We want a global market for modern Indian art: Mark Poltimore

Last Updated: Sun, Mar 10, 2013 19:33 hrs

As a regular visitor to India, Mark Poltimore, deputy chairman of Sotheby's Europe and chairman of Sotheby's Russia, has had a ringside view of the changes that have taken place in the Indian art scene over the past two decades. Poltimore has had a storied auction house career, including 23 years at Christie's, where he rose to deputy chairman. At Sotheby's, where he has spent a decade, Poltimore is responsible for cultivating new markets like India. In an e-mail interview with Gayatri Rangachari Shah, he shared his thoughts about Sotheby's plans for India. Excerpts:

Christie's has been active in India for a long time. Sotheby's is a more recent entrant. How are you planning to build up your presence here and what are your long term plans for India?
India is an important market for Sotheby's. Our Indian client base continues to grow steadily. In 2012, Sotheby's saw a 20 per cent rise in the number of Indian buyers participating in our auctions and a 42 per cent rise in the amount they spent with the company. Indian buyers are now active right across our selling categories - not just Indian art, but also increasingly in our impressionist and modern, international contemporary and jewelry sales. We are keeping a close watch on the market in India. Our main goals are to develop the international market for modern and contemporary Indian art and to bring a higher level of client service to our buyers and collectors based in India and those of the Indian diaspora around the world. Our specialists and ambassadors from the company will continue to visit India, advising clients on collecting in the international market and increasingly bringing sale highlights from a range of categories.

Does Sotheby's plan to hold regular auctions in India? If not, what are Sotheby's plans in India?
In keeping with Sotheby's strategy of sourcing property globally and selling centrally, our efforts in India will help to develop the international market for Indian modern and contemporary art in New York and London, where we hold our annual sales. We recently joined forces with celebrated Indian couturiers Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla on their "India Fantastique" book launches in London and Delhi (celebrating 25 years of the partnership.) This was a hugely successful collaboration and the kind of venture we may consider again in future.

You have an important auction of Indian art coming up - that of Amrita Jhaveri's collection. How did this particular collection come to Sotheby's?
Amrita Jhaveri is a distinguished connoisseur, collector and scholar of Indian art who has been building her collection over many years. She purchased several key works in her collection from our landmark Herwitz sale in 2000, and we therefore know Amrita well. We are honoured to present the Amaya Collection for sale in New York in March and as such, have afforded it the prestigious status of an evening sale.

Do you see any changes or improvement in the market for contemporary Indian art, which has been somewhat depressed over the past few years?
There is undoubtedly growing international interest in Indian contemporary art. What we observe is that collectors are becoming more discerning; they are not in a rush to buy and are looking carefully and researching what they want to acquire. These are good indications of a market which is growing in maturity.

From your special vantage point, do you see interest among non-Indian buyers for modern and contemporary Indian art?
At present, the majority of buyers of Indian modern and contemporary art are Indian clients, either resident or nonresident in India. Holding our sales in New York and London exposes these works to a wider international audience, which is increasingly showing interest in this field. Major institutions such as Tate in Britain and MoMA in New York are also seeking Indian art acquisitions for their collections. Indeed, Amrita Jhaveri has announced she will donate one of the works from the Amaya Collection to Tate Modern.
© 2013 The New York Times News Service

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