Art connoisseurs across the globe still harbour hopes of acquiring originals by a Picasso, a Michelangelo or a Van Gogh for exorbitant amounts, but it seems that less expensive and vibrant Indian art is increasingly becoming the flavour of the season. There are takers for Indian art from all cultures and backgrounds—resident Indians, NRIs and even foreign nationals. While there has been a healthy interest in Indian art for at least a decade, the change in the attitude of buyers is that they're not looking to simply invest in art; they want to show it off on their walls. The aesthetics of Indian art have keen buyers wanting to adorn their homes with paintings, murals, installations.
Shelly Jyoti, a Baroda-based artist, became a painter 12 years ago after spending 10 years as a fashion designer. She says that an art piece is treated like a jewel in the house. "Homes with double income will always think of art in the house as part of the overall budget as opposed to a specific investment," she says.
Mumbai-based Pradarshak art gallery has been a niche platform for upcoming artists and has been in the business for the last 15 years. Savitha Hira, its proprietor, says that the trend of buying art for home has been influenced by art awareness. "Earlier, people preferred to buy landscapes or portraits, but since the knowledge about art has increased, buyers have moved towards buying semi-abstracts for their houses," she says.
The trend of "art meets home décor" has grown to such proportions that Pradarshak, which is officially the smallest gallery in India, has kick-started "The Art Program Service". This enables buyers to have a team of artists in addition to the more traditional interior and furniture designers to help decorate their rooms. Galleries like Pradarshak as well as individual artists are increasingly helping choose the right art-work based on the format, medium and the personal preference of homeowners.
Tushar Sethi, Director, Institute of Contemporary Indian Art (ICIA), says there are several buyers who "design their houses around art". On the other hand, there are those who're looking to refurbish their homes without renovating the space entirely. The latter type of buyers often visit art galleries to understand the works of various artists and to choose what will fit well in their homes. "There are several buyers who come in, like what they see exhibited and walk out proud owners of a painting or installation that'll look perfect in their house," says Bhavna Kakar, Curator and Gallery Owner, Latitude 28, Delhi.
Sethi noticed a change in buying trends on his auction site, astaguru.com, as well as on theartstrust.com, an online art trading platform he founded some years ago. Earlier, a work of art always came first, but increasingly a large number of buyers want artists to make specific paintings for them. "Artists are increasingly being asked to personalise their works by buyers," he says. A personalised work could mean that the buyer chooses the subject of the artwork that an artist will create. Sethi says that the artists are more than happy to comply. Sunil Gawde, an artist, agrees.
"What matters is not where your work was bought from—whether at a show, off a website or through word of mouth. It's important that buyers want your work so much that they don't hesitate to ask you to change the size of the pieces to fit in a room or trust you to work on a completely different subject of their choice. As long as they're not interfering with your style of work, it's a compliment."
Jyoti, who has been creating customised art for buyers from all over the US, says: "It's an accomplishment when buyers ask me to create a mural using 6th and 7th century fabrics."
"Personalising" is clearly the word that has the whole world swooning. Art is, as Jyoti puts it, "a visual treat that is to be appreciated... it's only now that the taste buds are developing."