Sunday, July 15, 2007

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."

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