Cover Story

Art District XIII, Bestcollegeart.com and The Wall Art Magazine raise INR 3.5 crores

By The Wall Art Magazine   1 Mar, 2017

The art world is buzzing about Insignia Art Collect - the 5 year old art venture founded by art collector Kapil Chopra along with seasoned professionals. Insignia has scored INR 3.5 crores in an International funding round. The Indian art market crashed in 2008 and the recovery has been slow ever since. However, there is some positive news. The latest South Asian Art Market report by Act Tactic suggests that the overall South Asian art market confidence is positive for 2017, despite concerns about the short-term impact of the demonetisation.                                                                                                                                       

Ever since Saffronart got funding over a decade back, there has been minimal activity in the Indian art scene. Things became worse when the Osian's Art Fund got embroiled in litigation and failed to return money to its investors. The controversies led Neville Tuli’s company, Osian’s Connoisseurs of Art and its subsidiaries to lose credibility. If the 102 crores art fund failing was not enough, it was followed with the closure of one of India's top art galleries of its time - Bodhi Art Gallery. Bodhi had galleries in New Delhi, Mumbai, Singapore and New York. Amit Judge, the founder of the gallery moved the price of Indian art higher and started the speculative run that would last for over four years. It ended spectacularly, just as it had started. A number of artists’ careers would never recover post the shutdown. Artists who had seen the prices of their artworks go up 20 fold, from INR1 lakh to 20 lakh suddenly had no buyers for their works, and a few actually are rumoured to have gone into depression.

Bodhi sold art in style with smart Directors in every gallery and worked like a corporate machine except that it was feeding a speculative frenzy and not building up a collector base. The task of carrying forward the legacy of contemporary art was then taken on by two key galleries - Gallery Chemould and Nature Morte. Chemould led the Mumbai galleries and Nature Morte became the key gallery in Delhi to represent some of India’s biggest stars such as,  Subodh Gupta and Bharti Kher. Peter Nagy, the founder Director of Nature Morte and the man who has contributed most to the Indian contemporary art movement had the most enviable artist list in the country with some great shows. In 2007, works were being sold even before they left the artists’ studios and artists were actually collecting retainers before their shows started. All this changed when the world economy went into shock and like any speculative frenzy, the art market collapsed. Suddenly, there were no sales and auctions were not even able to sell artworks at the reserve price. Galleries across India started shutting down and collectors stopped buying any art.

Against this backdrop and with the aim of making art accessible to all, Bestcollegetart.com was launched. This low cost but effective online marketplace for art has always attracted buyers. Its launch was spectacular with a Seven-artist show curated by Peter Nagy (Founder – Nature Morte). The exhibition was held at the Trident Hotel in Gurgaon over a Sunday brunch. What this did was expose good quality art below INR 1 lakh to a new range of collectors. These were CEO's of top companies in India.

Till today the success of Bestcollegeart.com is all about appealing to a new and different buyer at reasonable price points. Bestcollegeart.com soon became the only online art gallery with thousands of artworks reasonably priced. The qualitative breakthrough came when Glenfiddich, the famous scotch company decided to partner with Bestcollegeart.com for an International art residency. This year would be the sixth edition of Bestcollegeart.com’s ‘Emerging Artist of the Year Award’. It has received close to 5,000 applications; the award winner would receive a cash prize of INR 10 lakh and a three-month art residency at the Glenfiddich distillery in Scotland. Art had started selling, but the Insignia team always felt that one of the major issues hindering the development of the Indian art world art was the lack of art news. There were good magazines like Art India and Take on Art but they were published once in three to six months. Art news that was current was lacking and this is what led to the launch of the art magazine ‘ The Wall’. The Wall is an acronym for The World of Art, Lifestyle and Leisure. 

The Wall with its transparency in covering art news and in some cases exposing the workings of the art world has opened new doors of awareness in the art world. Over 10,000 subscribers wait every month for a new issue, which is launched on the 1st of every month. After launching both these ventures, the founding team at Insignia was still restless. They saw the art market struggle, and the mounting losses, which made art galleries cut down on the number of shows. International operations of Indian art galleries had shut down and there were not many people showing cutting edge contemporary art. This, coupled with the success of the first two ventures led to the formation of Art District XIII.  The name celebrates and espouses the numeric XIII, considered inauspicious by some but very auspicious by the initiators of the gallery.

The gallery was conceptualised to encourage people to embrace art in a gallery space. The collection is suited to both established as well as upcoming art collectors. The gallery backs artists who have the potential to have a global career, which can be seen in the cutting edge art showcased. Art District XIII believes that profit is not the motive but ‘art’ is; both the artist and the collector stand to gain from such a viewpoint.  The gallery recently participated in Art Stage Singapore 2017 and also at the India Art Fair 2017. 

The three enterprises of Insignia Art Collect together cover the top end of the art market, the emerging artist segment and also art news. Add to this the fact that all three have been profitable from the get go and you have an exceptionally strong platform, which is set to go from strength to strength. This vision was spotted by DSG Consumer Partners, Singapore when they decide to back Insignia with funding to the tune of INR 3.5 crores. DSG Consumer Partners is a venture capital fund focused on identifying, selecting and investing exclusively in early stage consumer businesses in India and South East Asia.

With backing from DSG Consumer Partners, Insignia plans to further Indian art globally.