The cycle of sales around Asian Art begins this week in New York. Sotheby’s and Christie’s have a lot of good works of art from across the region. Each house has it’s Sackler-related artworks extending the brand-name value of the Valium magnate’s provenance. But even with all of that to dwell upon–and we’ll be posting sale updates as the lots get auctioned–the most interesting category is Indian Modern and Contemporary art.
Indian Art has gone through a dramatic cycle of interest followed by strong sales that led to important works coming to market last season. Unfortunately, the surrounding economic landscape cast doubts on the future of the market for Indian art. Then came last month’s Indian Art Summit with strong-ish sales. On top of that, Tyeb Mehta, one of the more significant Indian Modern painters died this year. Will his market be re-cast?
Kishore Singh, the Business Standard‘s perceptive observer, gives us his picks of the current sales. He warns that Contemporary Indian art is in a volatile state creating negative feelings toward talented artists solely because of price declines. Its not clear how that suggests buyers would do better buying directly through the artist’s galleries (as Singh suggests) because the definition of a secondary market is that it offers price irregularities on both extremes. With prices artificially (if you trust Singh’s judgment) low on the auction market, that would be a better place to buy the work of these artists.
Here are Singh’s picks with apologies for the Indian prices (lakh and crore are distinctively Indian prices; convert them as 4 lakhs = $10k and 4 crore = $1m)
Jamini Roy: With the auction houses presumably having taken cognisance of things like provenance, especially in the case of Jamini Roy who is probably India’s most faked artist, these are excellent buys at very attractive price points. Christie’s alone has over a half-dozen Roys, which makes them very attractive for the bidder, since if you don’t succeed with one lot, you can move on to the next without emptying the bank vault. Sotheby’s has far fewer lots on offer, but once again, the Jamini Roys are extremely affordable. Most prices are in the Rs 5-6 lakh range, a few twice that, and only one has a maximum estimate of Rs 25 lakh.
F N Souza: For the same reason as the Jamini Roys, but in even larger numbers, though Sotheby’s seems to have overall better works than Christie’s, and though Saffronart has fewer drawings and paintings by him, it is a compelling collection. The most expensive valuation seems to be at Rs 75 lakh, and drawings are available for as little as Rs 1.5 lakh: The amateur collector couldn’t dream of starting off at better price points.
Tyeb Mehta: India’s artist non pareil who created only a few works in his lifetime, but each of them a masterpiece, is clearly the flavour of the season. Mehta drawings, never before seen at any auction, have this time been put on the block, clearly at the lowest price points (Rs 3 lakh at Saffronart) while Christie’s has five works, the most expensive estimates of which are for Mahishasura and Two Figures, at a peak of Rs 4 crore, while at Sotheby’s, And behind Me Desolation has a highest price estimation of Rs 1.75 crore.
Meanwhile, the results of Saffronart’s online auction are up. They sold 73 out of 95 works for a very respectable 77% sell-through rate. The sale total was $3,661,594, which is around the low estimate for the sale.
Top 10 Lots by Value
|Lot No||Artist Name||Title||Winning Value (US$)||Winning Value (Rs)|
|6||Francis Newton Souza||Old City Landscape||379,500||1,82,16,000|
|40||Maqbool Fida Husain||Untitled||329,671||1,58,24,184|
|48||Francis Newton Souza||Man with Baked Features in a Black Coat||218,500||1,04,88,000|
|78||Maqbool Fida Husain||Untitled||218,500||1,04,88,000|
|80||S H Raza||Prakriti||209,300||1,00,46,400|
|2||Maqbool Fida Husain||Untitled||152,145||73,02,960|