Just got back from the Osian's auction of art and craft. Neville Tuli, head of the auction house, started off the evening with one of his proselytising speeches about the need to build arts infrastructure, highlighting his own brave, pioneering efforts in that direction. Then the bidding started... except it didn't. Not a single work reached its high estimate, and it was easy to see why. Much of the art on offer was the Bengal rubbish that Osian's has taken to pushing these past few years: Bireshwar Sen, Sunil Madhav Sen, Gopal Ghose, Prokash Karmakar, Sajal Roy: utterly dreadful stuff. Or minor works by good artists like Benode Behari Mukherjee, Chittaprosad, Somnath Hore and Paritosh Sen. When the odd strong work by a major artist came up, the over-optimistic estimates proved a deterrent. The lots that did sell went mostly to proxy bids, only one or two were grabbed by people in the auction room.
Rajit Kapur did a valiant job as auctioneer, and finally began getting a response once bidding began on craft works from Paramparik Karigar's collection. A few of the sculptures, sarees and paintings sold for five to ten times their estimated price.
Then it was back to modern and contemporary art, and the same depressing combination of proxy bids around the low estimate, or else a complete absence of interest leading to the work being brought in.