A Guide to Building a Valuable Indian Art and Collectibles Collection - Insights from Sharan Seth of Conferro Heritaè

A Guide to Building a Valuable Indian Art and Collectibles Collection - Insights from Sharan Seth of Conferro Heritaè
FRANCIS NEWTON SOUZA (1924-2002)Still Life. Source - Christie's.

Indian art and collectibles have gained increasing attention from both local and international collectors in recent years. The Knight Frank Luxury Wealth Report and the Deloitte Swiss Watch Industry report both corroborate the rise of wealthy Indian active investors which should see increased interest in Indian art and collectibles.

The market offers a wide array of opportunities across various categories, from traditional art to contemporary collectibles. In an exclusive interview with Sharan Seth, founder of Conferro Heritae, we explore the strategies, trends, and potential of investing in this vibrant and culturally rich market.

Tables of Contents

  1. Understanding the Landscape
  2. Strategies for Building a Collection
  3. Getting Started
  4. Solid Buys and Current Trends
  5. The Evolving Market
  6. Looking Ahead
  7. Conclusion

Understanding the Landscape

Indian Art comprises various segments, including old Mughal period miniatures, national heritage pieces, traditional art, and modern and contemporary art. While modern and contemporary art dominate the market, traditional art is an up-and-coming segment highly appreciated by collectors worldwide. Indian Art, compared to European Art, is a relatively new market, offering immense potential for growth and attractive valuations. The valuations too are comparatively very attractive, with the gap narrowing as time grows.

The collectibles market in India has also been on the rise, with categories such as vintage vinyls, cars, textiles, memorabilia, coins/stamps, and other antiques gaining popularity. Vintage publications, including newspapers, magazines, books, cartoons, and advertisements, are considered hidden gems due to their rarity and cultural significance. Conferro Heritae, over a period of time, has built one of the world’s largest collections of historical newspapers and publications of over half a million, global ones covering various eras, regions, cultures, and languages of the world. These reflect the evolution of publications, culture, social factors, economy, corporate heritage, and how they influenced and were influenced by societies in various parts of the world, including India.

Strategies for Building a Collection

Sharan Seth emphasizes the importance of balance when building a collection. Start with items that genuinely resonate with your interests, but also consider what you might appreciate in the future. Prioritize aesthetically strong works, especially in segments like Masters/Modern Art. Look for works by masters whose pieces are rare and focus on stronger periods or series. Also, rarity is an essence of collecting, so acquiring something which is aesthetically strong, well appreciated, and is rare is a recommended strategy. Strong provenances should also be taken into account when making acquisitions.

Getting Started

For those looking to start investing in Indian art and collectibles, a budget of USD 60,000 to 100,000 is recommended. This initial investment allows for exploration and learning about the market. Ideally, 100,000-200,000 USD onwards would offer a large set of opportunities. However, beginning conservatively is advisable as one gains experience and cherishes the articles while understanding the opportunities alongside.

Certain artists and categories are considered solid buys in the Indian art market. Modern Masters like SH Raza, VS Gaitonde, Akbar Padamsee, and FN Souza, along with National heritage works, are highly sought after. Folk and Tribal Art, as well as National heritage artists, continue to be appreciated in the traditional art segment. Vintage watches, vinyls, memorabilia, and handmade movie posters are also offering strong potential. Vintage Lobby cards, especially those from certain movies/artists, are rare and highly valued. Satyajit Ray movie posters are always in strong demand internationally too.

In addition to traditional art and collectibles, the market is seeing a surge in interest in NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens), with new projects gaining attention.

The Evolving Market

The Indian art and collectibles market is evolving rapidly. Key trends include a very strong and buoyant demand for important works by Modern Masters, especially those from the 60s and 70s, as well as works with stronger provenances. New segments are emerging in contemporary art, especially for young and first-time collectors. Millennials are becoming a stronger force in the market, driven by their urge to experience these artifacts and their desire to use many of these items. Increased domestic and international attention, along with educational initiatives, institutions, colleges, knowledge programs, and integration with other cultures and regions, are contributing to market growth. Corporates are also increasingly buying and supporting art and heritage in general. The focus on preserving and promoting heritage is on the rise, with a huge surge in markets like design and other creative artifacts influencing the traditional art and collectibles market. The use of technology in art is also increasing.

Looking Ahead

Over the next 5-10 years, the Indian art and collectibles market is expected to see increasing demand and more integration with various art forms from all parts of the world, as knowledge and economy rise. There has been a massive shift in spending habits, especially in the previous decade, more so by millennials, in favor of art and creative segments. An increasing use of tech and new, innovative platforms/projects are expected. More focus on promoting knowledge of complex forms of fine art is anticipated in an undervalued but increasingly burgeoning economy.

Key segments to look out for would be Modern & Contemporary Art, design, installations, traditional art, vinyls, antiques, watches, publications, and more. Auctions of collectibles have risen in the last decade, and more segments, auctions, and articles are expected to be collected. With limited availability, one can expect a surge in valuations, in line with future potential, underlying opportunities, fast-growing economy, global recognition, and innovative dynamics influencing the market.

Conclusion

Investing in Indian art and collectibles is a rewarding journey that requires a strategic approach and a passion for aesthetics and culture. The market's growth, combined with its rich diversity, promises exciting opportunities for collectors and investors alike. Whether you're drawn to Modern Masters, traditional art, NFTs, or vintage publications, there's a place for you in this thriving market.

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