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Rachna Tyagi
Rachna Tyagi

MUMBAI

Heart to art: Auction to support Kochi-Muziris Biennale

biennale-anamika-haksar-sanjoy (File) Anamika Haksar's performance in the third edition of Kochi Muziris Biennale | Sanjoy Ghosh
  • Dinesh Vazirani, co-founder of Saffronart, says the response has been very good so far. “We will know for sure in the next three or four days. I think the auction should go over fine. If we get over two crores, it will be really great. But, in general, this is like an incredible public-private partnership to promote culture (like the Kerala government working with the artists),” he says

Feeling rich? Want to spend your quids in style, on something worthwhile that posterity would be able to appreciate? Get yourself to Saffronart, a leading auction house in Mumbai, where the Kochi-Muziris Biennale (KMB) fundraiser auction will be held on Tuesday. If you’re not in town, but would still like to bid, fret not. With Saffronart mobile application, registered bidders can splurge to their heart's content from any corner of the world. Likewise, the auction can also be viewed on a PC or Mac, with real-time video feeds from the auction room.

For the preview, nearly 42 artists have donated works—they will go under the hammer on Tuesday. “Artists have come together to help sustain one of the biggest art projects in southeast Asia,” says KMB co-founder Riyas Komu. From stalwarts such as Amrita Sher-Gil, Atul Dodiya, Subodh Gupta and Bijoy Jain, to younger artistes like Saju Kunhan, Sunil K.R. and Prajakta Potnis, the art work is not merely eclectic but exquisite. “Rather than fobbing off mediocre pieces, they’ve given us something special. There is range, depth, and variety in each of their pieces,” says Shwetal A. Patel, consultant—international partnerships, Kochi Biennale Foundation. "There is also no buyer's premium, which is bound to entice many,” says Patel.

“If you buy at an auction, there is a 20 per cent buyers' premium. Here you don't have to, so that is a big draw,” says Patel, who believes that auctions are great opportunities for those who are not "collectors" to enter into the market in a very democratic way. “There is no gallery between you and the artist. If you like something, you bid on it, and you purchase it; sometimes you get a bargain,” he says.

About the preview, artist Jitish Kallat says, “It doesn’t feel like an auction preview. Lots of fine works are on display.”

According to him, the cherry on the icing was the robust presence of supporters of previous editions of the Biennale. “I recall some individuals in the room who rallied with me in 2014—a time when survival seemed difficult. It is great to see that Biennale, as an organisation, is secure. No upcoming edition should face the kind of crisis that it did; and I don’t think it will. The presence in the room testifies to that,” he says.

According to leading art historian Pheroza Godrej, “the collection was amazing, very celebratory, with lots of powerful works by up-and-coming artists.”

“We have everyone from architects and first-timers, to stalwarts. It goes to show their generosity. Secondly, this is high quality stuff,” says Godrej.

Atul Dodiya, who contributed two works, says, “My works were independently done. Sometimes, I keep them for myself. There is a watercolour piece Angry Scribe, and another called Black Block. The imagery might not be for everyone, but then it is Kochi Biennale—cutting edge. Let us hope that the auction and fundraising works out,” he says.

Ravi Vazirani, an interior designer, says that “art is an integral part” of what he does; he finds that the preview has “a very interesting collection.”

“It is nice to see some artists that I know, like Aditya Pande and Prajakta Potnis. It is nice to see this happen.”

Aarti Kirloskar, who lives in Pune, and will be bidding from there, says that she thinks Biennale is the biggest thing in the art world today. “The efforts of Riyas and Bose require our support.”

While there are “lots of fabulous works”, Kirloskar is going for the affordable ones. “I like to collect new and upcoming artists. I mean, it’s fantastic to see a Himmat Shah or an Atul Dodiya, but they’re for bigger collectors,” she says.

Riyas Komu calls Vivan’s (Vivan Sundaram) project “very important” because “it is something that he has re-worked after the installation he had at the first edition of the Biennale called Black Gold (a reference to the black pepper and the ancient trade route used for spice trading).”

Sunita Chorariya, a patron of the arts, firmly believes that Biennale has to survive and thrive. “India needs a Biennale. There are tiny countries that have their own Biennale, so we need to do whatever we can to make this happen,” she says.

Dinesh Vazirani, co-founder of Saffronart, says the response has been very good so far. “We will know for sure in the next three or four days. I think the auction should go over fine. If we get over two crores, it will be really great. But, in general, this is like an incredible public-private partnership to promote culture (like the Kerala government working with the artists),” he says.

“There are so many lovely treasures here. You are actually supporting a cause, and you get an art work in return. It is a win-win situation. Couldn’t get better,” says Chorariya.

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