Dinesh Vazirani on a Panel about Contemporary South Asian Art

Elisabetta Marabotto of Saffronart reports about the talk, “New Directions in Contemporary South Asian Art”

From left: Jeffrey Boloten, Erik Wigertz, Dinesh Vazirani, Arianne Levene and Idris Khan

London: On June 6, 2012, the Arts Club in London hosted a panel discussion on contemporary South Asian art featuring Idris Khan, a contemporary British artist with South Asian roots, whose body of work explores concepts such as authorship and time; Arianne Levene, an art advisor for contemporary South Asian, Middle Eastern and Chinese art, and founder of New Art World Ltd.; Dinesh Vazirani, the co-founder of Saffronart; Erik Wigertz,  a well known Swedish collector based in Russia with an interest in South Asian art; and Jeffrey Boloten, the moderator of the panel and co-founder and managing director of ArtInsight.

The aim of the discussion was to examine the new directions that South Asian art is taking through the different perspectives and experiences of the guests on the panel.

In the initial part of the talk Dinesh Vazirani examined the reasons that prompted him and Minal Vazirani (co-founder Saffronart and his wife) to found Saffronart in 2000.  On moving back to India in the mid 1990s, Dinesh and Minal felt there was no access, transparency nor benchmarks, especially in terms of pricing, in the Indian art market and decided to establish Saffronart to fill these gaps.

Talking about the trends relating to infrastructure in the Indian art world, Dinesh argued that after an initial lack of infrastructure and support, things were slowly changing. In fact, private institutions like the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art which opened last year and the Devi Art Foundation, both located in Delhi, host regular exhibitions of modern and contemporary South Asian art and compensate for the lack of quality public institutions in the country. Arianne added that new museums and galleries, such as the one founded by Rajshree Pathy , are emerging in smaller cities like Coimbatore, spreading awareness about the arts beyond the metropolises.

The India Art Fair was another hot topic at the Arts Club, but the panel unanimously agreed that the fair had a great impact on the Indian art market, bringing together international collectors and galleries in one place, and that it also gave the opportunity to Indian collectors to meet foreign galleries and artists.

Also discussed was the fact that over the last few years, there has been a definite development and growth of an international market for Indian art. Many Indian galleries have opened branches in Europe or America, well known auction houses included Indian art in their Contemporary and Post-war art sales, and Indian artists featured in important international art fairs such as Frieze and Art Basel. Moreover, Erik Wigertz just hosted an exhibition of his collection in his native Sweden, which received rave reviews and great interest. However, a lot of the ground work for this growth was established by galleries and auction houses like Saffronart, which managed to reach non-resident Indians in various countries earlier, and helped the market for Indian art spread to all parts of the globe. Recently, however, the large established group of collectors, both individual and institutions, based in India has grown in importance and is dominating the market.

At the end of the discussion the panel was asked to make a prediction about future trends in the South Asian art world. Dinesh felt there will be a return to tradition and Indian heritage, so probably antiquities will be the next market to look at, while Arianne and Erik thought Indonesian art will be the next trend, and Idris jokingly added that he would be the most sought after artist in the coming years. So Dinesh as a joke suggested we should all buy Idris’s works before his prices reaches this peak. I guess we will have to wait to see who is right!

A very interesting Q&A session concluded the talk. One of the last questions was directed at  Erik, who was asked whether the recession and the falling prices of contemporary art ever dissuaded him from buying art. The collector promptly answered that he believes art should be bought following our personal passion and not market trends.

Audience at The Arts Club

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