MUMBAI // Christie’s held its first art auction in India on Thursday, aiming to tap into a budding market for prestige purchasing among the country’s fast-growing ranks of millionaires.
The inaugural sale of 83 lots in the financial hub of Mumbai was to feature paintings from the private collection of one of India’s first families of contemporary art as well as pieces from six of the nine Indian artists deemed “national treasures” whose works cannot leave the country.
The sale was expected to total $6 million to $8 million.
Christie’s sees the relatively underdeveloped art market in Asia’s third-largest economy as fertile ground for growth as part of its international expansion that has included recent auctions in China and the Middle East.
While overall Indian growth has been stalling, the number of people worth $1 million or more is expanding and they show no signs of slowing their spending, fueling double-digit growth in the luxury market for the past five years. London-based Christie’s is betting that that wealth will increasingly go into investment in art, as it has in China, where the recent Shanghai auction drew $25 million.
“There is a need for us to be here,” Christie’s auctioneer Jussi Pylkkanen said.
While China’s wealthy have embraced art purchases and now rival the US as the largest market in the world, India’s elite have been slower to invest. China and the US last year accounted for 25 per cent and 33 per cent, respectively, of the $58.7 billion global fine art and antiques market. India did not even make the top five, lumped together with “other countries” accounting together for 7 per cent, according to a report by The European Annual Fine Art Foundation.
But Christie’s is expecting that will change as India’s rich – who are already eating up luxury brands in clothing, jewelry and automobiles – train their attention and bank accounts on fine art.
India’s overall economic growth has slowed to under 5 per cent compared to more than 8 per cent in the previous decade. At the same time, the ranks of Indian millionaires reached 170,000, according to the research firm Euromonitor.
The survey declared India the most dynamic luxury goods market and forecast it to grow by 86 per cent in value over the next five years, followed by China at 72 per cent, Brazil at 31 per cent and Russia at 28 per cent.