Market for antiquities still strong in India: Neville Tuli

New Delhi: The market for antiquities - old miniature art - is emerging as a strong force in the country, Neville Tuli, founder and chairman of the Mumbai-based auction house Osian`s has said.

His auction "Creative India Series 2", featuring Delhi and Punjab miniatures and Indian contemporary art in the capital Jan 27 fetched Rs.14.14 crore, signalling an upswing in the fortunes of the auction house hit by meltdown.

A total of 17 Pahari miniatures, valued at Rs.18,550,000 (US$ 356,730), were sold at the auction.

In the contemporary section, a painting by Tyeb Mehta was sold after it logged the highest bid of Rs.22,800,000 (Rs 2.28 crore).

"The results of the antiquities sale were especially encouraging and it underscores the huge potential of the domestic market for Indian antiquities. Hopefully, the government will facilitate this growth wherever possible," Tuli said Monday releasing the auction figures.

The auction offered art from Kangra, Guler and Mandi schools on sale.

Two rare miniatures, a folio leaf from a Harivamsha Khil series of the Kangra School and a folio leaf from the Mahabharata series belonging to the Kangra or Guler School fetched Rs.5,280,000 each, Tuli said.

The lots in modern and the contemporary sections included works by artists like Sailoz Mookherjea, Satish Gujral, Ramkumar, Manjit Bawa, Biren De, Tyeb Mehta, J. Swaminathan, Vivan Sundaram, G.R. Santosh, Anjolie Ela Menon, Aparna Caur, V.T. Broota and Subodh Gupta, among others.

For Tuli, the Creative India auctions are key to staying afloat in the art market that is struggling to recover from the meltdown and over-inflated pricing of art.

Media reports say the auctioneer, who was in a financial crunch after the economic downturn, is trying to pay back his creditors with the Creative India series and revive the auction house.

In 2000, Tuli, one of the most flamboyant in Mumbai`s art world, launched the Osian`s Connoisseurs of Art Pvt Ltd (OCA), a unique corporate body that housed India`s first indigenous auction house, an archiving, research and documentation centre, a wealth management service, and a film house.

It had turned the perceptions about the art market in Mumbai by guiding art lovers and investors to a more holistic view of arts and its business.

In the last two years, the auctioneer had been criticised by the media for alleged "manhandling of his auction house".

But last week`s auction, the second in the series of "Creative India" sales, appears to have brought him out of the red. The first Creative India auction in December 2011 had realised Rs.7.95 crore in sales.

The Creative India series broke a lull of 18 months since Tuli`s last auction in 2009.

Tuli said the last two Creative India auctions were a clear pointer to the ongoing consolidation of Osian`s and the art market after two very difficult years.

"With lessons imbibed from the past, the progress of Osian`s after consolidation will reveal many new institutional changes and innovations in the coming months," he said.

"These processes will naturally contribute towards the stabilization and continued growth of the Indian art market and its infrastructure," Tuli added.

Pointing to the trends in the market, Tuli said: "Good modern masters will remain strong as awareness of history deepens among buyers."

He said the "collectors` base needed to widen significantly for renewed growth in the art market along with shifts in new infrastructure projects".

The Creative India series would be held in four editions. The next two auctions will be held in Mumbai March 23 focusing on art from Mumbai and Baroda.

On May 28, the last auction of the series in the capital will put art from Cholamandalam and South India under the hammer.


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