The year 2013 will be remembered in the art world as the year of new heights with prices soaring to seemingly astonishing levels worldwide in almost every category—Chinese art, modern Indian art, contemporary paintings, photography, hyper-realist art, Arte Povera or western impressionist masters among others. The art world is poised to become ever more global, where new affluent collectors are battling, at auctions, galleries and art fairs, for the most prestigious work by the most celebrated artists. When Sotheby’s auction broke all records in 2012 with the sale of Edvard Munch’s iconic 1895 masterpiece The Scream for $119.9 million, making it the world’s most expensive work of art ever to sell at an auction, the art world exhaled in a collective gasp. It eclipsed the previous record of Picasso’s Nude, Green Leaves and Bust, which sold at $106.5 million in 2010.
Insiders believed The Scream would hold the title a bit longer but the sale of the1969 triptych Three Studies of Lucian Freud by Francis Bacon at Christies November 2013 sale for an astounding sum of $142.4 million, breaking the record for the most expensive work of art sold at an auction, captured everyone’s imagination.
However, the record purchase for any work of art is believed to be held by Cezanne's "The Card Players" that sold in 2011 for more than $250 million. The painting was purchased by the royal family of Qatar in a private sale from the estate of the Greek shipping tycoon George Embiricos
Romano Ravasio of Art Consulting who advises high net worth clients worldwide says “Buying contemporary art is a highly pleasurable and rewarding activity for those who can afford it.” he further adds “Investment in art should begin with an appreciation of art and understanding that price gains in art is unpredictable, it needs to be viewed in a long term perspective”
2013 ended on such a positive note that experts predict the coming year might see even newer levels being breached. Collectors can look forward to some more exciting events—biennales, triennials and a number of art fairs taking place across the globe. Closer to home, the India art fair in New Delhi (January) and the Dhaka art summit (February) are focusing on art from this region. Later in the year, celebrated artist Jitish Kallat will curate the second edition of Kochi-Muziris Biennale, which prides itself by showcasing works in all artistic genres. The desire to acquire unique artworks of exceptional quality and historic importance will continue in 2014 with a plethora of outstanding exhibitions and events. Even as collectors turn to the more established names to protect the value of their investment, contemporary artists continue to showcase stimulating artworks in various media. It has been historically proven that in any one generation, there are no more than ten great artists whose prices will grow while other artists will disappear. Therefore some of the key factors while acquiring high-value art work include quality of artwork, historical importance, provenance and deep research into the artists’ trajectory. The world of art is complex and fascinating; the economics of the art world is intriguing. Making mistakes is part of the learning process and sometimes mistakes can be productive in the development of a collection. However it is crucial to have a definitive guide through this maze, occasionally re-assessing and editing the collection.
Recent auctions have catalogued an increase in prices of modern Indian art with works by V.S Gaitonde, Tyeb Mehta , S.H Raza , F,N Souza and M. F Husain leading the pack. A reviving interest in contemporary Indian art after demand slowed during the recession is also noticed. The widely conservative taste of Indian art collectors has meant that acceptance of media other than painting and sculpture has been slow and cautious. There is no doubt that art is the ultimate luxury product, money itself has very little meaning in the privileged world of the art aficionado – everyone has it, what impresses is taste and ownership of ‘priceless’ high quality and rare art works.. Art is not a liquid investment; the owner of an artwork may not be able to sell it immediately, unlike stocks and shares. Acquisition of high quality art works of both established and younger artists and the ability for a long term holding are the pivots around which investors should focus.
Engaging with art is to have the opportunity to have a long-term relationship with it over time as part of your life. Collecting art can be a sense of discovery and enlightenment - to shape your collection with your own eyes. Advice and viewpoints of consultants and fellow collectors is important to keep abreast of the latest developments in the established and emerging artists. Even within a single artist’s work and period, there can be variations .There are almost an infinite number of ways to go about collecting - concentrating on a particular medium, artist ,period or a conceptual approach.
2014 is a year in which genuine art lovers can look forward and expect to acquire better works than ever before. The Indian art market of today is energetic, sound and invigorating.
Farah Siddiqui is a Mumbai based art consultant