For Saffronart, the spring auction season has started with a bang. The much awaited auction of fugitive jeweller, Nirav Modi’s art and other luxury items ended yesterday, and the results were way beyond expectation. Both, the Saffronart spring online and live auctions held on March 3-4, 2020 and March 5, 2020 respectively were white glove sales, with 100 per cent of the lots sold. In fact, most lots surpassed their estimates. The two auctions raised a total of ₹53.45 crore ($7.65 million) for the Directorate of Enforcement, Government of India, crossing its pre-auction estimate of ₹41 crore. Saffronart CEO & co-founder Dinesh Vazirani said, “We saw intensely competitive bidding across categories and from around the world. The high prices achieved for leading modern artists such as M.F.Husain and Amrita Sher-Gil demonstrate that the demand for Indian art is very strong, and the frenzied bidding on watches, handbags and cars – most of which sold in multiples of their estimates – underscores the thriving market for luxury collectibles,” he says.
The 24-hour online auction which concluded on March 4, 2020, raised ₹2.04 crore (approximately $291,897) for the Directorate of Enforcement, quadrupling its pre-sale estimate. According to Vazirani, this was one of the most successful online auctions in terms of competitive bidding from around the world, with well over 700 advance bids received prior to the auction’s opening. The total number of bids placed were more than 300 per cent higher than a standard online auction, and 97 per cent lots crossed their higher estimates.
According to Saffronart, the auction saw an especially strong demand for limited edition collectible watches. Cartier’s Asymmetric ‘Crash’ Wristwatch led the sale receiving over 50 bids, and selling for more than 12 times its higher estimate at ₹36.4 lakh ($52,000). Vianney Halter and Goldpfeil’s Jump Hour Wristwatch with Moonphases sold for nearly nine times its estimate at ₹12.9 lakh ($18,480). Three travel clocks by Cartier also got some enthusiastic bidding, selling for ₹2.43 lakh, ₹2.93 lakh and ₹2.43 lakh respectively – nearly 30 times their estimates.
Among other leading lots were the Porsche Panamera, which more than doubled its higher estimate to sell for ₹36 lakh ($51,520). A vintage Louis Vuitton cabin trunk sold for more than 12 times its estimate at ₹8.62 lakh ($12,320).
The live auction was led by Amrita Sher-Gil’s rare 1935 painting Boys with Lemons, which was auctioned for the first time, and sold for ₹15.7 crore ($2.24 million). M.F.Husain’s Battle of Ganga and Jamuna: Mahabharata 12, 1972, sold for ₹13.44 crore ($1.92 million), achieving a world record for the artist.
V.S.Gaitonde’s 1972 painting `Tranquil’ (sold for ₹9.52 crore); Manjit Bawa’s Untitled, 1992 (sold for ₹6.16 crore), and Raja Ravi Varma’s enigmatic portrait (sold for ₹2.8 crore) were among the top five artworks. B.Vithal’s untitled bronze sculpture sold for ₹19 lakh ($27,200), making it the highest value achieved for a sculpture by the artist.
Among the 25 luxury collectibles, an important Girard-Perregaux ‘Opera One’ Triple Bridge Tourbillon Wristwatch sold for ₹95.2 lakh ($136,000) – more than 30 times its estimate – a first for a watch in a public auction. A rare Audemars Piguet ‘Jules Audemars Grand Complication’ Automatique Wristwatch sold for more than four times its estimate at ₹78.4 lakh ($112,000).
An 18K yellow gold and diamond evening bag by Van Cleef and Arpels sold for four times its estimate at ₹20.16 lakh ($28,800). A Hermès Kelly Blue Atoll bag tripled its higher estimate to sell for ₹17.9 lakh, and two Hermès Togo leather bags – a Gris Etain Birkin and an orange coloured Kelly – sold for more than five times their estimates at ₹13.44 lakh and ₹16.8 lakh respectively. The Rolls-Royce Ghost witnessed a high demand, selling for twice its estimate at ₹1.68 crore ($240,000). In its 20th year now, the success of these auctions cements Saffronart’s position as an art auction market leader both in India and globally.