Christie’s is holding its debut auction in India when gallerists are still complaining about a lull in the market. Is this the right time?
The market for Indian art has evolved really quickly in the last 10-15 years, and the next logical step is education. We are still finalising the works for the India auction, but it will focus on South Asian art and take place on December 19 at the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower, Mumbai. We’ll look at Moderns as well as Contemporaries, and also national treasures, in particular Amrita Sher-Gil, Tagores and Nicholas Roerich. These can’t be exported, our goal is to source entirely in India for the Indian market. We are preparing the ground with our September sale in New York, which is a single-owner sale of Supratik Bose, Nandalal Bose’s grandson.
Will the India auction be a regular feature?
It’s going to be an annual auction. People suggested that we should conduct it in Delhi, but for now it will be in Mumbai. With regard to artwork, among other things we are looking at Modernists. The next step would be to consider antiquities, miniature paintings, and bronzes.
This year, Christie’s has also became the first international auction house to acquire a license to conduct an auction in China. Are you looking at a global expansion?
This year is about Asia, India as well as China. The future lies here. We look at it as a larger South Asian entity.
When did you develop an interest in Indian art?
I studied art history in Switzerland and was particularly interested in cultural exchange. So I studied Asian art — Japanese, Chinese and Indian. I was interested in, for instance, how Buddhism originated in India and went across Asia, how ideas travelled and then how art evolved. India was the motherland for so many things. The power of the Indian culture was perhaps the strongest in Asia.
You were the auctioneer when Indian art fetched its record prices — both when Tyeb Mehta’s Mahishasura sold for US $ 1.5 million in 2005 and SH Raza’s Saurashtra for US $ 3.49 million in 2010.
It’s amazing how art