Auction house Christie's to hold first Indian sale in Dec

MUMBAI (AFP) - International auctioneer Christie's said on Tuesday it will hold its first ever sale in India as it seeks to capitalise on the country's expanding art scene.

The London-based house, which has had an office in financial hub Mumbai for two decades, will stage its inaugural sale in December.

"The decision to hold auctions at this time is a reflection of the strong momentum in the domestic art marketplace," Christie's said in a statement.

The sale also reflects "the increased international appeal of Indian art and the growing participation of Indian collectors across international sale categories", it added.

The sale will mark the first by an international auction house in India, it said.

Christie's chief executive Steven Murphy said the auction would be of domestic artwork and that other sales would follow.

The auctions "will allow Indian collectors domestic access to works of art sourced by Christie's (and) international collectors access to the very best of Indian art", he said.

The plan follows a recent announcement by the auctioneer that it would hold its first sale in Shanghai in September.

While India's art market is still in its infancy, far behind China's, a developing interest in Western art was fuelled by strong economic growth over the past decade.

Last year, New Delhi saw the first sale of international masterpieces to target India, with works by Van Gogh and Picasso among 73 lots by top Impressionist and modern artists going under the hammer.

The results of the sale, however, trailed estimates with fewer than half the works finding buyers, in contrast to international demand for Indian artworks in recent years.

The 1983 painting, "Saurashtra," by Syed Haider Raza sold for almost 2.4 million pounds (S$4.6 billion) at Christie's in London in 2010, setting a record for a modern Indian work.

But art prices in India have slipped lately as a result of the global financial crisis and a sharp slowing of India's economy.