Newsweek’s John Elliot has ever right to point out the drop in Subodh Gupta’s market. But he goes about it in a bizarre way in this report on Sotheby’s Modern and Contemporary South Asian art sale held this week in London.
His first trend is the old auction house saw of well-estimated works from great collections that are fresh to the market do well. (Though he complains about a 76% sell-through rate as if that’s not an average or competent sale.)
The second trend is that the slump in prices for contemporary works that were fashionable a few years ago is worsening. An oil on canvas painting of an airport luggage trolley by Delhi-based Subodh Gupta went for just $187,000 including buyers’ premium. That was just above the top estimate but, allowing for inflation, it was far less than 10 percent of a record $1.2m achieved for a similar work in the heady days of 2008. It was also less than half a $250,000 sale in 2010 immediately after the initial crash. Gupta is more famous for his installations of shiny pots and pans. Two paintings by his wife, Bharti Kher, failed to find buyers this week.
The bit where he compares the Gupta to another work from the series that sold for $1.2m is a little unfair but you get his point. And its odd that he tells us $187,000 is less than $250,000 when comparing the sale to yet another painting from the series. But what’s really strange is that the very painting he cites was sold at Sotheby’s in May of 2008 for £264,500. It’s noted in the painting’s provenance and Sotheby’s provides a record of their previous sales to anyone who wants to look.
Here’s how the two sales differed:
2008 = £264,500
2014 = £116,500
That’s a decline of almost 56%. Don’t you think that makes his point better?