15th June 2007

Saffronart`s sale of Indian masters rakes in Rs 37 cr
KOLKATA: Leading domestic art auctioneer Saffronart has scaled a total value of Rs 37 crore in its summer sale of modern Indian masters. Eighty per cent of the 130 lots on offer, translating to 104 lots, have been bought by buyers from India and abroad. Tyeb Mehta's Kali has swung the highest price of Rs 4 crore.

'There has been a very strong participation from new buyers with one-third of the bidders being new collectors. We saw a good deal of presence from mainstream international buyers. Based on an assessment, this segment of buyers has seen a rise of around 25%,' Dinesh Vazirani, director, Saffronart, told ET.

Together with Tyeb Mehta, the other top prices on the list are SH Raza's Terre Rouge at Rs 2.4 crore, another Raza titled Amar Jiva which was placed at Rs 2.3 crore and MF Husain's Three Horses which went for Rs 2.1 crore.

At the same time, those hovering below the Rs 2 crore mark are Arpita Singh ' Rs 1.55 crore, Husain's Faces fetched around Rs 1.15 crore. FN Souza's St John the Baptist fetched Rs 1 crore, while Rameswar Broota hovered at Rs 1 crore, Ram Kumar and J Swaminathan stood at Rs 65 lakh and Rs 74 lakh respectively.

Krishen Khanna's Season of Watermelons sold for Rs 78 lakh, and Bikash Bhattacharjee's King With Flute went for Rs 35 lakh, while a Sakti Burman painting sold for Rs 46 lakh and a J Sabavala for Rs 58 lakh. 'An artist like Manjit Bawa has shot past his presale estimates and enjoyed prices between Rs 40 lakh and Rs 50 lakh. In the same breath, a slightly lower range artist such as Lalu Prasad Shaw sports a price of Rs 10 lakh,' Mr Vazirani said.

'Sculptures also boast of decent prices. While well-known sculptor Himmat Shah has drawn a final price of Rs 63 lakh for his bronze sculpture, even a first-timer like Adi Davierwalla has attracted a price of Rs 36 lakh,' he added. 'Saffronart's sale of Rs 37 crore ($9.2 million), is the highest among all the summer sales of Indian art till now.

What we find is that between the band of Rs 2 crore and below, the market seems to be growing very fast. In this category, 75% of the lots sold above the higher estimates. This shows that the number of buyers in that section is growing substantially. Eventually, many of these buyers will migrate up to the Rs 4 crore level,' Mr Vazirani said.

According to him, these buyers, at the moment, are positioned in the entry point category. They want to savour the experience of acquiring art. 'My general impression is that the market, at this point of time, has consolidated in the range of Rs 2 - 4 crore. Buyers have become discerning and will only climb to a higher level when they come upon a painting they really want to buy. The market is reshifting,' Mr Vazirani said.

On the complexion of the buyer mix, he said that non - Indians have mostly come in from the US and Europe. In step, buyers in general, have stepped in from Hong Kong, UAE, Singapore, UK, Germany and France.

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