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Successful auctions reconfirm global potential of Indian art
For the past 12 months, the world has been hearing how Asian artists and buyers are keeping the international art market afloat. Fueled by the strong economic parameters, the growth in this dynamic zone has been accompanied by increasing interest in more traditional Indian art forms as well as the continual growth of modern and contemporary art, mentions a recent report in The Independent, UK.

Spotlighting a rising international attraction for the quality works of Indian and South East Asian artists, Jonathan Stone, regional managing director of Christie's Asia, states: "Demand from Asia continues to lead the global recovery of the auction market and to drive the growth in 2010.'' After becoming the second-largest category at Christie's worldwide in 2009, Asian art now represents 15 per cent of our sales.'' This is a remarkable opportunity for significant acquisition, with some of the very best contemporary art on offer, set to appreciate in the future. Collectors are keenly responding to it at a series of successful auctions establish global potential of Indian art.

Bonhams sale of Modern & Contemporary Middle Eastern & South Asian Art: A painting that celebrates India’s Republic Day was sold in the first week of June 2010 at Bonhams for £120,000 A packed saleroom and keen bidding marked a sale of Modern & Contemporary Middle Eastern & South Asian Art with a total of £1.7m (97 per cent sold by value). Bhupen Khakhar’s famous oil on canvas work, estimated at a conservative £30,000-40,000, tripled its top estimate to £120,000. Strong prices were also achieved for MF Husain and Jehangir Sabavala. Mehreen Rizvi overlooking the auction at Bonhams pointed out that the result achieved with just 86 lots showed the strength of this market.

Sotheby’s sale of South Asian Art It brought an exceptional total of £5,465,550, easily above the pre-sale estimate of £2,739,500-3,912,500, and almost double the sum realized for the equivalent Sotheby’s London sale last summer. Almost 90% sold by value and 78% by lot, the sale attained prices above their pre-sale high estimate for 81% of the lots. The most keenly watched auction of Indian art this season, of 12 paintings by India's first Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, stayed true to the hype. The works fetched prices between £91,250 and £313,250. The deputy director with the auction house, Maithili Parekh, was quoted as saying: "There was a lot of interest in Tagore's works both by private collectors and institutions, and the atmosphere at the auction room was charged."

SH Raza’s ‘Rajasthan’ achieved £517,250, well above the pre-sale expectations of £300,000-500,000. An impressive nude by Francis Newton Souza made £373,250 almost four times more than the pre-sale high estimate. Against an estimate of £50,000-70,000, a striking Untitled work by Avinash Chandra went for £133,250, setting a new auction record for the artist. Somnath Hore’s rare bronze sculpture ‘The Khajani Player’ fetched £157,250, above the estimate of £130,000-150,000, another auction record. An Untitled Self Portrait by Manjit Bawa got £193,250 - nearly double the pre-sale estimate of £70,000-100,000.

Zara Porter-Hill, Director and Head of South Asian Art (Sotheby’s), said, “The results demonstrate the continued confidence in the Indian market as well as the ever-growing appetite for South Asian Art both in India and around the world. Bidding came from a healthy mix of private collectors and trade buyers and their interest produced a great number of very lively bidding battles.”
Check the Sotheby’s sale of South Asian Art result:

Christie’s South Asian Modern + Contemporary Art auction: The auction house sold all but 19 out of 223 lots, including a collection of over 150 works from the estate of late FN Souza that was almost a sell-out. The sale total of £7,013,400 doubled the estimate Christie’s had set. A monumental work ‘Saurashtra’ by Raza set a World Auction Record (£2,393,250, $3,486,965)) not only for the artist, but also for any modern Indian art in history. It will return to India as a fitting tribute to the artist. Along with the Raza painting, Kiran Nadar also acquired the second-most expensive painting in the sale. It was Tyeb Mehta’s ‘Falling Bird’ (£1,049,250). Record price benchmarks were set for Aisha Khalid, Sunil Gawde, Naiza Khan, Imran Qureshi, Soren Pors and Aparna Rao. Masterworks by Subodh Gupta and Gaitonde also went prices more than their high estimates

The International Director of Asian Art (Christie’s), Hugo Weihe, and the Head of Sale, Yamini Mehta, noted in a joint comment: “Showing the depth of enthusiasm and passion to obtain rare objects, the sale including Property from the Estate of Souza realized a total of £12.4 million, becoming the most valuable sale of this category in history. A carefully selected array of iconic works by modern & contemporary masters was met with true enthusiasm and depth of bidding.” The two added that the sale of Souza works was a fantastic testament to his legacy, a trailblazer within the Indian Progressive movement.
Check the Christie’s South Asian Modern + Contemporary Art Auction result:

Contemporary Art Evening Auction at Sotheby's: The Contemporary Art Evening Auction at Sotheby's on 28th June in London included some of the most exciting works to appear on the open market in recent years, including seminal masterworks of contemporary Art and more recent manifestations of artistic brilliance by the likes of Richard Prince Millionaire Nurse, Jean-Michel Basquiat and India’s Bharti Kher.

Her ‘The Skin Speaks a Language Not Its Own’ (142x456.2x 195cm; bindis on fiberglass) was very much in the spotlight. The catalogue note termed it as the masterpiece created by the country’s most recognized female artist of her generation, articulating traditional India's contemporary dilemma It mentioned: “Awe-inspiring in its scale, detail and beauty, this life-sized female Indian elephant brought to its knees in a seemingly untenable position, simultaneously peaceful and painful, is a vision that engenders extreme pathos from the viewer.”

Saffronart Summer Auction The results achieved at Saffronart Summer Auction this season, including record prices for modern and contemporary Indian art, are a testimony to the trend. The sale that featured 90 works by 45 artists fetched a total of Rs 30 crores ($ 6.7 million), with over 80% of the lots on offer selling.

A new record in auction was made for a Jehangir Sabavala work ‘The Casuarina Line I’. It fetched Rs 1.7 crores ($ 374,900). Other significant sales comprised Raza’s ‘La Provence Noire’ (Rs 3.3 crores, $ 746,111), Husain’s ‘8 horses’ (Rs 2 crores, $ 442,750), V.S. Gaitonde’s Untitled work (Rs 1.5 crores, $ 327,750), Subodh Gupta’s Untitled work (Rs 2.2 crores, $ 494,500), and ‘We Don't Know Why We Are Stitching Plants’ by N.S. Harsha (Rs 1.27 crores, $ 282,716).

Check the results of Saffronart Summer Auction 2010

All in all, the remarkable record-breaking auctions reconfirm the upward trajectory in the buoyant Indian art market.