Add to cart: Millennials turn art lovers, ditch auction houses for online sales

The Indian art market is shifting rapidly from the traditional auction houses and galleries.

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The Hicox Online Art Trade Report states that globally more millennials bought art online in 2018.
The Indian art market is shifting rapidly from the traditional auction houses and galleries, courtesy the rising popularity of online art sales.

Last year, a leading Indian auction house sold a Tyeb Mehta painting, titled ‘Kali’, for over Rs 26 crore online. The three auctions hosted by another online art portal this year — each comprising 60 to 80 lots of paintings — logged sales worth nearly Rs 80 crore.

Indian art aficionados, like most of their foreign peers, are also bucking the age-old wisdom of viewing the works live, before quoting a price. Art houses say they have seen nearly 30-40 per cent growth in online art sales over the past three years.


The Hicox Online Art Trade Report states that globally more millennials bought art online in 2018. “Online art portals play an important role in educating new buyers,” says Dinesh Vazirani, co-founder, Saffronart. “A live art auction could be quite intimidating for a novice to walk in and bid. But on a portal, the new buyer could be more comfortable placing bids and can also do adequate research prior to placing his bids.”

Vazirani says Saffronart logs over 50 per cent of its total sales through online mediums. “We’ve even sold masters on our platform,” he says. “Even if a painting is being bid for $1.5-2 million, there’ll be at least 12-15 active bidders in the fray. Numbers thin out only when bid prices breach the $3-3.5 million mark.”

A new age of selling
Bid & Hammer’s Ankush Dadha believes that availability of ‘mobile apps’ is one of factors that has popularised online art sales. And it has some major benefits.
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“Online art buyers desire strict confidentiality and authenticity of art works purchased,” says Siddhanth Shetty, VP, strategy, Astaguru. “If you can offer them that, they’ll continue to buy online. We have a good mix of art collectors and new buyers participating in our auctions.”

Scribbles, Scratches And Other Abstract Pieces Of Art That Made Millions
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Who says a scribble or a scratch is worthless? Check out these abstracts which sold for a fortune thanks to their minimalistic allure.
Who says a scribble or a scratch is worthless? Check out these abstracts which sold for a fortune thanks to their minimalistic allure.
Cost: $70.5 million

What seems like chalk scribbles on a slate is actually an oil-based house paint and crayon artwork on canvas by Edwin Parker ‘Cy’ Twombly Jr, which fetched a record price for the artist in Christie’s 2014 sale. Part of Twombly’s ‘blackboard’ paintings, the 1970 artwork is inspired by his stint in Pentagon as a cryptologist. What’s interesting is the way he produced this artwork. He sat on the shoulders of a friend, who kept on walking along the length of the canvas, enabling Twombly to create fluid lines. The painting’s then owner, Audrey Irmas, a philanthropist, parted with the painting to raise funds for her foundation for social justice. Interestingly, Irmas bought the painting for $3.85 million in 1990.

(Image: www.christies.com)
Cost: $70.5 million What seems like chalk scribbles on a slate is actually an oil-based house paint and crayon artwork on canvas by Edwin Parker ‘Cy’ Twombly Jr, which fetched a record price for the..
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Cost: $1.65 million

Once part of the Robert and Jean Shoenberg collection, this 1961 artwork came into the market at Christie’s 2008 sale. Kelly was a camouflage artist during his stint in the army in the 1940s. He was a part of the unit known as ‘the Ghost army’ comprising artists and designers who painted objects that would misdirect enemy soldiers.

(Image: www.christies.com)
Cost: $1.65 million Once part of the Robert and Jean Shoenberg collection, this 1961 artwork came into the market at Christie’s 2008 sale. Kelly was a camouflage artist during his stint in the army ..
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Cost: $86.88 million (including buyer’s premium)

The vibrant orange, red and yellow coloured rectangles was part of art collector David Pincus’s estate and was brought to the market by Christie’s in 2012 where its sale set the record for post war/ contemporary art at the time. Rothko’s 1961 work was in Pincus’s possession for four-and-a-half decades. The final bid was double the highest estimate of the artwork.

(Image: www.markrothko.org)
Cost: $86.88 million (including buyer’s premium) The vibrant orange, red and yellow coloured rectangles was part of art collector David Pincus’s estate and was brought to the market by Christie’s i..
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Cost: $16.2 million

The 24 sharp vertical tears on a crimson, water-painted seven- foot wide canvas was contested for about a minute and 30 seconds during Sotheby’s 2015 auction. Yet, the painting was sold below the low presale estimate of $15 million. Turns out, Fontana was inspired to paint this artwork watching Red Desert, a 1964 movie created by Michelangelo Antonioni, which won the Golden Lion in that year’s Venice Film Festival. In fact, the inscription on the back of the painting, in Italian, reads, “I returned yesterday from Venice, I saw Antonioni’s film!!!”

(Image: www.sothebys.com)
Cost: $16.2 million The 24 sharp vertical tears on a crimson, water-painted seven- foot wide canvas was contested for about a minute and 30 seconds during Sotheby’s 2015 auction. Yet, the painting ..
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Cost: $84.16 million

Newman’s 1961 stark black palette on a pale canvas was part of Christie’s post-war and contemporary evening sale auction in 2014. Newman started dabbling in abstract expression while he was mourning the death of his younger brother George. About the painter’s black fixation, art expert Thomas Hess recalled Newman saying, “When an artist wants to change, when he wants to invent, he goes to black as it is a way of clearing the table-of getting to new ideas.” The painting is in the possession of a private collector now. Its previous owner had the painting for nearly 40 years.

(Image: www.christies.com)
Cost: $84.16 million Newman’s 1961 stark black palette on a pale canvas was part of Christie’s post-war and contemporary evening sale auction in 2014. Newman started dabbling in abstract expression..
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Online portals also allow art enthusiasts to view the works of several artists prior to placing the bids. “When you buy online, the advantage is you get access to several artists,” reasons Harsh Goenka, chairman of RPG Group and an avid art collector. “That apart, people may prefer buying art online because ‘commissions’ are much lower here. When you buy art from galleries, house commissions could be 30-40 per cent of overall cost.”

New art lovers
Apart from a few net-savvy art collectors, several well-heeled professionals between 25 and 40 years of age are fuelling this trend of buying art online.
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Says Vaishnavi Murali, founder of art portal Eikowa, “We mostly put up works of established senior painters who are alive, and whose works can be personally verified. We mostly sell art works that are priced between Rs 1 lakh and Rs 6 lakh —with most sales coming at Rs 1.5 to Rs 2 lakh-per-unit range. This is a good price point for new buyers to come in.”

Fake or real
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Established art collectors like Goenka are also at times wary of buying on the web. “I don’t buy [online], unless I know the artist or the work very well. Online portals pass off a lot of fakes/prints as originals… Some of the prints they sell as originals are difficult to discern even for a trained eye,” he says.

Art houses say they have “systems in place” to keep fakes away. Saffronart provides clear images (of the painting), a ‘condition report’ and an authenticity certificate. Eikowa only sells works of artists who are alive now — which makes the verification process easy. Astaguru, on the other hand, only sells works of painters that are well-documented.

“Authenticity is the most important factor in online art sales. To ensure authenticity, the art house’s sourcing has to be perfect,” says Shetty of Astaguru.

From $3.8 Mn To $200 Mn, Stolen Van Gogh, Raphael Artworks That Were Never Found
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Earlier this month, a missing part of British monument Stonehenge (representative image) was returned to the historical site after 60 years. In the art world, however, once an artefact is stolen, it’s rarely found again.

(Text: Viandra D'souza)
Earlier this month, a missing part of British monument Stonehenge (representative image) was returned to the historical site after 60 years. In the art world, however, once an artefact is stolen, it’..
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Valued at: $55 million

One of Vincent van Gogh’s finest paintings of the poppy flowers, valued at $55 million, was stolen in 1977 from the Mohamed Mahmoud Khalil Museum in Cairo. It was recovered from Kuwait a decade later, but then in 2010, tragedy struck again, and the painting was targeted by thieves. It’s been 19 years and the hunt is still on. Billionaire businessman Naguib Sawiris offered a $175,000 reward to anyone who could provide relevant information, but nobody has stepped up yet.
Valued at: $55 million One of Vincent van Gogh’s finest paintings of the poppy flowers, valued at $55 million, was stolen in 1977 from the Mohamed Mahmoud Khalil Museum in Cairo. It was recovered fr..
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Valued at: $200 million

Taken from the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum in Boston in 1990, this stolen painting is said to be one of the most expensive in history. And to think it could all have been avoided. Security personnel at the museum allowed entry to two men posing as police officers. The duo took its time, and along with ‘The Concert’, also made away with Rembrandt’s ‘Storm of the Sea of Galilee’: The former is worth $200 million and the latter, $100 million. There is a $5 million reward, but other than speculation that the paintings have been circulated in organised crime circles in Connecticut and Philadelphia, nothing has been done to recover them.
Valued at: $200 million Taken from the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum in Boston in 1990, this stolen painting is said to be one of the most expensive in history. And to think it could all have bee..
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Valued at: £3 million ($3.8 million)

As the world marked the dawn of a new millennium, a thief broke into the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, England, and stole Cezanne’s landscape painting, ‘View of Auvers-sur-Oise’. A few weeks later, detectives thought they had found it in a West Midlands pub, but it turned out to be a copy. Though its value has since shot up, the painting was not recovered.
Valued at: £3 million ($3.8 million) As the world marked the dawn of a new millennium, a thief broke into the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, England, and stole Cezanne’s landscape painting, ‘View of A..
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Valued at: $13 million

The ‘Nativity with St Francis and St Lawrence’, painted in the year 1609 by Caravaggio, hung in the Oratory of San Lorenzo in the city of Palermo for centuries. In 1969, it was ripped off the walls by two unidentified raiders who cut it out of its frame, thereby making an entry to the FBI’s top ten list of stolen fine art. While the painting hasn’t been recovered, British artist Adam Lowe managed to reproduce the masterpiece in all its original glory. The original would today be worth at least $13 million.
Valued at: $13 million The ‘Nativity with St Francis and St Lawrence’, painted in the year 1609 by Caravaggio, hung in the Oratory of San Lorenzo in the city of Palermo for centuries. In 1969, it wa..
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Valued at: $100 million

German forces controlled a large part of Europe during World War II and ended up taking art worth billions of dollars from places across Europe. One of the pieces taken was the Raphael’s ‘Portrait of a Young Man’, which was valued at $100 million and was stolen by German officials from the Czartoryski Museum in Krakow. It’s thought to be the most important painting to have gone missing during World War II.
Valued at: $100 million German forces controlled a large part of Europe during World War II and ended up taking art worth billions of dollars from places across Europe. One of the pieces taken was ..
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