Saturday, November 10, 2012

Pakistan art makes a good debut at the first dedicated art auction

Pakistan's first dedicated art auction at Saffronart made a reasonable debut at the recently concluded on-line auction. While the overall percentage of lots sold was a mediocre 46%, some of the aritsts' works were sold at the highest prices ever achieved for their works in an auction. 
Saffron's announcement of a dedicated Pakistan art auction had created a lot of excitement amongst the art circles. People who follow Pakistan art clearly have the view that the art coming out of the country is much more interesting, in depth, experimental and diverse then a number of its peers in the region. But it is underrepresented at the global level (like most good things from Pakistan!). Saffronart's move therefore created hopes of raising Pakistan art's profile beyond its traditional avenues (galleries in Pakistan and a handful outside Pakistan). The auction was preceded by a number of articles and talks arranged by the auction house to raise awareness.
For a country, starving for good news, a positive buzz and excitement about this auction was natural !
The excitement was accompanied by a lot of anxiety and nervousness too. Tough global economic environment especially in India was one of the concerns.The nervousness rose further when the details of the auction were announced a couple of weeks before the auction itself. The number of works avaliable seemed too large (70) and so was the broad diversity of artists represented in the auction. The price estimates appeared aggressive too, especially for artists who have had no strong international exposure. This was probably driven by the fact that most of the works came from commercial concerns like Aicon Gallery, Canvas Gallery and Asal Collection (Green Cardamom) rather than directly from collectors.
Amongst this backdrop, the auction did well. Out of the total 70 lists available, 46 were sold, achieving a 66%. In total Pakistan art worth US$310,883 was sold sat the auction.  
Total lots in auction
Lots sold
Total Winning Value (inclusive of buyer's premium)

 The top lots by value were dominated by the known names like Jamil Naqsh, Imran Qureshi and Rashid Rana. A number of new artists made it into the most expensive list, like Ali Kazim, Saira Wasim and Bani Abdi.  

There were also a number of artists who made their auction records by achieving the highest selling price ever for their work in this auction. These artists include Imran Qureshi, Ali Kazim, Bani Abidi and Saira Wasim. 

Top 10 Lots by Value
Lot No
Artist Name
Winning Value (US$)
Jamil Naqsh
Imran Qureshi
Moderate Enlightenment
Rashid Rana
Ommatidia II (Salman Khan)
Ali Kazim
Red Taveez
Anwar Jalal Shemza
Male + Female
Shazia Sikander
Let It Ride # 3
Saira Wasim
Passion Cycle
Bani Abidi
Intercommunication Devices
Ali Kazim
Ahmed Parvez
We hope to see this auction becoming a regular feature. To Saffronart, our recommendation will be to focus on a smaller number of works (30-40), more focused artist pool, add approximately 10% items with a  substantially higher ticket per item and a little of the Masters too (but staying away from the fake factory!).
While the results of tihs auction can be best described as mixed, we see the glass half full rather than half empty. We view the start of this auction as another another push towards the slow but positive momentum of Pakistan's art development at the global stage. Christies now gives a much broader space to Pakistan art, Bonhams has been pushing Paksitan art for year, Yamini Mehta's move to Sothebys is sure to provide more filip to Pakistan art presence at their auctions. slowly, there is critical mass being developed. Pakistan art space in 2015 will look very different from now. We hope to enjoy that journey together with you !

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