Are Art Auctions Rigged?

Bijay J. Anand, MD, Kyozan Arts helps us navigate the colourful labyrinth that is the art market

Published: Sep 24, 2010 12:01:15 AM IST
Updated: Oct 1, 2010 10:46:27 AM IST
Are Art Auctions Rigged?
Image: Vidyanand Kamat

Has the market for contemporary Indian art developed fully?
We are past the stage where two or three operators would try and manipulate the contemporary art market the way they used to push around stocks at the BSE and NSE. The inevitable crash has come for the contemps, and what will follow soon will be a sensible and mature market that will then rock.
What percentage of art deals are done by cheque and what proportion is in cash?
Most of the deals are fully by cheque. Some fly-by-night operators or those specifically catering to the “cash rich” clientele do ratios of 50/50 or 60/40.
Fakes proliferating in the Indian art market: True?
Very true. And the quality is getting better and better. Not so long ago, my peons could look at a fake and laugh at the amateurish quality. Now I’ve seen artists scratch their heads in bewilderment.
Are art auctions rigged?
Is the Pope Catholic?

Who makes most money in art?
Artists. Husain would make more than the auction houses who make more than the dealers.
How much? Husain has a Ferrari, a Lamborghini, a Rolls Royce, a Jaguar (two methinks) and a Bugatti Veyron. Go figure.
How does an art curator earn a living?
By wearing “arty” clothes with designer labels. And by putting together shows that only their family members and dear exasperated friends go for. The wine and cheese is meant to be an incentive but nobody tells the curators that the wine tastes like acid and the cheese tastes like rubber/salt/yuck.
What are the chances that a new artist can make a living on art?
What are the chances that a young, good looking bloke from Chandigarh can become a Shah Rukh Khan?
How can a new artist get attention?
In the good ol’ days? By sucking up to Bodhi.
Why are there more celebrated male artists than female?
The same reason as why there are more celebrity male chefs than female.
Which are the most promising schools of art to follow, from an investment perspective?
The Progressives. And other artists who are usually in the same age group.
Are there good, safe places where one can store valuable art for a fee?
I store all my art with Saffron Art when I’m travelling. But Dadibha Pandole has an equally good storage facility.
I have an old painting. Where can I get it valued honestly?
If I’m not in town, go to Dinesh Vazirani, Dadibha Pandole or to Geetha Mehra. Three of my favourite art dealers.
Why do Indian art prices lag behind global levels?
Because a Picasso, Miro, Rothko or Mondigliani is coveted by billionaires from Russia, China, the US, UK. And Lesotho, Sudan, Mongolia as well as the Fiji islands. Whereas most Indian billionaires don’t own any art at all and neither do they want any.

Any advice for someone starting out as a collector, with a modest budget?
As a collector you could start out with a budget as modest as Rs.50,000. But as an investor, don’t even bother with anything less than Rs.10 lakh. Buy only from reputed galleries or auction houses, like Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Saffron Art.
Why does everyone seem to associate art only with painting? What about sculpture, antiquities, other kinds of collections?
Most collectors stick to paintings because they are easier to understand, evaluate and liquidate.
Antiquities, unless they are early sculptures or paintings, are usually deemed collectables; an antique telephone is not art. Other art collections can range from installations, sculptures, video projections, sound installations etc. Go to Sakshi or Gallery88 for these.

Is kitsch here to stay?
Where is it?
Can one actually buy an installation?
If you have the place to keep it, sure!
Pricing art: Is it all perception and fame?
Yes. Want an intelligent-sounding answer? It’s is all about the dynamics of market forces where the demand and supply equations play a vital role in evaluations and pricing. Howzat?

Basic dos and don’ts to preserve valuable art, please?
Keep in a safe place, keep away from children, keep away from direct sunlight and rain (and moisture), keep away from your wife if she is about to divorce you.

How do I negotiate with a dealer of art?
Don’t walk into the gallery and yell, “Yes, yes, yes! Oh my God, that’s it! This is what I’ve been looking for! It is so amazing that I have to have it. I can’t believe how lucky I am to be offered this beauty by this adorable dealer!” Definitely don’t be jumping up and down whilst you are saying all this.

It would also help if you can avoid going to the gallery in your Maybach 62S wearing your Audemars Piguet rose gold Montoya.
Tricks dealers use to pass on fakes?
1. Peddle the fakes to young, gullible buyers.
2. Dirty the canvas a bit to make it look used.
3. Provide fake authenticity certificates.
4. Offer it at a slightly attractive rate so that you think of it as a bargain and bite quickly.
5. Ask for full cash so that there is no proof that you bought the painting from them.
6. Tell you that the seller is embarrassed about the distress sale situation and wants to remain anonymous.
How do you find a good place to buy art in a city?
Avoid those that are mentioned on Page Three every week.
What are your top three places to buy art in India?
Pandole, Vadehra and Sakshi.
Is it tacky to have copies of an original in one’s home or is it tacky?
Sure. If you are the type who likes to buy fake Chanels from Bangkok. Just don’t invite me to dinner. Signed and numbered limited edition prints of known artists are perfectly fine.

(Co-ordinated by Divya Subramaniam) 

Next issue, our insider will be an restauranter. So, if you have a question only an art expert could answer, email us — — or write to Ask The Insider at our office address, and we’ll get answers for you. You’re also welcome to send us suggestions on the kind of “insiders” you’d like to hear from in the future.

(This story appears in the 08 October, 2010 issue of Forbes India. You can buy our tablet version from To visit our Archives, click here.)

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  • Ananya Mukherjee

    Hilarious! Looking forward to see what becomes of Kyozan's authenticity certificates. But Mr. Anand, thanks for the honesty.

    on Sep 24, 2010
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