Thursday, Sep 21, 2006
The last price is...
Auction houses for art are the in-thing nowadays. RANA SIDDIQUI finds out why
HAMMERS DOWN!Artworks are fetching tremendous prices at auction houses
Much before India's art market saw a boom, Christie's and Sotheby held some charity auctions in India in 1987 and 1989. Then came Bowrings, whichheld a couple of auctions. But despite its prestigious name Bowring's didn't get a legal space in India. Even Sotheby's tried to establish itself in India around 1992, but failed.
Few people knowthat art critic Keshav Mallick started the first in-house art auction in Delhi in the 1970s with some poets and artists. They would auction "paintings with placarded poetry at a maximum of Rs.600," atthe Lalit Kala Akademi. He started doing it from his home in Connaught Place later. "All the money from it would go to a financially-disadvantaged school. But someone complained to the MCD saying wewere `debasing art'. We were uprooted from there," recalls the veteran.
Then came, HEART - The Tuli Foundation for Holistic Education & Art - and Neville Tuli. It held the first professional auctionin India in November 1997. What was most important about this auction was it was held without using a foreign auction house as its base. This auction called The Intuitive-Logic was the first curatedauction on the subject. It broke many world records, including selling Ravi Varma's painting The Begum's Bath for Rs.32 lakhs, making it the world's most expensive Indian painting at the time. It alsomarked the inclusion of 100 more Indian contemporary artists for the first time as J. Sultan Ali, Shanti Dave, Atul Dodiya, Ganesh Haloi, K. Ramanujam, Himmat Shah, Sudhir Patwardhan, etc.
In 2001,Neville established India's first auction house, Osian's Connoisseurs of Art. It marked the beginning of art auctions in the domestic market, followed by the international market.