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Rachna Tyagi
Rachna Tyagi


Art funds art

Saffronart High art: Bose Krishnamachari with Amrita Sher-Gil’s untitled work which fetched Rs49 lakh at the auction in Mumbai | Janak Bhat

The Kochi-Muziris Biennale fundraiser auction in Mumbai raised Rs2.75 crore

  • "The solidarity from artists and patrons, new bidders coming and a new generation of people joining hands, that is a good thing"- Bose Krishnamachari, artist

When a bevy of beautiful, bejeweled women with their designer handbags, along with dapper, handsome men, in bespoke suits and Murphy Johnston shoes, come together to support a cause such as the Kochi-Muziris Biennale (KMB) fundraiser auction, you know it is going to be a spectacular evening. From theatre star Sanjna Kapoor, who looked gorgeous in a stunning black sari, to architect and interior designer Pinakin Patel, the auction attracted some serious art connoisseurs, who dug deep into their pockets to procure some of the finest art on display at the Saffronart auction house, Mumbai.

Veteran Pinakin Patel said he felt that the KMB was “almost like a crusade in art”, where founders Bose Krishnamachari and Riyas Komu took on “this whole risk of creating a public property” through hard work. Patel, who was intrigued by G.R. Iranna’s ‘Tampered Branches’ felt that Bharti Kher had done “a fabulous job” with ‘Duck Face’. “It is a relief not to see the same bindis and to see something so refreshingly different from her other works,” he said.

Besides the familiar faces one sees at auctions, there were new ones, too. Samir Mehta, a diamond trader from Malabar Hill, said, “Pinakin brought me here.” His love for art started when Patel did his house several years back. Though Mehta joked before the auction about not having deep pockets, he ended up buying a lot of art.

The auction got off to a great start with Atul Dodiya’s female nude, ‘Black Block’, fetching Rs4.5 lakh. His male nude, ‘Angry Scribe’, was also sold for Rs4.5 lakh to an online bidder. Subodh Gupta’s untitled sculpture was sold for Rs25 lakh and Bharti Kher’s ‘Duck Face’ went for Rs4.8 lakh. Himmat Shah’s ‘Head’ was sold for Rs14 lakh to Sunita and Vijay Choraria, both of whom were excited with their purchases. “Of course, we love the artists that we have acquired, but the idea was primarily to support them,” said Sunita, an art patron. Abir Karmakar’s ‘Door II’, which was a favourite, was sold to an online bidder from Gurgaon for Rs5.5 lakh and Prajakta Palav’s ‘Clotted Blue’ was sold to an online bidder from London for Rs7 lakh.

Amrita Sher-Gil’s self-portrait was sold for Rs23 lakh and an untitled one which started at Rs14 lakh fetched the highest price—Rs49 lakh. “When it comes to history, Amrita plays an important role and whoever got those works, [has to realise] it has much more value,” said Bose.

The auction attracted bidders from New York, London, Mumbai, New Delhi, Bengaluru and Chennai, among other places.

Dinesh Vazirani, cofounder, Saffronart, conducted the auction. “Rs2.75 crore is a great number,” he said. “I think it will help the biennale in some ways. Artists helping themselves is an amazing thing.”

Said Bose, “The solidarity from artists and patrons, new bidders coming and a new generation of people joining hands, that is a good thing.”

Komu felt that the “huge success” of the auction showed that “we have been able to create a good momentum to move ahead with the biennale”. He concluded by inviting everybody to come to Kochi for the next biennale which will be curated by Anita Dubey. 

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