Arpita sets record as art mart booms again

New Delhi: The boom is back in the auction market. With Arpita Singh`s ‘Wish Dream’ mural selling at Rs.9.6 crore ($2.24 million) - a record for an Indian woman artist - experts say quality and rarity are once again winning over the ‘square inch’.

With prices of art stabilising, buyers are willing to bet high on large three dimensional art and murals by top-of-the chain artists. They did exactly that with Singh`s work at the Saffronart online auction Thursday.

The sale follows in the footsteps of Bharati Kher whose work, ‘In the Skin Of an Elephant’, fetched 900,000 pounds at an auction in Sotheby`s in June.

Singh`s mural is made of 16 individual canvas panels. This is the highest price achieved by an Indian woman artist at a global auction, Saffronart said in a release.

The auction in all raked an impressive Rs.30 crore (USD 7.1 million) recording a sale of 80 percent of 100 modern and contemporary art works.

Speaking about the record breaking auction, Dinesh Vazirani, co-founder and CEO of Saffronart, said: "We are very pleased with the results of our winter online auction 2010, which was a celebration of our 10th anniversary.

"This auction was an historic event for the online art auction market with Arpita Singh`s magnificent 16 panel mural titled ‘Wish Dream` selling for Rs.9.6 crore.

"Throughout the year, we have seen a strong demand for works of art of the highest quality and following this sale, a new benchmark has been established in this category."

The price record shows that the Indian art market is picking up, auctioneer Vikram Bachhawat of Kolkata-based Aakriti Art Gallery and Emami Chisel Art said.

"The boom is back in the art auction market. Arpita Singh is very good and the works speak for themselves. More serious, good and historically important works have returned again to the market and buyers and collectors are willing to pay for them," Bachhawat told reporters from Kolkata.

"The square inch - when art was measured by per square inch and not by quality - has gone. Rarity and quality are ruling the auction market."

"Three dimensional works like sculptures and murals are fetching high prices in the international art market and that is spilling into the Indian art market as well."

Born in 1937 in what is today Bangladesh, Arpita Singh received her diploma in the arts at the Delhi Polytechnic - before taking up a job as a designer at the Weavers` Service Centre in Kolkata and New Delhi.

Since her first solo exhibition in 1972 at Kunika Chemould Gallery in New Delhi, Singh`s work has been featured regularly in shows of Indian art held in the country and abroad.

Moved by the problems that women in the country and in the world in general face every day, Singh paints the range of emotions that she exchanges with these subjects - from sorrow to joy from suffering to hope - providing a view of the ongoing communication she maintains with them. She is a figurative artist based within the parameters of folk.

More recently, her works have been exhibited at a group exposition,"Progressive to Altermodern: 62 Years of Indian Modern Art" at Grosvenor Gallery, London, in 2009.

One of her exhibitions, "Kalpana: Figurative Art in India" presented by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) at Aicon Gallery in London won worldwide acclaim.

"Honestly, it is a great feeling to see that the market is recovering from the downturn and that money is being pumped back to the market. We should learn from our past mistakes. We overpriced our markets and art industry. What the Indian market witnessed was a correction. But on a note of caution, the trend of high pricing should not be repeated," Nidhi Jain of Delhi-based Gallery Ragini told reporters.

At the Saffronart online auction, four other art works also crossed the Rs.1 crore mark.

They included F.N. Souza`s "Disintegrated Head" which sold for Rs.1.4 crore ($333,500), S.H. Raza`s "Oasis" which sold for Rs.1.3 crore ($303,416), M.F. Husain`s"Untitled" which sold for Rs.1.2 crore ($287,500) and Subodh Gupta`s "Idol Thief" that sold for Rs.1.08 crore ($253,000)


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