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Art & Politics : Potential Impact of Coronavirus on Indian Art

Today for Art & Politics we are looking at the Potential Impact of Coronavirus on the Indian Art scene and market.

Failure of the Indian Art Market

Despite a rich cultural heritage, the Indian art market is considered to be in its nascent stages. In the international arena, Indian art still remains non-canonised and largely irrelevant. While we may have impressive art museums, great galleries, fairs and biennales, these pale in comparison to their western counterparts. And the reason for this may be the product – Indian art.

Now, we know this sounds extremely controversial. Indian art is brilliant in its own right. It truly is. But, consider this. The western art world is racing ahead to create new and dynamic works that are in context to our current scenario. Meanwhile, Indian art is still trapped in its bubble of post-colonial Modernism.

In 2019, Hurun and Art Price collaboratively released an India Art List. The list enumerated the top Indian artists for the financial year ending 2019, based on value of sales at auction.

Hurun India Art List – Top 10 Artists
Source : Hurun Research Institute & ArtPrice

Hurun’s Top Indian Artists 2019

The top 10 artist on this list have much in common with one another. Most of them are Modernists or borrow largely from that vocabulary. Many are influenced by the Bengal School of art. All of them are above 50 years of age. Most of them work predominantly with painting. Yes, there is very little diversity in our 10 top artists.

The list highlights the shortcomings of the art market. Our highest selling artists belong to an era bygone. While holding on to that heritage is crucial, it is equally important to chart a new journey ahead.

Potential Impact of COVID-19 on Indian Art

Times of crisis and war have always inspired the best artistic output. As the world struggles, thinkers, poets and artists are at their creative best. Case in point – some of the best art India has belongs to the era of partition. It was characterised by a national identity crisis. Political turmoil was at its core. So, we question : Will the COVID-19 pandemic have such an effect on Indian art?

Millenials and Gen Z are a generation accused of having life too easy. They have not seen war. Nor have they known struggle. Until now. In early March, the WHO declared Coronavirus a pandemic. On 24th March, 2020 Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a complete nationwide lockdown. 21 days – no flights, no stepping out of your house, unless its urgent. A complete war-like situation, including the potential loss of life. An entire generation of young minds are now sitting at home rethinking everything they know. Their life plans, priorities, business models – everything. Pondering upon the fragility of life as we know it. Even when the lockdown ends, everything won’t go back to the way it was. Yes, we will go back to our daily routines. But life can never be the same once you’ve lived through a pandemic.

Of course, we’re not suggesting that people’s suffering be commodified and sold as art. But historically, tragedy has inspired creativity. And perhaps this pandemic will inspire a new wave of creativity, much needed for Indian art. Art that is not Modernist was hitherto dismissed as ‘experminetal’. Perhaps there will be a shift in paradigm, as young minds will vociferously express their trials and tribulations. So here’s hoping a revival of Indian art. For a young generation of art masters – driven by their own unique life experiences.


For more explorations of Art & Politics visit the archive.

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