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Mona Lisa Smiles at How Even Premium Art Auction Houses are Going Digital

Despite conducting only online auctions, AstaGuru has been the sole player to see an increment in their market share with a 3 percent growth rate in 2016.

Tushar Sethi, director of online auction house, AstaGuru

Tushar Sethi is director of AstaGuru, an online auction site for Indian art pieces that is both contemporary and modern, vintage and antique. Since 2008, when AstaGuru first launched, their online auctions have registered a turnover in excess of rupees 270 crores.

Tushar Sethi speaks more on what it’s like to sell valuable masterpieces of art online.

In a country where people prefer live auctions, do you think it was the right move to start an online auction site?

We are a young, disruptive market and it is a preconceived notion - almost a misconception, that people prefer live auctions. Compared to a year ago, we have witnessed a ten-fold increase in the number of people interested in our auctions. Christie’s, which is a major global player, has scaled down its physical presence in a number of segments only to increase their focus on their online platform. Having an online presence is a natural step ahead and every company today is treading down the digital path.

Since the auctions are run online how can a bidder be sure they are trying to purchase an original piece of artwork?

We personally curate each piece of art. Vickram Sethi, who has over 30 years of experience in the art world, and I have expertise and enough in-depth knowledge of the art business to ensure that each artwork is verified for its authenticity.

What kind of audience is more inclined towards buying artwork on the Internet?

We believe that there is no age limit for interest in art. As far as buyers are concerned, they have been traditionally been in the above 35 age group, we are seeing those barriers being broken down. In fact, there has been an 8 percent increase in people from the 18-24 age group who have shown significant interest in our auctions.

What is the market size of the online art auction industry? 

The Indian online art market’s turnover for the year 2016 was rupees 142.7 crores out of which AstaGuru holds 55 percent market share. In fact, we are the only company to conduct auctions solely online. All of our major competitors run online as well as physical auctions, however despite conducting only online auctions, AstaGuru has been the sole player to see an increment in their market share with a 3 percent growth rate in 2016. Our domestic competitors maintained their previous year's market share, according to an international online art market report.

What kind of buying trends have you observed from the customers?

The seminal attributes of masters such S H Raza, M F Husain, V S Gaitonde, Tyeb Mehta are so tremendous that they can be considered immune to any trend and will almost always be in demand. However, the prevalent trends suggest that there is a new wave of buyers who taking an extremely calculated approach, looking at statistics and research before purchasing modern art.

Where do you see the Indian art market in the next 5 years?

The market for Modern Masters will continue to thrive exponentially in the coming years and with the growing number of first time buyers, experimenters and new age art lovers  we are certain that a steady growth for the contemporary artists market will also be an ongoing affair in the near future.

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