Christie’s will feature classical Indian art created from the third century through the beginning of the 20th century in a standalone sale for the first time this September.
The online auction is a break with the traditional approach of including Indian, Himalayan, and Southeast Asian art in one sale and responds to collectors of modern and contemporary Indian art who are “interested in following art history backwards,” finding links in the art of recent time to the faraway past, says Tristan Bruck, head of sale.
The previous model better suited “an old-fashioned collector who was buying works in all three sub-niches,” Bruck says. “A collector who bought Indian paintings, for instance, was likely to also go out and buy a Tibetan thangka (or tapestry).”
The Arts of India sale, open from 10 a.m. Sept. 13 to 9 a.m. Sept. 27, is paying particular attention to works that transition Indian art from the classical to the modern era, a period that until now hadn’t received close attention, he says.
In the midst of the online offering, on the morning of Sept. 20, Christie’s also will hold a live sale in New York of mostly modern but also contemporary South Asian art, which is predominately from India in addition to Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka.
Christie’s expectation is that collectors who attend, or dial into the modern and contemporary sale via phone or online, might be intrigued to also take a look at the online sale, where earlier Indian works provide inspiration for colours, style, and themes by 20th-and 21st-century artists. The auction house will also display the works together in its Rockefeller Center galleries in New York.
Collectors “realize that this art wasn’t created in a vacuum,” says Nishad Avari, Christie’s head of South Asian modern and contemporary art. “There’s thousands of years of tradition that modern and contemporary artists in the region drew on and continue to draw from.”
Consider Maqbook Fida Husain’s Untitled (Naga), a massive work of five female figures and a serpent (or naga) painted around 1971. The painting portrays four of the women with breaks at the neck, hips, and knees, alluding to physical forms expressed in temple sculpture of the Gupta Empire from the fourth- to early sixth century, Avari says.
The painting, expected to achieve between US$700,000 and US$1 million, likely was created to commemorate the launch of a monograph of Husain’s work that was published by Harry N. Abrams, who acquired the painting, Christie’s said in a catalog note. Abrams, a vast collector who also published art and illustrated books about Old Masters through artists such as Robert Rauschenberg, had displayed the work in his offices and later in his family’s home for more than 50 years.
Going further back in time within the Arts of India sale is a Pichvai painting of Vishvarupa—a form of the god Krishna—painted in the 18th to 19th century. The work, originally a temple banner, is a traditional Indian form and concept, “but by the 19th century you can see artists are working with different types of perspective,” Bruck says. They are also using a more modern color palette, with vibrant pinks and blues, and the canvas is large—about six by eight feet.
“This could go in a gallery with the modern works, which are on these large canvases,” Bruck says. The painting “tells a great story alongside 20th-century work, being able to see the origin of a lot of these concepts.”
The Pichvai—a term that refers to devotional folk art paintings—is estimated to achieve at least US$120,000.
Another popular category are so-called company-school paintings that came out of India’s princely courts beginning with the imperial Mughal around 1600 through to the 19th century, when they were commissioned by British administrators, Bruck says.
Each court had its own style that may have been influenced by other courts and changed over time, he says. The works, often called miniature paintings because of the small, precise figures and scenes they depicted, were typically created in albums, or series, making them highly collectible.
Until recently, a group of collectors had focused solely on this sector somewhat in isolation, but Bruck says, Christie’s is seeing an “explosion of interest” in court painting albums, such as an illustration from the “Bharany” Ramayan series that is being offered in the upcoming sale.
A collector “can see what the other pages from that album have sold for and sort of put them together as an album in [their] mind and ideally collect more than one or try to get a few from the set,” Bruck says. The fact they exist within series also gives collectors confidence in what to pay, he adds.
The Bharany Ramayan work in the sale, titled The Monkey Army Intruding Upon a Demon’s Cave, from “Punjab Hills, Kangra or Guler, first generation after Nainsukh or Manaku,” from 1775-1780, is being offered for a minimum of US$80,000. A Patna court painting of a marriage procession at night, from around 1810 and painted in a more European style, is being offered for a minimum of US$10,000.
For many collectors, those price points are more accessible than, for example, the estimated US$250,000 they would pay for a work by Sayed Haider Raza, whose Rajasthan, 1983, is included in the modern and contemporary sale. The structure and primary-colour palette of Rajasthan, in fact, is intentionally drawn from court paintings, Avari says.
“The way in which their discrete sections, cells, in which he paints and the way in which he surrounds it with the red border is a direct reference to Pahari or Rajasthani (court) painting,” he says.
When collectors can see the court paintings that inspired a modern work they own, and they can acquire them for far less, “why not hang them side-by-side?” Avari says.
Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’
Millennials and Gen Z are turning to peers instead of professionals for financial advice. They don’t trust banks, and they are tired of information overload.
Colin Saint-Vil got his money education at the dim sum cart, over a steamy plate of pork buns and turnip cake.
A friend offered to pick up the whole tab on her credit card, “for the points.” At the time, six years ago, “for the points” meant nothing to Saint-Vil, now a 30-year-old planning manager in Brooklyn, so he pressed for more details. They lingered over the dim sum meal as a larger conversation unfolded about annual percentage rates, credit-card debt, payment schedules and more.
Millennials and members of Gen Z prefer to seek financial advice from each other than from parents or from financial professionals. They don’t like overwhelming spreadsheets and marketing material written in seemingly foreign languages. They don’t trust big banks and institutions trying to sell them on investment strategies—as many were raised around the late 2000s financial-crisis. And, they are not wrong: There is a lot to be learned from comparing numbers with peers—from sharing salaries to talking out big decisions like home or car purchases.
Saint-Vil said when his father was his age, he had already begun investing in real estate, but with property prices now so high and mortgage rates only just beginning to fall, he said he couldn’t imagine being able to follow in his father’s footsteps. He, like many millennials and Gen Z-ers, describe their finances as “fairly good” these days, though they hold a negative picture of the greater economy, according to a new poll of 18 to 29-year-olds from the Institute of Politics at Harvard Kennedy School.
Millennials are still reeling from the impact of back-to-back recessions, all while large bank closures and investing scams dominate the headlines. Younger people report a feeling of “financial avoidance” exacerbated by high inflation and the pandemic-era budgeting.
As of June 2023, Gallup polling revealed a historically low faith in U.S. institutions, with younger generations voicing high skepticism. According to Gallup, only 9% of respondents aged 18 to 34 expressed “a great deal” of confidence in banks; meanwhile, 47% and 28% said they have “some” or “very little,” respectively.
But when it comes to winning back young consumers, these same financial institutions haven’t quite given up, and are rolling out new outreach programs and robo advisors, some of which have helped bridge a connection with Gen Z and millennials, said Keith Niedermeier, clinical professor of marketing at Indiana University. But many young people still say they prefer do-it-yourself investing platforms like Robinhood and Acorns over traditional advisers at more established wealth-management firms.
Andrew Ragusa, a real-estate broker based on Long Island, blamed the twin problems of low housing inventory and high home prices for postponing younger buyers’ ownership. The median age of a first-time home buyer in the U.S. is 35-years old as of 2023, according to data from the National Association of Realtors. That is slightly down from an record high of 36 in 2022, but still two years older than the median age in 2021, which is representative of an ageing first-time buyer trend.
When he talks with younger clients now, he detects a gloomy sentiment. “They try to be optimistic, but the overall sentiment is ‘This is supposed to be the American dream: we get a house and we get some financial security and I just have to have faith it will all work out in the end.’ But they don’t have faith it will.”
Fear and shame around being able to buy or accomplish as much as one’s parents might have financially can crop up when millennials talk to elders about their financial frustrations, said Jodi Kaus, director of Kansas State University’s student financial planning centre, Powercat Financial. She’s found that lessons and advice from friends are often more constructive.
Kaus leads a peer-to-peer financial planning centre that pairs up students to work through financial issues. She works to pair people with similar backgrounds: graduate students with graduate students or international students with international students. Talking with someone only a few years removed from your current situation means you’re better able to internalize the messages and execute on their advice, Kaus said.
“Early on, parents even say ‘Are you sure students can help my child?’” she said. “And I say ‘I am more than confident that they can help each other.’
Sharing money tips and financial know-how with your friends doesn’t only benefit the asker, Kaus said. In the Kansas State University peer-to-peer group, the advice giver also learns a lot from their own position, because sharing their story and bonding with a peer helps them to build their own confidence and belief in their financial acumen.
Lindsay Clark, a 34-year-old director of external affairs in Washington, D.C., recalls one lesson she shared with a friend carrying student loans from pharmacy school. Clark works at Savi, a student loan platform, and she offered to cook her friend dinner while they sorted through his loan repayment options. Long after they’d cleaned their dinner plates, they sat together at Clark’s kitchen island, lingering over a plate of homemade hummus and chatting about everything from financial goals to Costco card benefits.
“Those conversations blossom from the transparency, and the visibility makes both people feel really good,” she said. “That creates better relationships overall.”
When you’re talking about money issues with friends, Clark said, you’re not artificially inflating your salary or pretending to know more than you do. And most important, you’re not worried about their ulterior motives.
“You feel safe in that conversation, knowing their intentions are good and they’re not trying to make money off of you,” she said. “And that’s going to lead to better results, because we’re working with the reality here.”
Skepticism of pronounced experts and criticism of established financial institutions is especially common among millennials and Gen Z, Neidermeier said. Studies show people across generations are much likelier to take a friend or colleague’s recommendation to heart over that of a faceless institution, he said; people who spend time on social media just have a greater opportunity to source those answers and field questions.
“What people say to each other over the picket fence is what is the most influential,” he said.
At a certain point, however, talking solely to friends and peers for your financial lessons can be very limiting, said Sarah Behr, founder of Simplify Financial Planning in San Francisco. Relying on your social circle can also put a strain on those relationships; no one wants to be responsible for your disappointment when a financial decision that worked out well for them doesn’t fit as well in your own life.
Behr recommends tuning into your own emotional reactions when assessing peer advice: does the road map they followed align with your own financial values? Does it put pressure on you to live outside your means or challenge your personal risk tolerance? If the answer doesn’t feel clear, that could be a time to outsource to a financial professional who has no emotional connection to you or your financial status.
“‘People have been telling me do this, but I just don’t know if it’s the right thing for me’—I get a lot of calls like that,” said Behr.
Saint-Vil said he and his friends share tips on what high-yield savings accounts offer the best rates, and when he did his credit card research, he chose a card recommended by a friend. When it comes time to work with a financial adviser or even one day a wealth manager, he’ll likely work with someone recommended through a peer. Behr said close to 90% of her business comes by way of client referrals.
Since that first conversation over dim sum, Saint-Vil has thrown his own card onto the table at meals and shared his knowledge with other pals who look confused.
“I have a real wide range of friends who are in many different financial places, but I would say a rising tide lifts all ships,” he said.
Julia Carpenter is the co-author, with Bourree Lam, of The Wall Street Journal’s “The New Rules of Money: A Playbook for Planning Your Financial Future,” a personal-finance workbook published this week by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group.
Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’