Metrics of Success in South Asian Contemporary Art
Metrics of Success in South Asian Contemporary Art is a Digital Humanities project evolved from my thesis, which deals with the question of what it means to be a ‘successful’ artist in South Asia today. After the liberalization of the 90s, India opened up its economy which resulted in a much greater exchange between the art world of India and the rest of the world. Auctions became a big phenomenon in the 2000s, ushering an ‘Art Boom’ from 2002 to 2005 wherein art prices went up over 10 times their value from 5 years ago. Before this period, the works of even the most renowned, culturally significant artists sold for no more than $150, meaning that artists could not rely on sales for sustenance. Now that South Asian art has melded more closely with South Asian commerce, my thesis looks at how artists have contended with this new global ecosystem of galleries, fairs, auction houses, biennales and museums that they did not have much access to before.
To answer this question, I have been combining data science and art historical approaches, looking at auction sales and biennale/museum representation for artists over the last 20 years. This step mostly exists to inform the rest of my thesis, which will be much more conventionally art historical. But I think this data and analysis deserves its own platform as it could be very useful for noticing trends and patterns in the kinds of circuits artists have been navigating. As a deliverable, I want to create an interactive map that locates each contemporary artist in my dataset by the number of auctions, biennales, museums, fairs and exhibitions.
My name is Shreeansh and I am an Art History/Mathematics major at Amherst College. I am interested in contemporary art history, particularly the ways in which the Indian art world has shifted gears from officially curating culture and history, to employing more and more esoteric, inward-looking modes of investigation into culture and politics. I studied abroad at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London, where I took courses on ancient Buddhist art forms. I also did a summer internship at the Mead Art Museum at Amherst, where I have helped curate two shows so far. My interest in Digital Humanities comes perhaps from my background as a Math major, but more generally out of a belief that data analysis is a powerful tool, that when used right, allows for more big-picture, probabilistic interpretations in a field that struggles to distill large, sweeping analyses out of limited observations. Although I do not intend to pursue a career in art history, I will continue to remain interested in the way art and aesthetics interact with our lives.