Mumbai-based auction house, Saffronart, logged sales of Rs 21 crore ($ 4.6 million) during its Spring Online Auction of Modern and Contemporary Art that concluded on March 11.
The results, from the sale of 75 per cent of the lots on offer, are a dramatic improvement in comparison to their Spring Online Auction 2009, in which 70 per cent of the lots sold, grossed a total of Rs 7.8 crore ($ 1.5 million).
The auction’s highlight was the sale of four works for more than Rs 1 crore each, including works by modernists such as M.F. Husain, Akbar Padamsee and F.N. Souza. The lots that sold well past their high estimates included Padamsee’s 1953 portrait, Prophet, with a winning bid of Rs 1.25 crores, more than triple its high estimate of Rs 36 lakh. Husain’s 1970s untitled work shot past the Rs 2-crore mark.
Among the contemporary Subodh Gupta’s Doot attracted lively bidding and sold for Rs 1.75 crore. The strong results have coincided with Saffronart’s 10th anniversary year and are demonstrative of the art market’s revival from the recession last year.
“It’s also indicative of an increase in the confidence of collectors. It is still a collectors’ market, which is a good thing because a collectors’ market is more stable than an investment driven market,” said Nish Bhutani, CFO, Saffronart.
While these numbers indicate that markets are improving, independent art advisor Sharmistha Ray said that it’s too early to rejoice. “The market is far improved from 2009 when we saw the troughs. But the recession is still ongoing. Also, the volume of the lots is driven by the Moderns, who have eclipsed the contemporary artists,” Ray said.
Ray is of the opinion that even though the contemporary art market is moving again, their recovery will play out for a longer term and that too primarily for the established contemporary artists.
“The Moderns will go from strength to strength but a lot now depends on the auction houses to be able to find high quality work. There is real high competition on that front now,” Ray said.