Art Market and Auctions: Indian Boom!

by Team ACF


The story of Indian art is the story of India itself. For centuries, its history an mythologies have been retold by artists past and present, and today, these works are inspiring new audiences across the globe. By the 1970s, a number of social and political events unfolding across the country left an impression on artists. The role of the artist in a developing country and the need for social responsiveness were interrogated by the practitioners. India’s art market was hit hard after the economic collapse of 2008. Since then the market, focused around Mumbai and Delhi, has attempted to right itself. India’s art market is growing and drawing in new local crowds. There are number of auction house for Indian art, both national and international including Christie's, SaffronArt (Sister-site being StoryLTD) and Sotheby's, Osian’s, etc.

Recognized as the international auction leader for Indian art, Christie's has a longstanding commitment to this important and ever-growing market. Today, Christie's holds sales featuring South Asian art in New York, London and Mumbai. From classical works that have stood the test of time to cutting-edge contemporary art, our knowledgeable and experienced specialists source masterpieces from collections around the world, ensuring that our selection of works—and client service—is second to none.


A global company with deep Indian roots, Saffronart was founded in 2000 on the strength of a private passion. Remaining committed to this passion and personal values, today Saffronart is a strong and successful international auction house that both embraces and drives change. Saffronart offers a range of services including art advisory, private sales, appraisals and valuations, and specialised art storage. In 2013 Saffronart launched StoryLTD, an online auction and e-commerce platform to serve a broader base of art and collectibles buyers. Since 2014, StoryLTD has been holding a number of no- reserve online auctions which been enthusiastically received.

Sotheby's is a multinational corporation, originally British but now headquartered in New York City. One of the world's largest brokers of fine and decorative art, jewelry, real estate, and collectibles, Sotheby's operation is divided into three segments: auction, finance, and dealer. The company’s services range from corporate art services to private sales. Since 1744, Sotheby’s has distinguished itself as a leader in the auction world. Today they maintain 90 locations in 40 countries and conduct 250 auctions each year in over 70 categories.


Has there been a major positive change in the phase of Indian Art Market?

As the earlier roads of auction were governed by paintings of artists like SH Raza, whose acrylic-oil painting was sold at Christie’s in 2010 for whopping $3,486,965, and Tyeb Mehta, whose painting was sold for 8 Crores in 2002 – which was not only the highest sum for an Indian painting at an international auction at that time, but also triggered the subsequent great Indian art boom. And not just canvas paintings but sculptures of creativity as well, like for instance, Subodh Gupta, an artist, was appreciated with 80000$ for his sculpture of brass and stainless steel utensils in April, 2010. On December 15, 2015, at the Christie’s auction, an untitled 55-inch by 40-inch oil on canvas by Vasudeo Gaitonde, who died in 2001, was sold for a total of $4.4 million (Rs 29.3 crore on a hammer price of Rs 25.5 core). Well above the estimate of $1.9 million to $2.3 million, the $4.4 million was both a world auction record for the artist, beating an earlier $3.8 million (Rs 23.7 crore) record and the highest auction price achieved for any modern Indian work of art. It was bought by an international collector, who phoned from outside India in a keenly fought bidding contest.


In the year of 2015, in the month of December, the Christie’s sale totalled $14.7 million (Rs 97.7 crore), the highest for any auction held in India, beating the previous record of $14.5 million (Rs 96.5 crore) that was set by the auction house at its first Indian sale two years ago. This is the result of a careful selection of works that have not been trailing round the auction circuit, backed by intensive international marketing and buzz for an auction event (that took place in Mumbai).

How auction itself, is becoming an art?

The Indian market is reportedly becoming a hub of art auctions that are both, contemporary and ancient in nature. The Indian buyer's palette is strong for both modern and contemporary art as well as centuries old classical art. A positive thing for the Indian art market is that the auction houses are going beyond modern art, allowing a healthy change in ownership like antiquities. Since one cannot take the antiquities of the country, it certainly creates a local vibrant market. The spread of the Indian connoisseur is across the world, and bidders – who can participate in the auction on the floor or live over the phone – are willing to shell out hefty sums to own an original work. However, the market has 'matured' only recently.


As Sonal Singh, Director and Head of sales at Christie's states, “Even though there is interest in categories like watches, wines and jewellery in the international arena, at the moment Christie's is looking to focus its attention in the Indian sector with the classical segment, which we think has great potential. We will continue to look into it over the next few years.”

Do we have any upcoming auctions?

The year has just started and there are a lot of auctions and sales, to look forward to. Following is the list, uplifted with links to their respected websites, to help you and guide better for the auctions; organized by their houses.

1) The most recent auction, that one should look out for, is on the house by Christie’s, South Asian Modern +Contemporary Art, on 26 th May, 2016 –2:30 p.m. It is in London, on the King Street.

2) Another auction by Christie’s, on “How to read Indian love stories”, on Indian paintings. Art of India, on 26 th May’16, 11:00 a.m.

3) The Indian Auction House, SaffronArt is organizing a Summer Season Auction on 8-9 th June, 2016. It will be held on its website, as it’s an online auction.

( auction-2016-3880)

4) From the discerning eye, SaffronArt is organizing another live auction in July’16, after the last one on 16 th April, 2016.


5) The most awaited is the Modern & Contemporary South Asian Art, by Sotheby’s on 18 th Oct’16, Tuesday in London.

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