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Updated: September 18, 2009 19:05 IST

The craft of art at the Summit

RANA SIDDIQUI ZAMAN
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A panorama of possibilities: The Summit brought pleasant surprises.
PTI A panorama of possibilities: The Summit brought pleasant surprises.

The second edition of Art Summit — an overview.

This year, apprehensions emerged before the second edition of the Art Summit began in New Delhi late August. Despite being well organised, the first Summit brought lukewarm response from galleries, collectors and buyers. Hence an artist like Dharmendra Rathod decided not to show his works only to realise later that he “made a mistake”.

This year, the Summit brought pleasant surprises. Most galleries, buyers and collectors gained though a few were found complaining too.

Despite the worldwide economic slump, it not only saw a footfall of over 40,000 across four days but a sale of 250 artworks worth approximately Rs.26 crore from a total of 40 to 50 crores. “Galleries sold over 50 per cent of the works exhibited, which is well over the international art fair average of 20-30 per cent,” says Neha Kirpal, Summit Associate Director. Each participating gallery sold up to three works each, with some Indian and international galleries sold out completely. Thirty to forty per cent was estimated as sold to new or first-time collectors.

Echoes Gaurav of Marigold gallery, who showcased international artists only, “I sold 75 per cent works.” Adds Stephen of ArtqueSt gallery, U.K., who showcased mammoth photographic prints, “This fair has been similar to the London Art Fair. We came to feel the pulse of the market here. Next year we shall sell works too.”

Interestingly, most buyers were Indians and not foreigners. It included new buyers from Ludhiana, Chandigarh, etc. If the top-end artists like Ram Kumar, Anish Kapoor and Subodh Gupta sold for Rs.1-3 crores, SKE Gallery from Bangalore sold its original art products like bags and coasters for a couple of hundreds. The Summit was not just a four-day affair. It brought with it long term opportunities. For instance, after the Summit, several foreign galleries stayed back in India to commission works byIndian artists. Some countries have decided to hold an ‘India show’ back home for which they have been collaborating with the artists. China, for instance will celebrate ‘Year of India in China’ next year. A few big art projects are going there. A few curators from India have been asked to curate art shows in various countries. Even NDMC has commissioned a top artist to create a body of work for the Commonwealth Games (2010), shares Neha.

Not only that, the Summit has erased the differences between the galleries too. Observes artist Seema Kohli, “Owners of art galleries hardly meet each other for reasons varying from ego to difference of opinion but this Art Summit bridged the gap between them. Here they met each other without inhibitions. Moreover, artists from outside Delhi could leave a resume and CD of their works to a large number of galleries present at the Summit.”

Bargaining

But not everything was honky-dory. Some complained about bargaining. Hideaki Yamamoto, artist from Japan whose wood sculpture and two paintings were sold, said regretfully, “The buyers insisted on huge discounts even up to 20 per cent. We have spent more money in making this trip to India than we made by selling our works.”

Since the stalls were prohibitively expensive (Rs.50,000 to 8 lakh), the few who were able to book stalls made money. That way, it was business as usual, but Anjolie Ela Menon, one of the main patrons of the Summit, asserts it was meant both for business and exposition. “There have been no art fairs in Delhi for so long. Artists have been showing in the Venice Biennale but even that is discontinued. The government hasn’t been promoting Indian art internationally. So it was up to private galleries to take up cudgels.”

Adds Chintan Upadhyay, “In the last 50 years, Government machinery has been inactive in promoting art. Our National Museum does some small activity which people don’t even get to know. We used to have a Kala Mela in Delhi held by the Government. Even that was discontinued years ago. See the pathetic condition of Bharat Bhavan in Madhya Pradesh or Jawahar Kala Kendra in Jaipur. If a sarkari system fails, private players have to come forward.”

Ashok Vajpeyi, Chairman, Lalit Kala Akademi, agrees that an art fair of this magnitude was needed. “The Government has three main limitations. It can’t do an art fair of such magnitude alone with its limited budget. Second, we have some 70 members of the Governing Council with every one having their own idiosyncrasies, and third, our internal structure is so cumbersome that it takes ages to bring anything out of the box. Till about the 1980s it was okay. Moreover, the world over, such art fairs have always been a matter of public/private partnership. And public institutions should enter only when private partnership is not there.”

So, has Delhi finally been able to write its own successful art story? Umm.

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