If Christie’s debut auction in Mumbai last month is any indication, buyers are flocking towards Indian art as investors shake off the remnants of an economic downturn.

An untitled work by abstract painter Vasudeo S. Gaitonde sold on Dec. 19, fetching $3.7 million (237 million rupees) – a record for modern Indian art. Another of his works will be the showpiece in Sotheby’s South Asian art sale in New York in March. It’s not just Gaitonde. The Christie’s auction raked in $15.4 million (966 million rupees), doubling pre-sale estimates and defying the economic downturn. A November report by art market analysts Art Tactic said confidence in Indian modern art was on the rise.

That’s good news for Neha Kirpal, founder and director of the India Art Fair which opens in New Delhi this week. Kirpal told India Insight the Christie’s auction was a “booster shot” for the leading art exhibition in South Asia.

About 3,500 works by about 1,100 artists will be on display at the sixth edition of the art summit. The four-day fair runs till Feb. 2. Here are edited excerpts from an interview:

What kind of interest have you seen in the art fair in the past five years?
About 40 percent of the buyers in the fair are first-time buyers, and it’s throwing up a really interesting segment in the arts that previously wasn’t part of the art circuit. And in a sense the art fair is playing the role of market builders bringing in a new  audiences. So we have seen a great change in the buyer base especially over the last few years in terms of both Indian and international buyers.