Globally, investment in artworks created by Indian women have gone up considerably in the last couple of years bringing this new category of offerings to the forefront.
If we consider the most expensive works by three important female Modern artists, we can note how the market has steadily been on a rise.
According to Artery India data, Nasreen Mohamedi's most expensive work as of 2010 was Rs. 13.5 lakhs but this figure stood shattered by 2017 with the top price rising to Rs. 2.07 crores. Mohamedi however is not an isolated example. Meera Mukherjee’s most expensive as of current date is Rs. 1.09 crores against Rs. Rs. 40.3 lakhs in 2010. Then there is Zarina Hashmi whose most expensive work as of 2010 was Rs. 29.1 lakhs while as of 2017 stood at Rs. 1.09 crores. She is amongst various other similar instances as highlighted within the Artery India Report.
The top position within the Indian female artists belongs to Amrita Sher-Gil who holds at numero uno on the ‘Artery India Artist Performance Graph’, with only 26 works recording a sales total of in excess of Rs. 86.8 crores.
Within the top 100 prices achieved in 2016, eight are for works by women artists and range in price from Rs. 1.11 to Rs 10.56 crores These were realized between a group 4 artists - Amrita Sher-Gil, Nasreen Mohamedi, Bharti Kher, and Meera Mukherjee, with a collective turnover of Rs. 24.77 crores. The works include Sher-Gil’s untitled work sold at Sotheby’s, New York in March 2016 ₹ for Rs 10,56,52,759, Nasreen Mohamedi’s untitled oil on canvas that sold at Saffronart in September 2016 for Rs 2.4 cr and 'Mother of Anything Possible, Anytime' by Bharti Kher, a work created using bindis on an aluminum sheet that Christie’s sold in Sep 2016 for Rs 1,39,57,020.
Albeit, there is still a long way to go. Women artists represented only 14.8% of the total 303 Indian artists who featured in auction in 2016.
But is art really gender biased? Maybe.
“Our advisory position is not solely driven or defined by the artist’s gender. Having said that, the importance of a work is determined by a number of factors, one of which is the artist’s gender and the context of the setting and time of her practice that along with the remaining are taken into account. Works by an artist like Sher-Gil have always held importance by virtue of by whom they were created, when and in what context they were created, and for their evident rarity." said Arvind Vijaymohan, founder at Artery India.
“The past 2.5 years have witnessed a strong upward graph for the sales of over 12 Indian female artists, that is indicative of the market’s direction over the following two sale cycles. Our advisory stance since 2009 has been extremely positive for important works by female artists and clients who have acquired works within this bracket have recorded significant growth,” added Vijaymohan.
But why haven’t artworks by women been as much in discussion as their male counterparts. Lower numbers and representation have been one of the primary reasons. However the scenario is in a steady mode of transition.Amongst the Modern artists within the Artery India Artist tracker, there were only 23 female artists against 153 male artists. The uptick is visible within the numbers in the contemporary section featuring artists including Bharti Kher, Anju Dodiya, Shilpa Gupta, Reena Saini-Kallat and Mithu Sen among others where the representation rises to 55 women artists as compared to 148 males.