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Home > Business > Special

Investing is an art indeed!

Yusuf Begg | June 19, 2003

The world of art has changed. Gone are the days when artists were impecunious, toiling away in dimly-lit studios or garrets.

The spotlight is not only on big names, but lesser-known artists who are holding exhibitions abroad, popularising Indian art.

Tyeb Mehta's "Celebration", which was sold for Rs 1.5 crore (Rs 15 million), put the international seal of approval.

Investing in art is a good option; but one should know which artist to buy. "Famous artists have been pampered out of the range of an Indian buyer by NRIs," says Alka Pande, consultant art advisor and curator, Visual Arts Gallery, India Habitat Centre, Delhi. "Unless you are super rich, you can't touch the 'signatures'," she adds.

So what is the best way to go about buying art? "Start reading about art, visit galleries, check out graduate shows, do a bit of homework before you jump into the market. It's like buying stocks. One invests only if one knows something about a company, its promoters, its assets," says Bharati Chaturvedi, a Delhi-based art critic.

Keeping track of the art world through magazines such as Art India also helps. The next step is to focus on particular artists. Both Chaturvedi and Pande say one should only buy works that one likes.

Or as Saba Hasan, a young artist, says: "Only buy when you have the to do so. Don't just go about wasting your money. Put your money on something that you really, really want."

Like all investments, art can also bomb. But then one has to depend on one's judgement and take the risk. Depending on big galleries also comes in useful.

Most gallery owners have sound suggestions. The best option is to invest in emerging artists or those in the 28-40 age bracket.

"Buy works from an artist in different phases. That will not only add to the variety to your collection, but will also help when you think of selling," says Pande. But Chaturvedi has a different take: "Buy one good painting in two years. Invest in ideas."

Quite a few of the younger artists sell their oils on canvas for Rs 20,000 -30,000, while pastels and inks can be had for anything between Rs 9,000 and Rs 14,000. For around Rs 10,000 one can also get one's hands on etchings, drawings and sketches or smaller oils.

What to avoid, what to buy: "Don't go for copies of masters," says Pande. "They'll never bring good returns."

Hasan says never to fall for gimmicks or fads. Chaturvedi is more forthright: "Don't put your money on Satish Gupta, Paresh Maity, Bikash Bhattacharya and Sunil Das. They have not come out with anything original in ages. Also keep away from copies, trends and fads."

Artists, according to critics who having good potential, are Anjum Singh, Manisha Parekh, Manisha Gera, A Balasubramaniam, N Harsha, H Arun Kumar, C Douglas, Sunil Paradaker, Suhasini Kejriwal, Vivek Vilasini and Anita Dubey.

The list is not exhaustive; nor should you buy these artists only with the idea of profits. It helps if you also like the work of the ones you invest in.

The way to successful art investment is part passion, part returns. If you don't get the latter, at least you have a canvas you like.

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