Monday, January 25, 2010
Forbes on Neville Tuli
It is common knowledge now that Neville Tuli and his arts organisation Osian's are in deep financial trouble. A well-researched story in the current Forbes India follows the less detailed one in Mint a month ago in providing many interesting details about the web of transactions between Osian's, Christie's, Sotheby's, an offshore company run by Tuli called Bregawn Jersey, and Abraaj Capital, a Dubai-based investor in Osian's.
I learned a lot from the Forbes piece, and will write more on the subject when I have time, but for the moment I recommend that people interested in Indian art buy the February 5 issue of Forbes India. It can't be read online.
There are a few mistakes in the article which I might as well correct. First, the article gets the timeline of Tuli's development wrong. He published his book, The Flamed Mosaic, before, not after, establishing a gallery called The Window, which he ran in collaboration with Sangita Kathiwada. The Window was not, as Sangita Kathiwada is quoted as saying, "a non-commercial space". Not only was it commercially run, but I recall the art displayed there being overpriced.
The most glaring error is Forbes' estimate that the art market was worth only Rs.50 crores in 2004. When I worked for a dotcom called Chaitime in 2000, I had estimated the worth of the art market at between 100-150 crores annually. Though I never undertook any such research afterwards, it is reasonable to assume that the market had grown to between 200 and 300 crores by 2004.
Finally, Bregawn Jersey is based on the island of Jersey off the northern coast of France, not in New Jersey, USA.