Thursday, May 21, 2009

Astaguru Gone & Saffronart Coming ! - An Auction Analysis

Let us talk about the art market right now, Astaguru the auction house set up just a year back concluded its second sale recently in May, now that is a really brave thing to be doing an art auction in May, the end result was worse than they would have expected with close to 50 % of the lots failing to sell. Now, it was not a sale of exceptional works but it was fine if you were looking to buy well priced art and some of it was not bad, I was a buyer of Rashid Rana's famous veil series which has a "Burqa" or a Veil made up with tiny photographs of hardcore pornography and looking like a veil, that is the first time such a controversial work was sold in an Indian auction catalogue, although Sothebys did sell a larger version last year and also the Schandra Singh ( she has never shown in India and represented by the Rare Art gallery in New York and Galerie Bertrand & Gruner in Switzerland), both the works went close to the higher estimates and I stayed away.

The problem with the auction houses as I see it as that it is important to do a sell and quality honestly has not gone up, look at the TV Santosh in Astaguru, very bad work and Saffronart comes up with a watercolor ! now when you can't even manage a decent canvas then why do a contemporary auction ? Look at both the catalogues, no good TV Santosh Canvas, no Thukral & Tagra Canvas, no Bharti Kher work, No substantial NS Harsha work in the established category.Both the auctions did not really show some of the real good emerging talent but stuck to the artists they promote, they deny it but look at Rahul Choudhary and Jagannath Mohapatra for Astaguru and Sudhanshu Sutar ( they have flogged him to death !) and Phaneendra Nath Chaturvedi for Saffronart, no one buys them outside this forum. Phaneendra had a work in Astaguru which was a 5 by 5 feet work only for 1 lac and it failed to sell !

Saffronart is fortunate that the stock market has moved up, confidence is back and art markets which generally lag the stock markets may finally pick up, that is when the real test comes, I sincerely hope this time around people will be logical and more careful in their selection. So what would I be looking at in the upcoming Saffronart auction and the price points that I would look at making a buying decision, how much more transparent can I get ? !

Lot 12 A Ramachandran for 1 lac would be a steal ( not from an investment perspective, I love the work !),


Lot 20 Surendran Nair 35.5 by 27.5 inches at 10 lacs is a fantastic deal, I like the work and its good investment


( The quality of TV Santosh and Shilpa Gupta works is not good enough to be in an auction, Jogen - Lot 49 Value at 35 to 45 lacs is ridiculous according to me )


Lot 59 -N S Harsha ( please view this work in high resolution and read the line, I just love this guy, he is really the best, I am buying him even right now !) Although not one of his best works but still I love the line on a bleeding artisan with blood coming from the clown's nose, I would go till 2.25 lacs for these 2 works.


Lot 64 - Justin Ponmany is a nice work but the estimates of 20-25 lacs are way too high, I will only half this price for a Justin ( he has now failed to sell in a number of auctions )


I must admit that some of the modern works in this auction are really nice but that is something beyond the scope of this blog, just one comment,do buy the lovely V S Gaitonde ( Lot 38) at 1 crore if you have the bucks !


Happy reading and lets see if some of the good cheer has worked its magic on the art world as well ! My advise is that you should definately start buying some of the established conteporaries and the younger emerging lot otherwise you may have miss a good buying opportunity, just be prudent and follow the rules as underlined in this blog earlier. Do visit both the websites at and to download the upcoming auction catalogue from Saffronart and the auction results from Astaguru and then go through this blog note, it will help you in the analysis.

Thank you all for your support and my apologies for the delay in responding to some of your comments on, keep them coming !


Kapil Chopra

Do visit all the earlier posts, comments and recommendations for investing on my blog at

1 comment:

DEBRASS said...

My Mom knows N. S. Harsha personally, and he gave her a signed autographed book of his works....lucky lady.