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$7.2M Online Sale of India’s Art Sets 21 Records at Saffronart

Auctioneer Saffronart, Mumbai and New York, which specializes in modern and contemporary Indian art, took in $7.2 million—its highest total yet—for an online auction held March 12-13.

NEW YORK—Auctioneer Saffronart, Mumbai and New York, which specializes in modern and contemporary Indian art, took in $7.2 million—its highest total yet—for an online auction held March 12-13. The sale attracted 550 registered bidders from more than 20 countries and achieved records for 21 artists, organizers report. Of 140 lots on offer, 119 works were sold, and the total exceeded the high presale estimate of $5.1 million.

The highest price of the sale was the $558,969 achieved for Surendran Nair’s 2007 oil Doctrine of the Forest: An Actor at Play (estimate: $144,740/171,060), from the artist’s ongoing suite of paintings “Cuckoonebulopolis”—a reference to Aristophanes’ imagined ideal world between heaven and earth.

Three works by Subodh Gupta (b. 1964) were among the top-selling lots, all rolling over their estimates: A 2007 oil on canvas, Untitled, depicting drab, battered pots and other vessels against a shocking-pink background dripping with

neon-bright paint, won $477,250 (estimate: $125,000/175,000); Let Me Make My Damn Art, a 2002 photorealist-style oil on canvas, fetched $437,000, more than six times its $70,000 high estimate; and Feast for Hundred and Eight Gods 2, a 2005 sculptural installation of stacked stainless-steel pots, brought in $209,875 (estimate: $70,000/90,000).

An artist’s record was set for Jagannath Panda (b. 1970) when an untitled 2007 acrylic-and-fabric scene of birds on an intricately patterned tree earned $353,625 against an estimated $66,000/80,000. Also a record was the $133,400 achieved for Bharti Kher’s Death of a Snake Charmer, 2000 (estimate: $85,000/95,000).

According to Saffronart, “though there is a strong base of Indian collectors for this genre, at this sale 25 percent of the bidders were non-Indian, highlighting the higher level of international interest in contemporary Indian art.”

Other top prices for the sale included: $281,448 for Shibu Natesan’s Each One Teach One, 2005, in oil on linen (estimate: $144,740/171,060); $232,875 for T.V. Santhosh’s untitled 2005 oil on canvas (estimate: $55,000/65,000); and $208,150 for Atul Dodiya’s Vansha Vriksha, 1999, in watercolor and acrylic on paper (estimate: $150,000/180,000).

The results of the auction, Saffronart cofounder and director Dinesh Vazirani said afterward, “have reinforced our belief that the blending of global and local contexts characterizing contemporary Indian art helps it transcend geographical barriers and appeal to an international audience of collectors.”

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