A bust of Albert Einstein at India Art Fair in Delhi
"I bought it with my own savings, as I really liked it. Desmond Lazaro, David Kracov and Gordon Cheung are some of the artists I look up to. Their works are expensive, but I hope to buy them some day," says Subbanna. Seema adds: "Youngsters these days are well-read and welltravelled, and are increasingly investing in art."
Her statement is backed by auction houses and galleries, whose number has been on the rise. "The market is driven by young collectors who educate and acquaint themselves with art before buying," says Maithili Parekh, India Director of auction house Sotheby's.
Curator Ina Puri, too, talks of young collectors, many of whom believe art to be a safe investment. "There is no overnight rise or fall in prices and they have been going up gradually," she says.
But profit is not always the motive. Mumbai-based architect Ashish Shah, 32, started collecting artworks when he was in school, and has not re-sold any. His house is designed around works by Sudarshan Shetty, S. H. Raza and Shilpa Gupta. Regardless of the motive, there is no doubt that art buyers are getting younger. Consider the statistics from the recent India Art Fair in New Delhi. "Of the sales, about 40 per cent were generated by those investing in art for the first time," says Neha Kirpal, the fair's founder and organiser.
One of those first-time buyers is Priyanka Khanna, 30, who works with a fashion magazine and bought a piece by New York-based artist Aakash Nihalani. "I have always loved art. My mother exposed us to galleries and museums across the world as children," she says.
Ashish Shah has designed his house around the artworks he has bought
The bloodline worked for 34-year-old Pooja Chandra, too, albeit an acquired one. A partner with Delhi-based consultancy firm Cicero Associates, she is landscape artist Satish Chandra's daughter-in-law. Pooja's foray into the world of art coincided with her marriage, and surged with the entry of artists like Vivan Sundaram into photo prints, which are more affordable. She owns one Sundaram photo print* worth Rs 1.5 lakh and is eyeing an A. Ramachandran sketch worth Rs 3 lakh. "People inherit jewellery and property, I inherited art," she says.
A painting by F.N. Souza
Jewellery has been at the back of the mind of other young buyers as well, especially the women. "Buying art is similar to investing in jewellery. One does not buy it only to sell it, and one must like it before buying," says Jaipur-based Alankrita Sharma. The 30-year-old lawyer developed an interest in art while working at Gallerie Ganesha in Delhi eight years ago. In those days, she would buy a piece from her employer and pay for it through monthly deductions in salary. Sharma has a piece of advice for her ilk: " Young collectors like me can start with younger artists, who will grow as we grow." She bought a painting by contemporary artist Maya Burman five years ago for Rs 15,000. "The artist has made it big, and the painting must be about five times that amount now," she says.
Blue Painted Head, a sculpture by Ravinder Reddy, on display at India Art Fair in Delhi
The advent of online auctions and absence of a reserve price in some cases have given a fillip to the reverse ageing of the art aficionado. "Many of our new bidders and buyers are young, who are comfortable with our platform and technology. Some of our new auctions don't have reserve prices and are attractive to new bidders who have never bid in an auction before," says Nish Bhutani, Chief Operating Officer of online auction house Saffronart. There have been other innovations. Exhibit 320, a Delhi-based gallery run by 33-year-old Rasika Kajaria in Lado Sarai, New Delhi, showcases works by young contemporary artists in new forms like sound installations, photo prints and paper collage. The gallery was a natural progression for Kajaria, who has been collecting art since the age of 20.
*An earlier version said Pooja Chandra owned six Sundaram photo prints worth Rs 1.5 lakh.