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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.

, ET Bureau|
Nov 20, 2019, 10.50 AM IST
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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.

“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.”

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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.

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
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.

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