Could China Become A Major Market For Indian Art?

Popularity Of Indian Art Among Indonesian Collectors At HK Auctions, Recent Shows In Beijing Indicate It Could  Catch On In China

Could a Chinese collector buy Subodh Gupta's "It's Only a Matter of Time" (est. 400,000-600,00 GBP) at Sotheby's next week?

Could a Chinese collector buy Subodh Gupta's "What You're Thinking Is Not The Same" (dimensions: 307.3 x 182.8 x 182.8 cm, est. 400,000-600,00 GBP) at Sotheby's in London next week?

An interesting, if subdued, trend currently developing among Chinese art collectors is a more international focus and an interest in beefing up their collections of Chinese art with major global artists. At the recent Christie’s Spring Auctions in Hong Kong, we saw this with the sale of a Warhol “Mao” print, which sold well over the high estimate for HK$6.62 million (US$850,008), and the record-breaking sale of Picasso’s “Nude, Green Leaves and Bust” for $106.4 million to a Chinese buyer in May.

However, another aspect to this that is particularly interesting is that it’s not strictly limited to top historical Western artists like Warhol and Picasso. At recent auctions in Hong Kong and art exhibitions in Beijing, we’re seeing more pieces by artists from neighboring countries like India piquing the interest of Chinese collectors and art lovers. And as India’s economy — much like that of China — continues to power ahead and mint new millionaires with an appetite for luxury goods, art and antiques, and diamonds and gold on par with their Chinese counterparts, we can only expect the rivalry between collectors in India and China to get more heated. Just last week, Indian collectors followed the lead of the Chinese by pushing prices well beyond high estimates at Christie’s in London.

While interest in contemporary Indian art still appears relatively muted in China — since new Chinese collectors tend to stay somewhat local, buying antiques from popular historical eras and blue-chip Chinese artists — it is making headway. This is particularly true with the work of Indian artist Subodh Gupta, India’s #1 artist (according to ArtTactic’s April survey of Indian art), whose solo show “Line of Control” was shown at the Arario Gallery in Beijing in 2008 and who has sold well in Hong Kong, particularly to Indonesian collectors.

Gupta, who is represented in China by Arario and globally by Hauser & Wirth, is becoming more popular throughout the Greater China region, primarily for his sculptures. Sources at Christie’s also tell us that private sales of Gupta’s sculptures have quietly been made to collectors in China and elsewhere in East Asia.

Though Indonesian collectors appear to be among Gupta’s biggest fans, what are the chances that Chinese collectors might collect more art by Subodh Gupta and other top Indian artists?

Considering Chinese collectors have branched out from Chinese to Western art within the span of only about 10 years, it seems inevitable that they’ll become more dominant in not just Indian, but also Southeast Asian art. Next Monday, June 28, Chinese “early adopters” will have their chance to get a hold of an exceptional 2007 Gupta sculpture, “What You’re Thinking is not the Same,” at Sotheby’s in London.

Seems fitting, since the answer to the question asked by skeptical people, “When will China become a major market for Indian art?” is, “It’s only a matter of time.”

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Art & Auction, Culture