CIHA 2016 in Beijing

34th World Congress of Art History

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The Commodification of Art Moving Indian Painting in the Global Market

Session 16 Commodity and Market

Erasmus University Rotterdam


My contribution addresses the implications of the globalization of the art trade in the market for contemporary art in India. With its booming art scenes in Delhi and Mumbai, it is a prime example of an emerging art market. It has been established that the Indian market for contemporary art grew 830% during the first last decade of the twentieth century (Kraeussl&Logher 2010). Its rise to primacy is fueled by the extraordinary growth of the Indian economy as a whole, and especially by the exponential expansion of the middle classes (Velthuis 2012; Vermeylen 2015). Indian artists and galleries cater to legions of new affluent art consumers, blending western influences with indigenous artistic traditions.

I will reflect on the impact of market forceson the artistic production in the visual arts in India. It is revealing how traditional art schools such as Madhubani painting but also contemporary mixed media artworks are being transformed by India’s inclusion in the global art market. For instance, the India Art Fair (Delhi) and the Kochi Biennale in Kerala now offer an international platform for the marketing of old and new art forms, and as a result, these works are increasingly sought after and appropriated by Western consumers. This paper will take stock of the processes of commodificationof both folk art and the works by contemporary artists, and ascertain how the international market maybe altering the function and even meaning of indigenous art.


Filip Vermeylen (Ph.D. Columbia University, 2002) is Professor of Global Art Markets at the Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication in Rotterdam. His teaching and research focuses primarily on the history and functioning of art markets, the notion of quality in the visual arts, emerging art markets and the role of intermediaries as arbiters of taste. His publications have appeared in a wide range of international scholarly journals, and his book ‘Painting for the market’ received the Roland H. Bainton Prize for Art History. Filip Vermeylen’s speaking engagements include invited lectures at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the National Gallery in London, the Swiss Institute for Art Research (SIK-ISEA), the National Museum for Western Art in Tokyoand at numerous peer-reviewed conferences across Europe, the United States and Asia. More information on his scholarly work can be found on