Of reviving modernists, pearl carpet and an art blitz (Weekly art column, Rainbow Palette, With Images)

February 27th, 2009 - 3:54 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Feb 27 (IANS) After the roller-coaster brush with contemporary art throughout 2008, the market for modern Indian art seems to be looking up again.

Co-founder of Saffronart, Dinesh Vazirani, whose online action house will host its spring online sale March 11-12, feels that the price trends of sales in December point to a strong resurgence in interest from collectors of modern Indian art.

“The prices for works by modernists such as Jagdish Swaminathan and Arpita Singh were quite strong in our last auctions and there seems to be a fair level of interest in this sale as well,” he told IANS in an e-mail from Mumbai.

The auction will include works by modern artists like Ram Kumar, S.H. Raza, Arpita Singh, Manjit Bawa, Jagdish Swaminathan and F.N. Souza, among others.

A total of 110 works by 71 artists with lower estimates and higher estimates of Rs.132 million ($2.8 million) and Rs.164 million ($3.41 million) respectively will be on sale.

Saffronart previewed its spring collection at the Jahangir Art Gallery in Mumbai Feb 19.

The highlight of the auction, according to the catalogue of the auction, however, is “Nations”, triptych of epic proportions by contemporary artist N.S. Harsha, winner of the Artes Mundi prize.

The auction market, Vazirani said, has stabilised.

“Given the current economic scenario, prices have taken a downturn and are now finding appropriate level in the market,” the co-founder of Saffronart said. He explained that the revised price benchmarks are expected to emerge as the global auction season begins with Saffronart’s sale in March.

Though the meltdown has impacted art prices, it does not seem to have altered the buyers’ profile.

“What we are seeing now is renewed interest from collectors who may have been priced out of the market earlier, but are keen to add to their collections now. Collectors, who have been buying throughout realise that a revision in prices make this a great time to buy,” he said.

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Prophet’s pearl carpet

The “Pearl Carpet of Baroda”, one of the most extraordinary masterpieces of its kind ever to have come to the market, will be the highlight of auctioneer Sotheby’s inaugural sales in Doha, said a release issued by Sotheby’s from London.

The carpet will be the centrepiece at the Arts of the Islamic World auction on March 19.

The carpet, Sotheby’s said, was traditionally created as a gift for the tomb of the Prophet Mohammad in Medina and was commissioned by “Gaekwar” Kande Rao, the Maharaja of Baroda, who had a passion for buying gems and jewellery.

The intended gift was not delivered as the Maharaja died before he made the donation and the carpet therefore remained in his family.

Bidding on this will start around $5 million but is expected to rise considerably.

“It is fitting that an historic object as magnificent and unique as the pearl carpet of Baroda is a major highlight of our inaugural series of auctions in Doha,” Mary Jo Otsea, worldwide director of rugs and carpets at Sotheby’s said.

The carpet, Otsea said, has never appeared at auction before.

In 1879, Sir George Birdwood, a connoisseur of Indian jewellery, called it the “most wonderful piece of jewellery ever known”.

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Art Mart in Gurgaon

The Gurgaon based art and culture exhibition space will host a mega three-day art mart Feb 27-March 1. Spread over an area of 45,000 sq ft, the Art Mart will celebrate art drawing in its folds art lovers, collectors, artists, dealers, curators, experts, art enthusiasts as well as institutions and museum representatives.

Nearly 50 galleries will exhibit 1,000 artworks by about 100 artists.

Independent curator Sushma Bahl, who has been overseeing the project with support from the Art Bank, said: ” A wide spectrum of contemporary Indian creativity of high aesthetic merit and value in variable styles, themes, media and class as well as the planned associated events make the art mart interesting and accessible for all.”

The programme of associated events includes an art appreciation course for the general public, a “face to face” with collectors and artists, an “on the spot painting competition” for children and an art camp.

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