A look at the market for experimental art

(By Nalini S Malaviya)

It can be observed that a large number of art exhibitions these days focus on conceptual and experimental art. These exhibitions are sometimes organized in mainstream galleries or more often in alternative spaces, which thrive on experimental art. Such alternative spaces are usually associated with artist residencies or collectives and provide a much needed impetus to alternative art practices.

It has therefore become fairly common to see emerging artists experiment with new media and avant-garde art. However, in terms of sales, experimental art is yet to strike a chord with a broader buyer base. Most buyers have a conservative approach and prefer to opt for traditional mediums such as paintings and sculptures for their homes or private collections. This trend continues, although today there is a growing tribe of people who appreciate and also invest in experimental art. In the past, we have seen collectors vying for paintings by S H Raza and Tyeb Mehta amongst others and in the process breaking all previous auction records. Most private museums (with a few exceptions) also tend to focus on collections of modern and contemporary art, yet there is very little space for experimental works.

Still, there is no real reason why people should refrain from buying experimental art, especially if it is of good quality. Interestingly, the quality of such artworks might be difficult to evaluate and its worth or price is largely subjective. Sales are then dependent on the extent to which the art engages the viewer/buyer.

As, art of any kind from emerging artists involves a certain amount of risk from a financial investment angle, it is not surprising that there are more takers for experimental art by established artists than by emerging ones. Only when the market matures further, there might be a shift in perception leading to greater acceptance and appreciation for newer forms of art.

(Published in Financial Times)