Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Christie’s bids for another high in Indian art market

SummaryChristie’s first auction in Mumbai in 2013 was a phenomenal success, establishing the highest price for a work of art ever sold in India.


Jehangir Sabavala’s The Green Cape, oil on canvas, painted in 1974, is likely to fetch between R1.2 crore and R1.8 crore.


Jehangir Sabavala’s The Green Cape, oil on canvas, painted in 1974,  is likely to fetch between R1.2 crore and R1.8 crore.
Jehangir Sabavala’s The Green Cape, oil on canvas, painted in 1974, is likely to fetch between R1.2 crore and R1.8 crore.

When London-based auction house Christie’s holds its second auction in Mumbai on December 11, it will be capitalising on a market that it shook up last year. Christie’s first auction in Mumbai in 2013 was a phenomenal success, establishing the highest price for a work of art ever sold in India, and the total sale of R96,59,37,500 was double the pre-sale expectations.

Some recent successful sales by Indian auction houses have just reinforced the fact that good art will attract buyers and better prices. For instance, an auction by Delhi-based Saffronart last month sold 83 artworks for over R38 crore in one evening, apart from a Jehangir Sabavala painting for R3 crore.
An online auction of modern and contemporary art by Indian artists, including MF Husain, SH Raza and Anjolie Ela Menon, raised R20 crore last month. In the auction conducted by AstaGuru.com, Raza’s work, titled Bhoomi, sold for R5.3 crore.

However, are high values for Indian art and successful sales here to stay?

Christie's international director of Asian art Amin Jaffer certainly thinks so. Positive about this year's auction too, he says early indications are for strong results once again. In an email response to FE, he promises Christie's will have a good selection, particularly of works by modern masters. Giving details, he says the auction house already has a sublime landscape by Sabavala from 1974, The Green Cape, with a pre-sale estimate of R1.2-1.8 crore and a rare Tyeb Mehta portrait. Other artists include Bhupen Khakhar, Subodh Gupta, Rashid Rana, Mithu Sen, Bharti Kher, Nilima Sheikh and Thukral & Tagra.

Seeing last year's response, Christie's has decided to make the sale an annual affair in India. As Jaffer says, “We are committed to the Indian market for the long term. We have had a presence in India for 20 years but feel the time is right to make our auctions part of the art calendar, alongside other initiatives that will ensure a vibrant and sustainable future for the art market in India.”
Kishore Singh, head, publications & exhibitions, Delhi Art Gallery, says everyone is waiting and watching for Christie's second auction that will truly define the market for Indian art. “The first auction was a superb collection of artworks and had the entire might of Christie's behind it. Let's see if the second auction matches it in terms of quality and value.” He terms the first auction an 'aberration', saying only sustained success will help the Indian market, especially unestablished artists. He also points out that no phenomenal sales of Indian art happened globally immediately after the auction in India. However, with recent successful auctions, he predicts the value of Indian art to go up to R100 crore by end of the decade. If that's not success, what is?

Ivinder Gill | New Delhi | Published: Oct 08 2014


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