11th Sept 2006

Young Indian artists shine at Saffronart
Saffronart's autumn online auction of modern art works by young contemporary Indian artists this week raked in $4,461,955, including 10 percent buyer's premium.

Artists who broke the $100,000 mark each in the September 6-7 online auction were: Jayashree Chakravarty, Surendran Nair, Atul Dodiya, Anju Dodiya, Subodh Gupta, Shibu Natesan and Jagannath Panda.

The auction featured 135 works by 46 artists of Indian modern art.

At Saffron Art Auction, which wrapped up Thursday, the highest bid reached Rs.5.5 million (about $122,000) for a painting by Surendran Nair. "The auction has caught the interest of a whole new range of young buyers," said Dinesh Vazirani, director of the auction house. The opening in New York drew a fair share of corporate buyers and young entrepreneurs - NRIs as well as foreigners.

Surendran Nair, who hit headlines with an artwork that had the Ashok Chakra (wheel with spokes that is India's national symbol) many years ago at the National Gallery of Modern Art had pride of place in the catalogue with a brilliant exposition called "Et In Ayodhya Ego ...if not... the Stygian Oath of Abjuration" signed and dated 2004-2005.

This oil and silkscreen on canvas estimated at a hefty $100,000-122,225 (Rs.4.5-5.5 mn) went for a whopping Rs.5.5 million. Nair's second work - an oil on canvas - even more enigmatically titled "Pyaasa" (for late filmmaker Guru Dutt), signed and dated 2000, estimated at $22,225-33,335 (Rs.1-1.5 mn), fetched Rs.2.48 million. The work - in yet another departure from the usual - has the proverbial coat with a potted plant. And the coat, created in a transparent vastra (dress) metaphor, is strewn with red roses personifying the immortality of love.

Lots 43-48 belonged to the maestro of the metaphor, Atul Dodiya, whose work "Stammer in the Shade" estimated at $100,000-125,000 (Rs.4.5-5.62 mn) went for Rs.5 million. The work - actually two canvasses - consists of acrylic, marble dust, iron crutches, iron brackets and gold leaf.

Lot 12 of Jayashree Chakravarty, estimated at $35,000-40,000 (Rs.1.57-1.8 mn) went for Rs.7.7 million.

"The highlight of the Autumn Auction was the number of sculptures that we had," said director Dinesh Vazirani.

The sculptures were by Navjyot, Subodh Gupta, Iranna, Ravinder Reddy and Dhruv Mistry. Among the three works by Basel-returned Subodh Gupta were two canvasses and one sculpture. His untitled work signed in Devnagari and dated 2005 - an oil on canvas that is estimated at $55,560-66,670 (Rs.2.5-3 mn) - went for Rs.4.9 million.

Gupta's second work done in 2006, an oil on canvas that is estimated at $55,560-66,670 (Rs.2.5-3 mn), went for Rs.6.4 million. Subodh's sculpture "Fire is an Aluminium" and a bronze sculpture estimated at a comfortable $55,560-66,670 (Rs.2.5-3 mn), went for Rs.3.3 million.

G. Ravinder Reddy's monumental head estimated at $25,000-30,000 (Rs.1.12-1.35 mn) went for Rs.4.13 million. "Look at what is happening to the art market. I have retired from creating sculptures," said Ravinder Reddy told. "Considering the expectations for sculptures, the results in the auctions are nothing to crow about because artists are commanding higher prices in the market."

Bharti Kher's work on aluminium with bindis, an untitled mixed media with bindis on composite aluminium board and estimated at $22,225-26,670 (Rs.1-1.2 mn) went for Rs.3.23 million.

With the emerging artists raking in results that complemented the buoyant tide, it is absolutely clear that distinction is being made between modern and contemporary at the recent Christie's Hong Kong, Sotheby's London and Saffron auctions, which are dedicated only to contemporary works.

Obviously auction houses are cashing in on emerging artists and it seems the quest is for widening the reach of the market. For the moment, September belongs to Indian art, there's Christies and Sotheby's coming in less than a fortnight and registers are bound to ring.

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