Saffronart’s Winter Online Auction 2009 –

Saffronart’s Winter Online Auction 2009

Modern and Contemporary Indian Art

December 9-10, 2009

· 100 works of art by 51 Modern and Contemporary Indian artists with a total low to high estimate of approximately Rs. 15 crores (US$ 3.2 million) to Rs. 19.4 crores (US$ 4.2 million)

· Attractively estimated works by renowned modernists and popular contemporary artists, of exceptional provenance and quality

· Auction highlights include important modern works by Manjit Bawa, F.N. Souza, S.H. Raza, Akbar Padamsee, Tyeb Mehta and Jagdish Swaminathan

· Prominent contemporary artists featured in the sale include Subodh Gupta, Anju Dodiya, Raqib Shaw and Jagannath Panda

Mumbai, November 27, 2009: Saffronart, India’s leading auction house for Modern and Contemporary Indian Art, will host its annual Winter Online Art Auction on December 9-10, 2009. Presenting 100 lots of exceptional quality and provenance by 51 leading modern and contemporary Indian artists, the sale will take place online at

The auction catalogue includes paintings, drawings and sculptures by celebrated modern artists Manjit Bawa, F.N. Souza, S.H. Raza, Akbar Padamsee, Tyeb Mehta and Jagdish Swaminathan among others. Notable contemporary artists in the sale are Subodh Gupta, Anju Dodiya, Raqib Shaw and Jagannath Panda among others. With a strong focus on aesthetically significant works, this sale promises to generate great interest and demand from collectors across the globe.

Featured on the front cover of the catalogue, is an untitled canvas of epic proportions by Manjit Bawa. The artist’s men, women, gods and animals, suspended wondrously in colourful space, are rendered with a simple fluidity that borders on the abstract. Rather than brushstroke and texture, Bawa relies on chiaroscuro and subtle shading to deliver depth to his canvases; and rather than developing a narrative, the artist focuses on perfecting form by paring it down to its most basic essence. Together, these characteristics give the artist’s paintings an arresting luminosity, and his characters a dreamlike presence.

Another important lot is Jagdish Swaminathan’s untitled canvas from 1975, which was formerly in the collection of World Bank director William Diamond. Swaminathan, in his quest for this new modernist ‘Indian’ vocabulary, turned to the local, exploring not only the folk art of varied regions, but also the historically significant miniature traditions of North-Western India. The Bird, Tree, Mountain series of canvases, to which this lot belongs, stands testimony to his attempts at instituting a new idiom for modern Indian art, and is inspired by both the simplicity of Indian folk art, and the intensity of Indian miniatures.

Among the contemporary lots on offer, Subodh Gupta’s 2005 untitled work, a shimmering theatre of polished stainless steel pots and pans, is featured on the back cover of the catalogue. Gupta’s main concerns have been subjective value and material production and consumption. In charting and presenting India’s unique developmental path, the artist creatively draws attention to the present interdigitation of tradition and modernity in the country, and the distinct social realities that emerge from this interface. In doing so, Gupta effectively communicates the impossibility of capturing the intricacies of the developing world through a developed world lens.

Featuring for the first time at a Saffronart auction is Raqib Shaw, whose work has been celebrated in prestigious solo exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Tate Britain in London. Drawing from various disciplines including literature, zoology and art history, Raqib Shaw’s body of work is a dizzying amalgamation of influences, including the work of old Masters like Bosch, Holbein and Piranesi, Mughal miniatures, the Romantic works of Wordsworth, Byron and Coleridge, Japanese decorative arts, Kashmiri shawls, and various specimens and images drawn from natural history museums, medical journals and popular culture, to name only a few.

Speaking about the auction, Dinesh Vazirani, CEO and Co-founder of Saffronart said, “The success of our recent auctions has proved that collectors around the globe continue to show great demand for rare and exceptional works with impressive quality and impeccable provenance, which this auction offers. Strong results, record prices, and increased international interest illustrate that there is renewed strength in the market as a whole. It is on this positive note that we look forward to strong interest in this auction.”

The total lower and higher estimates for this auction are Rs. 15 crores (US$ 3.2 million) and Rs. 19.4 crores (US$ 4.2 million) respectively. The sale will be accompanied by an illustrated print catalogue, also available online at, and preview events at Saffronart’s gallery spaces in Mumbai and New York.

Highlights from Saffronart’s Winter Online Auction 2009:

Manjit Bawa
Rs. 70,00,000 – 90,00,000
$ 152,175 – 195,655

F.N. Souza
Mr. Sebastian (1956)
Rs. 55,20,000 – 82,80,000
$ 120,000 – 180,000

Subodh Gupta
Untitled (2005)
Rs. 70,00,000 – 90,00,000
$ 152,175 – 195,655

Akbar Padamsee
Untitled (2007)
Rs. 45,00,000 – 55,00,000
$ 97,830 – 119,570

About Saffronart

A global company with deep Indian roots, Saffronart was founded in 2000 on the strength of a private passion. Remaining committed to this passion and personal values, today Saffronart is a strong and successful international business that both embraces and drives change.

A pioneer of online art auctions, Saffronart has set global pricing benchmarks and transformed the landscape of Modern and Contemporary Indian Art, making it accessible to connoisseurs and collectors around the world. Its robust online auction platform and secure technology offers a personal, intuitive and effortless bidding and buying experience for clients.

With its online presence, and offices in Mumbai, New York and London, Saffronart has broadened and simplified access to Indian art and jewelry. Responding to the needs of today’s collectors, Saffronart also offers services such as art advisory, private sales, appraisals and valuations, and specialized art storage.

For further details on the auction, please contact:

India: Punya Nagpal, Nishad Avari or Dhanashree Waikar

Tel: (91 22) 2432 2898 / 2436 4113 or Email:

USA: Anu Nanavati Chaddha

Tel: (212) 627 5006 or Email:

UK: Abha Housego

Tel: 44 (0) 20 7409 7974 or Email:

Media Contact: Malika Bhavnani, CMCG India Pvt. Ltd.

Tel: (91-22) 24450991/2/3, (91) 9820496099 or

Indian Classical Art Set to Soar –

Indian Classical Art Set to Soar –

mah016I am really looking forward to seeing the new “Maharaja: the Splendour of India’s Royal Courts” exhibition which will be opening at the Victoria and Albert museum in London on the 10th of October. According to the V&A website “The heyday of the maharajas began in earnest after the collapse of the Mughal empire in the early 18th century. The exhibition will open with this period of chaos and adventure and will close at the end of British rule in 1947, when Indian princes acceded their territories into the modern states of India and Pakistan.”

Although it may not seem that exciting, this exhibition is a very important exhibition in my opinion because of the extent to which historic Indian works of art are undervalued. One of the reasons for this is the lack of cultural sector infrastructure in India which means that there is relatively little scholarly or curatorial attention paid to the works of the 18th and 19th centuries. In particular, the work of 18th century Indian artists is particularly impressive and is very highly valued because of the significant events that happened at this time that were important to the history of India. With so many wealthy people in India who are becoming more interested in fine art and cultural objects, I believe that it is inevitable that the value of classical works of art and other objects that have cultural and historical significant will increase in value very shortly.

Although a number of Indian billionaires have had their wealth decreased by the financial crisis (until last year India had the highest number of billionaires in Asia), there are still 24 Billionaires in India according to Forbes magazine (March 2009), which gives India the 6th highest number of Billionaires – only 4 billionaires behind China and two spots on the list. India was ahead of China in the 2008 rankings when they had 54 billionaires but is now behind them due to the financial crisis but the outlook for Indian’s economy is very good and is even tipped to overtake the Chinese economy.

In relation to the art market, I think that a comparison between China and India is very relevant. Both countries have a rich cultural history, and both countries are experiencing an increase in new wealth which has given more people the means to indulge their passion for fine art and cultural objects. The art market boom showed that a major increase in the number of wealthy people in a certain country usually results in what is essentially a buy back of that countries historic and cultural artefacts from abroad. This happened with Russia, Japan, China and is sure to happen with India.

Althought the market for contemporary Indian art has been hit particularly hard by the financial crisis combined with the lack of patronanage as well as the lack of curatorial and scholarly attention given to India’s contemporary artists, the work of the well known modern Indian masters has faired remarkably well. There is obviously still a considerable amount of wealth in India that is available to be spent but as with other art markets around the world, buyers are being much more discerning and careful with their money in light of recent events. Works of art that are seen to have cultural and historic value have the characteristics (stability and justifiable value) that buyers are looking for at the moment.

My big tip for 2010 is that Indian classical art will increase in value considerably so my advice is to take advantage of the very low prices that such works are being offered for at the moment.

**Nicholas Forrest is an art market analyst, art critic and journalist based in Sydney, Australia. He is the founder of, writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectibles for Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications

Effects of the Correction on Emerging Art Markets –

Effects of the Correction on Emerging Art Markets –

The most speculative and volatile markets over the last four years, emerging art markets have propelled a number of Chinese, Indian, Russian and Middle-Eastern contemporary artists into the global limelight with extraordinary speed. But with so many young artists fetching such big figures at auctions, some kind of meltdown was inevitable.

The first consequences of the global financial crisis on the art market were felt in Hong Kong in 2008 at the Christie’s and Sotheby’s October sales. Indeed, China’s art market has proved to be particularly sensitive and thousands of art market professionals are keenly watching developments in that country where the price index of contemporary art rose 583% between January 2004 and January 2009.

In 2007, driven by the financial strength of Hong Kong and the dynamism of Shanghai, China took third place on the global art market podium behind the United States and the United Kingdom. The rocketing price indices of Fanzhi ZENG, Xiaogang ZHANG, Lijun FANG, Minjun YUE, Guoqiang CAI and Guangyi WANG fuelled an unprecedented optimism, inspiring thousands of would-be artists across the country, prompting hundreds of new gallery openings and giving a very substantial boost to the Chinese art auction market. Just when our figures showed that one third of the world’s top 100 contemporary artists (ranked by auction revenue) were from China, Bonhams decided to set up shop in Hong Kong (26 November 2007) alongside Christie’s and Sotheby’s who were already well established on the island. After Bonhams, Artcurial decided to head East with a first sale in Shanghai in January 2008. The following month in London, Sotheby’s was unable to sell Overwhelm by Minjun YUE, despite his leading position on the contemporary Chinese art scene. At the time, this was a rare event: only 9 paintings by the artist were bought in over 10 years (between 1997 and 2007). In 2008, the number was 12 …

After the record bought-in rates posted in October at Sotheby’s and Christie’s Hong Kong, the November and December sales confirmed the contraction of demand and the choosiness of buyers. Sales have not been frozen, but we are definitely seeing a sharp correction of the Chinese art market. Collectors are now being extremely selective both in terms of quality and price. Numerous works by the stars whose prices had risen too high (e.g. Lijun FANG, Minjun YUE, Xiaogang ZHANG and Fanzhi ZENG) sold below their low estimates or were bought in. The recent failure of an attempted quick sale of a painting by Xiaogang ZHANG at Est-Ouest Auctions Co. Hongkong drew a definitive veil over the speculative mood. The work in question is a portrait from the Big Family Series. Initially selling for CNY 8.5 million (USD 1.15 million) in November 2007, it failed to sell in December 2008 even after a substantial trim of its estimate (roughly USD 554,000).

The stars of contemporary Indian art are in more or less the same boat. Despite a 957% increase in the price index between January 2004 and January 2009, more than half of Subodh GUPTA’s works offered from October to December 2008 were bought in. His important work Vehicle for Seven Seas III was bought in on 13 November, 2008 in New York despite carrying a reasonable price estimate (300,000 to 400,000) compared to the USD 625,000 that a work from the same series fetched in April 2008 (Artcurial, Paris, EUR 425,000). We find the same scenario in the field of Iranian art where nearly half the works offered for public sale by Farhad MOSHIRI (1963) have remained unsold. Back in March 2008, collectors at the Dubaï sales were a lot more extravagant, pushing up the price of Eshgh (Love) to USD 900,000, which was six times the estimated price (Bonhams).

The February Contemporary Art sales in London timidly propose 2 to 5 Chinese and Indian star attractions at Sotheby’s (5 February) and Christie’s (11 February), including the unavoidable Fanzhi ZENG and Anish KAPOOR. However, the real test will be in March and April 2009 with sales dedicated to Asian art. On 12 February, Phillips de Pury & Company will be offering works by six Chinese artists, one Korean (Kim Whanki), two Indians (Hema UPADHYAY and Jiten & Sumir THUKRAL & TAGRA) and one Pakistani (Rashid RANA). Phillip’s is also participating in the emergence of the African artist El ANATSUI whose 2006 work entitled Congress of Elders is expected to fetch around GBP 200,000. Almost a complete stranger to the secondary art market, a work by this artist entitled Healer fetched USD 500,000 at Sotheby’s London in October 2008… not the most favourable period for generating a new record…

Still buoyant throughout the first half of 2008, demand on these highly dynamic new markets has substantially contracted since the autumn. In a global crisis context, many works have become too expensive and speculative temptations are no longer on the agenda. Nevertheless, among the major buyers of contemporary Russian, Chinese, Korean, Indian or Iranian art, profit is often not the primary motive. In recent years, many Russian and Chinese collectors have invested in the works of their compatriots in order to build coherent collections for foundations or museums.

**Nicholas Forrest is an art market analyst, art critic and journalist based in Sydney, Australia. He is the founder of, writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectibles for Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications.