With the modern art scene moving east and many reckoning Hong Kong to be the new Europe, India is perhaps closer than ever to flagging itself on the artistic map of the world. What with the international auction house Christie’s opening up an office in India and more and more Indian artists being invited abroad to showcase their work, it seems to be the start of a more lucrative creative space.
Indians themselves have also begun to invest more in art, giving birth to auction spaces like AstaGuru. An online bidding portal that gives enthusiasts access to prominent names from the field, AstaGuru is the brainchild of Vickram Sethi, chairman of the company. Having conducted about a dozen auctions since it was set up in 2008, another auction has been set up for later this month. Director Tushar Sethi tells us more about the fourth edition of their Modern Indian Art auction.
Talking about the change in trends over the past few years, Tushar says the biggest factor contributing to the art market doesn’t seem to just be an increased interest but also a growth in the purchasing power among the classes. Explains the Director, “There has been a gradual upswing in the Indian art market in the past few decades. In recent times, Christie’s auction surpassed all previous records of the existing market in India. It opened up avenues for investors to explore the potential of the Indian market. With factors like increase in the economic growth and an interest for art seems to have tremendously increased the value of the market to `1,000 - 1,400 crores. Adding to this, an increase in high net worth individuals (HNWI) and ultra-HNWI with purchasing power parity has lead to an inclining interest towards art.”
AstaGuru which has been active for the past five years, didn’t see a boom in its initial days, but things eventually picked up. “There was a gradual dip in 2008-09, but it steadily picked up. The Indian art market is at its nascent stage even today, however in the past few years there has been an upward swing in the appreciation of the art,” he says.
Asta Guru has conducted about 11 auctions so far under different categories. This month the fourth edition of the Modern Indian Art will take place which will feature popular modern masters. The 77 lots up for grabs include exclusive works by the likes of MF Hussain, SH Raza, Akbar Padamsee, Ram Kumar, Kirshen Khanna and so on. Among the names, two artists from Hyderabad – Laxma Goud and T Vaikuntam – will also feature.
Organisers are quite psyched about two paintings in particular – Bird on Mountain by Jagdish Swaminathan and Raza’s Bindu – and expect the bid to reach dizzying heights. Thus far, the highest auction records of AstaGuru are Subodh Gupta’s untitled work which sold for `3,94,42,034 in 2008.
In order to get bidding access, log onto the portal and register online. After verifying the details of the bidder, AstaGuru will grant bidding access. “Once the screening process has taken place, the accounts will be activated and the bidder can bid online for the upcoming auction. Each bid is an increment of 10 per cent from the previous bid. There is a 15 per cent buyers premium on the final bid,” informs Tushar.
While as of now, the battle is for seasoned modern artists, Tushar promises that more younger artists will be included in the lots in the future.
The auction will take place on January 21 and 22. The artworks have been put on display at the Institute of Contemporary Indian Art (ICIA), Kala Ghoda, Mumbai, and will remain on view till the auction ends. If Mumbai doesn’t happen to be in your travel plans before the auction begins, an online catalogue is also available.