Art News & Views

Guest Editorís Column

The seething hot summer, merciless sun and not even a false hope of a rejuvenating shower from heavens above! While we fight & survive this wicked heat a lot is changing around us at light speed, the global market for Indian art for one.

Some rare paintings by Rabindranath Tagore, were put up for an auction in London by Sotheby's on June 15. The occasion: 150th birth anniversary of Rabindra Nath Tagore being celebrated and augmented interest in his works. These 12 paintings were gifted by Tagore to his close friends Leonard and Dorothy Elmhirst. The art works had been with the Dartington Estate Trust in Devon for 71 years, before being put up with Sotheby's. The pre-sale (combined) estimate was £250,000, while the sales managed to achieve a staggering 1.6 million, which is many times over. Finally, some salvation, from the seemingly eternal slump, like a cool breeze from across the oceans.

The low records set in the past two years of the 1940s and 1950s were turned around and corrected themselves with a giant zest. The record price for a Souza was set at Christie's in June 2008, just before the crash, when Birth, a 1955 work, sold in London for $2.5m That was an exceptionally high price and this auction's results compare well, setting off signals that the prices are beginning to recuperate. Evidently the top collectors are now geared up to pay high prices for the best of modern Indian art. The June 10 auction set a record for modern Indian art (Christe's London) with an S.H. Raza “Saurashtra” selling for $3.5 million.

Also, was the auction of Souza's Estate, fetching more than double the estimate price. “This shows that the market for the Indian Progressive movement is strong,” said Hugo Weihe, Christie's international director of Asian art. “This is a fantastic testament to the legacy of Souza who himself was a trailblazer within the Indian Progressives”.

This is hopefully the precedent to the market's upward thrust.

Modern Indian painter Jehangir Sabavala also set a new record with his work at the Saffronart's summer online auction. This Mumbai-based artist, whose work is a juxtaposition of impressionist and cubist styles of painting sold unexpectedly well. “Casuarina Line”, a landscape, was acquired by an Indian-origin buyer for Rs 1.7 crores by far exceeding the pre-sale estimate of Rs 50 lakhs. The 88-year-old Sabavala, from the JJ School of Arts, Mumbai and several other renowned institutions. (His first solo exhibition was at the Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai, put up with the help of fellow artist M.F. Husain and the previous one had been in 2008) was not an exception.

Modern master S.H. Raza topped Saffron art's summer auction charts a second within a month. Raza's "La Provence Noire" went under the hammer at Rs 3.3 crore the highest fetched by the auction house in this season's sale, followed by an untitled work by Subodh Gupta which sold for Rs 2.2 crore.

A London based analysis firm, Art Tactic stated that, “Market confidence in Indian Modern Art was continuing to improve strongly.”

On the other side, nay, alongside/ parallel are the contemporaries, most working towards an identity, some playing with technology, others, creating with various cultural & social interactions. Such unconventional forms of art have come to be known as - New Media. Performance Art the emergence of a trend where interaction is the key to a successful outcome, not necessarily an end product but perhaps to invocation of emotions / reactions. Art performance, is gaining ground as a medium in India & abroad.

Although technology was late to arrive in India, but once it did there has been no looking back. Artists took the cue early and began to experiment with this newly bestowed medium. They started exploring this art genre & taking it further with rapid advancement in technologies and the arena getting wider to constitute more of what may be defined as New Media.

Our lives today are governed by technologically advanced processes and systems, from mobiles to ticketing to home appliances to genetic manipulation, nanotechnology (that could possibly solve even the water problem in the future), artificial intelligence and artificial life. It is but natural that art be a part of this process of globalization and allow a shift/ bifurcation from the traditional. We talk a bit about New Media this issue & make it perceptible to all…..

  Siddhartha Tagore 
Guest Editor 




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art etc. news & views is a monthly magazine published from India in order to promote art and culture. It intends to raise awareness about art all around India and the world. The magazine covers art exhibitions, auction highlights, market trends, art happenings besides Antique, Collectibles, Fashion, Jewellery, Vintage, Furniture, Film, Music and Culture.