New York’s Asia Week catalogues suggest upward price trends

[11 Mar 2014]


Ten days after the 16th edition of the Armory Show with its special focus on China, it is now the turn of the major auction houses to address the Asian art market in New York. Asia Week is an annual event and its catalogues include art and artefacts from all over Asia including Japan, Korea, India and South Asia. The week begins on 18 March 2014.
From 18 to 21 March, New York’s branches of Christie’s and Sotheby’s will host no less than 15 specialised sales, nine at Christie’s at six at Sotheby’s. The sales will offer a broad range of objects ranging from archaeological pieces to the most fashionable Modern and Contemporary creations by artists like Francis Newton SOUZA, Maqbool Fida HUSAIN, Sayed Haider RAZA, Bharti KHER, Jitish KALLAT, among others. Christie’s is offering 1,400 lots for an estimated total turnover of around $70 million. Both firms are displaying confidence in the market by including the market’s current rising stars.

New record expected for Tyeb Mehta?

For Christie’s the week begins on 18 March with a sale dedicated to Modern and Contemporary art from South Asia. The cover of the sale catalogue shows a canvas by Tyeb MEHTA titled Untitled (Bull), the only Contemporary work expected to cross the $1 million threshold according to the estimates provided. Indian art has been introduced into the international scene via New York (and particularly Christie’s) for now almost 20 years. Affordable at less than $10,000 in 1995, Tyeb Mehta has in recent years become a key participant in these thematic sales because his best works are now fetching in the millions. The artist has 14 seven-figure results to his name since 2005, including a recent flirt with $3 million (just 3 months ago). Untitled (Bull) is expected to generate between $2 and 3 million on 18 March 2014. The theme of the overturned bull is reminiscent of Pablo Picasso work’s which became one of Mehta’s key subjects.

George Keyt: prices on the rise

With seven lots on offer on March 18, the most represented artist at the Christie’s sale is George KEYT who was a key figure of the Sri Lankan Modern art, heavily influenced by cubism and Henri Matisse. George Keyt is one of the currently rising signatures and Christie’s recorded three records above $100,000 for this artist in 2013. However, the lots submitted for auction on 18 March are less important works and are carrying price tags between $15,000 and $60,000.

Price revival for Subodh Gupta?

Spill is a unique piece (sculpture) created in 2007, a Duchampian “anti-monument” consisting of a giant metal bucket overflowing with a multitude of small metal recipients. Subodh GUPTA, who is currently enjoying a prestigious retrospective at the National Gallery of Modern Art in New Delhi (organized by Germano Celant, from 17 January to 16 March 2014 ), seeks to express the psychological weight (and its corresponding irony) of the common objects handled by the Indian middle classes. His artistic vocabulary is variably described as Pop, Surrealist, and Hyper-realistic and a similarity of approach between his work and that of Jeff Koons is occasionally suggested. The sculpture (Spill) for sale on 18 March is tagged at $300,000 – $500,000. If it reaches the latter figure, it will be the best result for a sculpture by the artist in four years and will revive a price index that has been flagging since the price peak in 2007/2008 (when Gupta reached 24th place in the ranking of the world’s 500 most expensive Contemporary artists based on auction turnover) and after which his prices shrank considerably. In fact, his 10 best auction results date back to that period with results between $700,000 and $1 million.

A step up for Vasudeo S. Gaitonde

Sotheby’s sale of Modern and Contemporary Asian Art on 19 March strategically places Vasudeo. S. GAITONDE in the spotlight. Gaitonde is one of the most promising signatures in Indian art: just three months ago (19 December 2013), he added $2 million to his previous record at Christie’s first sale in Mumbai when (Untitled, 1979) sold for the equivalent of $3,327,150. Sotheby’s is offering a meditative oil-on-canvas from 1962 from a private American collection and the work (Painting N3) is estimated at between $2 and $3 million. This is an optimistic price since a larger work from the same series and the same year Painting N1 fetched “only” £580,000 ($901,000) including fees at Sotheby’s in London on 11 June 2013. Painting N3 is the star lot at Sotheby’s which is organising six sales dedicated to Asian art (including archaeological objects) between 18 and 20 March in New York.

The globally reassuring balance sheet for Asian art in 2013, the revival of the Indian art market since Christie’s opened in Mumbai and the sustained activity of Asian buyers are all factors contributing to renewed inflation on the well-known signatures. The prices posted for these “low-risk” signatures are clearly up, ​​but after the speculative vagaries of 2006-2009, there are still relatively few works on offer by artists at the cutting-edge of Asian art.