| The Victoria Memorial by Atul Bose
Calcutta, Jan. 17: The Calcutta art mart took one more step towards maturity on Friday when Bowrings held its first auction of furniture, paintings of the late 19th and early 20th century, clocks, carpets and a collection of Oriental ceramics at Sonar Bangla hotel. The sale attracted a huge crowd that spilled out of the large banquet hall. As indicated by the visitors’ book, dealers had come from Delhi and Bangalore as well.
Their presence mattered because they buy works in bulk. This changes the prices in the market. In spite of the crush, Mira Pyne, wife of Ganesh Pyne, in a rich green silk sari and Neville Tuli, art entrepreneur who has shot to fame of late, could not be missed. Tuli was clad in a quaint coat tailored out of what must have been some old Indian textile.
Many of the lots (there were 269 of them) were sold below the reserve price. Buyers did not really fall under the combined spells of our local Greta Garbo Suchitra Sen and her daughter Moon Moon, many of whose effects were on sale. With the sole exception of a pair of her hall chairs that sold for Rs 45,000, against the reserve price of Rs 10,000-15,000 most were sold well below the reserve price. But at the end of it, Patrick Bowring, deputy chairman of the auction house, was beaming. “It’s OK,” he exclaimed.
Actually, Bowring had good reason for feeling happy. The prices the lots fetched may not have been phenomenal, but almost everything sold, and in less than three hours’ time. He was pleased that the furniture had done “pretty well, overall”, particularly the smaller pieces. Asked if it would be viable to hold another sale, Bowring responded: “Don’t see why not.”
The auctioneer, Christopher Elwes, who is also Bowrings’ CEO, too, seemed to be mighty pleased. Elwes, who has been in the business of auctioneering for the past 30 years, said the Calcutta auction had attracted a much larger crowd than Delhi, where paintings were sold.
Surprises never cease at auctions and this sale, too, offered a fair share of them. A Jogesh Chandra Seal painting fetched Rs 340,000, missing the reserve price by Rs 10,000. Bhavani Charan Law’s Morning Bath went for a hammer price of Rs 2 lakh against an estimate of Rs 1-1.5 lakh. The lone Atul Bose went for Rs 110,000, against the reserve price of Rs 60,000-80,000. The two Jamini Prakash Gangoolys went for Rs 240,000 (reserve price Rs 200,000-300,000) and Rs 180,000 (reserve price Rs 200,000-300,000), respectively.
The lot that fetched the highest price was a large bronze figure of a Japanese demon with a fishing eagle on top. It went for Rs 6 lakh, a lakh short of the reserve price. A Sevres jardiniere sold for the same price, matching its reserve price.
The pride of the collection, the Satsuma vases, did not disappoint. One of them of the late Meiji period showing a pheasant went for Rs 220,000 (reserve price Rs 200,000-350,000). The finest of them all, a saucer dish of the same period, fetched Rs 210,000 (reserve price Rs 140,000-200,000).