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Top sellers wow at Nirav Modi auction

Husain joins 10-crore club, Sher-Gil shines again

Smita Tripathi Published 05.03.20, 06:59 PM
Dinesh Vazirani, Saffronart's CEO and co-founder, accepting bids at the auction

Dinesh Vazirani, Saffronart's CEO and co-founder, accepting bids at the auction Sourced by the correspondent

Fugitive businessman Nirav Modi-owned paintings, 15 of which went under the hammer on Thursday night, fetched Rs 53.45 crore for the Enforcement Directorate, indicating that while only a few buyers and sellers are active, the economic slowdown hadn’t quite numbed the art market.

The auction, conducted by Saffronart achieved a 100 per cent sale, but that was because the top sellers retained their stranglehold. Amrita Sher-Gil, continues to wow the market – a la Deepika Padukone in Bollywood. Sher Gil’s Boys with Lemons, auctioned for the first time, sold for Rs 15.7 crore.


An Hermès Kelly Blue Atoll bag

An Hermès Kelly Blue Atoll bag Sourced by the correspondent

M. F. Husain joined the 10-crore club with his Battle of Ganga and Jamuna: Mahabharata 12 going for Rs 13.44 crore ($1.92 million) which was, however, barely above the reserve price.

A serene blue 1972 painting by V.S. Gaitonde failed to cross the 10 crore mark for the second time in a row. It sold for Rs 9.52 crore. There are three more Gaitonde’s up for sale. It remains to be seen whether any of these will cross the 10-crore barrier, the concern being last year’s disappointment when a Gaitonde work failed to earn its reserve price.

MF Husain's painting

MF Husain's painting Sourced by the correspondent

Bringing up the rear in the auction were Manjit Bawa’s Krishna that sold for Rs 6.16 crore and a portrait by Raja Ravi Varma going for Rs 2.8 crore.

The Nirav Modi auxction was the first of the four big sales that are coming up. Still to go a Sotheby’s and Christie’s auctions in New York and the sale of a Japanese art collector’s India collection in Mumbai.

How these go will indicate if people are still buying art at a time when even though the primary art market has collapsed, the secondary market is thriving – a typically desi conundrum, much like the way the stock market booms when the economy does badly.

The Saffronart auction of paintings and other prized possessions of Nirav Modi – often referred to as the Cartier of India – was the first time a professional auction house had been appointed by ED to conduct an auction of seized assets in the country.

Saffronart’s appointment comes a year after a successful auction of seized paintings conducted by it on behalf of the income tax department in March 2019 that raised Rs 54.84 crore.

Amrita Sher-Gil's painting

Amrita Sher-Gil's painting Sourced by the correspondent

Rolls Royce, Hermes and Girard-Perregaux

Besides art, other highlights of the sale included the Rolls Royce Ghost that sold at twice its estimate at Rs 1.68 crore and a Girard-Perregaux wristwatch that sold for Rs 95.2 lakh, 30 times more than its estimate – a first for a watch in a public auction.

The sale also featured several branded handbags, including the iconic Birkin and Kelly lines by luxury goods manufacturer Hermès. An Hermès Kelly Blue Atoll bag tripled its estimate to sell for Rs 17.9 lakh.

Besides Thursday’s live auction, another 80 lots, including handbags and wristwatches, were auctioned online by Saffronart and raised Rs 2.04 crore, quadrupling its pre-sale estimate with 97 per cent of the lots crossing their higher estimates.

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