MF Husain enters million dollar club with Rs 4 cr sale

Ashoke Nag

KOLKATA: M F Husain has entered the million-dollar club for the first time. In the maiden sale by Kolkata’s first art auction house Emami Chisel Art (ECA), the octogenarian master has struck a Rs 4 crore-plus figure. Husain’s canvas Safdar Hashmi has been picked up by a Mumbai-based buyer for Rs 4.4 crore.

Interestingly, the 1989 work had crossed Rs 10 lakh at a Sotheby’s sale the same year, the highest mark achieved by an Indian painting till then. From the overall standpoint, the ECA auction has churned out Rs 23.45 crore in sales.

Incidentally, ECA has been rolled out by the Kolkata-based Emami Group and Chisel Art, which is the parent company of the city’s well-known Aakriti Art Gallery. In step with Husain, Tyeb Mehta’s ‘Kali III’ has also hit a level of Rs 4.4 crore and J Swaminathan work from his ‘Bird and Mountain’ series Rs 1.76 crore.

At the same time, FN Souza was purchased for Rs 1.65 crore, while a Ganesh Pyne work touched Rs 60 lakh. Keeping Kolkata’s first full-blown art auction alive and kicking were Manjit Bawa who sold for Rs 57.5 lakh, a Bikash Bhattacharjee which was acquired for Rs 46 lakh and Satish Gujral who went for Rs 45 lakh.

Sekhar Roy led the pack of the relatively-younger generation artists who created individual records. Roy’s painting was auctioned for Rs 11.5 lakh including buyer’s premium. The other records also included Aditya Basak at Rs 10.35 lakh, Amitava Dhar Rs 8.05 lakh, Tapas Konar Rs 5.75 lakh and Partha Shaw Rs 4.20 lakh.

A few more in this category also embrace PR Narvekar at Rs 6.32 lakh, Barun Chowdhury Rs 1.32 lakh and Sunil De Rs 1.92 lakh. Kartick Chandra Pyne, who figures among the senior names, swung a record of Rs 13.80 lakh.

With the 81 of the 89 lots lapped up by buyers, the auction scaled a tremendous sale level of 91%. The average sale price works out to Rs 29 lakh. Probably, the only disappointment were the unsold Paritosh Sen, Jogen Chowdhury and Suvaprasanna.

“The results of the auction prove that art has clearly arrived as an alternate investment. The MF Husain, for instance, has appreciated over 40-fold ever since it was sold in 1989. This is, indeed, a remarkable degree of growth. The 91% sale level, despite a slowdown in the money markets, shows that there is no shortage of takers for a selection of works which is generally of high quality.

Together with domestic bidders, we had winning bids from overseas countries like the US, Mauritius and Italy. From the viewpoint of investment, art should be bigger in the future,” Mr Vikram Bachhawat, ECA’s director, told ET.

ECA now has two auctions lined up in September and December. While the first will enjoy a predominance of contemporary works with a smattering of modern paintings, the second sale will field sculptures and collectibles.
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