Sotheby’s launches ‘India Week’ in London in October 2014, featuring close to 300 artworks spanning circa 1500 to the present.

The global auction house expects to raise around GBP10 million in the the auction, which will feature fresh-to-the-market works that have never been offered at auction before.

Photograph from 'Rajaputana', c.1879, negatives c.1863-1870s. From the section 'Photographs of Imperial India: The Sven Gahlin Collection'. Image courtesy Sven Gahlin.

Photograph from ‘Rajaputana’, c.1879, negatives c.1863-1870s. From the section ‘Photographs of Imperial India: The Sven Gahlin Collection’. Image courtesy Sven Gahlin.

Sotheby’s London will launch its first India Week from 2 to 8 October 2014, offering a series of public exhibitions and three dedicated auctions:

  • Modern and Contemporary South Asian Art
  • Art of Imperial India
  • Arts of the Islamic World

Together, the sales in the high-profile India Week cover a wide period, from circa 1500 to contemporary times. According to Sotheby’s, the entire London premises

will be devoted to art from the Indian subcontinent and will serve as an even stronger marketing platform during the pre-Diwali period and ahead of the Frieze Art Fair.

Indian and South Asian art on the rise

Sotheby’s identifies the last twenty years as a period of dramatic change in the market for Indian and South Asian art. Sales values significantly increased, record prices were achieved and a continued demand for good-quality paintings noted.

Yamini Mehta, International Director for Indian and South Asian Art at Sotheby’s, says in an official statement:

We see a lot of business opportunity and it is the right time to market Indian art to buyers worldwide.

Modern and contemporary art to watch

Among the three sales, the Modern and Contemporary South Asian Art sale is the most prestigious and will take place on 7 October 2014. The sale will feature fresh-to-the-market works that have never appeared under the hammer before.

Tyeb Mehta, 'Blue Painting', 1982. Image courtesy the artist and Sotheby's.

Tyeb Mehta, ‘Blue Painting’, 1982. Image courtesy the artist and Sotheby’s.

Leading the sale is Tyeb Mehta‘s Blue Painting (1982), estimated at GBP600,000-800,000. An important artist who strove to establish the indigenous Modernist movement after India’s independence in 1947, Mehta is inspired by Barnett Newman, Henri Matisse and Yves Klein. According to the painting’s press release:

Blue Painting […] is one of the very few monochromatic paintings that Mehta ever produced, and reaches the zenith of the artist’s intent to combine the intensity of pure colour with powerful figurative composition […] [The artist] sought to achieve an image of quiet and calming beauty, despite his signature distortion of the figure.

Other notable modern masters featured in the auction include Maqbool Fida Husain, Sayed Haider Raza, Francis Newton Souza and Akbar Padamsee. Leading Indian and Pakistani artists, such as Rashid Rana, Subodh Gupta and Bharti Kher, will also be showcased.

Unearthed gems from the past

The Art of Imperial India sale, to be held on 8 October, will feature fine paintings, jewellery, photographs and art from the Mughal and Rajput courts as well as the period of the British Raj.

A notable section entitled “Photographs of Imperial India: The Sven Gahlin Collection” will showcase 31 albums containing over 2,000 photographs of India, Ceylon, Burma and Southeast Asia, dating from the 1850s to the early twentieth century. According to the collection’s press release, apart from eight individual photographs, none of the albums have ever been seen in public since their acquisition over forty years ago. The total estimated value of the collection is GBP150,000-250,000.

Making an international splash

The auction house expects that India Week will raise around GBP10 million in total for the 300 works on sale. According to The Economic Times, Sotheby’s

expects a variety of buyers, including non-resident Indians and international collectors, to show interest in the auction for which 3,000 catalogues will be sent out.

Yamini Mehta told The Economic Times that among the 3,000 catalogues in total, around 1,000 catalogues were to be circulated in India. According to the article, Sotheby’s has been actively engaging with Indian artists, buyers and sellers.

Edward Gibbs, Chairman of Middle East and India at Sotheby’s, told The Economic Times:

India is an interesting market with a lot of potential and we keep exploring the opportunities to conduct auctions here.

Michele Chan


Related Topics: Indian artists, Pakistani artists, auctions, art and business, events in London

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By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

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