As I was preparing myself to board my flight for Hong Kong, I realised that these last few days have been a time of instruction and revision. Instruction for the self on time-management and revision through experience when that time is not managed well.
This often repeated understanding of lost-time and lost-opportunity never coming back, had my mind wandering into all areas – deliberate and accidental, I began evaluating the Delhi Art Scene as it stands today.
Post 2008 when the proverbial bubble burst and the crushing sound of Art-Funds collapsing around the globe could be heard, there was anger, discontent and a sense of being cheated, all around. One slowly saw the demise of many Galleries, Auctioneers and Art Advisors. This had a trickle down effect on all the members of the Art community that manifested itself as a lack of enthusiasm to participate, collect and create. There were new middle men brokering deals and selling Contemporary Art by the truck load, for less than half of their original market value. What once was an aspirational object became an item to be palmed off. This new definition for much of Contemporary Art in India further led to an absence of desire and passion within the field. And finally this lack of enthusiasm, desire and passion led to the reduction of an appreciative audience. By late 2009 the select and limited viewership as well as collectors that Art got, now became defectors who moved on to more solid ground, such as film and music, and ownership and investment shifted more and more towards land and other tangibles.
Then I began to think about all the new Art Fairs and Biennales that popped up just post this almost apocalyptic economic world event, and the question was – who were these new breed of Gallerists, Buyers and Sellers? The answer came quick and easy – they were media moguls, educationalists, corporates, advertising experts and PR professionals. And the biggest tool to promote Art became the newly polished and pimped-out Art Fair. Be it Shanghai, Dubai, or Delhi, the Art Fair took on a new avatar, where the collector/art enthusiast became the pilgrim, and the Art Fair their Mecca.
It was with them at the helm, that Art from 2010, globally came back on track for its trend of economic expansion for the last 100 years.
My final thoughts as I am ready to pack-up my laptop and ready to board my flight is – as Indian Contemporary Art continues to get a boost, and a makeover, attracting larger numbers, and larger audiences, whether these numbers translate into economic realities, is unclear to me. Auction Sales of the last 4 years may reflect a significant boost in overall Art market collections, but when will the buyers wariness permanently shift to dissatisfaction if their expectations continue to go unchecked.
As an economist recently told me – globally we are entering a “New Normal” , where need no longer dictates consumer behaviour, but the realisation that devaluation is inevitable. So has the art aficionado too like the techno-geek realised that greater rewards shall be had by abandoning the immediate gratification scenario and switching to a wait-and-watch philosophy?