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Saffronart COO Nish Bhutani says Indian art market is picking pace

Nish Bhutani, COO of Saffronart, says there's an increase in awareness in the arts, with a wide range of exhibits taking place and information available.

Anumeha Chaturvedi | February 16, 2012 | Updated 16:54 IST

Nish Bhutani, COO of Saffronart, spoke to Busniess Today's Anumeha Chaturvedi.

Q. Your take on the Indian art market. Do you feel the Indian art market is showing signs of correction and is moving towards consolidation now?
The Indian art market is young and thriving and it's a good time to be a part of it. There's an increase in awareness in the arts, with a wide range of exhibits taking place and information available. As a result buyers and collectors have become more informed and discerning, and look for the best quality works.

Q. How is the art market expected to shape out this year? Where do you see it headed this year?
There has been a growing interest amongst collectors to acquire high quality works of art, and we are optimistic about this. The Indian art market is constantly changing and evolving, and if there is a sustained effort to develop its infrastructure, growth will follow.

Q. Tell us about Saffronart and your operations? How is the business faring in terms of transactions? Auctions? Art works sold? Do you see an increase in sales over the years? Would be great if can get some numbers and figures and the rate of growth for the company to illustrate the point.
A global company with deep Indian roots, Saffronart was founded in 2000 and today is a strong and successful international business that both embraces and drives change. With over ten years of experience in auctioning Indian art online, Saffronart is committed to serving the growing community of Indian collectors, while also creating a cultural bridge between India, the global Indian diaspora, and the international community at large.

Providing a platform that enables access to view, purchase and become involved in the development of art and jewelry, Saffronart has set global benchmarks for online auctions and was recently the subject of a case study at Harvard Business School.

With online auctions, a host of technology enabled services for clients, and a global presence in Mumbai, New York, London and Delhi, Saffronart has broadened and simplified access to Indian art and jewelry, and is working to achieve the same for real estate. Saffronart has held several highly successful online auctions, accompanied by physical catalogues and preview events in cities like Mumbai, New Delhi, New York, London and Hong Kong. These auctions allow bidders around the world to participate simultaneously in exciting sales.

Our auctions sales registered nearly 100% annual growth from 2000 till the financial crisis in 2008.  Since the downturn auction sales have recovered strongly and we have diversified the business further into jewelry, high-end homes and new categories in art such as western art.  

Q. The proportion of modernists vs. contemporaries in Saffronart sales? Do modernists sell more or contemporary artists?
Most Saffronart Online Auctions include both modern and contemporary Indian art, and have demonstrated a strong demand for rare and exceptional works which are unique to the market. While the modernists have often taken a lead at Saffronart's recent auctions and do tend to command higher prices, our sales have pointed out an appreciation for both modern masters and an invigorated demand for quality contemporary lots.

Q.The artists that buyers favour in Saffronart auctions? Any new artists who are emerging as hot favourites?
As mentioned earlier, there has been stronger demand for modern artists lately, but that has also presented an opportunity for buyers to pick up strong contemporary works at attractive prices. In either case though, when a quality work is up for auction it tends to do well.  Apart from personal taste and interest, factors that influence demand at auction include the rarity or historic significance of the work, its provenance, and its aesthetic quality.

Q. Do you find any new developments or changing trends in online auctions in terms of buyer base, buying patterns?
With better access to knowledge about different artists and artworks, collectors today are better informed. Currently, the base of people that collect art is much wider than it was five or ten years ago, constituting a lot of young professional and entrepreneurs from diverse fields. Many of our new bidders and buyers are younger collectors, who are comfortable with our online platform and technology. We find that some of our newer auctions such as the "Absolute Auctions" which don't have reserve prices are attractive to new bidders who have never bid in any auction before.  Our website and mobile application affords bidders and collectors anonymity and flexibility, which they value.

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