Indian art market back in the black

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This photo taken on November 9, 2017 shows a fisherman packing crates of fish with ice at his shop with the walls painted for the St+art Festival at Sassoon Dock, one of the oldest fishing docks in Mumbai. (AFP)
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This photo taken on November 9, 2017 shows a volunteer working next to an installation of the St+art Festival at Sassoon Dock, one of the oldest fishing docks in Mumbai. (AFP)
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This photo taken on November 9, 2017 shows a worker cleaning the viewing area in front of a photo mural of the St+art Festival at Sassoon Dock, one of the oldest fishing docks in Mumbai. (AFP)
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This photo taken on November 9, 2017 shows Indian fishermen pushing their catch past the main venue of the St+art Festival at Sassoon Dock, one of the oldest fishing docks in Mumbai. (AFP)
Updated 15 November 2017

Indian art market back in the black

NEW DELHI: India’s art market has emerged from a blue period with a flourish, as prices rise and the world starts to take note of its modern treasures.
Tycoons riding the country’s economic boom are helping to fuel record prices for works by the late abstract painter Vasudeo Gaitonde and other artists. Two major Paris museums are showing work by Indian women artists and the Asia Society in New York has a special show next year.
“There is lots of new interest coming in, from unexpected sides, there are new buyers in America and around the world,” said Hugo Weihe, chief executive of Mumbai-based auctioneers Saffronart.
The 2007 financial crisis hit the global art market hard and India was no exception.
But the tide is turning.
The Artery India consultancy says art sales more than doubled from about $44 million in 2011 to over $95 million last year, and that 47 world records for Indian artists were recorded in the 19 months to August.
Experts say there is already a shortage of available work by the likes of the reclusive Gaitonde, whose 1995 untitled abstract sold in December 2015 for $4.4 million, a world record for an Indian work.
That followed a retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum in New York which Weihe called a “watershed moment.”
“It became abundantly clear how he holds up with the best of any abstract art in the world.”
A blue canvas by Gaitonde, who died in 2001, recently sold for $3.1 million in New Delhi, making his contemplative landscapes three of the top five most expensive Indian works.
Other modern Indian artists such as M.F. Husain and Francis Newton Souza — members of the avant-garde Bombay Progressive Artists Group with Gaitonde in the 1950s — have also hit new highs in the past two years.

Although Indian art still trails the Western greats in value, its collectors now include the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg.
The market has also been boosted by the likes of Nita Ambani, the philanthropist wife of Reliance tycoon Mukesh Ambani, and Kiran Nadar, wife of HCL Technologies founder Shiv Nadar, who set up her own New Delhi art museum.
Artery India chief executive Arvind Vijaymohan said in addition to established names such as Ambani, younger collectors were also entering the market.
“There is a marked increase in the number of emerging collectors, all under 40, globally exposed and well traveled individuals from finance, tech and industry.”
He added: “This still nascent market slab comprises the future power-players of the Indian collecting universe.”
Nadar, who bought Gaitonde’s blue canvas, is loaning some works to the Asia Society for their show on the Progressive group next year.
She has also helped the Guimet museum in Paris, where work by painter and sculptor Jayashree Chakravarty is on display until January 15, and the Pompidou Center, which has a retrospective by leading feminist artist Nalini Malani until January 8.
Weihe and Nadar believe Indian art values will rise, although the market has a long way to go before it can catch up with the success enjoyed by its Chinese counterpart.
“I think the demand will grow naturally. Actually there is not that much material available in terms of the great modernist works,” said Weihe.
“That will create greater scarcity,” he said.
Nadar echoed his view, saying: “Less and less works will be available as time goes on. So even though today the price appears very high, at some point, what appeared high a few years ago, today feels very affordable.”
“The aim is to get works as they are available,” she added.
Despite the interest from India’s band of billionaires, Nadar said the country does not boast a huge pool of collectors, unlike China.
“The Chinese collectors are firmly behind the Chinese market,” she said.
“I don’t know if we will catch up with China, but definitely we will go up, because prices are still much lower... Indian art will go up and appreciate.”

Highlights: Next-gen designs from the Global Grad Show

The Global Grad Show at Dubai Design Week 2018. (Arab News)
Updated 19 November 2018

Highlights: Next-gen designs from the Global Grad Show

  • The Global Grad Show at Dubai Design Week showcased 150 innovative designs created by students from around the world
  • Designs ranged from high-tech solutions to simple objects

DUBAI: Highlights from the Global Grad Show at Dubai Design Week, which showcased 150 innovative and potentially life-changing designs created by students from around the world, ranging from high-tech scientific solutions to conceptually simple physical objects.

Ukranian designer Olga Zelenska says her work “focuses on simplicity, sustainability and aesthetics of design,” and “From Nowhere With Love” delivers on all three. It’s a set of biodegradable postcards, designed for “migrants and modern nomads” to allow them to take a piece of their homeland’s nature with them wherever they travel. The postcards contain seeds specific to the plant life of the country or area in which they are bought. Those seeds can then be planted wherever the buyer — or the recipient of the postcard — wishes. (We’re not sure they’re guaranteed to grow well, but you get the idea…)

Yara Ahmed Rady is a product design student at the German University in Cairo. Her GGS project “Dyslexia Learning Difficulty” is designed to help dyslexic children learn Arabic through a series of exercises that use conventional teaching techniques which Rady has transformed into educational games using digital technology and engaging all five senses, thereby, she wrote in her project description “offering alternative routes to literacy.”

One of the questions that GGS was attempting to answer this year was “How do we do more with less?” South Korean designer Yesul Jang, currently studying in Switzerland, came up with a product which addresses the needs of the ever-growing number of people living alone in small apartments or rented rooms in urban spaces. “Tiny Home Bed” is a raised bed with storage space — covered by a sliding fabric curtain allowing easier access than drawers — beneath. The frame is constructed of lightweight wood and is, Jang insists, “easy to construct.” Just as importantly, it’s not an eyesore.

After several years of working in the sportswear industry, London-based designer Jen Keane wanted to come up with a more sustainable way to make products. By combining digital and biological technology, she created a strong, lightweight, hybrid shoe that is made partly from bacteria. “I weave fibers into the shape and the bacteria grows around it,” Keane explained to Arab News. “It’s kind of a scaffold.” Keane added that she created the shoe in her kitchen at home. “I don’t have a lab,” she said. “I don’t have a [science] background. I learned how to do this by reading a lot, experimenting and talking to biologists. It’s totally doable.”

Sustainability also factored into Christian Hammer Juhl’s thinking when the Netherlands-based Danish designer was creating his inflatable furniture collection “10:01.” Made from dense foam material, the furniture can compress down to 10 percent of its original size (through a process similar to vacuum packing). So it’s not only ideal for modern transient lifestyles, but also means that transport from factory to retailer is more sustainable too.

Billed as “clothing that can save your life,” David Bursell’s “Tardigrade” is the jacket you’re going to want to be wearing when the zombie apocalypse hit. Or, you know, a more conventional kind of Armageddon (Bursell says it was “inspired by climate change and the increasingly extreme natural and social crises it will trigger”). “Tardigrade” can be transformed into a shelter, a shoulder bag, a hammock, and any number of other things. It’s detatchable pockets can be used to collect water and other material. A warning though: at the moment, the jacket aids survival for “three to seven days,” so you might want to invest in several if things get really bad.

“It’s flying lighting for urban safety,” designer Jiabao Li told Arab News about “Twinkle,” which she co-designed with fellow Harvard student Honghao Deng. Basically, flying drones clamp themselves to lampposts during the day to recharge their batteries, and at night they head to poorly lit neighborhoods. “They fly off to follow people around and provide sufficient lighting to guide their way. Like fireflies,” she explained. Both designers describe their creations as “living” creatures. “They’re curious animals,” said Deng. “We don’t think they should be owned. They should just be living around the place.” Li and Deng are currently talking to various governments trying to get permission for a trial run.

Developed by a team of students from the Art University of Isfahan, “Naji” is an ingenious product designed to provide assistance in times of severe flooding. In normal situations, the device — four rectangles constructed of ethylene vinyl acetate (“resilient and buoyant”) with holes in — forms part of the base of streetlights, and the designers claim it will fit into existing infrastructure without the need for additional construction. If an area floods, however, the device floats to the surface of the water and provides a place for people to sit safely in one of the squares, strap in and await rescue.

Another team project, this time from the Huazhong University of Science and Technology, “Acorn” is designed, according to the team’s statement “to be entirely beneficial to the environment.” Lead designer Zhang Liye told Arab News that the project is specifically intended for use in desert cities like those in the Gulf “because the soil lacks minerals and nutrition.” “Acorn” is an easy-to-assemble biodegradable plant base made from compressed crop waste that you simply bury in soil so that it can provide that missing nutrition to your plant.

A great example of how designers at GGS tackled another question: “How can technology make us more human?” In other words, how can we make life easier for people in tough situations? “Sahayak” is designed for porters working on railway platforms in India, who traditionally carry luggage on their heads, which can create several long-term health issues. “Sahayak” is a backpack that transfers the weight of their loads from their heads to their shoulders and protects the spine. “The design uses an inexpensive torsion spring to distribute the load throughout the backpack’s frame, reducing the load borne by the user’s head and neck by 75 percent,” designer Risbagh Singh claimed in his GGS statement.