Breaking into the Global Art Market

11/29/2010 09:44 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

The long-awaited world premiere of aptly called The Poetics of Color, a documentary on the life of the now 75 year old Natvar Bhavsar, the great Indian painter colorist, took place at the packed SVA Theater several days ago, amid much excitement in the Chelsea movie house. The crowd was made up of people who'd read the many articles on his life and work and those who had not. The audience loved the gentle painter.

They also loved the talented writer and director of the film, international gallerist, Sundaram Tagore, who has galleries in New York, Beverly Hills, and Hong Kong. He made his film debut presenting this painter in the documentary medium, his first time doing it and directing a film. The cognoscenti of the New York art community were in the theater being heard having scholarly chitchat about Tagore and about Bhavsar, who was there with his American wife, who'd come with him from India to New York to a Soho loft to get Bhavsar's career really going.

It was a good match, Bhavsar and very articulate and scholarly Tagore who is intellectually talented almost as much as his great uncle, Rabindranath Tagore, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913.

The 60-minutes Poetics of Color, shown at the SVA Theater by the Mahindra Indo-American Arts Council was for its 10th Annual Arts Council Film Festival in New York. The Festival had the support of Mahindra & Mahindra, a $6 billion Indian manufacturer of tractors, a global business and serious promoter of Indian culture in America. Mahindra Film Festival, in 2007, U.S. screened brilliant Slumdog Millionaire directed by Danny Boyle, which won an Oscar for best picture in 2009; for Boyle an Oscar for best director. The Festival may give Poetics of Color and Tagore "legs" to race to the top too. It has made a bet on Bhavsar. Artists can't become great if a marketing machine isn't behind them to sustain their development.

Tagore, filmmaker and marketer, said, "Bhavsar's paintings are in more than 800 public and private collections, including those of the Guggenheim, Metropolitan, Whitney museums. He is certainly running with Bhavsar to push him to the topof the art market -- "this Tibetian-like mandala painter." Bhavsar's huge canvases, upon which dry sifted pigments of paint "are thrown" and worked until they are transformed into the creations he's conceived in his mind. The results are comparable to the highly creative, highly artistic, great, black "paint throwing" of Jackson Pollack. Bhavsar's "throwing" of his dry, multicolored paints on his canvases is different, of beautiful reds and blues, beautifully mixed -- exotic visually; a unique craft, art.
Tagore was clever to open a gallery in Hong Kong, the third largest art-auction market in the world but behind London, the second largest; behind New York, the largest (the Wall Street Journal reported New York sales for 2010 was $1.1 billion). Tagore has a gallery in Asia's culture capital that has plenty of money to market Asian art robustly globally. He is a niche marketer, perfect for rich India, which is a strong Asian culture. He has muscle, clout to sell Indian artists worldwide. His polished English, his Oxford doctoral candidacy, his confidence, his popularity as a sought-after art history lecturer are ideal talents for him to sell Indian art in the hottest global markets. Can he take his beautiful Poetics of Color to the same heights dazzling Slumdog Millionaire reached or at least make it as popular worldwide?

American "Scholastic Press" was not known to be a fiction publisher, not until its Levine Books got hold of J.K. Rowling's young adult, teen novel "Harry Potter" and niche marketed it so stunningly that the super publishers were aghast. No fiction publishing like what Levine Books did for "Harry Potter" has ever taken place -- 400 million copies sold worldwide. The movies made from the "Harry Potter" series have made this intellectual property a $24 billion brand -- and Rowling a billionaire. That's what genius global niche marketing can do even for intellectual property.