8th Dec. 2002

Sales On Internet: Global Market Opens Suneet Chopra   The Saffronart auction on the Net has given us some interesting results. Some of them are predictable. The Mumbai group artists (in the absence of the Shantinikethan greats like Rabindranath and Gaganedranath) have done well, with Husain's horses (lot 12) going at Rs 7.50 lakh, a Ganesha (lot 13) at Rs 8.50 lakh and a mudra (lot 14) above the top at Rs 2.75 lakh. The landscape of A Raza (lot 27) that is a precursor to his Bindu series also went for Rs 4.65 lakh, while his Bindu and Earth (lot 31) was bid for at Rs 7.55 lakh. The excellent Souza head (lot 45) blending colour and tone, depth and surface, sold for Rs 5.85 lakh, while a couple of his drawings went for Rs 52,500. Tyeb Mehta's canvas that was expected to fetch Rs 47.50 lakh, was actually bid for up to Rs 43.50 lakh, no small achievement. Sakti Burman: Oil on canvas sold for Rs 8.25 lakh Among the perennials, two B Prabha works, an old one (lot 70), a gouache on paper, went for Rs 1.25 lakh while an oil on canvas went over the top price expected to fetch Rs 72,500. Sakti Burman scored a hat-trick with two works selling beyond the highest price expected, lot 79 at Rs 5 lakh and lot 82 at Rs 8.25 lakh, while a third (lot 83) sold at the highest price expected, Rs 1.25 lakh. Similarly, two works of T Vaikuntam sold at Rs 45,000 (lot 136) over the top, and Rs 40,000 (lot 137), the highest price expected. Baiju Parthan too just made it with two lots, lot 158 selling at Rs 1.50 lakh and lot 160 at Rs 1 lakh. Rekha Rodwittiya too made it to Rs 1.75 lakh (lot 164) for a painting, close to the highest price expected of Rs 2 lakh. J Swaminathan's oil on canvas (lot 59) too sold within the expected range at Rs 4.25 lakh, while an acrylic on canvas of Paresh Maity (lot 173) sold at Rs 1.82 lakh, with first timer TV Santhosh selling at Rs 37,500 (lot 182). A number of other artists, notably VS Gaitonde, Ganesh Pyne, Anjolie Ela Menon, Ram Kumar, Jogan Choudhury, Manjit Bawa, Laxma Goud, Jitish Kallat, Atul Dodiya, Sanjay Bhattacharya, Neeraj Goswami and Shibu Natesan seem to have been casualties of over-expectation of the sellers. This, to me, appears to be the main reason why most of the works were bid for prices lower than the lowest price expected. I hope the sellers have the good sense to let these works go at these prices. It will help to firm the market of these artists in future. The general conclusion one comes to is that the investible contemporary art of India is on sound ground, both globally and at home. That is why NRIs like Raza, Burman and Souza score as easily as home-bred artists like MF Husain and T Vaikuntam. And even very young artists like Paresh Maity and Baiju Parthan have made their mark in global sales as well. Also, while one used to give the prices of works of contemporary art in thousands before, today we quote them in lakhs. This is a reflection of the rise in prices of our contemporary art today. Our understanding that our contemporary art is good to invest in still stands firm. Also, a look at the works on sale shows us that while the Mumbai artists top the list this time, those from Kolkata, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Patna, Delhi and even Kerala have done creditably. Some, like Jogen Choudhury, have been very close to the mark indeed. This shows that our contemporary art of different regions has achieved a comparable standard. In this, the artists, and especially MF Husain, have made a creditable effort at bringing our contemporary art to global notice. Husain's recent sale of a large canvas for Rs 2 crore to an NRI from Hyderabad is a case in point. Such things have helped to project our contemporary art and artists as even what appear to be gimmicks have substance behind them. One hopes that this solid practice of the present day masters like Husain, Raza and Pyne will attract the attention of a number of our close to the top artists as well. Some of them have done very poorly indeed. Today, artists need not worry about their market. There is no monopoly either for the big names or the big galleries. A wide range of artists sells from a wide range of galleries. Then there is the Internet. It has added a new dimension to art sales with its global access. So artists really need not waste time at trying to peddle their works. This can be done by the galleries. What really sustains our contemporary art is its modernity, technical excellence and the capacity to harmonise and digest polarities, which gives it originality. So our artists should concentrate on these to give them their opening to a world market just beginning to appreciate their work. The recognition has come. Keeping up the pace is hard work. That is what our contemporary artists should address themselves to now.

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