Rise and rise of Indian art

A painting by Tyeb Mehta
A painting by Tyeb Mehta

Christie’s sale of modern and contemporary Indian art, with a F. N. Souza topping the auction, fetched a fantastic $17,811,360, the highest-ever total achieved in this field. The record-breaking sale, which has raised the field of Indian art sales to new levels, is a market endorsement for Christie’s commitment to the category and its collectors, said a Christie’s official.

It also confirms the continued spectacular rise of Indian modern and contemporary art after Christie’s broke the $1-million threshold for the first time in September of 2005 when Tyeb Mehta’s "Mahisasura" sold for a breathtaking $1.6 million in the Rockefeller sales room in the presence of the artist.

The top lot was Francis Newton Souza’s "Man and Woman", which realised $1,360,000 and was bought by an Indian hedge fund manager.

"Reflecting back on our first sale of modern and contemporary Indian art in New York, which took place in 2000 and realised $600,000, today’s event was a tremendous testimonial to the buoyancy and the energy of Indian art, its collectors and its supporters," said Yamini Mehta, head of Modern and Contemporary Indian Art.

Top prices in the sale were achieved for established as well as contemporary artists. An extraordinary group of works by Souza from the collection of the British epicurean, businessman and connoisseur, Robin Howard CBE, was among the major highlights.

His majestic "Man and Woman" (1954), more than quadrupled its pre-sale estimate, while "Nyasa Negress with Flowers and Thorns" doubled its pre-sale figure with the painting fetching $856,000. Two more Souza works, "Untitled (Spanish Landscape)" (1960) and "Row of Red Houses with Trees" (1957) sold for $688,000 and $374,400 respectively.

Tyeb Mehta, one of the most coveted artists in the field, was represented with "Untitled (Figures with Bull Head)", circa 1987. This impressive composition in yellows, greens and shades of grey which pre-figures Mehta’s obsession with the goddess Durga, realised $1,136,000 and was acquired by an Indian private collector.

Paintings from the collection of Madame Krishna Riboud included two superb works by Vasudeo S. Gaitonde, which also performed at high levels. Gaitonde’s "Untitled" (1971) achieved $688,000 and the second "Untitled - Green Mountain" painted in the same year realised $632,000. Arpita Singh’s "Bhisma" an acrylic-on-canvas estimated at $150,000-200,000, went for a record $408,000 to an Indian private collector.

Contemporary artists put their mark on the sale as well. Shibu Natesan’s "Stand Alone" (2003), a composition based on the artist’s time in Helsinki, was bought for $198,000 — more than doubling the pre-sale estimate and establishing a new record for the artist. Subodh Gupta sailed on high winds with his painting "Round the Corner" (2004) fetching $90,000 and with his conceptual sculpture "Gober/Ganesha" realising $84,000.

Records were set for Jagdish Swaminathan, Jogen Chowdhury, Shibu Natesan, Bhupen Khakhar, Aisha Khalid, Nusra Latif Qureshi, Avinash Chandra, Bikash Bhattacharjee, Jitish Kallat and Ahmed Shabbudin. — IANS