New Delhi: The mood appears to be fluctuating in the international art market with an iconic work by 90-year-old contemporary pioneer S.H. Raza, “Village with Church”, finding no takers at a Sotheby’s auction in New York last week.
Observers, curators and gallerists in India feel that “it is just a one-off disappointment”. It may have been brought on by the mood of the buyers and the immediate environment of the sale, but does not indicate any growing caution about overpricing of Indian art works in the international market, experts said.
The work, an early impressionistic masterpiece by Raza, was priced at Rs.12.5 crore and was hyped by the auction house as a key work by an Indian master. The oil painting was part of the collection of John D. Rockfeller III and wife Blanchette, one of the early promoters of the Indian progressive artists in US.
The fact that Raza’s work, “Saurashtra”, created a price record at an auction in Christie’s in 2010 when it sold for Rs.16.42 crore making him one of the most expensive contemporary artists from the 1947 Progressive Artists’ Group, had raised expectations that the 1968 painting would surpass the pre-sale estimate.
“It is not tantamount to the fact that any artists’ value has retrograded. It is just by chance that Raza’s work did not sell. Raza is equitable to Husain. Raza does not paint any more, his hands shake. The number of his works in the market is dwindling and in a few years’ time, there will be few of his works in the market and probably no new work,” gallerist and auctioneer Narendra Jain, co-director of the Art Mall, told IANS.
Jain, who manages one of the biggest gallery space and art education centres in the capital, said “the work should have been priced more as it was one of the early works by the artist which is rare”.
He said the “art market had seen similar fluctuations before”.
“I was disappointed, but I was not surprised. It could have been the mood of the moment,” art curator and writer Ina Puri told IANS.
Puri said “one of the reasons could be that Raza’s works are abundant in the market, but ‘Village by Church’ was an exceptional work because it was painted in the post-partition period when he was still painting semi-figurative compositions”.
According to a senior art market observer, “after the slide of the art market in the wake of the meltdown in 2008, the market had seen a price correction because of the inflated prices of art works, some of which were blown nearly 10 times over because of repeated sale and media hype…”.