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Prices stablise, demand doesn't

Kishore Singh  |  New Delhi 

Kishore Singh on the rate of the art "" old and new: the bankable biggies, contemporaries to stock upon and some edgy new galleries that you must start frequenting if you want to build that collection.
In a year when art prices stabilised (somewhat), the masters stayed ahead in the road show, but it is the contemporaries who're catching up fast.
Most bankable artists
Tyeb Mehta: No one has been able to touch Tyeb Mehta "" not even Mehta himself ""after his Mahisasura fetched a record $1,584,000 crore at an auction last year.
The almost-blind, Mumbai-based painter, one of the founder members of the Progressives, belongs to that rare breed of artists who destroys those canvases he is not satisfied with. So don't expect a solo Tyeb show any time soon "" though a retrospective is in order. Are gallerists listening?
S H Raza: Raza simply can't stop having good years. According to some estimates, the Paris-based Raza's canvases are priced higher than any other living artist in France.
The artist had a stupendous book out in 2007 (courtesy Art Alive) and a major show. His works continue to be in demand ""at exhibitions, in galleries and, of course, in auctions. The highest price fetched by him has been $1,472,000 ""which is the same as another Progressive artist, V S Gaitonde.
Amrita Sher Gill: She's a national treasure both literally and metaphorically, and while many prefer Vivan Sundaram's photo studies of the artist, the lady who is touted as India's first modern artist has a record price of $1,554,019.
F N Souza: Everyone's favourite, and still the flavor of the year (something he's sustained for the last five years), it is his prolific repertoire that seems to keep most auction houses in India and abroad going with the big bucks.
price ($)
Highest price
in 2007 ($)
Tyeb Mehta 1,584,000 1,160,000
Amrita Sher Gill 1,554,019 787,687
F N Souza 1,486,100 712,000
V S Gaitonde 1,472,000 1,303,757
S H Raza 1,472,000 1,425,600
Rameshwar Broota 912,000 779,200
M F Husain 804,535 657,000
J Swaminathan 800,000


Akbar Padamsee 716,000 480,000
Ram Kumar 542,400 337,000
N S Harsha $833,483
Atul Dodiya $601,000
Chintan Upadhyay 529,000
Subodh Gupta 494,308
T V Santhosh 494,308
Thukral & Tagra 463,474
G Ravinder Reddy 346,070
Anju Dodiya 224,861
Baiju Parthan 158,125
Herman Linde 133,000
(Source: Saffronart)
But the contemporaries are in the same neighbourhood...
They have been around for a while (so they're not new) but this year you could expect them to overshadow the masters ""Atul Dodiya, Subodh Gupta, Chintan Upadhyay, Ravinder Reddy, Baiju Parthan "" and at least two names that seem to be unfamiliar to non-art lovers: N S Harsha and Herman Linde. You'll hear more about them in 2008 and, some suspect, more even than the masters.
Galleries you should frequent more
It's just a coincidence that most are in Delhi, but though we have such old-time favourites as Vadehra and Kumar, Cymroza and Sakshi, the fact is that the cutting edge world of contemporary art belongs to a more rarefied world best represented by the following five:
Talwar: New York's Talwar Art Gallery had a low-profile opening in the capital, possibly because it didn't want to draw attention to its residential location when the city was in the grip of houses and commercial buildings being sealed.
As a result you have to ring a bell and announce your presence, instead of just walking in, but if the inaugural A Balasubramaniam show is any indication, it could be as cutting edge as its Big Apple avatar.
Gallerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke: The Mumbai equivalent of Talwar is just as edgy and is spearheading emerging art that is sassy. Expect it to give Mumbaikars some of their most rewarding moments, especially since it is housed in a heritage building with all its architectural details intact.
Apeejay Media Gallery: Probably the most radical of India's galleries, with installation shows to set your teeth on forever-edge, it's taken on itself the task of taking art in India to the next level whether India's ready for it or not. It doesn't help though that the gallery is located in the boondocks surrounded by truckers and bus stands.
Bodhi: Amit Judge may pretend an indifference to what's happening, but he's spawned the finest chain of galleries in Delhi-Gurgaon, Mumbai, Singapore and New York, and is promoting a new generation of artists in possibly the most professional manner. Great shows, a decent online shop and the finest documentary processes.
Gallery Espace: Nature Morte would ideally have made this slot, but its is-it-open-or-not speculation adds to its mystique rather than its shows (which are great).
Renu Modi steps in where Peter Nagy gets off through her no-nonsense understanding and handling of art and artists. If she thought any bigger, she would be a force to reckon with.

First Published: Sat, December 29 2007. 00:00 IST