We have big plans for India: Christie’s

New Delhi, Dec 14 (IANS) As Christie’s braces for its third India art sale in Mumbai on Tuesday, the world’s largest auction house said it planned to tap the Indian market in a big way by engaging more in antiquities and diversifying into art education and institution building.

“We have big plans for India – long term and holistic. It’s about being an integral part of the art scene which doesn’t only entail selling, but also educating. The whole idea is to bring up the benchmark of the relevance of art from the grass root level. We have plans to do more antiquities and ramp up sales. We are getting more involved in education of art by bringing speakers to talk on art conservation and institution building,” Deepanjana Klein, Christie’s International Head, South Asian Modern and Contemporary Art, told IANS.

As the third sale commemorates Christie’s 20th anniversary in India, it is also significant that classical Indian art is being inroduced in the auction for the first time.

One of the most important works of art offered in the sale is a buff sandstone figure of the dancing Ganesha. This signature piece will be auctioned at a base price of Rs.70 lakh. Another life-size early Chola granite dvarapala sculpture from Yamini Krishnamuthi’s collection is likely to fetch Rs.1.2 crore.

A monumental painting by Syed Haider Raza (1922-), titled “Bindu” from 1983, will be one of the highlights of its Modern and Contemporary Indian Art section.

A total of 100 works will go under the hammer this time. “Antiquities are sourced and sold here. It took us three years to introduce classical art because we have to make sure that our licenses and our paper works are right,” she added. The auction also includes modern masterpieces by Vasudeo S. Gaitonde, Tyeb Mehta, Ram Kumar, Nasreen Mohamedi, Manjit Bawa, Nandalal Bose, Abanindranath Tagore and Gaganendranath Tagore among others.

Christie’s first Indian auction in 2013 created a history of sorts when Vasudeo S. Gaitonde’s untitled oil-on-canvas fetched Rs.23.7 crore.

“The year 2013 was our entry point, the excitement from our side and from India was immense. We could sense it in the room. The whole idea is to sustain it. This year, too we are expecting to break some records,” Klein said.

Klein also sees immense potential for Indian artists in the coming years. “An artist like Gaikonde selling for less than three millions is a steal. Five years down the lane, Indian artists are going to command the price. We are making the baby steps and it’s the just beginning,” she said.

The auction house is unfazed by competition from an online auction house like Saffron Art. “Competition is always good. It speaks of maturity of the market. I look at it as a part of the game. We set our benchmark high and are looking globally,” she said adding that Christie’s also holds the world auction records for works by F.N. Souza, Vasudeo S. Gaitonde, Tyeb Mehta, M.F. Hussain and many other artists.

Klein also said that Indians are lapping up the idea of owning an art collection. “Collecting is a new phenomenon in the country still we are rapidly catching up the notion of collecting,” she said.

However, she is not dissuaded by the fact that India is falling behind its competitor China in the art market. “China is a different market and the government has facilitated a lot to boost the market. I think it will happen in India too. Collectors are also making huge contributions here,” she felt.

In terms of valuation after the 2008 crash, contemporary art is making a steady comeback, she said. “Modern art did not suffer much after the 2008 crisis. Contemporary always allows room for speculation. There has been correction and slowly the market is building up. It has taken longer, but there is no need to press the panic button yet,” she said.

(Preetha Nair can be reached at preetha.n@ians.in)

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