15th May 2006

Bad boy of Indian art does good The computer mouse couldn't give the late FN Souza's a new life but it has certainly revived interest in his work. At Saffronart's two-day summer online auction, which concluded on May 11, his Landscape in Orange (1961) struck gold with $625,000 (Rs2.68 crore).

The hammer price was almost thrice the estimate. Tyeb Mehta's Situation (1963) was a strong second that brought in $565,100 (Rs2.42 crore). MF Husain's Holi and Akbar Padamsee's Mirror Images both ranked third at $560,000 (Rs2.4 crore).

'Souza was very versatile and his repertoire of subjects pretty wide. He did landscapes, Biblical scenes, heads, etc., which appeal to a broader range of buyers,' says Dinesh Vaziani, Saffronart's director.

A curious turn of events also saw the price of Jogen Chowdhury's Situation X (1995) quadruple, from an estimate of $81,400 - 93,050 (Rs35-40 lakh) to a hammer price of $307,326 (Rs1.32 crore).

"The prices of mid-level artists like Ganesh Pyne and Jogen Chowdhury have been rising dramatically," Vazirani added.

Art collector Harsh Goenka, who did not bid at the auction, is sceptical about the jaw-dropping prices. 'These prices are artificial and will eventually fall. Someday people will realise that this (art boom) will bring on a Harshad Mehta or Ketan Parekh,' he insists. And the new buyer, he feels, is far from discerning.

But are prices stablising? Vazirani admits that the reserve prices this time 'were below the market (price)' Goenka takes nothing at face value.

'This is the first time that the reserve prices have gone down. It seems like a marketing strategy,' he concludes.
Subuhi Jiwani

Read more articles