Indian art is going global and is bringing not just accolades, but big money to its practitioners. In Britain, paintings by Indian artists have created the right kind of buzz in the rarefied circles of cognoscenti. A painting by Indian artist Frances Newton Souza bought in 1967 for 50 pounds has fetched its Devon-based owner a whopping 173,000 pounds.
The painting, called “Still Life”, had been bought by an unidentified couple resident in Devon in south-west England. “We placed an estimate of 80,000-120,000 pounds on the picture but it exceeded our expectations,” says Sam Tuke, of antique dealers Bonhams’ Honiton office that carried out the valuation.
“The market for Souzas has really taken off with many Indian expatriates and galleries in India buying back their heritage via an artist who is now seen as one of the best Indian artists of the 20th century.”
Souza, who was born in 1924 and died in 2002, is known in art circles as the Indian Picasso. His paintings often fetch six-figure sums and six of his paintings made the top 10 in the Bonhams sale.
Another Souza picture, also bought for a song in a New York flea market in 1983, sold for 151,200 pounds at the auction.
Sotheby’s Sale Of Young Indian Artists
Sotheby’s first sale in New York of works by young Indian artists, including works by Atul Dodiya and Jitish Kallat, fetched an astonishing $1,818,780 – an all-time high.
The sale featured 58 lots by young cutting-edge artists in a variety of media and went far beyond the high estimate of $1.5 million.
Artists whose works set records were Jitish Kallat and Sudarshan Shetty. The sale was 97.7 percent sold by value and 93.1 percent sold by lot. Of the 58 lots offered, only four failed to find buyers.
“Today’s results of our inaugural sale affirm that Indian contemporary art deserves its own spotlight in New York. The sale attracted participation from around the world from new and established buyers,” says Zara Porter Hill, director and head of Sotheby’s Indian and Southeast Asian department.
The cover lot of the sale, Atul Dodiya’s “Mirage”, an installation from his famous “Shutter” series of 2002, sold for $216,000 to the International Trade (estimated at $180,000-220,000). The work was produced on a shopkeeper’s shutter, which is commonplace in the commercial districts of Mumbai and under normal circumstances bears advertisements for everyday products. The artist depicts Mahatma Gandhi on its corrugated exterior.
Shibu Natesan’s “Existence of Instinct-4” (2004) brought $156,000 (est. $120,000-180,000) from a private Indian collector. Characteristic of the artist’s signature style, it was observed by Bhavna Kakar in Art & Deal 2005 as: “[Natesan] works through a particular method of startling photographic simulation of the real…He chooses to work as a realist using two strategies – directness and detachment. His details tie his subjects to a concrete reality but this perfection adds a certain detachment or emotional estrangement.”
Ravinder G. Reddy’s iconic “Head-06”, a gold gilded work painted on polyester resin fibre glass, fetched $156,000 (est. $100,000-150,000), selling to a private Indian collector. Reddy’s monumental female heads are inspired by the forms of classical Indian sculpture, yet their iconography is firmly rooted in the urban setting of contemporary India.
Works by Subodh Gupta also sold well. An Untitled work commanded $114,000 (est. $35,000-45,000) and went to a private Indian collector, while “Feast for Hundred and Eight Gods” (2005), a sculpture that uses stainless steel utensils and is the first of an edition of three, sold for $72,000 to the American Trade (est. $40,000-60,000).
Looking at both Christie’s and Sotheby’s sales in the past week, the figures tell a fine story. Following the record total for its Asian sales in New York achieved last season, Sotheby’s once again led the New York Asian art sales, totalling $45.35 million (est. $38.8-54.3 million).
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