26 Jun 2009

Auctions indicate uptrend in art market

(By Nalini S Malaviya)

Several auctions of Indian art held in the last few days indicate that there is a perceptible change in scenario now. The mood is upbeat and sales indicate that there is a definite demand for rare and quality works.
The Saffron Art online auction saw 72% of the lots being sold where 54% of the lots were sold above the higher estimate. The sale of 85 Modern and Contemporary Indian works sold, grossed a total of Rs. 10.4 crores (USD 2.2 million). Works by V.S. Gaitonde, Subodh Gupta, M.F. Husain, Akbar Padamsee, Ram Kumar and F.N. Souza were amongst those that fetched the highest bids. Similarly, the Christie’s auction in London grossed $2.43m sales where an oil on canvas work by M.F.Husain painted in 1960 from his Ragamala series, fetched the top hammer price of £330,000 (approximately US$539,000), although it was significantly lower than the pre-sale estimate.

At the Sotheby’s sale of Indian art held in London last week, an ink and pastel work ‘Day Dreaming’ by Jogen Chowdhury fetched a record £373,250 (Rs 2.9 crore). Another work by Francis Newton Souza ‘Orange Head’ also fetched three times the pre-sale estimate at the auction. The auction reports indicate that the market for modern artists appears to be going strong as compared to the contemporary artists. At both Christie’s and Sotheby’s sales, the number of works were fewer as compared to earlier auctions and estimates were also on the conservative side for many of the works. These auction reports show that there is a positive mood in the market and buyers are willing to spend on good art. It may be too early to predict if the trend will continue but for the moment the situation looks encouraging.

Next in line is the Indian auction house, Osian’s with its ‘Select Masterpieces of Indian Modern and Contemporary Art’ sale on June 30. The auction brings together a range of historically important works comprising 58 lots with a total estimate of Rs 22-28 crore. The results from this auction too will help in clarifying the picture further.

(Published in Financial Times)

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