31 Mar 2008

Indian art market dominates

The year has begun with a bang for the Indian art market. All the major auctions held this year have seen exceptional sales, at times even higher than the estimated totals. And, remember we are only in March. Looking back at some of the statistics, at the recently held Christies auction M F Husain's ‘Battle of Ganga and Jamuna', a painting from the Hindu epic, fetched $1.6 million, setting a world record at the South Asian Modern and Contemporary Art sale. At this auction 87 percent of the lots were sold and fetched a total of $10,974,600.

Incidentally, M F Husain's untitled work went for a hammer price of $409,000, dominating the Sotheby's New York spring sales of Indian art. Prior to that, Saffronart's first contemporary art sale this year closed at a total sale value of over Rs 27 crores (US$ 7.15 million), which was well above its total higher estimate of Rs 19.56 crores (US$ 5.1 million). Emami Chisel Art - a Kolkata based auction house that held a physical-cum-online bidding - brought the hammer down on February 23 and their sales touched a total of Rs 24 crores. Osian’s ‘Indian Modern and Contemporary Art’ auction that was held in New Delhi on March 18 touched a total of Rs 30.28 crore (USD 7.5 million). The highlights of the evening included works by J Swaminathan’s ‘Mountain and Bird Series’ that crossed the Rs 2 crore mark and Tyeb Mehta’s ‘Untitled’ that fetched Rs 1.98 crore. This was Osian’s second auction in the year. While at the earlier Jan 19 auction Osian registered a total sale of Rs 32.18 crore.

If these figures are any indication then it does seem that the Indian art market is poised at a strategic juncture. It is very likely that the renewed confidence in Indian modern and contemporary art will see that the market not only stabilizes but also sees a resurgence of sorts. At the Dubai Art Fair too there has been a lot of interest in the Indian art section, and Jitish Kallat’s works in particular have captured the imagination of many art lovers. Therefore it is not only the modern artists who are seeing a renewed interest in their works but also the contemporary and upcoming artists who are finding many takers.

(Published in Financial Times)


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