The year has just started and already there is a lot of action in the art market. Art house Osians held an auction commemorating 100 years of Indian contemporary and modern art on January 19, where prices picked up after last year’s lull in the market. J Swaminathan and S H Raza commanded Rs 3.1 crore each, while a Tyeb Mehta went for Rs 2.6 crore, and M F Husain fetched Rs 2.2 crore.
Then, an auction of fine art and other artworks was organised by Bid and Hammer on January 24. Incidentally, Bid and Hammer is a new auction house, which debuted with this auction. However, at the time of writing this column the results were not officially disclosed. Next in line is the forthcoming auction by Emami Chisel Art, which has 89 lots by 70 artists. It has names like Tyeb Mehta (Kali III), F.N. Souza (Manor House), M F Husain (Safdar Hashmi), S H Raza (a rare landscape), J. Swaminathan, Bikash Bhattacharjee (Over The Dark Clouds), Manjit Bawa's (oil on canvas), Amrita Sher-Gil (two charcoal drawings) and Akbar Padamsee (a bronze head). What is interesting is that apart from the regular artists who feature in auctions – both domestic and international - there are also a few artists who are first-time entrants in an auction. According to the Emami Chisel’s website, the low estimate for the auction is Rs 15 crore, while the high estimate is Rs 22 crore.
Incidentally, one of the paintings titled Safdar Hashmi by M F Husain was the first painting by an Indian to cross the Rs 10 lakh mark in 1987. The debut auction by Emami Chisel Art will see a physical-cum-online bidding. The previews for this auction will be held in Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata and the online bidding starts on February 10, while the hammer comes down in Kolkata on February 23.
The number of auction houses and auctions on Indian modern and contemporary art is likely to grow. As the art market continues to stabilize, the buyer base will expand, and the interest in Indian art will also increase. And, of course, buyers will become more confident in investing in art as it will become more attractive as an investment option.
(Published in Bangalore Mirror)