A decade can be defined by immense transformation and growth, and Astaguru’s story reflects this metamorphosis. The online auction house that is based out of Kala Ghoda, Mumbai, embarked on their journey in the year 2008, functioning as a boutique auction house that dealt primarily in Modern and Contemporary Indian Art. However, the manifested momentum gained during the past decade by the company is worth making a note of. Astaguru achieved substantial validating indicators throughout their first decade of operation. However, it is the present year of 2018 in which Astaguru has escalated and soared in the truest sense, like never before. It began with a monumental 10th Year Anniversary Auction which went on to become the third highest grossing sale for Indian art globally. Under the leadership of Tushar Sethi, CEO, Astaguru’s total revenue for that auction accounted to Rs. 89,16,63,515 (including margin) with a 90% sold ratio. Out of the 52 lots that were presented, 47 works were successfully sold. The online auction house created a couple of records during this sale. The most impressive fact, however, was that during this season when most auction houses failed to establish a sustainable sale, Astaguru went on to make an entry into the elite 85 crore club. Moreover, it was after a period of three years that such an exuberant traction was generated in the Indian art market, the previous record sales having occurred in 2013 and 2015 respectively. Astaguru’s highest value sale for the 10th anniversary sale was a Tyeb Mehta creation from his Bull series, which was sold for Rs. 19,98,11,074. The online auction house also created world records for artists Bikash Bhattacharjee and Manjit Bawa. Bikash Bhattacharjee’s painting from his famous Doll series from the year 1972 – 1974, was sold for Rs. 1,27,33,229, while the Manjit Bawa work circa 2000, was sold for Rs. 7,78,86,164.
After a buoyant start to the year, Astaguru etched the essence of growth by hosting their debut Rare Books auction. The scale of the auction proved to be juggernaut, not just as an implied statement, but in reality. Astaguru’s Rare Books on Hindoostan statistically became the biggest books auction to have taken place in India. The auction house registered the highest grossing books auction to take place in India by generating a total revenue of Rs. 2,93,50,096. The curation process for this category was carried out in accordance to their ideology of research based sourcing, and therefore out of the 67 lots which were up for auction, 63 lots found takers. The books that were a part of this auction were seminal with regards to India’s history and identity since prior to the dawn of the information age, the world was fragmented, and knowledge about kingdoms and people was opaque. Hindustan was unknown and hence was a land of mystery and magic to the West, and it was only because of the travelogues of travellers and explorers that the world got to learn about our land and people. There were a handful of 300 books with engravings published pertaining to Hindustan and 60 lots in the recently concluded auction belonged to the initial 300 books published about India and its people. The top selling lot for the books auction was Journal of a Tour Through Part of the Snowy Range of the Himala Mountains accompanied with a set of 20 lithographs by James Baillie Fraser, which was made in the year 1820. The final auction price achieved for this lot was Rs. 25,30,000. James Baillie Fraser and his brother travelled to the Himalayas, spending two months exploring the region. They became the first Europeans to reach the sources of the Jumna and Ganges rivers, and the lithographs are visuals encountered during their expedition. The second highest price was achieved for Lot 2, which was Oriental Scenery; One Hundred and Fifty Views of the Architecture, Antiquities, and Landscape of Hindoostan by Thomas Daniell and William Daniell, published in the year 1812. The lot was estimated with a higher limit of Rs. 12,00,000. However, due to its extremely good condition and other factors such as the book possessing 150 plates by the Daniells, inspired the bidder pursuing the lot to exceed the higher limit. It was finally sold for Rs. 15,77,680.
Fortune favours the brave, but one also needs to be aware of the nuances of the trade. As mentioned previously, Astaguru’s adopted ethos of research oriented sourcing and curation is one of the reasons as to why the organisation has excelled. The pattern is not erratic, but sound and solid. For instance, the world record that Astaguru achieved for artist Ganesh Pyne, for his seminal and most important painting titled The Door, The Windows — can only be attributed to their process. Furthermore, the provenance for the lot was impeccable and added value, considering that the painting had been published in a number of books that discussed the artist’s oeuvre.
The organisation’s foraying into new segments continued post the Rare Books auction. Astaguru continued their streak, and in June 2018, they conducted their first ever Southeast Asian Contemporary Art auction. The scale of this auction surpassed frontiers as the catalogue featured works by leading contemporary artists from all over the sub-continent, alongside works by established contemporaries from India. The international segment included countries such as China, Indonesia, South Korea and Thailand, to name a few. The highest value sale for that auction was for lot 85 for Beijing-based Zhang Xiaogang’s work titled Heaven No. 4 which was auctioned for Rs. 7,70,55,499. The second highest sale value was achieved for lot 72, a work by Anish Kapoor, titled Mirror (Brandy Wine, Gladstone Red) sold for Rs. 6,50,96,485. The catalogue also featured works by eminent Indian artists, such as Anish Kapoor, Subodh Gupta, Bose Krishnamachari, Khadim Ali, Anju Dodiya, Sujata Bajaj, L.N. Tallur, Jitish Kallat and Ravinder Reddy to name a few. The online auction which took place on the 24th and 25th of June, 2018 also included works sourced from the prestigious Charles Saatchi Indian Contemporary art collection. Charles Saatchi, the reclusive advertising mogul and gallerist who has been responsible for the formation of the YBA (Young British Artists) and has also been a patron for artists such as Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin, and Mat Collishaw to name a few, is also an ardent supporter of Indian contemporaries. He began collecting Indian contemporary art and curated one of the most important exhibitions for Indian contemporary art in the year 2008, ‘The Empire Strikes Back’. Nine works that were a part of Astaguru’s auction were exhibited in that ground breaking show.
The Memorabilia auction, too, was put together by the team on a grand scale, and was India’s biggest memorabilia auction till date. The Memorabilia auction which took place on the 27th and 28th of July amassed a total revenue of Rs. 1,58,80,019. Astaguru curated a catalogue comprising of 91 lots panning across categories such as music, sports, film and legends/innovators.
Astaguru presented a wide array of memorabilia moments that included lots for souvenirs of Indian as well as Western celebrities. The highlight and the most expensive lot sold in the auction was a signed original soundtrack of the film Godfather by the main cast. Signatures of Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Robert Duvall and Diane Keaton, the main cast of the all-time great mafia film got auctioned for
Rs. 21,13,679. The second most expensive lot sold was a signature specimen by Albert Einstein dated 1953 from the ‘legends’ category, which got sold for Rs. 16,86,139 and the third most expensive lot was auctioned for
Rs. 12,24,520 which was a signed guitar by 18 metal legends such as Steve Vai, James Hetfield, Tommy Lee, Axl Rose and Slash to name a few. The most expensive lot from the sports segment was a set of signed boxing gloves by Mike Tyson & Evander Holyfield for Rs. 3,82,662.
Focused and driven to present value-based products panning various segments, to their clients, Astaguru set their eyes on their next goal, which was to host their annual Watch edition. The Exceptional Timepieces auction took place on the 24th and 25th of September, 2018.
It is indeed pleasing to observe that the consistency of the increased number of auctions was at par with the consistency of the pedigree of lots presented. Upon analysing their growth trends, throughout the 2017 season, it is found that Astaguru had curated five auctions. However, in the current year, they have showcased five auction collections by September itself, with a couple of them being organised in the new segments. Furthermore, they have three more in the pipeline namely, Vintage Jewellery and Silver auction in October, Classic and Vintage Cars auction in November, and a Modern Indian Art No Reserve auction in December. Thus from five auctions annually to eight in the subsequent year, is a commendable expansion rate.
The Watches auction was well received and Astaguru once again created the record for having conducted India’s biggest watches auction till date. Their focus on theme and research based curation indeed bore fruit. With the watches auction, they balanced the variations by including bracket clocks, carriage clocks, table clocks and vintage wristwatches with contemporary wristwatches. The total revenue generated in the Exceptional Timepieces auction was Rs. 2,10,73,588. The highest sale value was registered for lot 17, which was a pink gold automatic patrimony traditionnelle world time wristwatch by Vacheron Constantin for
Rs. 22,26,400. The second highest amount for a lot sold was achieved for lot 64, which was an Audermars Piguet, limited edition Sachin Tendulkar model automatic Royal Oak Offshore Wristwatch for Rs. 11,85,335. The third most expensive sale value was registered for lot 21, which was a Girard-Perregaux’s brilliant cut diamond set in pink gold, cat’s eye lady’s wristwatch, at Rs. 11,13,200.
Astaguru has soared ahead by expanding, by breaking barriers and by overcoming challenges with sheer grit. Having justified their positioning as a premium online auction house over a decade, Astaguru has maintained a full circle formula, pertaining to the digital medium. They have effectively created an interactive experience for the bidder through their website and mobile app. Astaguru has also taken the onus of implementing CSR activities and industrial enhancement programmes and have conducted several charity auctions. They have also organised workshops, making it possible for budding Indian artists to interact amongst themselves and exchange ideas with veterans.
From initially conducting two auctions annually, Astaguru is geared to curate eight auctions this year. Their statement of expansion is a testimony of their successful transformation from a boutique module to an in-depth corporate infrastructure. The development achieved is indeed a result of their long-term vision which they have been toiling hard to accomplish and realise. This seismic shift can be gauged from the fact that in spite of being a standalone operational unit, they have not backed away from dabbling with new segments and have even emerged triumphant. Analysing their timeline with a bird’s eye view, one cannot help but take notice of their enduring journey which has been traversed and overpowered through hardwork, a powerful vision and a strong motivation to fulfill organisational goals. Their flight has just begun and the skies they endeavour to soar are being approached with clarity and sapience, making the statement, ‘the sky is the limit’ realistic and relatable.
All Data Source: The Arts Trust.
All images courtesy: Astaguru.
INDIAN ART MARKET
The global auction sales for Indian art totaled at Rs. 606 Crores in the year 2017. Although the turnover declined a little over 1% from the previous year, 2017 was a good year for auction houses that dealt in Indian art. Macroeconomics factors such as a well performing global economy and the Indian market’s growing transition influenced a positive sentiment. Other major macroeconomic changes that occurred in the country, like the implementation of GST and demonetisation, also did not harm the overall Indian art market environment to a high degree.
A high-end market predominately depends on the level of confidence within the market, as well as on the general economic context. Considering the fact that more than 50% of the total auction turnover of the Indian art market comes from auctions that happen within India, and the fact that in spite of all the economic upheavals the country went through, the total auction turnover merely declining a little more than 1% is a positive breakthrough. The CAGR for the Indian art auction market was calculated at 8.85% from 2005 – 2017. The most expensive painting that was sold in 2017 was an untitled work by V.S. Gaitonde, which was sold for Rs. 26,23,29,250. This sale itself accounted for more than 3% of 2017’s total global Indian art auction turnover. Less than 7% of the lots that were offered in the year 2017 were sold above Rs. 1 crore, which in total accounted for 66% of art auction turnover.
Lots offered in the auction
The Indian art auction market sold 1441 lots in the year 2017, an increase of 2.42% compared to the previous year’s numbers. However, the auction market saw less number of total lots being offered for sale. Since 2005, the Indian auction market has sustained the supply of lots offered and has achieved growth in the number of lots sold over the years. In 2009, the auction market saw a decline of over 1/3rd of total lots being put up for sale. However, since 2009, the market has recovered considerably and has grown past the growth achieved prior to 2008. The number of lots on offer in the Indian auction market has grown at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.6% over the last eight years, whereas after the 2008 crash, the number of lots sold has grown at a CAGR of 10.4% in the same period. The Indian art auction market achieved a significant part of growth between 2009 and 2014 wherein the lots offered and lots sold grew at a CAGR of 13.3 and 14.4% respectively.
The Indian auction market has over the years witnessed increasing number of lots sold by auctions conducted in India as compared to overseas auctions. Over the last five years on an average, sales occurring in India have contributed to over 65% of the lots sold. In 2015, 75% of the lots sold were part of auctions conducted in India. Though the overall auctions market witnessed a decline in 2016, lots sold by auctions conducted in India increased by 11.7% to 995 lots in the year 2017.
However one must note that in spite of the fact that more than 65% of the lots sold are part of auctions conducted in India, overseas auctions still contribute close to half of the global turnover for Indian art auctions.
The Indian art auctions market also witnessed a considerable decline in lots sold by auctions conducted in the United States. Until 2013, auctions taking place in the United States achieved on average 30% sales of the total lots offered. However, over the last three years, auctions conducted in the United States sold on an average 12% of the total lots.
Overall lots sold across countries have gradually declined since 2014, as auction houses are particularly focused on offering quality artworks with better provenance that will yield higher value in auctions. Through selectively offering artworks with better provenance, auction houses are able to improve sales efficiency and control costs. However, growth in the overall auctions market is expected to push the demand for more number of artworks procured for auctions.
Auction house market share
Since 2005, the Indian art auction market has been dominated by Sotheby’s and Christies which are globally established auction houses. Sotheby’s and Christie’s are also responsible for more than half of the turnover for international art auctions. Christie’s has maintained a principal position in Indian art auctions market since 2005. In 2013, Christie’s acquired an estimated market share of 48% surpassing its previous high of 40% market share in the year 2011. However, Christie’s and Sotheby’s have been gradually losing their market share over the years wherein the two global auction houses constitute 38% of the market share in the year 2017 as compared to 41% in 2016 and 53% in the year 2015. The two global auction houses have lost more than 30% of the market share in the last three years. Though the global auction houses continue to dominate the Indian art auctions market, the market is expected to witness a shift in dynamics wherein the status quo will be challenged by auction houses based in India.
Active participation in the Indian art auction market is observed by India based auction houses such as Astaguru, Pundole, Saffronart, Osian’s and Emami Chisel Art. Market share of auction houses such as Emami Chisel Art and Osian’s is estimated to have dwindled over the years, owing to strong competition from established global players as well as from national players such as Astaguru, Pundole’s and Saffronart.
Saffronart, an auction house primarily based in India and with offices overseas, has emerged as the third most important player in the market. Saffronart has been able to sustain a strong presence in the market with an estimated 20% or more market share in the last three years. Saffronart has also maintained a second leading position in the Indian art auctions market surpassing Sotheby’s for the last three years. Another Mumbai-based auction house, Astaguru, has acquired a consistent growth performance in the market as compared to peers. The estimated market share of Astaguru has gone up from 4.9% in the year 2011 to 15.1% in the year 2017. Auction house Pundole’s has also been able to carve a considerable presence in the market since 2011. Market share of Pundole’s has gone up to 7.3% in the year 2017 from 5% in the year 2011, while reaching a peak of 12.6% in the year 2016.
Weakening of dominance by these few market players is expected to push the competitive force of the market in the near future. Established market players are therefore investing in research and modern technology to support their core competencies. Emerging players are also developing core competencies differently from the established auction houses by leveraging new age operational practices. Modern auction houses are curating auctions that cater efficiently to preferences of collectors and investors of Indian art. More importantly efficiency in sales rates is expected to define the performance of auction houses in the coming years.
Efficiency of Auction House
Analysing the last four years of unsold lots of the top five auction houses that deals with Indian art, we can conclude that the average unsold lots has been consistently decreasing. In the year 2017, on an average, two international auction houses had four times more unsold lots % compared to three Indian auction houses. This is an indicator that the Indian auction houses have improved on the type of lots that they source and have successfully adapted the strategy of focusing on quality over quantity. Having less unsold lots can satisfy both buyers and sellers. Astaguru and Pundole’s collectively hosted only four auctions and that factor can be a primary reason as to why they had less than 4% of unsold lots respectively.
Online Art Market
Astaguru dominates the Indian online art market, the other two major players being Saffronart and StoryLTD, a subsidiary of Saffronart. The reason why Astaguru has consistently dominated the online segment is because it is their sole mode of operation. Online auctions are the way forward for the Indian art auction market since it offers the scope to expand the collector base and effectively helps present the nuances of Indian art to seekers based all across the globe. With the turn of the digital age and transformation of overall growth, it is safe to predict an ebullient environment for the Indian art market in the years to come.
All Data Source: The Arts Trust.
All images courtesy: Astaguru.
‘THE 41 RESURRECTION LIVES’ BY PHANEENDRA NATH CHATURVEDI
Phaneendra Nath Chaturvedi’s devised vocabulary, elaborates the angst of the denied human nature, and therefore, his ‘Anthropoid’ protagonists are made to depict the ongoing ubiquitous, emotive transformation. Phaneendra gestates them in order to reveal what he deems as a mirroring self-image. Shattering and exfoliating the filtered artificiality of the prevalent gaze, his adopted methodology instigates a relentless unmasking of the social masquerade. He laments for the deprivation, which humankind has seemingly adopted and embraced in the garb of technological interventions, the residual effects of which have trickled into our core social interactive culture as well. Concerned with the exposition of the digital memetic age, he proffers his synthesis through art and showcases the present state of affairs. A millennial, Phaneendra witnessed and experienced the metamorphosis of the human condition, he observed the gradual human-robotic transformation, harnessed by the onset of superﬁcial platforms of social networking. This change was indeed impactful and he therefore etches his vision about this very real concern, of the deteriorating split between the human and its atman (spirit) through his works.
Phaneendra weaves a strong philosophical narrative within his artworks. He visually as well as sculpturally, illustrated the magnum opus saga about ‘sloth titled,The 41 Resurrection Lives, which holistically brings to the fore his discerning thought process. The work, which was exhibited during BlackCube’s inaugural show, ‘Reflections of Society’ that took place between the 11th to the 14th of October, 2018, featured works that meandered through the ‘seven sins’.
Phaneendra Nath Chaturvedi’s artistic endeavour to depict the different elements and presence of ‘sloth’ in our actions, pleasingly contradicts his theme’s very definition. The work consists of 40 illustrations, which measure 40 feet in length. Furthermore, besides the two dimensional representations, he also created his first fibreglass sculpture, as a part of this work. His primary philosophical protagonist in this work is the character of a butterfly. Phaneendra’s deft treatment of the surmounting thoughts effectively clarifies the notion of ‘sloth’ with a hint of symphonic crescendo that rustles perennially. The graceful momentum of the butterfly’s weightless wings is transferred impeccably on the surface, and experiencing all 40 of them fluttering in unison is indeed overwhelming. He toys with the essence of the butterfly’s puerile approach towards life, since it effectively conducts its function, without percolating the essence of its provider, a perfect analogy in the form of an antonym for humankind. As we evolved, the arrogance of being superior became a fulcrum upon which we interfered with entities which are our basic providers. Sloth, in its spiritual form, is a hindrance for the human spirit when compared with its existence in the physical form. Our stride of autonomy, especially against nature, disables us to grow. This has resulted in us treading down a path of attaching to principles based on bigotry towards any other life form, which share our ecological environment. Therefore, the butterfly as a motif transparently addresses the physical as well as the spiritual forms of sloth, which the artist defines perfectly. Our acquired physiological pillow of digital repose, has already began to infiltrate our interpersonal communication channels. This dilution and more so, acceptance of artificial intelligence is the highest form of ‘sloth’.
Although the male figure’s silhouetting anatomical structure is a generic imprint, the artist has carved each of them with an individual and innovative identity. This satirical yet very real demonstration of our xenophobic behavioral pattern is captivating and it wraps this misery of the spiritual sloth at its crux. After having vanquished and troughed the purity of megafaunas, and disrupting the harmonic synchrony with which a multitude of species dwelled, this work by Phaneendra Nath Chaturvedi instills the thought that we have finally initiated the process of undoing our own interests, our human nature, and our DNA structure in the maze of ‘sloth’.
V.S. GAITONDE’S MASTERPIECES FROM THE 1970S
A man of few words, V.S. Gaitonde communicated in the solitude of his artistic dialect. Engulfing his work with silence was integral to V.S. Gaitonde’s creative process. Throughout his illustrious career, he had many defining phases. However, the 1970s was of paramount importance.
During the 1970s, V.S. Gaitonde was able to purge mortal frequencies and reflections from the canvas.He was successfully able to employ an abstract language personal to him. The paintings from1971, showcase and embody his principal technical methodologies, as well as the ideologies he had acquired as an artisttill that point in time. He seldom incorporated more than two or three colours as visible in the oil on canvas creation from the year 1971. Yet, the final creation is an amalgam of enriched and unique colour fields. He was able to create work with the frugality of limited hues, barring any compromise in terms of exuberance and form. This work also prophesises the onset of a phase when he created art with the essence of the singular. His canvases turned seamless thereafter, and therefore, the emerging abstract forms spewed across the surface, impeccably exemplifying the shadows of the underlying shapes. The early 1970s definitely marked his transcendence, something quite palpable in this work.His art manifested the magnitude of materialistic frugality simultaneously correlating it with the expansiveness of the dimensional.The metamorphosis of the opaqueness of colour, which he had decoded proficiently, exposed the virility of its hue. Therefore, his works from the 1970s project an aura of the victorious emancipation he had attained.
V.S. Gaitonde was an artist who possessed grave sapience and intellectual principles. He was a man of undying integrity and spirit. As a philosopher, he was influenced by Zen Buddhism although how he transferred this wisdom through the portal of his paintings was the paragon of his achievements. His works, therefore, are often seen as immortal forms of elixir.
‘THE LAST SUPPER’ BY SURYAKANT LOKHANDE: PAINTINGS ON WOODEN BOOKS
For Suryakant Lokhande, the image and existence of Christ embodies even crucial factors, namely, catalysis, catalepsy, catharsis, catastrophe, cross, conversion and most importantly, Christ consciousness. In Suryakant’s perception, these seven points of references come together in order to form his alchemy, which inspires him to transform the lives of the myriads. Suryakant Lokhande considers Jesus Christ as a unique master, and his work as being catalytic in attribute. Jesus Christ cherished the intimacy, faith, hope and ease with which seekers contacted him, and therefore, Suryakant structures this work with a pulse that is based on pure vibration. He translates and expresses the cognitive experiences of the 12 partakers of The Last Supper in this work. This unique, depictive approach of executing the defining moment in Christ’s life by the artist stands apart. According to the artist, Jesus does not give methods to people and therefore Suryakant decided to not visually illustrate that moment since it has been depicted on numerous occasions in the past. He prefers to express it on an acoustic and vibrational platform. His representation of Christ’s pulsating being and its effect on the recipient is established competently in this work. Suryakant emphasises on the transfer of faith, which is ensued during that meal and showcases how Christ’s wisdom and pulsation, anointed his disciples, and the manner in which they were magnetised by his aura.
Born in Mumbai, Suryakant Lokhande remembers vividly how he instinctively started making sand sculptures while frolicking near the Worli sea-shore. He completed his Bachelor’s in Fine Arts in 1990 from the esteemed Sir J.J. School of Art. Soon thereafter, he made his presence felt and established his nuance with his debut solo show in the year 1996, titled ‘Memories of My Grandmother’, in Mumbai. Ever since then, he has been formatting his artistic oeuvre on the basis of a philosophy which resonates on the surface, only when the eyes and cerebral functioning of the viewer and the canvas are peering with complete synchrony and compliance. The artist makes sure that his creations are not only exuberant, but also respectful towards the viewer, not undermining their intellectual drive, but rather striving to initiate an exchange of intelligence.