In a slowing economy, masterpieces flourish

Heena Khan New Delhi | Updated on July 07, 2012


Despite the major economies witnessing anaemic growth and financial markets across the globe registering a drop, art markets have stood buoyant. The resistance offered by the global art market to the fiscal crisis could be attributed to the phenomenal rise of the Asian art market 2007 onward, particularly in China.  

In 2008, when the investment-driven art market crashed, 70 per cent of the Indian art market was led by contemporaries and only 30 per cent by masters. “Today, it is 90 per cent masters. So, the investors are becoming collectors and are not keen on sales realisation. Also, unlike the 2008 meltdown, what we have at present is a slowdown where people can plan their purchase. Art is a limited edition product. It is a buyer’s market, so it is bound to appreciate,” said Ajay Seth, Chief Mentor, Copal Art. At Pundole’s art exhibition this February, three paintings out of 47 fetched an enormous price. Almost 79 per cent of the lots fetched prices above the higher estimates. In March, at Christie’s, two paintings out of 85 were sold at exorbitant prices, exceeding 400 per cent of the upper estimated price. All the paintings except two were sold above the lower estimated range and almost 50 per cent garnered prices above higher estimates.

Globally, too, master artists are maintaining a solid hold in terms of price valuations.

“For the last three years, the auction houses’ trend has been that 80 per cent of lots sold are related to masters,” says Seth.

In India, a wider number of masters (besides Husain, Raza and Souza) are not only appearing more frequently at various auctions but are also creating new benchmarks. “We have many examples, such as Jehangir Sabavala, Akbar Padamsee, to name a few.  Indian masters are getting wider acceptability,” adds Seth.

Globally, top auction houses such as Sotheby’s and Christie’s assert that there exists a sensitivity of results of their auction sales, based upon the law of demand and supply, according to Copal Art. Hence, masters being rare and exquisite, gain appreciation.

The results of recent Indian auctions confirm this: Masters Raza and Gaitonde dominated the online auctions.

While Raza’s Encountre was the top grosser at Rs 3.15 crore, Gaitonde’s Untitled went for Rs 2.85 crore.

At another auction a few days ago in Mumbai, master artist F. N Souza’s works occupied the first (Rs 60 lakh)  and third positions (Rs 48 lakh) among the top lots offered.


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Published on July 07, 2012
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