Auctions get popular in art circuit

Ashoke Nag

KOLKATA: Auctions are fast turning into the major avenue for collectors and investors to acquire artworks. Earlier, the prime source for picking up paintings and sculptures was the gallery circuit.

Now, with the spate of auctions gradually building up, a large spread of art pieces is being offered to collectors. Apart from overseas auction houses like Sotheby’s and Christie’s, Bonhams is staging auctions in London and Dubai. In step, together with the established domestic auctioneers like Osian’s and Saffronart, new auction outfits have also come up in recent times. These include Emami Chisel Art, Apparaoart, Asta Guru and Triveda.

“The auction houses abroad and at home are fielding a mix of modern and contemporary artworks. And, this is happening with increasing frequency. This is finding collectors choosing the auction route to acquire works of their liking. Earlier, they had to visit various galleries for selecting artworks.

Moreover, major works are no longer available in galleries as sellers prefer auctions to fetch the best prices. Top rung artists are also found to be going for auctions sometimes, rather than galleries, to offload their creations,” an art market source told ET. Museums, especially the international names, are learnt to be sourcing artworks from the auctions.

According to the source, these trends are common worldwide. This is a sign of a developing market, there are more secondary market transactions than primary market deals. In fact, the major portion of business generated by buying and selling in the Western masters is executed through auctions. Thus, in the international circuit, the volumes fuelled by the auctions could be clearly outstripping the turnover by galleries.

“Shows at galleries by the top artists have become events which are spaced out over time. They are not found to be happening all the time. And, when it comes to artists who have passed away, there is no alternative to retrospectives. In case of retrospectives, too, the best of works may not be always available.

The idea of buying cheap is probably being replaced by the concept of acquiring better and major works. That is probably creating a scenario where more and more auction houses are being formed to cater to this growing demand for quality works,” the source said. This is what often segregates one auction from another, because the selection of works can often sport the stamp of the auctioneer.

As the auctions grow, one could also stumble upon bargains at the sales as it happens overseas. In fact, even in India, those who have purchased works from the auctions earlier have benefited immensely. Thus, auctions can be value-buying and can become even more popular.
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