The latest trend to hit the art world, non-fungible tokens (NFT) certified art objects are digital objects such as a painting, animation, a piece of music, a photograph, or a video with a certificate of authenticity created by the artist use blockchain technology.
It is such a rage worldwide that even normally cautious auction houses such as Christie’s have latched on to it. In March 2021, Christie’s sold a digital artwork by artist Beeple for $69.3 million. Sotheby’s held its first sale of NFT-certified works by digital artist Pak over three days, from April 12-14. Since then, it has sold CryptoPunk #7523, one of a collection 10,000 pixel-art characters created by Larva Labs, for nearly $11.8 million.
The NFT boom is said to have been fuelled by early investors in cryptocurrencies who eventually became millionaires. In India, Aparajita Jain’s Terrain.art is hosting an exhibition featuring artworks of Bengal-born artist, Lalu Prasad Shaw, which are certified using NFTs. The exhibition, presented by art collector Arjun Sawhney, showcases a selection of 27 figurative paintings that resonate with references to Kalighat pats and early studio photography.
Jain says, “Terrain.art is one of the first blockchain-powered platforms in India to register artworks using NFTs. We present new works and those with prior histories through curated exhibitions. Blockchain technology provides our collectors with a transparent and trustworthy method of buying, selling, and securing their existing collection.”
Paraiba tourmaline necklace, Chopard
It isn’t every day that haute jeweller Chopard puts out its majestic Paraiba Tourmaline neckpiece in a closely-guarded private sale in collaboration with Sotheby’s. Presented by the brand’s co-president and artistic director Caroline Scheufele, the necklace, part of the flamboyant Precious Lace collection is a masterpiece of jewellery lacework.
Crafted from fair-mined white gold and titanium, it has a stunning 34.63-carat Paraiba tourmaline, mined in Mozambique, at its centre of the piece. It is ringed by pear-shaped diamonds.
The necklace looks like the magnum opus of a goldsmith, with its dainty openwork and architectural lines. Scheufele is one of the most influential voices promoting sustainable luxury and her preoccupations reflect in her work.
Collectors’ choice: Modern Indian art, AstaGuru
Indian auction house AstaGuru is focusing on modern Indian art, which remains the proverbial jewel in the crown for art collectors (it also fetches some of the highest prices currently in international markets). The demand for Indian masters has consistently been going up.
Siddanth Shetty, vice-president, business strategy and operations, AstaGuru, says, “Indian masters continue to dominate the art market because works of that great quality are rather difficult to come by. The number of paintings is limited, considering most of the masters have passed away. The creative expressions of the master artists have stood the test of time. Besides, their works encapsulates the foundation and evolution of modernism in India and are historically important.”
Among the significant works at the auction were M.F. Husain’s Untitled, an acrylic-on-paper from his Calcutta Series. Husain’s Calcutta 300 – From Job Charnock’s Kolkata to Satyajit Ray’s Mahanagar also debuted at the auction. Ivory Eyes, 1976-dated enamel on canvas work by Prabhakar Barwe and Ram Kumar’s 1999 oil-on-canvas, which made its auction debut, are other notable pieces of art on auction.
The auction also includes works by the Bengal School of Art greats such as Jamini Roy, Gaganendranath Tagore and Nandalal Bose, besides work by Jogen Chowdhury, Ganesh Pyne, Krishen Khanna, Jehangir Sabavala and F.N. Souza. “There is a healthy demand for works by the masters,” adds Shetty, who has seen the expansion of the art market with several young bidders participating in their auctions.
Tinged with Royalty: Karkhana Chronciles
The royalty of yore once ran sprawling karkhanas (literally: factories; figuratively: art studios), where artisans would produce exquisite objects and works of art for their imperial patrons. Karkhana Chronicles, an initiative by The ReFashion Hub “celebrates India’s textile heritage, its custodians and their contribution towards sustainability”. It charts stories of India’s artisanal heritage through a series of installations that meld fashion and art. But these are no ordinary exhibits. They find space in some of India’s beautifully preserved palaces belonging to erstwhile royal families, from Jaisalmer in Rajasthan to Mayurbhanj in Odisha, Bhavnagar in Gujarat, and Indore in Madhya Pradesh.
The Bhavnagar installation brings together the women weavers and beadmakers of the city, besides the copper karigaars of Sihor. The installation in an Indore palace finds inspiration in the old Boutet de Monvel portraits of Maharaja Yeshwantrao II and Maharani Sanyogitaraje Holkar, which presented the couple in both Indian and European looks. The Mysore Palace installation, conceptualised by Yaduveer Wadiyar and Jayathmika Lakshmi from the erstwhile royal family, spotlights the city’s legacy Khadi and other weaving units, which use indigenous cotton. It also highlights Navalgund Dhurrie, a craft practised by barely 50 weavers today.
Weaves of Solidarity, OBEETEE
This one is an auction with a soul. The month-long Social Fabric 2.0 – Weaves of Solidarity, in its second edition – will auction woven carpets and rugs made by master craftsman. The proceeds will go to the families of the weavers who have particularly been hit hard by the pandemic, leaving many of them struggling and without a market. Many of the master weavers come from artisan families, with ancestors who have made carpets for the royal durbars of great kings and the Diwan-e-Khas of Mughal emperors.
The brand’s CEO, Angelique Dhama, says, “The auction is a way to sustain the livelihood of Mirzapur weavers, ensuring the sustenance of the tradition so that the craft is a heritage handed down from one generation to the next.” The first edition raised approximately Rs 10 lakh rupees.
Here’s what you can buy in this edition: Hand-tufted carpets weaved in the great heritage of weaving from empires as far apart as Ottoman and Persian, besides a few modern patterns.