Bid for art masterworks online

IANS | ByMadhusree Chatterjee, New Delhi
Jan 20, 2008 12:01 AM IST

Art lovers can now bid for masters like Tyeb Mehta and MF Husain in India's first simultaneous online and live auction.

Art lovers can now bid for masters like Tyeb Mehta and M.F. Husain in India's first simultaneous online and live auction to be held in Kolkata Feb 23, which will see a cache of 89 works go under the hammer.

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The auction is a debut venture by the latest entrant in big-time auction mart, Kolkata-based Emami Chisel Art, a tie-up between the Emami Group and Chisel Craft.

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New Delhi will get a sneak preview of the impressive collection Feb 3 followed by Mumbai Feb 10. The highlights of the auction will be Mehta's masterpiece "Kali III", estimated at Rs.50 million, and Husain's "Safdar Hashmi", the first painting from an Indian artist to cross the Rs.100,000-mark at an auction in 1987.

Besides, it will also feature two of S.H. Raza's 1953 "landscapes" pegged at Rs.10 million, Bikash Bhattacharjee's "Over The Dark Clouds" at Rs.500,000, and two rare untitled works by Amrita Sher Gil that are expected to go for Rs.500,000.

Other artists include Ganesh Pyne, B. Prabha, Manjit Bawa, Ram Kumar, Rameshwar Broota, J. Swaminathan, Amitava Dhar, A. Balasubramanian and Chintan Upadhyay.

Online bidding will begin Feb 16.

"This is the first auction in the country where bids can be made online and on the Emami Chisel premises as well. But there are certain things we are very firm on - especially the lock-in period of an artwork to ensure transparency and to give buyers value for money," Vikram Bachawat, owner of Emami Chisel Art, told IANS over telephone from Kolkata.

"Every artwork that we accept will have a history. It should have travelled from galleries to collections and to auction houses for necessary credibility. No art work will come straight from the artist's studio to our auction," he said.

Explaining the concept of a lock-in period, Bachawat said: "No contemporary art that has been created after 2005 by young artists will be accepted for the auction. For senior artists, the cut-off period is five years, that is, art works by tier I and tier II masters will have to be more than five years old (made before 2002) and must have an accompanying history."

And no artwork that has been sold to any other auction house in the last seven years will find a slot at the Emami sale.

"This is to ensure greater transparency and right pricing," Bachawat said.

Sources said galleries often push art works to several auctions - sometimes to multiple sales in a month's time - and buy back the work surreptitiously to pump up its price in the market.

"Hence, we are stressing on the lock-in or the time period to rationalise the price," said a source.

Emami Chisel Art has also set up an art pool and is collecting "quality works with relevant history" in case consignments fail to make the quality and history cut.

"In that case, we will have to use works from our own bank," Bachawat said.

The auction house is planning an art publication division to print books on art, an archive and a gallery.

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