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Souza goes for record Rs 16 crore at Delhi auction

Man and Woman Laughing (1957) is the highest selling Souza in history

Brushing past works by late MF Husain and Tyeb Mehta, Francis Newton Souza turned out to be the highest seller at Saffronart’s Evening Sale of Indian modern and contemporary art held in New Delhi yesterday.

Untitled (1960) by Maqbool Fida Husain; oil on canvas. PIC/SAFFRONART
Untitled (1960) by Maqbool Fida Husain; oil on canvas. PIC/SAFFRONART

The 1957 oil on masonite, titled, Man and Woman Laughing, sold for a winning bid of Rs 16,84,00,000, making it a new world auction record for Souza’s works. The record was earlier held by Souza’s Birth (1955) which sold for Rs 10.5 crore in 2008 at UK auction house Christie’s London sale.

Devi (1998) by G. Ravinder Reddy; synthetic polymer paint and gold leaf on polyester resin fiberglass. PIC/SAFFRONART

Devi (1998) by G. Ravinder Reddy; synthetic polymer paint and gold leaf on polyester resin fiberglass. PIC/SAFFRONART

Thursday’s auction featured 75 works by modernists and contemporaries, including the Bombay Progressives Mehta, Husain, Souza and SH Raza, and Bharti Kher, Nataraj Sharma and Subodh Gupta. The auction showcased the progression of artists through their career, such as Akbar Padamsee’s transition from earlier landscapes to mindscapes. Hugo Weihe, who helmed his first auction as CEO of Saffronart, said, “We carefully curated a collection of modern masters, and people have acknowledged that. It is a big step for Saffronart and the Indian art market.”

Untitled (1995) by Manjit Bawa; oil on canvas. PIC/SAFFRONART
Untitled (1995) by Manjit Bawa; oil on canvas. PIC/SAFFRONART

Hugo Weihe
Hugo Weihe, CEO of Saffronart, had estimated that FN Souza’s Man and Woman Laughing would go between Rs 15 – Rs 20 crore. PIC/ATUL KAMBLE

Among the top 10 sellers, a golden resin fiberglass sculpture by Ravinder Reddy, titled, Devi (1998) sold for Rs 2.7 crore. While most works, including Souza’s, stayed within the estimated price, paintings by Husain and Manjit Bawa exceeded expectations. Husain’s 1960 untitled oil on canvas, which depicts sculptural figures, sold for Rs 2.16 crore and Bawa’s angelic acrobat, an untitled oil on canvas from 1995, went for a little over Rs 2 crore. “These are extraordinary works with great provenance. Sometimes, it’s not just about a fantastic work of art; people want to be part of a larger story,” said Weihe.

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