Road to Revival: Is the Indian art market finally on its feet?

ArtChristie’s International Director, Asian Art, Hugo Weihe, center, acts as auctioneer for the painting of Indian artist Vasudeo S. Gaitonde during Christie's first auction in India. (PTI photo)

As soon as the hammer came down on Lot 83 at Christie's auction in India — held in Mumbai on December 19 — the team from the London auction house got busy putting up the artworks of the three winners of the day. The Untitled work by V S Gaitonde that fetched the highest bid with the hammer price of Rs 23.70 crore (after adding the buyer's premium) became the most expensive piece of Indian art sold in India.

Tyeb Mehta's Mahisasura, and an Untitled work by Ganesh Pyne formed the backdrop of a short press conference, where the results were read by a clearly happy team from Christie's. They announced that this was the second highest sale by Christie's in Indian Art. The total bidding amount of the sale was Rs 102 crore, almost twice the anticipated amount.

The success raised questions. Had the Indian art market come out of its hibernation since the recession of 2008? "According to our data in the last couple of years, the buyer base has quadrupled. The Indian art market has matured," says Sonal Singh, Christie's Head of Sales in Mumbai. Buyers are no longer only Non-Resident Indians and art collectors; younger collectors have also entered the market.

Whether this means a boost for the art market is too soon to tell, believes Shireen Gandhy. "The success might also have to do with this being the first-of-its-kind in the country; there is a novelty factor attached. Another auction, just like this one too soon might not work as well. That apart, it's definitely a positive sign that it drew so much money," she says. Shireen is a daughter of Kekoo and Khorshed Gandhy, owners of Gallery Chemould in Fort, who contributed largely to the collection.

Geetha Mehra, Director, Sakshi Gallery in Colaba, agrees. "Perhaps it makes people confident in investing in art again. Periodically, one needs these touchstones. But will this result in bringing more collectors to the galleries, is the question," she says.

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