The art gallery is a very basic infrastructural element in the art market along with the art dealers, art fairs, auction houses, art magazines, art critics, and the art buyer. Today, there are approximately 450 private art galleries in India, but only 100-125 of them are mounting regular exhibitions; rest of them operates from smaller spaces or offices. These 450 art galleries are not enogh for 15,000 practicing artists in the country, though numbers of artists are quite high if we count passout students of Art Colleges every year who gets absorbed in jobs elsewhere. If we go by statistics, eighty-five percent artists remain unrepresented by any of the art galleries, art dealers or auction houses. These artists mostly depend on public galleries like Jehangir Art Gallery, Nehru Center, Artists Center (Mumbai) Ravindra Bhavan – Lalit Kala Academy, Habitat Centre, Triveni Kala Sangam, AIFACS Gallery, Lokayata (New Delhi), Academy of Fine Arts, Birla Academy (Kolkata), Chitrakala Parishad, Venkatappa Art Gallery (Bangalore) where they have to wait for 1 to 5 years for their turn.
The reasons for the artists who could not be inducted into gallery system are many, but the primary reason is poor art gallery infrastructure in the country and partly due to the limitations with which private galleries have to work. The real art infrastructure is in the development stage in India. The online art galleries, art dealers, and auction houses are selling artworks of many artists but they represent meager 5 to 7% of total artists’ population altogether.
International auction houses dealing in Indian contemporary art like Sotheby’s, Christie’s, Bonham’s, Bowring’s joined by domestic auction houses Saffron-art, Pundole’s, Ashta-Guru, Art Bull etc are doing commendable work. In the past few years, the frequency of auctions conducted by these auction houses have gone up and it varies from two to six auctions per year now. After the collapse of markets post-2008, Indian art market today is poised at a crucial juncture after going through profound churning in the last nine years.
There are other concerns, as to why investment in current art market be considered as a safe investment like stocks & gold, as there are no buyback guaranty options available for 90 % artists; there are no means to judge regular price movements etc. However, the auction houses, art galleries, art fairs, online art galleries put together have introduced some kind of liquidity options today in the art market.
Anyway, with or without concerns, the art market is developing and the modest turnover of Rs.9 to 10 crores in 1999-2000 had reached to Rs.2000 crore in 2007 and now trying to breach the new high.