will come in - that is what I feel.

Would you consider lowering prices in the context of the market right now, or hasn't it come to that yet?

Parthan: If I speak about myself, I would say that the prices I deal with the galleries are not prices, which of course come in the market. So I think it doesn't affect me directly at all. In that case, gallery prices always tend to go little higher than what I offer.

Looking at the history of the art market is there a pattern of cyclicality in the market and when we talk about corrections, do prices corrects significantly? Have you seen instances of that in the past or prices simply plateau off before new peaks are reached?

Vazirani: Historically, if you look at the world art market, it is highly cyclical, not only cyclical. We have seen the world art market in the 90s, which went through a very sharp downturn, especially when the Japanese collectors stopped buying art. So yes, the market is cyclical and it will go through cycles.

What I disagree with is, trying to judge a very young market and where the prices have gone by five years with a two-month event. I think our horizon has to be longer to make judgments as to where the prices are going. I think you need a series of events over a period of time to make that judgment. But historically, the art market is cyclical and the Indian art market will also follow the same trajectory.

Do you think it is just a two-month period and there might have been good reasons why the last couple of auctions have not done as well as some of the preceding auctions or do you think prices indeed have gone up too sharply and they need to correct for Indian art?

Vadehra: My personal opinion is that first, it really depends upon the quality stocks that the auction houses get and the fact that the buyers have become more discerning, they are getting far more matured is a fact and that is good for the market. Second, the art market has been historically very harsh on a whole lot of artists, because if you really see only 10-15% of the artists survive in terms of art historical context.

So, to that extent if you give an example of one or two artists that they have gone down by 20-30% it is not fair. It just maybe that, the pehnomenon that applies to investing in capital, applies to young artists as well; you really do not know what is going to happen in the coming years. But as I said, the art market is very harsh that way; so you need to have a great discerning eye to buy good art and to have your investments go up that way.

What is your sense? Is it the point that Arun is trying to make that may be good quality works have not come up in the auctions, which is why they have not done well, or at the secondary market level you can genuinely sense some resistance at these prices and they are started correcting?

Chopra: We have to understand the psyche of the Indian art buyer. I would say 85% of the buyers that have come in now, in the last three years two years, are buyers who are wanting to buy art and flip it over six-eight months later. There is s whole plethora of India housewives kind of concept and they become art traders and they want to go to galleries buy art and at time flip it out.

This kind of trading in art is what is going to make difficult for it to sustain because, I do not think it is possible to be able to flip out art in six-eight months and if these guys do not get a chance to make their money and move out, there is going to be a lot of pressure that is going to come into this market. I totally believe that and I am not saying that all artists are going to go down. It is sure that you are going to have people with great quality works, which will keep going up.

Coming to the auctions, guys who are handling auctions - there have to be quality control from their side. They cannot say quality is not very nice in the auction; that is why the market is not going up or that is why the prices have corrected.

They are the guys who decide the kind of stuff that come into the auctions. So I think the quality situation is going to be handled by the guys or should be handled by the guys who are having these auctions and if the quality is not up to the mark do not take it into the auction. That is a choice they can absolutely make.

Please respond to that because it has been a complaint that maybe a couple of the catalogs were a bit weak this time round. Why is it that great quality works have not found their way into the last couple of auctions?

Vadehra: I have been in London for the last one week and this week has been a significant one for the world art market. There have been two back-to-back auctions by Christie's and Sotheby's of modern Indian art and we had seen people like Matisse, Picasso, Degas not in these auctions.

So, number one in terms of the quality it is hard to control the quality from an auction house perspective, because we offer works and it is sometimes difficult to refuse a work of a master on the grounds of quality because first, who is making the judgment of the quality. Second, if we do give back the works, the market may further lose confidence.

How are you approaching this situation? You have made an interesting point that you have given up buying the masters, because prices have sky-rocketed and you are now looking at younger artists. Do you find the same debt, quality, attraction in the contemporary universe, or the younger universe that you are beginning to track?

Piramal: I have been listening to the conversation and I think buyers are becoming much more sophisticated.

In the past, the only known gallery was Jehangir at that time but nowadays people are look and buying, being themselves in touch with artists, commissioning artist, getting themes for what they want and they are becoming much more aware, they are also becoming much more aggressive in buying and I disagree with this house wife idea, I know many of my friends do come and try and sell but the buyers are becoming so sophisticated, they read, they go to auctions, they watch online, the whole internet revolution has changed and I honestly think that buyers are much more aware than what people think.

Could that be one reason why some of the works are increasingly finding it difficult to get sold because earlier people just bought out name of an artist but right now if the quality of the work is not good they are probably not purchasing some of those works?

Piramal: Yes and also what is happened is that when the prices are so high there are certain level of artists who are cranking out stuff and many of that is not of the best quality and so buyers have to look at not just the name but quality of the painting and as I said buyers are becoming more aware, the whole market is becoming more mature than it was ever in the past.

We know of prices per sq inch of paintings, we go online, we look at catalogues, we read more on the subject and the artist, and we also go online to auctions worldwide, so there is a change in buyer behaviour than ever before.

Do you sense the point that Swati made that partly it could be the pressure of prices moving up and the pressure on the artists to deliver quickly and deliver a lot of work has become essentially far more prolific that has played any kind of role in the way prices have moved in the last few months?

Parthan: I don't think so. Maybe some artist are doing that sort of production line they might have but ultimately I think it's the quality factor what is playing a major deciding role.

One can define quality in various ways when we take the larger picture. An artist like Susa--- is important because of the art historical context within which he operates.

So even a work, which is not that of high caliber, quality would fetch a very high price because he is a very important artist but when you come to the younger generation that would invert, because we still haven't worked out where each one of them stands in the larger picture and their the individual works quality matters a lot and their I think the production practices some of them might be adopting might backfire, all the works may not be of that caliber in that sense and so in that sense I agree.

There has been the same point, which is being raised about the masters, forget contemporary artists. People talk about Jogen Chaudhary the ease with which and the amount he is producing and that might have some role to play in how his market has been for the last few months, would you agree that some of these people are producing too much work for the market to absorb?

Vadehra: You have got a point; some of the artist can become market victims, to that extent they may produce but then this will be short-term phenomenas.

If you see the Picaso produced about nine works in a day in his later days and at that particular time the market was affected of Picaso but over a longer period of time the market was okay, master of masters to that extent that will hold true and what Baiju just now said that from art historical point of view some of these works who seem quite indifferent right now may become historically very important.

We been discussing why prices of some of the modern masters might be easing a bit. Do you think that the market is softening up a bit and what could be the reasons you would attribute to such a softness if any?

Padamsee: I would not be concerned if the prices go; I am concerned with my own work. I am not at all interested the price if they go up fine, if they come down fine. It doesn't concern me.

Is it not true that though that artist like you have also been raising their prices consistently over the last two-three years?

Padamsee: No, this is false. One of the reasons why I keep increasing my prices is to a selling because when the prices were low everybody wants to buy and then I have no paintings. So to stop selling I bring my price up that's the only reason for bringing prices up so that people can't buy it and only few people who can buy should buy it otherwise I do not want to sell.

That is a strange thing for an artist to say. I am sure that you produce so that other people can enjoy your work but you seem to be reluctant to sell?

Padamsee: I do not paint for people. I paint for myself and I paint for art.

Your prices would have gone up some 10-15 times in the last three years I imagine. You are saying that it is only because you want to keep buyers away?

Padamsee: Yes, when the price is at a certain range then lots of people want to buy it. I keep increasing the price so that there are fewer people to buy because (1) I am not a very productive painter. I do only a panting or two per month, which means about 20 paintings a year and so many people come to buy. The only way to a buyers is to keep the prices up. That is a practical way of pricing your work. We do not price to sell; we price not to sell.

Do you find that some of these issues like maybe being too prolific, etc, might have been one of the reasons why some prices are beginning to ease off even for some of the modern masters?

Vazirani: There are several reasons and I want to come back to a point that was discussed little earlier, which I think Swati brought up, which was a kind of sophistication of buyers and the buyer base actually being little more educated. If you just analyze and see what has happened in the last five years, you had a market which had a mix of collectors and investors the purpose investors are there is to buy art and like Summet said its turned them around quickly.

By a sophistication of a buyer you mean a buyer who has actually taken the time to build in eye for art to learn about it, to understand what goes into the esthetics of art instead of financial. W

hen that buyer base is changing from that investor pool which is buying art to resell to one that is taking its time to purchase art you are going to see prices slowdown little bit because of the readjustment of this buyer base which one wants to collect when we see a Mark Rothko selling to a hedge fund manager internationally at $70 million the person is not buying it only because of an investment they have actually taken the time because they want to own the painting, hang it on the wall, live for it for a long period of time and if the price goes up and they have kind of out crown the painting they might sell it.

So I think if there are more works even artists like you said if they are prolific in the market it is going to affect the market because the market today is that investor pool and that investor pool is really changing to a collector pool and that takes time and during the time it take for that to happen there is going to be cooling off. When the readjustment happens.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Mumbai Online : The Big Dive

Monday , July 02, 2007

It’s time for art’s sky-high prices to level out, as the art mart returns to terra firma

Georgina Maddox

What goes up must come down; call it Newton’s law but strangely no market has been able to resist this maxim. The Indian art market, currently soaring at the auctions, is no exception. While one would hate to take away any of the glory our Indian artists are finally basking in, it’s time to bell the cat and ask that niggling question at the back of every art dealer/ collector/ gallery owner’s head: When will art prices plateau?

Things are already levelling out according to Saffronart auctioneer Dinesh Vazirani.

“Over the last two years, the highest price for a single are work was attained in 2005, a Tyeb Mehta painting-the first million-dollar baby. After that, prices haven’t risen above the million-dollar mark,” says Vazirani.

With the capital gains tax introduced, it’s a good time for everyone to take stock. So while a lot of artists like Jogen Chowdhury, Atul Dodiya and Amrita Sher-Gil have touched the million-dollar mark. “The market has adjusted and accepted that new price, but it has stayed on that level for the last 18 months. At this point, the market needs international art buyers and international art museums to step in to take it to the next level,” he explains.

Dadiba Pundole, Sotheby’s India representative, agrees the market is consolidating its prices. “We were expecting prices to settle in our March sale but it hit us in May. Of course, exceptional art will still command high prices but it won’t

depend on the name attached to painting. It will only be quality of the work that matters; it’s high time it happened,” he says.

Given that the Indian art market is just five years old and it has grown phenomenally from US $5 million to US $350 million internationally. But when compared to China, this year the Indian market has made US $1.58 million while the Chinese market for painting is US $9 million. Vazirani thinks there is much room for growth.

Collector Harsh Goenka believes the market has gone soft. “Prices have come down by 20 per cent or so at auctions. However many artists haven’t brought their gallery prices down because it’s like having egg on your face,” says the patron who has been seriously collecting for the last three decades.

Without giving any names, Goenka indicates that many dealers have abandoned their artists and left them to fend for themselves. “These artists are now obliged to quote different

prices publicly and then bargain later with collectors bringing the price down by Rs 3 lakh to Rs 4 lakhs,” he adds.

With all this public posturing, how is one to know real prices? The fakes scam should have warned people by now not to deal with carpetbaggers and fly-by-night dealers. However, even a well known artist can be overpriced. Thus, the best approach is to look at the work of art and not the artist.

“Artists are capable of doing both great and mediocre work. I look for a good painting and not painter. Creating a label or signature has destroyed the quality of work while the media circus has pumped things out of proportion,” says Goenka dispassionately.

Pundole adds a lot of dealers who lack maturity will chicken out. “Overnight success, among both artists and dealers, will not hold out as the market plateaus,” he asserts.

Collector Czaee Shah also believes historically important works will always command a good price. “What would be interesting is to

see what is happens to younger artists. I hope to see a fantastic price for installation, video art and photography.”

The Economic Times : Taxman's brush with fine art of evasion


[ MONDAY, JULY 02, 2007 03:18:42 AM]

NEW DELHI: Tax evasion, some say, has become a fine art in India. So, it was perhaps a matter of time before fine art came under the I-T scanner. It would certainly be hard for taxmen to ignore this phenomenon, with the Indian art market currently valued at $350 million and sales and auctions routinely raking in crores.

With the income-tax department also deciding to venture into ‘non-traditional areas’ to track tax evasion, art has become a high-priority area, a government source told ET. Little wonder then, that I-T sleuths are turning their magnifying glasses on precious canvasses.

The Indian art market’s size may be small compared to western art (or even Chinese, which is roughly thrice the size of the Indian market), but it has seen a stratospheric rise compared to a decade ago. As part of its new interest in buying art—and the art of buying — the I-T investigation wing had on April 17 searched 14 galleries in Mumbai and 11 in Delhi, and checked out some art funds too.

Since then, the department’s interest in art has not flagged. Art being a ruse to evade taxes was discussed at the meeting of I-T’s investigation wing recently. The searches in Mumbai and Delhi were in the nature of an art appreciation class — I-T department-style. It is learnt the taxmen descended on the galleries to gain an ‘understanding’ of the world of art and the way it operates. And it does require some study.

The art mart in India is still largely unorganised and unregulated. Middlemen bring buyers and artists together and rake in big bucks as commission. Transactions, however, mostly go undocumented or under-reported, according to sources.

Under-invoicing is particularly rampant, price tags rarely listed and actual deal amounts are hardly put in the books.

Ledger values and sale amounts are often ambiguous and under-reporting of inventory in the books is common, sources confirm. For instance, a recent search of an art gallery revealed massive concealment of inventory of imported prints.

But errant art galleries are not the only target. Enforcing transparency in art gallery accounting would also help taxmen keep track of high spenders who are not paying the correct amount of tax on their art acquisitions. The large number of “anonymous” buyers (often bidding via telephone) may have more to do with cashfulness than bashfulness, the sleuths feel.

To get the true picture of the art mart, the department may also take the help of experts at National Gallery of Modern Art, the National Museum and other reputed art repositories. That would add another twist to the world of artful dodging.

Times Online : Cash in on the global wealth boom

July 2, 2007
From diamonds to violins, the world's elite are pushing up the prices of exotic assets. Discover how you can get a share

INVESTORS are being enticed into exotic assets such as diamonds, oriental art and even violins to cash in on the biggest boom in alternative investments since the late 1980s.

An unprecedented surge in global wealth has pushed prices for everything from fine wine to luxury goods to record levels.

Wealth held by the world’s richest people — those with more than $1m (£498,000) in liquid assets — soared to £18,000 billion last year, an 11% rise on 2005 and the fastest growth for seven years thanks to the booming global economy, according to last week’s world wealth report from Merrill Lynch.

About £335 billion of their money is in collectables including art, jewellery, wine, antiques and sports investments such as race horses and yachts.

The boom has been driven by newly wealthy investors from Asia, Russia and the Middle East who tend to prefer alternative assets over traditional investments such as equities and bonds.

Last year the number of people with more than $1m to invest rose by more than 20% in Singapore and India and 16% in Russia, compared with 8% in Britain.

Russian money in particular is driving an alternative-asset boom in London. The record-breaking sales of Impressionist art in the capital this month, in which a painting of water lillies by Claude Monet fetched £18.5m, were driven by buyers from the former Soviet Union.

The market for classic cars is also at an all-time high as the super-rich splash out on what Merrill Lynch calls “investments of passion”. Bonhams raised a record £6.1m at an auction at the Goodwood Festival of Speed earlier this month — the highest amount in the event’s 15-year history. The sale saw no fewer than 14 cars surpass £100,000, with the top spot taken by a 1932 Alfa Romeo 8C-2300 Spider, which fetched £1.4m.

In Asia modern luxury cars are proving more of a draw. China is now the third-largest market for Rolls-Royce cars, after America and Britain.

The luxury carmaker is part of a charmed circle of global brands whose profits have received a boost over the past three or four years from the spending power of the super-rich, and some analysts say they are among the best ways to profit from the burgeoning moneyed classes in Asia.

Merrill Lynch has a Lifestyle index which tracks global luxury brands such as Bulgari and Christian Dior. Their shares are up 28% and 40% over the past year, compared with a 16% return from the FTSE 100.

While some analysts fear we may be close to the top of the market, others argue that the extraordinary growth potential in emerging markets, particularly Russia, China and India, means the boom can continue for some time.

Shaun Port at BDO Stoy Hayward Investment Management said: “The growing buying power of the wealthy elite, especially in the emerging markets, is driving demand for alternative investments and luxury brands.

“The last time we saw this, in the 1980s, the bubble burst dramatically. However, this time the growth in wealth has been more widespread. While the global economy remains strong it can go on.”

Investors who want to cash in on the spending habits of the super-rich now have several schemes at their disposal.

Chic, an investment fund launched this month, is dedicated to luxury brands such as Porsche, Louis Vuitton and Gucci.

Analysts said the trick to making money from the ultra-wealthy was to buy their next big thing, which is why investment firm Diapason Commodities Management is launching a diamond fund on July 10.

The Diamond Circle Capital fund will be the first scheme dedicated to the precious stones to list in London.

Diapason was founded by Jim Rogers, one of the first people to predict a bull market in everything from gold to corn on the back of growing demand from China and India. He and his colleagues believe it is now the turn of diamonds. Stephen Wrobel at Diapason said: “Diamonds have been lagging other commodities, but the supply and demand situation is now ready to drive prices higher.”

Over recent years almost all commodities except diamonds have skyrocketed: the Goldman Sachs Industrial Metals index soared by 180% in the three years to the end of 2006; precious metals were up 56%. Diamonds, meanwhile, are up only 34% over the same period, according to Tacy, a consultant.

However, demand in emerging economies is surging and, at the same time, supply is shrinking because many of the world’s diamond mines are past their most productive years. Although producers such as De Beers have increased spending on exploration, so far they have little to show for it.

Another offbeat investment targeting the spending habits of wealthy connoisseurs is the Fine Violins Fund set up by instrument dealer Florian Leonhard.

Stringed instruments have surprisingly beaten shares over the long term — in the 10 years to the end of 2006, prices jumped 100% compared with a 63% gain in the FTSE 100, according to Leonhard.

As wealthy collectors have moved into the market, the prices of stringed instruments have shot up. A Stradivarius violin fetched a record $3.5m at auction in 2006.

Getting independent advice about such unusual investments can be difficult because most advisers do not cover them. Consequently, advisers urge caution before piling in to any of these schemes.

Mick Gilligan at Killik, a stockbroker, said: “These are niche investments in markets that are not well understood and where it is very difficult to establish valuations. During a recession investments focused on luxury spending are likely to suffer because they are the first things people cut back on.”

However, people have been calling the top of the market for over a year, and experts say there are still bargains if you know where to look.

How to profit from the super rich

EVEN if you aren’t about to join the growing ranks of the super wealthy, you can put your money to work like they do. But some of their favoured investments are risky, so you should already have a balanced portfolio and be prepared for volatility if you adopt the same approach.

How do I invest in art?

Several art funds will invest on your behalf if you are not confident about making your own choices, but entry is not cheap.

Soci�t� G�n�rale Asset Management has just launched an art scheme with a goal of making between 15% and 20% a year from post-impressionist and contemporary art. Listed in Luxembourg, it has a minimum investment of £84,000.

An alternative with a broader scope is the Fine Art Fund, run by Fine Art Management Services (Fams), created by Philip Hoffman, a former deputy managing director of Christie’s. It covers old masters to contemporary art and asks for a minimum of £125,000.

Hoffman has also just created an Indian fine art fund to take advantage of the popularity of art from the sub-continent. This follows the launch of a similar Chinese fine art fund last December. Both schemes have a minimum investment of about £50,000.

With prices already up an average of 42% over the past year, experts said you should look for pockets of value, or for what Russian and Chinese buyers will move on to next.

Corfield Morris, an art consultant, tips artists from the West Coast of America such as Samantha Fields. To view their work, visit zerodegreesart.com. There is also a buzz round Chinese and Indian contemporary art, although it is getting harder to find bargains.

Karl Schweizer at UBS, a private bank, thinks Zhang Xiaogang, Liu Xiaodong and Zao Wou-ki are interesting. Visit chinesecontemporary.com. Hot names from India include Atul and Anju Dodiya and Subodh Gupta. You can buy works online at saffronart.com.

Investors are also advised to look beyond paintings to find bargains. Corfield Morris recommends 18th and 19th century English furniture as potentially fertile ground.

Is now a good time to buy wine?

Vintage wine has boomed along with other alternative assets, with prices up 64% over the past year.

Last year’s fine 2006 Bordeaux, which recently went on sale for the first time, is expected to cost £3,000 a case on average, which would make it the second most expensive in history.

Justin Gibbs at Liv-Ex thinks wines from previous exceptional vintages such as 1990, 1995 and 1996 offer better value.

The Fine Wine Fund is the only wine investment vehicle directly regulated by the Financial Services Authority. It has a £50,000 minimum investment. Charges are 2% a year and the managers keep 15% of the profit as a performance fee, while investors can only get out every quarter.

Can I invest in a fund that focuses on luxury brands?

A handful are available offshore. ING’s Prestige & Luxe fund, based in Luxembourg, was one of the first, launched in 1998. Its biggest holdings are LVMH, the group that makes Louis Vuitton handbags, and Richemont, which owns jeweller Cartier and fashion label Chloe. Over the past year it has returned 29%, before charges, and over five years is up 48%.

Credit Suisse, Pictet and Soci�t� G�n�rale also run schemes. A new contender is Chic, launched on the Irish stock exchange on June 4 by Dominion, a Swiss investment management company. The fund, which requires a minimum investment of £5,000, invests in firms like BMW, Prada and Tiffany as well as middle-market companies such as Apple and Nike.

Alternatively, you could buy the stocks yourself through a broker. Most trade European shares for the same price as UK stocks.

However, experts say many premium brands look pricey compared with the rest of the market: they are trading on about 20 times earnings compared with 12 times for the average UK company. It might be worth waiting for a setback in world markets to snap up buying opportunities.

The Times of India: Sotheby's to hold auction for Kolkata museum

30 Jun, 2007 l

1137 hrs ISTlIANS
NEW YORK: Famous modern Indian paintings, sculptures and photographs will go under the hammer here when Sotheby's holds an auction on behalf of the Kolkata Museum of Modern Art next month. The auction on July 17 will feature works by artists such as Tyeb Mehta, Jehangir Sabavala, Somnath Hore, Sakti Burman, Ram Kumar, F.N. Souza, Akbar Padamsee, Jogen Chowdhury, Ganesh Pyne, Arpita Singh, Rameshwar Broota, Paresh Maity, Subodh Gupta, Chintan Upadhyay, Baiju Parthan and Dayanita Singh. They will be exhibited by Sotheby's here from July 9. The auction is estimated to raise Rs.100-140 million (over $2-3 million) for the museum. The works have been donated in full or in part by collectors and artists. Said Zara Porter Hill, head of the Indian and Southeast Asian Art department at Sotheby's: "The sale is an opportunity for collectors to acquire works by several artists who are in high demand and for whom only a limited supply of works are on the market". The highlight of the auction will be Tyeb Mehta's "Kali Head", painted in 1998. It is expected to fetch $400,000-600,000. In this iconic work, Mehta portrays the Hindu Goddess Kali in an astonishingly modern manner. He refers to it as a "fantastic primordial image". Sculptor Somnath Hore's exquisite bronze work "Wounds" created in 1998 and donated for the benefit auction before his death is expected to fetch $20,000-30,000. Jehangir Sabavala's important 2005 work, "The Chhortens", is expected to fetch $150,000-200,000. It is a square oil and acrylic on canvas depicting wayside reliquaries nestling at the feet of a high snow-clad massif. The painting is haunted by nostalgia, for moments once possessed and now lost. The work, while being thoroughly representative of his distinct style, echoes Sabavala's early fascination with Cubism. Arpita Singh's "Classified File" (2007) is a whimsical composition where comedy and tragedy become interchangeable as the artist comments on our programmed urban existence, the mindless obsession with creation of wealth and prevalence of social injustice. It is expected to go under the hammer for $100,000-150,000. Other highlights include a 1960 paper drawing by Jogen Chowdhury, "Study of a Girl"; Sakti Burman's "Giraf in Liberty"; Akbar Padamsee's "Couple" and Rameshwar Broota's stark monochromatic comment on violence. Young Indian artists are also being featured. They include Subodh Gupta's shiny bronze and chrome sculpture of cosmetic items unveiling the complexities of a consumer-driven, globalising society; a large black and white abstract triptych by Kingshuk Sarkar and Baiju Parthan's "Metronome and Yield", which deals with the artist's multiple engagements with mass media, counterculture, the Internet, mythological symbols, and new age spirituality. Photographs by Pushpamala N, Vivan Sundaram and Dayanita Singh are being included as well. Tribal artists such as Swarna Chitrakar, Bhuri Bai and Mayank Shyam represent the traditional art of Bengal, explored through urban and contemporary themes.