The Good Life

A Fine Summer

Amrita Sher-Gil, F N Souza and Subodh Gupta led Saffronart's summer auction

It was no summer of discontent for art connoisseurs thanks to Saffronart’s online auction, featuring 109 modern and contemporary pieces as well as some of the earliest Indian art.  

As with the modern Indian art movement, Amrita Sher-Gil led the summer auction too, with her Untitled (Zebegény Landscape) fetching Rs.4.75 crore ($720,000). Made in the early 1930s, the landscape was likely painted during a summer holiday she spent in the Hungarian village of Zebegeny on the banks of the Danube, over the course of her stay in Paris. Apart from Sher-Gil, F N Souza, M F Husain, S H Raza and Subodh Gupta emerged as top artists at the auction, with their paintings selling for over Rs.1 crore.

F N Souza’s Untitled (after Titian's Venus of Urbino and Manet's Olympia) sold for Rs.1.22 crore($186,000), Subodh Gupta’s stainless steel installation sold for Rs.1.10 crore ($168,000), a painting by M F Husain surpassed its upper estimate of Rs.1 crore to sell at Rs.1.08 crore ($165,000)and S H Raza’s Horizon sold for just over Rs.1 crore ($153,000). “We saw bids come in from clients based in India and abroad. Almost 20% of the winning bids came from new buyers,” shares Hugo Weihe, CEO, Saffronart, adding that the auction fetched Rs.20.65 crore ($3.12 million) in all.

According to the auctioneer, nearly 24% of the lots sold above their upper estimates. Two paintings by Ghulam Rasool Santosh almost tripled their upper estimates of Rs.5.28 lakh ($8,000) and Rs.3.3 lakh ($5,000) to fetch bids of Rs.14.65 lakh ($22,212) and Rs.10.89 lakh ($16,500) respectively. K K Hebbar’s 1959 painting Tile Factory almost doubled its upper estimate of Rs.23 lakh ($35,000), selling for Rs.40.78 lakh ($61,800). Biren De’s 1968 oil on canvas The Moment also tripled its upper estimate of Rs.7.92 lakh ($12,000), with a winning bid of Rs.24.9 lakh ($37,800).

“Among the contemporary Indian artists, there was strong demand for works by Sudarshan Shetty and Chintan Upadhyay. Shetty’s 2005 acrylic on canvas sold at Rs.14.72 lakh ($22,309) against a pre-sale estimate of Rs.6-8 lakh,” adds Weihe. A 2003 painting by Upadhyay almost doubled its upper estimate of Rs.5.28 lakh ($8,000), bagging a winning bid of Rs.9.7 lakh ($14,700).  

“There were many rare pieces with unusual history and at various attractive price points,” says Weihe of the auction, which, going by the numbers, paints a good landscape of the art scene in itself.