[private_subscriber][private_bundle]Sayed Haider (S.H.) Raza is one of several Indian abstract painters who exploded onto the international art scene in 2005. Before that year, only 45 of his works had sold at auction. Since then, he has averaged about 100 appearances on the block annually. During the boom, the value fetched by his works at auction mirrored his volume’s meteoric rise (Fig. 13): Between 2005 and 2006, his average prices rose from $97,397 to $153,825 and his total sales increased from $6,330,797 to $17,228,451.
However, as Raza’s lot volume increased, so too did his buy-in rates (Fig. 15). Last year, about 30% of his work did not find buyers, and although that rate was an improvement from 2008, it is a far cry from his lean 2005 buy-in rate of 7%.
Christie’s is hoping for a Raza rebound. The house, which has sold 40% of Raza’s value since 2005, is picturing Gestation, a 1989 acrylic on canvas by the artist, on the cover of its Modern and Contemporary South Asian sale catalogue. The work’s eye-popping estimate of $600,000 to $800,000 is rare for a Raza, whose average mid-estimate, even during his peak year of 2008, was $129,907 (Fig. 14). Only 7 of the 551 Razas ever offered at auction have carried estimates in excess of $600,000 and 70% of those highly estimated lots were significantly larger than Gestation, which measures 39 3/8 by 78 3⁄4 inches (about 3101 square inches). The average price for a Raza between 3,000 and 4,000 square inches is $380,935, and the most a Raza measuring under 4,000 square inches has ever brought at auction is $1,056,250 (Fig. 16)—a price earned by the artist’s Germination at Saffronart in June 2008.
However, Christie’s should be wary of using Germination as the basis for its estimate. Since Raza’s prices showed regressive patterns last year, the expectation of a 2008 performance from a 2010 lot seems like a risky bet