Sunday, February 17, 2013

Indian Art comes to International Auction in over a decade


On 19 March 2013, Sotheby’s is honored to present the Amaya Collection - the first international Evening Sale of Indian Art and the first single-owner sale in this category to be held at Sotheby’s in more than a decade. Consigned by esteemed collector and author, Amrita Jhaveri, the collection comprises important Modern & Contemporary Indian Art produced during the second half of the 20th Century through to the early 21st.

The sale offers some fine examples from the oeuvres of key artists, including highly sought-after and important works by 20th Century Modernist Masters Maqbool Fida Husain, Tyeb Mehta, Francis Newton Souza, Sayed Haider Raza, and  Vasudeo Gaitonde, many of which have been extensively published and exhibited internationally. The auction of 43 lots is estimated at approximately $5 - 7 million, and works will be exhibited in New Delhi, London and New York in advance of the sale. Proceeds from the sale will underwrite a project space and lecture room at Khoj International Artists’ Association in New Delhi. Amrita Jhaveri is also supporting museum initiatives in the collecting area of South Asian art by donating a work by sculptor Mrinalini Mukherjee to the Tate Modern.

The sale is led by Tyeb Mehta’s Untitled (est. $800,000/1.2 million, right) from 1982, produced during an important period in the artist’s career. Painted three years before the famous Santiniketan Triptych, the current work possesses a number of key parallels. In both works he used an unusually muted palette, and the androgynous figures are placed against a distinctive pastel blue ground. Mehta spent the early 1960s in London where he was exposed to the style of Francis Bacon, which greatly influenced his early works

Tyeb Mehta - Untitled

A further highlight is Rajasthan I (est. $600,000/800,000, top of page 1), a resplendent work by Sayed Haider Raza  from the  1980s which  brings together his influences from France and India  to represent an ultimate depiction of nature. This painting is from a period that represents his transgression towards total abstraction and is influenced by the Indian miniature tradition not just in composition but also in palette.

The 1962 painting, Untitled (est. $600,000/800,000, left) by Vasudeo S. Gaitonde, one of India’s most important modern abstract painters, was one of few canvases produced during his lifetime. His work was greatly influenced by the color techniques of Indian miniatures, the study of ancient scripts and Japanese Zen philosophy.

Puppet Dancers, MF Hussain

Painted in 1963, The Puppet Dancers (est. $200,000/300,000,) represents Maqbool  Fida  Husain’s  fascination  with  toys,  a  theme  that  he  developed during the 1940s and 1950s. While working at the Fantasy furniture company in   Bombay   in   the early 1940s to make ends meet, he began to design and paint children’s toys, which he cut from plywood and hand painted. Although Husain only produced the toys for a short period, his interest in the subject lived on. This composition is very similar to a 1950s preparatory sketch he produced for one of his plywood toys. A distinctive set of characters that he employed throughout his career are also seen in this piece: faceless woman, equine figure, tribhanga nude and mustachioed warrior

Additional Collection Highlights

Francis Newton Souza

The Cruxifixion, Souza

The Crucifixion  - Estimate $200/300,000
The Crucifixion is a powerful painting that represents Souza’s fascination with religion that continued throughout his career. This painting is one of his largest and most evocative portrayals of the subject.

Bhupen Khakhar
Satsang - Estimate $180/250,000

In Satsang, Khakar depicts a Hindu gathering with a group of male figures paying their respects. He has placed himself within the narrative, both seated amongst the seated figures to the right and at the rear of the primary standing figure in the foreground. Highly influenced by his time in London and his friendship with David Hockney and Sir Howard Hodgkin, Khakar combines the lush evocative scenery with hues relating to folk traditions.

Maqbool Fida Husain
The Horse that Looked Back - Estimate $100,000/150,000

Throughout his career, Husain has repeatedly represented the horse in his works, and they are depicted as wild symbols of power and raw energy. His interest in horses first began in his youth through religious stories relayed to him by his grandfather depicting the animal as both heroic and tragic. This 1963 composition was exhibited at the 2006 Asia House exhibition, M. F. Husain: Early Masterpieces 1950s – 70s.

Arpita Singh
Untitled - Estimate $80,000/120,000
Arpita Singh, one of the most important mid-generation female artists, often portrays the role of the female within contemporary Indian society in her humorous and disturbing paintings. Her subjects are drawn from family, friends, neighbors and everyday objects. Singh was greatly influenced by Marc Chagall, not just in palette and composition, but also in imagery.

Ram Kumar

Untitled  - Estimate $60,000/80,000
Untitled from 1959 belongs to Ram Kumar’s early figurative phase, which not only reflects his disillusionment with the monotony and anonymity of urban existence, but is also part of a larger commentary on the unrealized promises of Independence which had held hope for a better life for millions of Indians. The figures in these paintings are reminiscent of the forlorn characters he portrays in his novel, Ghar Bane Ghar Toote, which depict the isolated and despairing urbanites of India who feel constrained by the city itself, its vast faceless population and the poverty and decay that surround them.

Jogen Chowdhury
Ganesh with Crown Estimate - $40,000/60,000

Chowdhury’s subjects are usually rendered against a black background, their fluid contours tightened with cross- hatching and heightened with touches of color. This 1979 work is part of the Ganesha series that he produced during the end of his tenureship where he plays on the popular characterization of the elephant god. Ganesh with Crown was formerly in the Chester and Davida Herwitz collection and was exhibited at Museum of Modern Art, Oxford, in 1982

Monday, February 11, 2013

Women of Indian Art

Here is another one in the series of profiling top Indian artists. The first one I created was about the top selling (auction) Modern Artists of India. The second one is solely dedicated to the talent and brilliant Women of Indian Art. Here is the introduction, behind which there behind the scenes profile of each of them. The profiles explain their idiosyncracies, their styles, the evolution of their careers, etc.

This feature is dedicated to the most accomplished and admirable women artists of India. Nowadays, women artist of India are treated on an equal platform with male artists, the respect given to the women artist are same..

This is however not always the case, back in the 40s, women were not put on the same pedestal as male artists, except for Amrita-Sher-gel who had her foreign descent and brazen attitude (& of course talent) to bolster her image among the artist community. It was in the 70s that the stature of women artists were elevated artist among the art community and patrons.

However, this feature portrays the women who made a difference in the art scene and were recognized for the art rather than gender. Great art has come out of the hands of women artists like Anjolie Ela Menon, Aprita Singh, Devayani Krishan , Asma Menon, Gogi Sarojpal and most famous of all Amrita Sher-gil.

Most of these artists had women subjects as their centre of inspiration – their portrayal of women were primarily to show the daily activities and travails they faced in society and there was no emphasis on sensuality of the subject. Many of them fought tradition to follow their passion of the arts.

We will be featuring more women artist in due time. You can read in detail about each artists life, idiosyncrasies and events that made them where they are today.
Read their profiles here

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The $100 million paintings

Would you pay more than $100 million for an artwork? Well most of us would not, the primary reason being that, most of us would not be able to afford it. However, it is quite intriguing to learn what goes through the mind of people who spend millions on an artwork.

Let us look at it this way, for a Multibillionaire spending $100 million is not a big deal, its less than 10% of the person’s total wealth. Most probably, such people have already exhausted all the different investment avenues and have turned to art. There are corporate houses that acquire art as an investment that also helps in creating a pleasant work atmosphere. Art, although a (very) long investment, can yield excellent returns, if you have the patience.

Below given are some of the unbelievable and surreal prices paid for art in the 21st century:

Andy Warhol’s ‘No.5, 1948’ claimed the highest value for a painting auctioned at $140 million in 2006

• Gustav Klimt’s ‘Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I’ sold for $135 million in the year 2006

• Edvard Munch’s ‘The Scream’ sold for $119.9 million at Sotheby’s New York in May 2011.

• Pablo Picasso’s ‘Nude, Green Leaves and Bust’ sold for $106.5 million Christie’s in New York in 2010

• Picasso’s ‘Boy with a Pipe’ raised $104.2 million at auction in 2004

• Albert Giacometti’s ‘L’Homme Qui Marche’ reached $102.7 million when it was sold in 2010 (Sculpture)

• Andy Warhol’s silk screen printing of Elvis, called ‘Eight Elvises’ was auctioned for $100 million in 2009

If you noticed, I have limited the paintings to the minimum price of $100 million. There are many more paintings from the masters in the range of $50-$100 million dollars.

Imagine this, most of us fuss over a painting that costs $10,000. Life is not fair, but I guess most people need to settle for paintings in the affordable ranges. Some of these can be a very good investment. Important tip, in this category the investors better like what they buy, as its going to be with them for a long long time.

For the ones who like it, it could be a pleasurable hobby and investment. The art market will grow once we are over the recession cliff. So my advice is to buy contemporary art while the prices are low.

Happy Art Investing….in 2013

Interesting Links:

List of the world’s most expensive paintings

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Indian art market confidence up

Art market

Indian art market confidence up by 10% in the last 6 months.

The overall ArtTactic Indian Art Market Confidence Indicator increased by 10% between May and October 2012, and is currently standing at 57 (up from 52).

The Confidence Indicator for the market remains unchanged at 71, while the confidence in the Contemporary Indian art market is up 12% from 39 to 44. Although still below the 50 level, the Expectation Indicator for the Indian Contemporary art market stands at 53, signalling a positive outlook for this market in the next 6 months.

For the Modern Indian market, 29% of the experts believe the market will go up in the next 6 months (compared to 30% in May 2012), 60% believe the market will remain flat (70% in May 2012), and 11% believe the market will fall back. Although 41% of the experts feel that the Indian Modern art market has recovered, or will do so within the next 12 months, 33% of the experts believe the market will need at least need two more years before a broader recovery will take place.

For the Contemporary Indian art market, 25% of the experts believe the market will go up (10% in May 2012), 52% believe the market will remain flat (down from 82% in May 2012) and 23% of the experts believe the market will fall (up from 8% in May 2012). This signals that a quarter of the experts believe the Indian contemporary art market will see a positive development in the next 6 months. With the Kochi Biennale in December 2012 and the India Art Fair taking place in February 2013, there are some major international events that could put the Indian contemporary art market back on collectors’ agendas in the months to come.

Also with the Chinese contemporary art market showing signs of slowing down considerably since Spring 2011, it is likely that collectors' attention will start to gradually shift elsewhere, and we believe Indian contemporary art will slowly start to regain some of the lost ground relative to its neighbours.

This article was originally published in ARTTACTIC - an online art research magazine

Friday, October 19, 2012

Profit OR Pleasure? Exploring the motivations behind Treasure Trends

Here's an interesting article on investing in so called collectibles like Art, Wine etc. Enjoy

In May 2012, a version of Edvard Munch’s The Scream, sold for a record USD$120 million at Sotheby’s in New York1 after a period of bidding lasting just 12 minutes. It joined one of only a handful of paintings that have exceeded the USD$100 million mark, including Picasso’s Nude, Green Leaves and Bust, which sold for USD$106 million.

The world of collectibles thrives on such fairytales. Stories of investors who bought paintings, wine collections or antiques for a song and then sold them years later for millions abound in the popular media. In 2011, a painting by Roy Lichtenstein sold for almost USD$40 million. Thirteen years previously, its owner purchased the artwork for just USD$2 million. Also in 2011, Gimcrack on Newmarket Heath by George Stubbs sold in London for GBP£22.4 million (USD$36 million), which was amongst the top five highest prices ever paid for an Old Master at auction. The painting had been previously purchased in 1951 for GBP£12,500 (USD$20,000).

These stories of exponential growth understandably stoke investor interest in the world of collectibles. With traditional financial markets still highly volatile and interest rates at record lows, the possibility that art, wine, antiques and other collectibles could earn handsome return that is uncorrelated with broader financial markets is certainly alluring. Add to that a post-crisis mistrust of esoteric financial instruments, and a perception that tangible, scarce and non-fungible investments could provide a stable store of value in uncertain times, and it is no wonder that a growing number of investors have increased their exposure to art, wine and other collectibles.

For today’s wealthy investor, acquiring and holding collectibles is akin to building a store of treasure. The rationale for accumulating this treasure can vary considerably. First and foremost, wealthy individuals acquire treasure because they enjoy it. It may give the man emotional or aesthetic pleasure, or be an interest that they want to share and discuss with friends. They maybe passionate and extremely knowledgeable about art, antiques or sculpture. They may enjoy exhibiting it in museums, or basking in the status that the ownership of a rare and beautiful item can bring. These are perfectly legitimate reasons for accumulating treasure, and these personal holdings can rightly form an important part of any individual’s total wealth.

Gaining access to the market for collectibles, or treasure assets, is now easier than ever. The Internet has opened up the auction process, enabling collectors more easily to bid for and acquire objects anywhere in the world. Collectibles now increasingly share the characteristics of broader financial markets. There are market indices and specialist funds, which enable individuals to invest in art, wine or other treasure assets indirectly. There are even asset-backed financing products that enable collectors to borrow against their treasure assets.

This combination of increased investor interest and more robust market infrastructure has led to a surge in activity across a wide range of different treasure assets. According to Art price, 2011 was the best ever year forsakes of art at auction. Auction house Christie’s had bumper year, with sales up 9% over the previous year to a record USD$5.7 billion. Rival Sotheby’s did even better, with a 21% increase in annual sales to USD$5.8 billion.

Boom times for auction houses however do not automatically translate into strong returns for investors. Collectibles markets are riddled with inefficiencies, are frequently opaque and illiquid, and are extremely volatile and risky. They involve high transaction, storage, insurance and appraisal costs. Appreciation in value can also incur a higher tax burden in some jurisdictions, such as the U.S. Some categories of treasure are also highly susceptible to vagaries in fashion, which can cause prices to fall as dramatically as they have risen. Of course, for many collectors the cost and financial risk of treasure are irrelevant given the intellectual stimulation and aesthetic pleasure it brings to them. But when acquiring such assets primarily for their financial benefits, extreme caution is essential. It has long been known that investors in equities and other financial asset classes can be susceptible to a host of cognitive biases that make it difficult for them to make rational decisions. With art, wine and other treasure assets, these biases can be even more pronounced. When buying a painting, for example, collectors can all too easily let their heart rule their head. The emotional and social attachment to treasure means that investors are extremely likely to make sub-optimal decisions about when to buy, sell or how much to pay.

In this report, we examine the financial and emotional motivations for holding treasure assets, and explore how they should be treated in the context of an individual’s total wealth. We look at recent trends in key collectibles markets, and assess the risks and behavioural biases associated with holding treasure as part of a broader financial portfolio. At a time when investors continue to be concerned about financial markets, tangible assets, such as art and antiques, hold strong appeal. But as we argue, they should primarily be held for the pleasure they bring, rather than any potential financial benefits.

Originally published in "Wealth Insights" from

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Mahishasura - Tyeb Mehta's work may fetch £1.2-1.8m (Update - Mahishsura fetched £1.38 on 11th June 2012)

Mahisasura by Tyeb Mehta
Mahishasura - Tyeb Mehta

THE SEASON of auctions in contemporary Indian art starts in London in June and the three main auction houses, Christie’s Sotheby’s and Bonhams, have major sales coming up in the first half of the month.
The highlight of the Christie’s auction of South Asian modern and contemporary art on June 11 is Tyeb Mehta’s Mahishasura, 1996, the most important painting from this groundbreaking series, estimated to sell for between £1.2 million and £1.8 million. A painting, Untitled (Figure on Rickshaw), by Mehta, who passed away in 2009, was sold for record price of £1.973 million at the Christie’s auction in London in June in 2011.

Mehta’s Mahishasura was the first Indian contemporary painting to have crossed the million-dollar barrier in 2005 when it was sold for nearly $1.6 million.

The Indian modern and contemporary artists do not command high prices in auctions compared to European artists — Norwegian artist Edvard Munch’s iconic pastel drawing, The Scream, made history in May as it was auctioned for $119.9 million by Sotheby’s in New York.

The Christie’s auction is also offering Cinq Sens, 1958, a quintessential work by M.F. Husain, which was formerly in the collection of the world renowned Italian filmmaker Roberto Rossellini and his Indian wife Sonali Dasgupta. The painting, estimated to sell for £400,000 - 500,000, was a gift from Husain to his friend, Rossellini, who left India with newfound love, awareness and creative consciousness. “Christie’s is delighted to be offering the seminal painting, Mahishasura, by Tyeb Mehta; one of the artist’s best and most iconic works to come to auction,” Yamini Mehta, director of South Asian modern and contemporary art at Christie’s, said.

“Heavily inspired by ancient mythology and Hindu literature, Mahishasura recounts the legend whereby the Brahmin demon-king Rambha produces an invincible son through his union with a she-buffalo,” Christie’s said.

The auction house also compared the Tyeb Mehta painting with Picasso’s Guernica. “Mehta fuses ancient imagery with simplicity of form, colour and line, resulting in powerfully modern works full of fresh vitality. Stylistic devices evident in the present work — such as the simultaneity of perspective and figures, the juxtaposition of linear and volumed representation, and varying frontal and profiled angles of vision — conjure images of Pablo Picasso’s pivotal work, Guernica. Just as Mehta was inspired by the bull, Picasso also regularly depicted multiple forms of the bull and most often the mythological creature, the Minotaur,” the auction house explained.

(As printed in The Asian Age )

Read more about the Modern Masters of Indian art - on how they became the auction house favourites

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Fall in art prices – artists follow the affordable art route

The market in 2011 has not been very favourable for Indian art. After the euphoria that existed in 2006, the prices of Indian artists have mellowed down. Both modern and contemporary artists have shown a falling trend. For instance, there has been a 20% drop in price of Raza’s paintings (source: Art trust).
Artists however have adopted a new strategy to make sure that their art is still affordable to the public. There is a noticeable two-fold strategy they are following:

Artist are creating smaller format works and reducing their per square feet prices a bit. The combination makes sure the works are affordable and does not hurt their overall market price (in terms of square feet).

The other strategy to provide the public with affordable art is to move to the use of pen / pencil mediums rather than acrylic or oil as they can justify the lower prices. Most of these are done on paper, which again is a relatively inexpensive material.

This is a win-win situation and a quite innovative one at that. Art lovers get to buy their favourite and/or renowned artists at lower rates than the usual canvases. This also makes art more affordable to a larger base and helps bring in new collectors wanting to possess an artwork. On the other hand, this strategy helps the artist increase their fan base and keep their tillers ringing. It also encourages innovation in their works in terms of subjects.

I think now is the time to make purchases of renowned artists, as they may not be this affordable a time later. It’s a good chance to possess some previously unaffordable signatures and names.