Prinseps: a new entrant in the Indian art auction market

Art Radar has a look at what’s on offer at the new Prinseps auction house’s upcoming sale.

The Indian art world’s auction market is catching up with the global traction of international auction houses, with Mumbai and Delhi vying for first place in the game. Prinseps, a fresh new entry to the market, is holding its first auction sales on 12 and 13 October 2017.

Himmat Shah (b. 1933), 'Untitled', 1968, collage / mixed media on paper, signed lower left, 9 x 12 in. Image courtesy Prinseps.

Himmat Shah, ‘Untitled’, 1968, collage, mixed media on paper, signed lower left, 9 x 12 in. Image courtesy Prinseps.

Auctions are the preferred blood sport of the art world and India is catching up, fast. Mumbai and Delhi are caught up in a whirlwind of champagne, catalogues and proxy bids. Saffronart’s autumn sale in Delhi raked in over USD3 million for a midnight blue Gaitonde.  Although Christie’s put the brakes on its India sale hosted in Mumbai every December, it certainly hasn’t slowed down. Its New York sale achieved records for artists Adi Davierwalla and Somnath Hore. Not to be left behind, Sotheby’s recently brought highlights from its much anticipated Indian art sale to Mumbai. Local auction house Pundole’s, after a series of white glove sales, has now ventured into decorative arts. This September they neatly sold a hoard of silver and end tables, including a particularly lavish candelabra for USD200,000.

Jaminy Roy (1887 - 1972), 'Untitled (Gopini)', ca. 1950, tempera on board, signed lower right, 24 x 12 in. Image courtesy Prinseps.

Jaminy Roy, ‘Untitled (Gopini)’, ca. 1950, tempera on board, signed lower right, 24 x 12 in. Image courtesy Prinseps.

While the art market might have reached its peak about a decade ago, auction records for over 50 Indian artists have been breached in the past year. These record prices are almost entirely for modern (20th century) artists, contemporary art is seeing a slower recovery. Collectors are more guarded and focusing on material and artists that have stood the test of time.

M.F. Husain (1913-2011), 'Untitled (Lion)', signed and dated 1954 upper right, kite paper collage on board, 21 x 15 1/2 in. Image courtesy Prinseps.

M.F. Husain, ‘Untitled (Lion)’, 1954, signed and dated upper right, kite paper collage on board, 21 x 15 1/2 in. Image courtesy Prinseps.

In the thick of a feverish season, a new auction house makes its debut. Prinseps, named for historian and orientalist James Prinsep, has recently launched with an inaugural rare books sale. The online auction had a record breaking result of 10 times the high estimate. Not surprising, as the lots were prized books from the estate of Rathindranath Tagore (Rabindranath’s eldest son) and most likely from Rabindranath himself. These included signed autobiographies by Gandhi and Nehru, signed editions by T.S. Elliot and Sarojini Naidu, a UNESCO pamphlet signed by Albert Einstein and a very special folio of satirical cartoons by Gaganendranath Tagore.

Amrita Sher-Gil (1913 - 1941), 'Untitled (Nude)', ca. 1930, charcoal on paper, 22 x 17.5 in. Image courtesy Prinseps.

Amrita Sher-Gil, ‘Untitled (Nude)’, ca. 1930, charcoal on paper, 22 x 17.5 in. Image courtesy Prinseps.

Prinseps upcoming art auction is a carefully curated line-up of a modest yet remarkable 42 lots (catalogue PDF download) and not one to be missed. Prinseps endeavours to offer a range of art and artists outside the spectrum of what most auction houses tend to offer. Rathindranath Tagore will be appearing for the first time at auction, and most of his works are in public collections and impossible to come by. The works for sale include lush, delicate watercolours of gardens and landscapes and even a rare wood inlay work based on a painting by his celebrated father. The auction includes many other rare finds: a KG Subramnayan terracotta relief, a 1968 Himmat Shah collage, an Amrita Sher-Gil full sheet drawing and a Somnath Hore bronze pig. Prinseps highlights significant artists who have not received their due including B. C. Sanyal, Bimal Dasgupta and Suhas Roy.

Subodh Gupta (b. 1964), 'Vilas - II', 2000, sculpture aluminium, velvet and vaseline, 16 x 11 x 11 in. Image courtesy Prinseps.

Subodh Gupta, ‘Vilas – II’, 2000, sculpture, aluminium, velvet and vaseline, 16 x 11 x 11 in. Image courtesy Prinseps.

Although featuring a number of auction house mainstays like M.F. Husain, Akbar Padamsee, Manjit Bawa and F.N. Souza, Prinseps remains true to its mission to showcase the unique and unexpected. One of the two exceptional 1950s Husain works is a rare kite paper collage of a tiger. There is also an exceptional Souza painting he created from tracing the image of an erotic sculpture at the Konark sun temple. A rather avant-garde Bawa features unusual abstract imagery suspended in his signature saturated pools of colour. Prinseps has assembled a collectors’ auction, proving that as sentiment and prices rise, there are still treasures to be found, and giving a renewed boost to the local art market and the demand for Indian modern and contemporary art.

Lynn Hilloowala

1894

Related Topics: Indian artists, market watch, auctions, business of art, collectors

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