The auction house Christie's led the market in the sale of art from India last week in a group of sales totalling £57,74,850 (Rs 52,44,73,714). Eighty per cent of the collections was sold.
The series began on June 10 at Christie’s in South Kensington where a private collection of Indian court paintings entitled The Garden of Epics, made £494,625 (Rs 4,49,26,092) and was followed by the Arts of India sale which totalled £903,125 (Rs 8,20,10,787). On Tuesday, the South Asian Modern and Contemporary Art auction realised £4,377,100 (Rs 39,74,65,745). These auctions indicate that London, even more than New York, has established itself as the centre of the global Indian art market.
Monday’s auction, titled Arts of India, included the sale of a large collection of fine classical paintings, from 17th century Mughal portraits to Rajput, Pahari and Company school paintings, 19th century jewellery, a wide variety of furniture – from 16th century Indo-Portuguese boxes to Coromandel settees and 19th century Anglo-Indian chests – arms and armour and fine ivory carvings.
Highlights include a rare and complete album (muraqqa) of Mughal paintings (estimated value at £40,000 to £60,000 or Rs 36,31,920 to Rs 54,45,831). The highlight of the sale was an illustration of the Bhagavata Purana showing the snake demon Ugrasura swallowing Krishna, which sold for £181,875 (Rs 1,65,06,636) against a pre-sale estimate of £30,000 to £50,000 (Rs 27,22,310 to Rs 45,37,022)
Tuesday’s auction, titled South Asian Modern and Contemporary art, included an untitled painting by Vasudeo S Gaitonde (1924-2001), which sold for £625,875 (Rs 5,68,01,421). The work has been requested for next year’s retrospective of the artist at New York’s Guggenheim Museum. There was also an M F Husain – titled Ganga Jamuna – with a reserve price of £400,000 to £600,000 (Rs 3,62,67,625 to Rs 5,44,04,806).
A unique collection of six works by the Sri Lankan modern master, George Keyt (1901-1993), sold collectively for £339,850 (Rs 3,08,40,437), more than double the pre-sale estimate.
His work titled Gopika Vastra Paharana (1952), expected to sell for £40,000 to £60,000, sold for £109,875 (Rs 99,72,050) to a buyer in the room against four rival bids and set a new auction record for a work by the artist sold at auction. Subodh Gupta’s artwork Vehicle for Seven Seas might look like an airport trolley but its reserve price was set at £70,000 to £90,000 (Rs 63,47,815 to Rs 81,60,892).
Romain Pingannaud, Head of Department, Christie’s South Kensington, said, “We are pleased with the results of this second edition of Arts of India which confirm the growing interest in this category.” Added Sandhya Jain-Patel, Associate Vice President and Co-Head of Sale, “This carefully curated sale of Indian court paintings attracted interest from around the world.
Both new and seasoned connoisseurs recognised the quality, rarity and beauty of these works, and competed eagerly to acquire them.” Hugo Weihe, international director of Asian Art at Christie’s, said, “The sale included important works with great provenance which were appreciated by a large group of established and new collectors. We look forward to the next series of sales in this category to be held in New York in September.”