With a dynastic legacy in art collecting, advisory outposts in Delhi, London, and Los Angeles, and degrees in business and art that have fostered an acute understanding of the modern and contemporary art market Arushi Kapoor is the archetypal art advisor – well-heeled, well-connected, and worldly. What sets her apart is that she has come up in an emerging market – India, and although Indian art and artist is not her sole focus it is an important specialty of her art advisory.
In fact, Kapoor first made waves in Los Angeles, where she resides, when she staged “The Art of India” in 2018 featuring both emerging and established artists such M.F Husain, Paresh Maitey, Jayashree Burman, Delhi-based artist Satish Gupta who exhibits internationally, and Shoobha Broota.
During the seven years she has lived in LA, Kapoor has seen the art world expand. “LA right now is like New York City was in the 1980s,” she says. Referencing the East Village art scene driven by artists, curators, and dealers hosting exhibitions in their studios and apartments and taking to the streets to make work, often taking part in the punk, hip-hop, and party scene. Lady Pink, Jenny Holzer, Basquiat, and Keith Haring came up during this time. Young female gallerists and collaborative interdisciplinary environments fostered by people like Andy Warhol and Patti Astor presented this work to the market. “Street art has a strong presence in LA’s art world; Banksy did one of his major art shows here and Retna, Alec Monopoly, and Mr Brainwash are popular,” says Kapoor who has placed their work with her clients.
Less gritty and far glitzier, LA is a market where the entertainment, sports, hospitality, and tech industries collide with the art world and broader trends like fostering transparency have taken hold. “Smaller dealers and galleries like Matthew Brown, Natalie Brady, Margot Ross, SHOW Gallery, Soho House West Hollywood, and Avery Andon the founder of Artlife are leading the way,” Kapoor tells me. “I treat the art world like a community, not like a competition,” she says, as a natural part of this new generation of collaborating players who are shaping the future of collecting in the city.
Kapoor will be expanding the geographic scope of the LA art scene when her new 12,000 sq ft space in Echo Park opens in August. It is the first art space in East LA. More than exhibiting art, the space will also support female entrepreneurs and the local community. Bikram Choudhury’s granddaughter will be hosting yoga classes and Kapoor is partnering with schools to make the space available to students. “I wouldn’t call myself a feminist, but women need to catch up with men,” she says on the importance of supporting women-run businesses.
The venue’s first show “Lawless Reflections” presents paintings by Lindsay Dawn whose work, according to Kapoor, is collected by Swizz Beats, Kylie Jenner, and LeBron James who she tells me will attend the VIP opening. Illustrating how the LA art world is a meeting points across industries, former chief curator of MOCA LA Paul Schimmel will also be there. Kapoor saw Dawn’s work downtown a year ago, bought a piece and has been showing it to curators in order to asses if she wanted to pick the artist up. Based on good feedback, Kapoor’s eagerness to open her new space with an LA-based female artist, and Dawn’s star-studded collector pool staging a show with the artist seemed like a recipe for success. The show’s centerpiece, “Lawless Reflection,” reflects the artists struggle to come to terms with her mothers death and her own body. Themes timely to the pandemic, a year marked by both loss and resilience.
Kapoor’s influence reaches beyond the Los Angeles area. She is the youngest member of the South Asian Acquisitions Committee at the Tate Modern in London. “I would not blindly donate to an organization without knowing what they are doing, I want to give them value,” Kapoor told me passionately and has become a listened to voice within the internal WhatsApp group and during board meetings that are hosted by the museum. Each of the committee’s 24 members have an equal vote.
Lekha Poddar who has chaired the committee since it was founded in 2012 to increase the museum’s holdings in South Asian art comments: “Arushi being in the committee, is mutually beneficial. The committee hears a voice that brings in fresh ideas and Arushi learns from the experience of the other committee members and Tate’s curatorial team.” To the other members, Kapoor’s voice is fresh and more sensitive to current affairs; recently she initiated a conversation on the similarities between the Black Lives Matter movement and the Farmers movement in India both acting is resistance to inequitable practices. Kapoor also has a physical space in London that is run by her cousin, Kangan Kapoor.
Kapoor had what she terms an “artistic upbringing,” her parents and grandparents are collectors, but, perhaps more importantly, her mother, an art dealer, served as a strong female role model. Payal Kapoor broke into the male-dominated industry of dealers in Delhi in the early 2000s giving Arushi the opportunity to see the Indian art market grow locally and abroad, first hand through her mother.
In LA, many of Kapoor’s collectors are looking at art as an asset class from the get-go, “younger generations look at art works as investments. People under thirty want to spend under ten thousand dollars and see their investment grow over the long term,” she says. Looking at emerging artists she is adamant to select ones who are fully dedicated to their practice. “There is a risk in every asset class: Bitcoin, gold, stocks and there are financial scandals across the board. You need to make a calculated risk. You need to do your research,” she says.
Some years ago, Kapoor helped a client acquire work by artists of the South African diaspora priced at between 3-6,000 dollars predicting that they would increase in value quickly. Today, comparable works by the same artists sell for 30,000 dollars. “The right art consultant will tell you what to expect,” she says. Kapoor lives what she preaches as she is an art advisor that also collects.
It is hard to find a knowledgeable art advisor to assist with NFT acquisitions. Kapoor, however, is ahead of the curve as the owner of 1,000 NFT works and consults her bolder clients on this particular new asset type, or art form, which recently has made a big entrance on the art market.
“We haven’t seen the boom for Indian art, yet.” Kapoor explains, “Chinese and Japanese contemporary art which has had a boom in the last ten years was helped by a historical interest in scriptures and kimonos – material culture and decorative arts – and the fact that Chinese and Japanese artists traveled, or emigrated, to the United States and Europe in the 1980s and ‘90s. South East Asian artist were not given the opportunity to travel,” Kapoor says, citing travel as a contributing factor as to why Indian artists have fallen behind. There are many Indian modern masters from the 1980s and forward that Kapoor work with: Raza, Paresh Maitey, M F Husain, Ventak Bothsa, Sanjay Bhattacharya, Baua Devi, and Jangarh Singh Shyam. Kapoor predicts that the Indian boom will come soon and clearly she has a hand in making it happen.
“Lawless Reflections,” is open through August 26th to October 22nd, 2021 at Arushi in Echo Park, Los Angeles.
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Anna Mikaela Ekstrand is editor-in-chief and founder of Cultbytes. She mediates art through writing, curating, and lecturing. Her latest books are Assuming Asymmetries: Conversations on Curating Public Art Projects of the 1980s and 1990s and Curating Beyond the Mainstream. Send your inquiries, tips, and pitches to firstname.lastname@example.org.