How the internet is opening up new avenues for buyers and sellers of art

How the internet is opening up new avenues for buyers and sellers of art

By BHUMIKA POPLI | | 22 July, 2016
(Clockwise) Five-strand natural pearl necklace, part of the Saffron Art online auction, This untitled work by M.F. Husain is also up for sale, estimated cost Rs 30-40 lakh & An untitled painting by Jivya Soma Mashe, being sold online by Saffron Art.
The world of art is changing rapidly, and nowhere is the spirit of change more apparent than in the auctioneering circuit as it crosses over to the online sphere. Saffronart’s upcoming internet auction of Indian paintings and artifacts is a case in point, writes Bhumika Popli.

Being at the forefront of the  online international art market for over 16 years now, Saffronart is set to host another big-ticket internet auction, making available rare works of art to interested buyers across the world — all at the click of a button. Later this month, on 27-28 July to be precise, they will be hosting an online auction —the event is entitled, Art and Collectibles Online Auction — where buyers can find modern, contemporary and traditional artworks from leading Indian artists, as well as vintage jewellery, watches and furniture.

At the auction, artworks from both well-known and emerging artists will be sold. Paintings from M.F. Hussain, Jamini Roy, Gagendranath Tagore, Ram Singh Urveti and many others will be the highlight of the event. Besides these, a five-strand pearl necklace, emeralds, tanzanite, rubies in jewellery and watches from brands like Rolex, Patek Philippe, Piaget are also up for grabs.

This auction of 80 lots has a pre-sale value of Rs 5.26-7.23 crores (which is close to a million dollars), offering collectors an excellent opportunity to acquire quality pieces across multiple categories.

“Online auction is an ideal platform,” says Hugo Weihe, CEO of Saffronart. “Here you can reach a wide number of people. People don’t have to come to the auction at a particular time or at any place.  It is also ideal for new collectors. It is much more comfortable and easy than live auction. But we do have a printed catalogue for items.”

Online auction for art pieces is becoming the next big thing in the global marketplace of art. The online format is, for one thing, beneficial to sellers since the whole setup doesn’t cost as much as it does to organise a live auction. There is also less hassle in terms of packing and moving things at a designated venue as happens at a  live auction.

But what exactly makes an online auction for artworks tick?

The internet, for obvious reasons, guarantees a greater exposure, which is a big plus. Weihe says, “It is the easy availability of the items to a large number of people unlike at a live auction where mostly locals can savour good art.”

 The coming online art auction also aims to rope in international collectors. “As the auction is online, we are to reach international customers also. We also have an app now where people can choose to buy art online,” he says.

The auction also features Gond and Warli paintings, which are two of the more prominent indigenous forms to be found in India. “We really wanted to show tribal and folk art to our customers. That’s why we thought about showcasing Gond and Warli art alongside contemporary art,” says Weihe.

Talking about how the tally of artworks was finalised for the sale, Weihe reports he wanted to showcase objects which had a fresh feeling about them. He says, “We wanted really interesting and unusual things. We looked at the design element and something that would appeal to the young and new collectors in the art world.”

Amrita Varma, the founder of Egg Art Studio and Gallery based in New Delhi, has closely followed the move art auctioneers around the world have made online. She tells Guardian 20: “Online auctions really attract the new generation of collectors. Collectors can be from anywhere and needn’t necessarily travel to the auction houses for the items.”

But there are some pitfalls of selling art online to be taken into account.  “Art is about sensing the piece with your hands,” Varma says. “It needs a kind of tactile feeling. The art piece that goes under the hammer online obviously lacks this control. So it becomes a difficult decision for the buyer.  It happens that a lot of time a buyer picks up the object with the help of another person’s sense. You really would want to see the work and be with it for sometime before picking it up.”

She also talks about the lack of drama in an online sale. “There is a kind of charm to the live auction which goes missing at an online event. There is hype about live auctions and the beauty of the experience is not to be found anywhere else. On the internet, at the end of the day, the people are looking at an image and not at the real thing.”

But that doesn’t do anything to flag the enthusiasm for online auctions among young art collectors. Anubhav Nath, the director of Ojas Art Gallery, when asked if he buys art online, responded in the affirmative. “I regularly buy art online and will continue to do so as I get huge choices. Also, an online auction lasts more than one day, which allows me to have the luxury of time for my bidding.”

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