'Auction room not as active as past 3 years'

Updated: Dec 19, 2016, 09:35 IST | Benita Fernando

Christie’s India Art Sale sees slow bidding, possibly in face of demonetisation; two Gaitonde works sell for over Rs 10 crore, the top two highest selling lots

Modernist VS Gaitonde’s untitled oil on canvas that emerged as the highest selling lot, going for Rs 15,63,25,000
Modernist VS Gaitonde’s untitled oil on canvas that emerged as the highest selling lot, going for Rs 15,63,25,000

The much-awaited Christie’s fourth India sale of 144 lots came to a close last evening with an untitled oil on canvas by modernist VS Gaitonde emerging as the highest selling lot. It went under the hammer for Rs 15,63,25,000 (all prices including buyer’s premium). Another Gaitonde work was the second selling lot of the evening at Rs 11,43,25,000. Both beat the highlight lot of the sale, Tyeb Mehta’s untitled oil on canvas, which also featured as the catalogue cover. It was the third highest selling lot of the evening at Rs 10,23,25,000.

Christie’s India Art Sale auction in progress at Colaba on Sunday. Pic/Sneha Kharabe
Christie’s India Art Sale auction in progress at Colaba on Sunday. Pic/Sneha Kharabe

Demonetisation effect
This was the first time that Christie’s has introduced a standalone session on classical Indian art, with several works from the prestigious collection of Colonel RK Tandon. The highest selling lot of this section was a folio from the “Tandan” Ragamala, for Rs 93,25,000.

However, both auction sessions saw conservative bidders; in the classical session, only 34 out of 71 lots were sold (which is 57% of the sale value), and in the South Asian modern and contemporary art session, 53 out of 73 lots were sold (which is 91% of the sale value).

William Robinson, international head of group, who helmed the modern and contemporary art auction, said, “The [auction] room has not been as active as the previous three years, and in the classical area that hits even harder. We also noticed that there has been lesser local bidding this time around.”

He indicated that among the factors that may have led to this rather slow sale, pronounced especially in the classical arts section, demonetisation could be among them.

Couple this with India’s stringent Antiquities and Art Treasures Act of 1972, which makes the export of antiquities illegal, and the classical art section is sure to take a hit.

The silver lining
On a happier note, the total sale record was R72.16 crore, the highest sale total of any day sale in India this year across auction houses. The sale also proved fortunate for a bronze sculpture by Meera Mukherjee, which sold for Rs 1,11,25,000, setting a new world record for the artist as her highest selling work at an auction.

Among the top five selling works were Akbar Padamsee’s untitled metascape from 1973 and Jehangir Sabavala’s Under the Shadow Of… IV (both sold for Rs 3,63,25,000).

Sonal Singh, specialist head, India, said, “We saw more energy in the modern and contemporary sections. Activity from India is less pronounced and market sentiment, which has not been great in the last month, may be among the reasons. However, we have managed to sell three paintings [individually] for over Rs 10 crore.”

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