Though very small compared to the global art auction market size, the new trend in India reflects people’s increased interest in possessing artwork. And with digitalisation, these auction houses are conducting online auctions. “Saffronart”, for example, recently conducted its 2017 online summer auctions and more than 70% of the contemporary lots were sold. “Astaguru” conducted six online auctions last year. In 2016, it also celebrated its 25th auction.
There has been a significant growth in the turnover of these companies.
“There is not much difference between a live and online auction. But in online auction, you can tap clients from all over the world. It is also more convenient,” said Tushar Sethi, director of the Mumbai-based “AstaGuru”, while speaking to this newspaper. “AstaGuru” conducts online auctions for Indian, contemporary and modern art as well as vintage collectibles and antiques.
Worldwide, art auctions are very popular, with US and China being the major centres. The US accounts for 40% of the world’s total turnover from art auctioning. The price difference between Indian works and other works are also huge, in the ratio of 1:100. Christie’s, for examples, auctions artworks up to Rs 3,000 crore in just one evening’s sale. India is far behind that and the market size is quite tiny compared to the world market. In India, there are only three major auction houses, 20 art galleries and two private museums, apart from the ones owned by the government. In contrast, China has 300 auction houses.
Similarly, an average Chinese painting fetches up to $30 million, whereas a M.F. Hussain painting gets only up to Rs 2 crore. However, with increased awareness and love for Indian art, the market is slowly but gradually growing. “Indians do have money and I think they are now ready to spend on artwork. Now the annual sale is about Rs 1,000 crore, which is likely to increase much more in the next five years,” said Sethi.
He said most of his clients, who take part in online auctions, are either Indians or Indians settled abroad. “Artworks that catch the most attention are of Raja Ravi Varma and M.F. Hussain,” he added.