Global palette, Indian hues
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Indian modernists have been the flavour of the art season. And the record price of $1,426,500 (Rs 6.3 crore) notched by Akbar Padamsee's work at Sotheby's recent New York sale is just a testimony to the growing popularity of modern Indian art.
While a small group of key artists such as F N Souza, S H Raza, Tyeb Mehta, V S Gaitonde and M F Husain still have a dedicated following, industry experts do observe a number of other artists gaining popularity. "Moderns, whose works did not peak up like the other popular names, but are still quite senior in their fields, are drawing collectors now," says Sunaina Anand of Delhi-based Art Alive Gallery. Padamsee's auction topper—an untitled work (a reclining nude) — was painted in 1960.
"Modernists have enjoyed this popularity for quite some time, simply owing to the quality of their work," says Anand. The overall total for the three recent sales (Sotheby's, Christie's and Saffronart's) came to about $14,224,930, more than 20% below the lower pre-sale estimate of $17,908,500 - $24,748,265, and 9% below last September's result of $15,570,881. But, despite the poor overall performance, there were glimpses of strong bidding for specific lots (see Top 10 Prices below), which supports the view that buyers are in the market searching for rarity and quality and are currently bidding extremely selectively, reports ArtTactic Ltd (a London-based research house on the art market) in its March 2011 Auction Analysis.
The report attributes the trend to "the lack of quality supply, and the presence of material which is too familiar to the market. A symptom of this phenomenon can be seen in M F Husain's Cobalt Horse, which went unsold at Sotheby's. This work has come up for auction now three times in the last seven years," says the research.
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