A historic year of record-breaking sales, powered by a thriving art market and a resilient and unified art community, 2021 has turned out to be one of the most exciting and spirited years we’ve seen at Saffronart. As we turn the page on 2021, we would like to take a moment to review a monumental year wherein Saffronart has consistently taken on a leadership role through the challenges thrown by the ongoing pandemic.
For Saffronart, one of the highlights of 2021 has been the increased interest in modern Indian art globally. The record-breaking sales which led each major Saffronart auction have underscored the tremendous interest for Indian art on a global platform. These auctions dramatically expanded our reach as we shifted to a live hybrid auction format that seamlessly incorporated state-of-the-art technology, expanded access, and an enhanced experience for art collectors and bidders from around the world.
With the heightened demand for Indian art and our updated auction format, we now reach twice as many bidders with four times the number of auctions in 2021 than we did in pre-pandemic 2019. In particular, the total number of auctions that take place on StoryLTD has gone up by nearly 500% during the same period, with a significantly higher percentage of lots sold in 2021. Along with this, we have also been able to expand the range of categories offered through StoryLTD to include jewellery, fine art, rare books, prints, photography, vintage cameras, ceramics, silverware, folk and tribal art, experiences, and other collectibles. These exciting new directions have taken shape through our new dynamic gallery space in Mumbai, featuring innovative displays and walkthroughs for art enthusiasts and collectors.
This year also bore witness to a dramatic increase in the number of top-value artworks being sold. In 2021, the number of artworks which sold for over INR 20 crores were four times that of the previous year.
2021 also showed us some of the most historic, record-breaking sales of modern Indian art, which included the sale of V S Gaitonde’s Untitled, 1961 at Saffronart’s Spring Live Auction in March 2021 for the price of INR 39.98 crores (USD 5.5 million), making it the highest value achieved for a work of Indian art in auction worldwide, as well as Amrita Sher-Gil’s In the Ladies’ Enclosure, 1938 at Saffronart’s Summer Live Auction in July 2021 for INR 37.8 crores (USD 5.14 million), making it the highest value achieved by the artist in auction and the second-most expensive work of Indian art sold globally.
That’s not all. We’ve had a year that’s seen record prices being hammered down for the works of Jamini Roy (Untitled for INR 4.32 crores (USD 583,784)), C Raja Raja Varma (Baby and Princess, 1887 for INR 3 crores (USD 402,685)), and Rama Varma (Untitled, 1914 for INR 2.16 crores (USD 289,933)). In our sales, about 40% of the works sold at prices that were well above the higher estimate.
2021 was also a year where Saffronart hosted two successful online auctions for fine jewellery, silver and luxury watches, as well as contemporary furniture, handwoven rugs and rare books. The jewellery auction featured a unique turban ornament designed by the late renowned jewellery designer Munnu Kasliwal, which sold for over INR 90 lakhs (USD 123,000).
While we were fortunate to have been in a position to innovate and adapt in a manner that helped us navigate the turbulent waters of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was also an opportunity for us to give back when it was most needed. We hosted fundraising auctions through 2021 in partnership with arts, cultural and charitable organisations in order to support organisations working on the front lines to help those with the greatest need. This included Art Rises for India, a COVID-19 fundraiser auction, supported by artists, galleries, and members of the Indian art community, which saw a successful sale of 100% of the lots leading to a sum of INR 2 crores being raised through the auction; the Times Art Fest Auction that raised INR 1.26 crores; the Young Presidents’ Organisation Charity Auction that saw a sale of INR 1.3 crores, which was approximately four times above the lower estimated price; and the India for Artisans fundraiser auction, organised in collaboration with 200 Million Artisans and Creative Dignity, that raised over INR 23 lakhs to aid in the economic recovery of artisan communities across the country. In addition, we have conducted multiple single owner sales on StoryLTD with the proceeds going to various charitable organisations.
As the market leader for modern and contemporary Indian art for the last six years, Saffronart works consistently towards presenting strong works by leading artists. Having led the Indian art market through 2021 with over 35% of the market share, we remain committed to developing and growing the art market in the years to come. We thank you for your support and feedback through this year and look forward to sharing our new directions and innovations with you in 2022.