A Healthy Indian Art Market: Saffronart Autumn Auction 2017 – round-up

Saffronart’s auction results show healthy demand for Indian modernist works.

Selling at USD3.17 million, V.S. Gaitonde lead the Evening Sale auction at Saffronart in New Delhi on 21 September 2017.

Saffronart's 'Evening Sale' at The Leela, New Delhi, 21 September. Image courtesy Saffronart.

Saffronart’s ‘Evening Sale’ at The Leela, New Delhi, 21 September 2017. Image courtesy Saffronart.

Concluding last night at The Leela in New Delhi, collectors of Indian modern and contemporary art bid on over seventy lots of fine art, with some of the most prominent names of Indian art history included in the line-up of Saffronart’s Evening Sale. CEO Hugo Weihe had mentioned that this year’s edition of the sale included “works of exceptional quality and rarity, which offer new possibilities for reflection and dialogue”. Artists whose works were bid on included V.S. Gaitonde, Nicholas Roerich, Tyeb Mehta, Jamini Roy, Bhupen Khakar, Arpita Singh and Ganesh Pyne.

The leading sale went to V.S. Gaitonde’s Untitled (1963), which twice exceeded its lower estimate of INR10 crores (USD1.5 million), roping in INR19.99 crores (USD3.17 million). The work is now one of the five most expensive artworks by the artist.

V S Gaitonde, 'Untitled', 1963. Saffronart, Evening Sale, New Delhi, 21 September 2017, lot 13. Image courtesy of Saffronart.

V S Gaitonde, ‘Untitled’, 1963. Saffronart, Evening Sale, New Delhi, 21 September 2017, lot 13. Image courtesy of Saffronart.

One of India’s leading modernists, V.S. Gaitonde grew up in Nagpur in West India. He eventually went on to become a leading figure of the Progressive Artist Group, which was founded in Bombay in 1947. Gaitonde’s works are known for their meditative qualities, using colour and technique to manifest a sense of silence and stillness. His work is collected by multiple institutions, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia, the National Gallery of Modern Art, in New Delhi, Bengaluru, and Mumbai. In 2014, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York mounted a retrospective of his work, bringing it to an international audience.

This is not the first time Gaitonde’s works have exceeded expectations: in December 2013 at an auction held by Christie’s in Mumbai, Gaintonde’s Untitled (1979) sold for INR 237 crores, (USD3.8 million), setting a world record for modern Indian art.

Other high performers at the auction include Nicholas Roerich’s Himalayas (1940), which sold at four times its lower estimate at INR4.8 crores (USD 761,905). It had held a pre-sale estimate of INR1.2 – 1.8 crores (USD190,480 – 285,715). Himalayas now represents the most expensive artwork by the artist sold at auction in India.

Nicholas Roerich, 'Himalayas', 1940. Saffronart, Evening Sale, New Delhi, 21 September 2017, lot 49. Image courtesy of Saffronart

Nicholas Roerich, ‘Himalayas’, 1940. Saffronart, Evening Sale, New Delhi, 21 September 2017, lot 49. Image courtesy of Saffronart.

Tyeb Mehta, who was also a member of the Bombay Progress Artist’s Group, also performed well at the sale. Hailed as “one of the most celebrated of India’s Modernist painters”, one of Mehta’s more unconventional works, depicting the crucifixion of Christ, sold for INR4.2 crores (USD666,667). Mehta was known as one of India’s first modernist painters, known for incorporating brutal imagery and themes into his works. Mehta passed away, at the age of 94, in Mumbai in 2009. His death had been reported, to great dismay, across India.

Tyeb Mehta, 'Crucifixion', 1959. Saffronart, Evening Sale, New Delhi, 21 September 2017, lot 52. Image courtesy of Saffronart.

Tyeb Mehta, ‘Crucifixion’, 1959. Saffronart, Evening Sale, New Delhi, 21 September 2017, lot 52. Image courtesy of Saffronart.

Modern master Jamini Roy, who is known for his flat, curving lines and even planes of colour, also exceeded expectations at the Evening Sale, with three Untitled paintings from the collection of physician Dr Susanta Sen outperforming original estimates. Two of Roy’s paintings twice exceeded its pre-sale lower estimates, with a painting of a Bankura horse selling at INR13.2 lakhs (USD20,952), against its lower estimate of INR3 lakhs (USD4,765). A painting of a deer exceeded its higher estimate, selling for INR10.2 lakhs (USD 16,190), against its upper estimate of INR5 lakhs (USD7,940). A third painting of a woman trebled its initial upper estimate, selling at INK33.6 lakhs (USD53,333), compared to its pre-sale estimate of INR8-10 lakhs (USD12,700 – 15,875).

Saffronart's 'Evening Sale' at The Leela, New Delhi, 21 September. Image courtesy Saffronart.

Saffronart’s ‘Evening Sale’ at The Leela, New Delhi, 21 September 2017. Image courtesy Saffronart.

Other modern artists whose works saw strong demand at the Evening Sale included New Delhi-born artist Arpita Singh. Her watercolour on paper work, Girl at the Window (1989), is an example of her mid-career body of work, where she took to drawing scenes of daily life and ritual. The work doubled its upper estimate, selling for INR14.4 lakhs (USD22, 587). Similarly, Ganesh Pyne, who became one of the leading artists of the Bengal School of Art in India, sold well at the auction, with two of his paintings exceeding their pre-sale estimates.

Saffronart's 'Evening Sale' at The Leela, New Delhi, 21 September. Image courtesy Saffronart.

Saffronart’s ‘Evening Sale’ at The Leela, New Delhi, 21 September 2017. Image courtesy Saffronart.

With modern artists leading the sale, demand for modern Indian art seems to be steadily picking up amongst buyers. CEO Hugo Weihe notes that “demand for modern Indian artists continues to grow, with new bidders and buyers coming in from around the world […]. The painting by Gaitonde represents a Saffronart record, and it is an important milestone for the company.” In addition, Weihe noted that there was “strong bidding for entry-level price points, which underscores a growing interest among new buyers”. In total, 86 percent of all available lots sold, netting a total of INR66 crores (USD10.4 million).

Junni Chen

1868

Final sale values include Buyer’s Premium, while estimates do not.

Related topics: market watchIndian artistsevents in New Delhi, auctions, business of art

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