welcome to collectors mind

This is a forum for sharing knowledge, gaining insights and shaping opinions. We will not sit on the fence here or play favorites. The language of art has changed in a blink of a year– today there are market makers, power brokers, savvy investors, flippers, fakes and fund managers. Collectors are nearly extinct. Why? Because collectors can see and COLLECTORS MIND. So together, let’s take a small step to make today’s buyers into tomorrow’s collectors. The future of art depends on it!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Broota 'numbers' on fire at the Christie's sale

The Indian section of the International Modern and Contemporary Art sale in Dubai coughed up $5,697,800 in sales amounting to 67% of the total billing of $8,489,400. The more remarkable thing is this was achieved from just 35 lots or less than 30% of all lots that were up for sale showing once again why Indian Modern Art is gaining in stature and importance for Christies and other International auction houses.

We saw a lot of wallet power being flashed at this inaugural Dubai sale pushing the average sale price to a whopping $163,000 with over 92% of all lots in the Indian section finding buyers and over 55% of the lots selling above $100,000

In a no holds barred fight to the finish Numbers, a 1979 canvas work by Rameshwar Broota (est $80,000-$120,000) was hammered down for a mind numbing $912,000 or over 650% its original high estimate making it the top lot for this sale and setting a world record for the most expensive Broota ever to have sold at the auctions or even privately as may be the case.

Ciel Bleu, 1957 landscape by Raza estimated to sell between $100,000-150,000 was the other picture that managed to ignite the salesroom ultimately going for $329,600. As expected, the Souza’s did well as did Husain with all of his 7 lots finding unlikely buyers.

Overall this was a resounding success for Christies and for Indian art with Dubai emerging as a buying force to reckon with and an almost certain venue for future sales of Indian pictures.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

2 New World Records at the Sotheby's Indian Sale in London

Of the 117 lots that went on sale in the Modern section of the London auction, just a fraction over 80% of the lots found buyers with nearly 70% selling above their high estimate. With a respectable total of $6.4 million (inclusive of buyer’s premium) Sothebys ended up with revenues of 46% over the presale high estimate

It is interesting to note that the top seventeen lots by value or 18% of the lots that were sold accounted for a whopping 80% of the sale proceeds with 14 of those lots selling for over $100,000 - highlighting once again just how dependent the market is on a few big names - SOUZA being the biggest of them all as the bidding last evening clearly showed.

Two of the three most expensive works were by him with the top lot (illustrated) fetching an enormous sum of $1,123,200 which was also a new world record for the highest price paid for a Souza relative to its size. (In terms of absolute value, lovers that sold at Saffronart’s Dec 2005 auction still retains top billing at $1.49 million)

Once again, MF Husain failed to fire up the salesroom with a modest individual collection of $745,200 and 2 of 10 lots remaining unsold. Even his top lot sold for a bargain price of $216,000.

The surprise of the evening was the staggering price of $103,680 (est. $9000-$12,000) paid for an early but rather stoic untitled portrait by George Keyt earning him a new world record and ushering him into the elitist $100,000 club!
When a picture estimated at $12,000 is knocked down at over $100,000 inexperienced buyers can be forgiven for loosing any sense of direction. “This market is too frothy” said one newbie who self admittedly came to see what the buzz on Indian art was all about. “I doubt I’ll be putting my money here” he added.

Next week I will post 'A USERS GUIDE TO AUCTION ESTIMATES' with a hope to dispel some of the concerns that newbie’s like this have when confronted by the fever pitch bidding at auction that can sometimes drive prices to unimaginable heights. Now over to Dubai for the Christies sale...

Monday, May 22, 2006

will the Indian art market mirror the Indian stock market this week?

Over fifty billion dollars of wealth has been eroded in a matter of days. Imagine Bill Gates and Warren Buffett just went broke!

The Indian financial markets have continued to nosedive much to the dismay of millions of investors. There is a visible panic as the injured run for cover but the lord of the bourses is showing no mercy. So what does this mean to the infallible Indian art market? What impact will it have on the upcoming auctions? That is the big question of the day.

My own view is that its business as usual especially in the short run and here are three reasons why;

  1. Majority of the buying - especially at these price levels is happening from outside the country by the wealthy of Indian origin who are least impacted by the turbulence in Dalal street
  2. A large proportion of the buying that happens at auctions is still by the ‘trade’ and local art dealers and gallerists are hardly fazed by much these days. Even the few resident Indians brave enough to make a winning bid are not exactly dipping into their primary investments to get their high at the auctions
  3. There is a theory of negative correlation between art and other asset classes such as equities suggesting a mildly inverse relationship between price of equities on the price of art. Although that is yet to be proven out completely, I am going to go with the gurus on this one for now

Considering the above, both the sales should do exceedingly well and I wish the team at Sotheby’s in London and Christies in Dubai the very best!

an evening to remember

Yesterday I had one of the most interesting and invigorating evenings with long time friend and fellow collector that has perhaps the bravest eye and an unflinching passion for the avant-garde. Be it art, design or personal way of living. I was with Amrita Jhaveri, her husband Christopher and Priya her charming sister at their apartment in Malabar Hill for a chat over drinks which extended into a delightful dinner whipped together by Amrita at the very last minute

Both Christopher and Amrita are giants in the field of art but it was their warmth, graciousness and hospitality that left as big an impression as their discerning and expansive collection of modern Indian art.

We had an engaging conversation about ‘the state of the arts’ and I had a chance to see some of the groundbreaking work they are doing to document private collections in a proprietary database that allows a collector to effectively manage all aspects of their art portfolio including multi-location inventory management, valuation, insurance, records of payment & invoices, search ability across multiple dimensions and a host of other user friendly features that would be indispensable for anybody with a collection of say 50 objects d’art or more. So if you are interested in putting right systems in place to document and manage your portfolio of art, jewelry and other valuables I would strongly recommend you contact Amrita at amrita@amartindia.com

Good things and experiences are savored most when shared and I hope my lovely hosts from last evening will allow me this tiny indulgence!

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Sotheby's London Sale: Preview and Top Lots

Close on the heels of Saffronart’s $12.86 million auction of Indian contemporary art are two back to back sales by Sothebys (May 23rd London) and Christies (May 24th Dubai)

There are a total of 117 lots on offer in the Indian Modern Paintings section of the London sale and buyers looking for bargains will be hard pressed to find any at this auction which has a very strong overall catalogue barring a few lackluster pictures. Tyeb Mehta’s Trussed Bull (lot 155) failed to inspire despite its hefty estimate of $270,000-$450,000*. On the other hand, it was refreshing to see a brilliant Padamsee Metascape from the 60’s (lot 154) and it comes as a welcome change to the more recent commercial pictures by the same artist that have been appearing regularly on the block and fetching ridiculously high prices.

Out of a total of 13 lots with an auctioneer’s high estimate of over $100,000 I am calling out the top five pictures with a Price Guide for all the works based on the current market as well as the overall quality of the picture.

FN Souza (L.135)
1961 Amsterdam Landscape

Est. $108,000-$144000

Great buy at anything below $500,000 on the hammer. Good buy even at $50,000 more!

Collectors Mind: Modest estimates should attract healthy competition for this picture. A superior work to the one on the cover of the Mullins book, featured recently in the Saffronart sale. This enigmatic landscape should fetch a fantastic price

FN Souza (L.137)
1956, Untitled (Head)

Est. $36,000-$54,000

I will not be surprised if this tops $100,000 on the hammer breaking the world record for a Souza paper work

Collectors Mind: It was a toss up between this 1956 untitled head and the chance (L.140) but in the end this petite paper work of rare quality won over its more imposing canvas cousin. True Souza collectors will not let this museum quality picture pass without a spirited fight

Akbar Padamsee (L.154)
1967, Metascape
Est. $108,000-$144,000

If quality sells then this should sail thru the $300,000 mark on the hammer

Collectors Mind: One of the finest Akbar metascapes to have come up in the auctions in the recent past. Anyone looking for his work would be smart to go aggressive on this lot

J. Swaminathan (L.185)
1974, Bird, Mountain and Tree Series

Est. $216,000-$324,000

$450,000 on the hammer is a fair price in my view. Add another $100,000 if you are into collecting cover trophies

Collectors Mind: Signature work by a signature artist. This catalogue cover picture should attract a beehive of bidders resulting in an ownership battle that will probably push prices over the half million mark!

MF Husain (L.130)
1964, Blue Girl

Est. $108,000-$144,000

This peach of a picture should easily fetch $315,000 on the hammer

Collectors Mind: The subject as well as the pleasing color palette makes this a very attractive work. If you are in the hunt for a Husain to add to your portfolio this is the one to get. It’s undoubtedly the strongest in the sale.

a) All figures are represented in US$ using conversion rate of 1 GPB = 1.8 USD
b) Images copyright Sotheby's and original copyright holders

All opinions including estimated sale price are meant to serve as a point of reference only and the author is in no way responsible for any errors or actions that reader may take as a result of this posting

Christies Dubai Sale: Preview and Top Lots

The Christies auction the following day in Dubai is a first for the auction house in this part of the world and they are clearly looking to establish a foothold in a region that is growing in stature and influence. There are a total of 129 lots on offer with nearly 20 countries represented including unlikely candidates such as Tunisia, Libya as well as a few pictures from Italy and the United States thrown into the mix, making it a truly International Modern and Contemporary Art sale and is representative of the diverse buying appetite of the region.

The overall selection of pictures in the Indian section (lot 49 thru lot 93) is not as strong as one usually expects from this juggernaut with many passable pictures by established names such as Husain and Raza finding their way into this sale

Making a second appearance is a 1962 untitled head by Souza (lot 60) that remained unsold at Christies in the September 2004 New York auction when the market was nowhere as heated as it is today but it should do quite well in this market climate and the consignor will not be disappointed this time around.

In this sale, there are a total of 14 lots estimated above the luminous $100,000 mark with these making the cut to my top five

FN Souza (L.65)
1958, Monsoon

Est. $180,000-$220,000

Anything under $315,000 on the hammer is cheap for this work

Collectors Mind: The indefinable art of Souza comes right through with this picture that adorns the back cover of the Christies catalogue. The bright red houses in a monsoon night lend a rather curious and mysterious quality to the work. Pictures of this period and class don’t come by every day so keep the paddles well oiled for this one

Ram Kumar (L.54)
1960, Landscape

Est. $100,000-$150,000

This should hammer down at or close to $275,000

Collectors Mind: The sensitivity of the artist is adequately represented in this early landscape with a pleasing yet identifiable palate. His market is hot and this work should not disappoint

SH Raza (L.57)
1957, Ciel Bleu

Est. $100,000-$150,000

Anything over $275,000 on the hammer would be excessive

Collectors Mind: Moderate craquelure will not deter Raza fans from going over the top for this pleasing landscape from the 50’s

Rameshwar Broota
1979, Numbers

Est. $80,000-$120,000

There is no saying what a Broota fan might pay for this one but my money is shy of $225,000 on the hammer

Collectors Mind: This work is not for the faint hearted but true connoisseurs will battle it out on the floor - and on the phone - to acquire this genius

Ganesh Pyne (L.63)
1980, The Wings

Est. $30,000-$50,000

Die hard collectors and savvy investors might just push this to the $100,000 mark

Collectors Mind: The Bengal master rarely goes wrong with tempra and this work is no exception. The market for Pyne has been quiet of late but this may well be the revival.

There are at least four pictures of signature artists with estimates greater than $100,000 which would have otherwise never found buyers but probably will in this buoyant market where top dollars are sometimes paid for bottom quality works. Lots 68, 76 and 83 (all later period Husain’s) as well as a 1990 goa landscape by Souza (lot 73) fall into this category.

The selection of pictures on offer combined with the aggressive estimates on some is suggestive of a stiffening market. Today’s buyers should take heart to know that even in these upbeat conditions there are not that many people willing to part with their best works. This speaks of the confidence in the future prices of Indian Contemporary Art. Happy bidding and see you at the auctions!

a) All figures are represented in US$ using conversion rate of 1 GPB = 1.8 USD
b) Images copyright Christies and original copyright holders

All opinions including estimated sale price are meant to serve as a point of reference only and the author is in no way responsible for any errors or actions that reader may take as a result of this posting