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The Good Life

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

Avantika Seth

K K Hebbar’s painting "Tile Factory"  went for ₹40.78 lakh, nearly double its estimate of ₹23 lakh

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 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 1 crore.

F N Souza’s Untitled (after Titian's Venus of Urbino and Manet's Olympia) sold for 1.22 crore($186,000), Subodh Gupta’s stainless steel installation sold for 1.10 crore ($168,000), a painting by M F Husain surpassed its upper estimate of 1 crore to sell at 1.08 crore ($165,000)and S H Raza’s Horizon sold for just over 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 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 5.28 lakh ($8,000) and 3.3 lakh ($5,000) to fetch bids of 14.65 lakh ($22,212) and 10.89 lakh ($16,500) respectively. K K Hebbar’s 1959 painting Tile Factory almost doubled its upper estimate of 23 lakh ($35,000), selling for 40.78 lakh ($61,800). Biren De’s 1968 oil on canvas The Moment also tripled its upper estimate of 7.92 lakh ($12,000), with a winning bid of 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 14.72 lakh ($22,309) against a pre-sale estimate of 6-8 lakh,” adds Weihe. A 2003 painting by Upadhyay almost doubled its upper estimate of 5.28 lakh ($8,000), bagging a winning bid of 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.

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