India's Art Market and The Global Economy

Don Porcella, a writer for Art Comments, conducted an interview with Meenakshi Thirukode, Independent Curator and Gallery Manager for the Guild Art Gallery and Art Critic for The Hindu (see Don met Meenakshi at the Armory New York Art Fairs March 2009. Don included two images of an art piece by a contemporary Indian artist from the Guild Art Gallery Booth that Meenakshi represented at the Art Fair.

Don Porcella: Can you please introduce yourself to our readers

Meenakshi Thirukode
: I work as an Independent Curator with two projects coming up - one in NYC and the other in Cochin, India. Im a critic focusing on Contemporary Indian Art for a newspaper back home in India - The Hindu. Im also contributing to an online artjournal - apart from working on other soon to be launched writing projects! I am based out of NYC and work with The Guild Art Gallery. I moved to NYC from India in 2006 to do my Masters at Christies New York. I work with The South Asian Womens Creative Collective (SAWCC) and am on their Board of Directors.

Don Porcella: What is your role at The Guild Art Gallery

Meenakshi Thirukode
: Besides being the Manager, I am working on some Curatorial projects for the gallery at the moment.

Don Porcella: What can you tell us about India's role in the international global contemporary art market?

Meenakshi Thirukode: Well the attention for Indian Contemporaray Art started and did remain for a long time at the secondary market. A particular work by a well known Modern Painter Tyeb Mehta set an auction record by going for about 1.5 million which had never happened in this market before. So it was a huge deal. And it was bought by an Indian, so the enthusiasm and attention it spurred set the wheels in motion for what happened after that. Economics has a lot to do with how emerging markets work within the art market. India and China were growing economies - there was more disposable income in the hands of a lot of Indians. I mean India is a vast country with a population thats second largest to China but still the country was booming and you had a new player in the art market - The speculator. There was a lot of activity with art funds, and hedge funds. The biggest thing that took place was art being seen and sold/bought as an investment. The thing is that most people saw art as a way to make money which wasn't going to help the market long term - you see the repercussions now to a certain extent. Some artists got too lazy or greedy and markets got inflated. I mean now with the kind of economic situation we see ourselves in emerging markets do feel the pinch. There are some institutions, artists and individuals who didnt take that route. Its good to know there are good people without selfish interests and those are the ones who will survive in the long run. And you work with them and personally I think it is my responsibility to be a part of sustaining and encouraging quality art to be produced and presented to the rest of the world to whatever extent I can. I mean I obviously am attached to the idea of doing something for art from my country. And doing so by saying - Hey Its not a "niche" market. Its just contemporary art from another country thats not america or europe but just as relevant and important to the larger art community.

The mass perception in India is to associate doing well at auctions to being a great artist. Thats because thats what is fed to them by the media and no one seems to do much about it. I dont want to be the one who had an opportunity to do something but didnt. So atleast to whatever extent I can grow as a writer and curator through my experiences I will do it. I know its not easy because its not all black and white you know. Most importantly if Im being given a platform to curate, write then I will work hard on it. I think all that easy quick money made people lazy. You cant do that. Again its not as if there is no quality work or good artists from India. There are some but you cant get into art because you want to make millions or break record prices.

Don Porcella: Who collects artists from India?

Meenakshi Thirukode
: There are some Indian collectors who have been collecting for a very long time. Before the mad frenzy that started from 2001 to a few months ago. Some Western Collectors too. European collectors seem pretty interested in Indian art too - and not just the big names.

Don Porcella: Please share your thoughts on the global art market and how the global recession will enrich the market? I am interested in your thoughts about Asia too. I know US art collectors who are buying Chinese, Japanese, Korean Indian and Middle Eastern Art. I am interested in your views on why this is happening and will it last?

Meenakshi Thirukode
: Its interesting that you already state that the global recession will enrich the art world! I think some people still want to continue to manipulate the market but its really not going to work. More importantly, there are opportunities for doing well curated shows and for artists to concentrate on their art. The speculators arent going to do much in a market like this. So those who have been collecting with a passion and eye for good quality art will still buy. I mean its not like they need to buy the most expensive piece out there. True collectors buy art because they are drawn to the work and will put in their money if they love something. That doesn't change and yes it is a buyers market these days so they could get good deals but their intentions are true if you know what I mean. Its not to create inflated markets. I know young artists who are selling their work to some interesting collectors, I know a collector or two who tell me about wonderful pieces they just bought! so you know the buying is not going to just stop. hopefully its going to be a healthy thing for the Art world and for markets like India.


Nikki Schiro said…
Brilliant! So wonderful to read. Thank you Porcella and Thirukode!