Indian Art Markets

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Indian Art Markets 1940s & 1950'S

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P.Prasad

DEFINITIONS :

Art Markets :The art market refers to when an artwork comes to the market for the first time at a gallery or any other art exhibition. This is the time when the price for the artwork is established for the first time. We are dealing with only primary art markets. Art Gallery : A place to display art works . The private gallery holds exhibitions, inviting its list of buyers ,collectors and lobbied to promote the artists. DEFINITIONS

Why 1940’s & 1950’s only ?:

Why 1940’s & 1950’s only ? A very significant period of history of Indian art where the seeds of the famous art movements are found. * Calcutta Group * Progressive Art Movement * Delhi Silpi Chakra

Art Galleries/Markets 1940’s & 50’s- Questions to be asked ? :

Art Galleries/Markets 1940’s & 50’s- Questions to be asked ? “By the beginning of the swinging sixties, Delhi and Mumbai, which back in 1947 did not have a single professional art gallery between them, boasted several sustaining the increasing the number of artists and selling their work .” - Art of Modern India by Balraj Khanna and Aziz Kurtha The prices of paintings of masters has reached a new peak in the international market, now. But what about the markets when they started their career? There was not a single commercial Art Gallery existed during 1940’s & 50’s. Where the artists exhibited their paintings ? Who appreciated and purchased them ? Where the markets existed ?

Art Markets Prior to 1940’s:

Art Markets Prior to 1940’s In the History, Art and Art forms were restricted to the whims and commands of Kings and Dynastic dictates. The major contributor to the artists living was the King and he was also sole connoisseur of the art. (Raja Ravi Verma, Alagiri Naidu etc.) Participating in annual art exhibitions and competitions organised by Bombay Art Society (established in 1888), All India Fine Arts and Crafts Society (AIFACS) Delhi, Academy of Fine Arts,Calcutta and by the Government. The art exhibitions of the Art societies were important social events and were written about in local news papers. (Ex. Raja Ravi Verma, Ganapathi Mharte,MF Pithwala). Participating in international exhibitions.

Art Movements till 1940:

Art Movements till 1940 To understand the importance of this period in the art world, we would need to dwell on what existed in the art canvas till the 1940’s as art cannot be seen in isolation but in connection with current environmental situation. i. Raja Ravi Verma ii. Abhindranath Tagore iii. Rabindranath Tagore, Amrita Sher-Gil, Gagendranath Tagore & Contemporaries

Art in 1940’s:

Art in 1940’s “The renaissance movement which begun at the turn of century was a spent force by 1940’s ” Pradosh Das Gupta Marg, suppliment to vol. xx1, No.1. Emergence of Calcutta Group in 1943 against the backdrop of the Bengal Famine. Formation of Progressive Artist’s Group against “spiritless Indianisation” and wish to introduce “internationalism” in art in 1947 Emergence of Delhi Silpi Chakra Group in 1949 with a motto “Art illuminates life”

In the absence of Commercial Art Galleries…. Calcutta:

In the absence of Commercial Art Galleries…. Calcutta Private Collectors During this period few art collectors came into the picture and started to built up their private collection. Basant Kumar and Sarala Birla, Founders of The Birla Academy of Art and Culture at Calcutta are the best example. What began in the 1940s as a humble hobby gained momentum over 10 years, to become a gigantic collection that eventually needed to be housed in its own building. “In the beginning , we were buying mostly Westren art without realizing the Indian art is unparalleled in excellence and the first we have to discover art from India before we go any further” says Sarala Birla in an interview with Business Standard . “So,from the later 1940s , we turned our attention to buying mostly Indian Art. Those days, pieces of art were cheap and easily obtainable, unlike today. For example, once a month we used to visit Jamini Roy and I recall that once we bought four of his paintings for 500 rupees”. - Sarala Birla Chair person Birla Academy of Art & Culture

In the absence of Commercial Art Galleries………….Mumbai:

In the absence of Commercial Art Galleries………….Mumbai Display area : Despite not having commercial exhibition places , Mumbai boasted an art scene of sorts, comprising a few score individuals and a tiny art market in which paintings were sold and bought for tens of rupees. Many a Mumbai art dealer now reminds us that a Husain at that time could be purchased for Rs.60/ and Raza for Rs.60/- The art exhibitions were to be held at Artist’s Centre , Hotel Taj ,Town Hall and at Sir Cowasji Jehangir Public Hall (now NGMA,Mumbai). The Jehangir Art Gallery was formally inaugurated in 1952. . Bal Chhabda, painter , opened Mumbai’s first commercial gallery ‘Gallery 59 ‘ in 1959.This was soon followed by Kekoo Gandhi’s Gallery Chemould and Pundole Art Gallery in 1963 whose simultaneous launch spearheaded the growth of the commercial art market in Mumbai.

In the absence of Commercial Art Galleries……….Artist:

In the absence of Commercial Art Galleries……….Artist “ Relieving the excitement of mounting his (Jehangir Sabavala’s) show in India, at the Princes’Room of TajMahal hotel in April 1951, he points out that he and Shirin had had to do all the groundwork by themselves: In the absence of an infrastructure for what was still regarded as a dilettante’s pastime, the Sabavalas had to locate crate-makers and have the paintings packed,oversee the printing of invitations, distribute them to the news papers. The considerable diostance that Indian artists have traversed over half a century may be gauged from the fact that the hotel management would not permit the artist to drive nails into the walls to hang his paintings: this, despite his privileged position in society and his connections with Tatas, who owned the Taj. Jehangir and Shirin tackled the problem with their customary elegance and ingenuity. They displayed the paintings on hessain mounts stretched across wooden frames, which they put up themselves. Such a situation seems absurdly improbable today, when the ancillary systems of preparation and assistance, the packers,the couriers and the hangers, have grown into autonomous entities” - Ranjit Hoskote in The Art of Jehangir Sabavala

In the absence of Commercial Art Galleries…….. Mumbai:

In the absence of Commercial Art Galleries…….. Mumbai “The exhibitions of the years just after independence were mainly at the Bombay Art Society Salon, which later became known as the Artists Centre. The art market at this early point was dominated by transactions directly between artists and collectors. It is only really Kekoo Gandhy who is active at this time as an intermediary. Both Air India and the Taj Mahal Hotel collected works by the Progressive Group, however it is on TIFR that was active as early as the mid-1950s. As such the nature of the works collected by TIFR represents an earlier era than other of the other two you mention.” - Mortimer Chatterjee

In the absence of Commercial Art Galleries…… Mumbai:

In the absence of Commercial Art Galleries…… Mumbai Several enlightened individuals lived in Mumbai in those days, most prominent among them being Mulk Raj Anand, India’s foremost art critic and novelist with an international following.The Bombay painters found their most influential guides in three cultivated men: Walter Langhammer,art director,The Times of India, Rudolf von Leyden, art critic,The Times of India and Emmanuel Schlesinger. The scientist Homi Bahabha was both a patron and a close friend of some of the artists. He brought several of their works and they can be seen today a the TIFR.

In the absense of Art Galleries…..:

In the absense of Art Galleries….. In the absence of a commercial system of Galleries and dealers , few artists at the time could make living from their work. Most came from a middle-class background and some had middle class profession. For example,Bhupen Khakhar was an accountant, while Subramanyan and sculptor Chaudhry both taught at Baroda Art School. This left the artist to market his works of art through very small segments – mainly the exhibitions. Here too, he has been dependent more on the discerning buyer till he has carved a name for himself in the chosen field.

In the absence of Commercial Art Galleries ………Delhi:

In the absence of Commercial Art Galleries ………Delhi . In terms of marketing, the Delhi Silpi Chakra took up innovative means to market Modern Indian Art. In 1949 the Chakra held its first exhibition at barracks of the Masonic Lodge at Janpath which made a great impact on the art scene in the Capital. Since this initial foray, the Chakra held exhibitions and programmes and discussions regularly. To propagate contemporary art, Delhi Silpi Chakra members organised exhibitions of their works in ‘mohallas’ such as Chandni Chowk , Karol Bagh and the university campus 1949 and 1950. There was a good response from the public. Paintings were sold to University teachers, doctors, lawyers writers, actors and musicians and widened the base . B. C. Sanyal recollects in his article in the catalogue “Delhi Silpi Chakra- The early Years “ that those who could not afford a straight purchase a hire-purchase scheme was also offered. This enlarged the circle of patrons and the Chakras vibrancy existed till the mid 1960’s.

How Delhi Shilpi Chakra has started a Gallery at Delhi ? -B.C.Sanyal recollects :

How Delhi Shilpi Chakra has started a Gallery at Delhi ? -B.C.Sanyal recollects An art gallery – the first of its kind in India- was inaugurated on 7.10.1949 in Delhi in promoting art & artist’s interests. I am reproducing a small para written by B.C. Sanyal the founder & Chairman of Delhi Shilpi Chakra , in the catalogue. “ Rambabu of Dhoomimal Dharamdas of Connaught Place, from whom we used to buy paintings material offered us space in the shop building. We set up Silpi Chakra Art Gallery, assigned duty to each member for receiving visitors and enlightening them on the technique and style of work displayed as well as the price range. The venture began well. We had invited Sh. Shankar Prasad the then Chief Commissioner of Delhi for the inauguration of the first ever art gallery of India. In my address I had warned my artist friends about the pitfalls of the gallery system in the West, that in course of time gallery owners’ might dictate what to paint and how to paint .

In the absence of art Galleries…. Delhi:

In the absence of art Galleries…. Delhi Very soon with other preoccupations of our members, signs of slackness became apparent. Ram Babu told me, “Sanyal Sahib, I can see that with your other preoccupations you have hardly time enough to conduct the requirements of the gallery. Allow me to employ someone to look after the affairs of the Silpi Chakra Gallery under your guidance. I agreed. Ram Babu appointed Shri V. Kumar Jain. Kumar, with his sharp business acumen and ability,forsaw a future in this trade. He withdrew from Silpi Chakra and opened Kumar Gallery at Sunder Nagar. Silpi Chakra Gallery finally became Dhoomimal Gallery. Today the gallery business has proliferated in all the metropolitan cities of India. There are countless of them in Delhi itself”.

Promotion of Contemporary Art by Government of India:

Promotion of Contemporary Art by Government of India An important milestone in the art movement in Indian market was the establishment of the National Gallery of Modern Art and the Lalit Kala Academy in the early 1950’s which came to be recognised as the apex institutions promoting art.

In brief…..:

In brief….. While the market trends have changed since the turn of the 20th century to gain momentum during the 1940’s and 1950’s. The artist has witnessed increasing awareness for his creative expressions. His own sustenance has bettered with time. Institutional patronage and engagement has given him a parallel market. But, the main market has been exhibitions. This situation saw a growing number of private galleries in metropolitan cities of India. They have played a major role in promoting the cause of art and the artist. Moving from an era where exhibits were collective in nature, the artist gained acknowledgement to create a niche to market his works. A host of factors led to this situation. Individuals, institutional patronage, Governments’ recognition for the need of a central body to promote arts etc. Each event or happening has led to this corroborative market scene.

conclussion …:

conclussion … Coming from an age of direct patronage to finding an open market, Modern Art in India did come a long way since independence .

Thank you :

Thank you

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