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Uneven Results at Saffronart’s Scaled-Down Sale of Indian Art

Saffronart’s online auction of modern and contemporary Indian art on March 11–12 brought in a total of $1.5 million. Of the 110 lots on offer, 70 percent were sold.

NEW YORK—Saffronart’s online auction of modern and contemporary Indian art on March 11–12 brought in a total of $1.5 million. Of the 110 lots on offer, 70 percent were sold.

Like that of most other auction houses, Saffronart’s sale volume has dropped sharply as buyers hold back in the midst of the economic crisis. The auctioneer’s previous modern and contemporary Indian sale, held last June (ANL, 7/22/08), took in a total of $9.7 million for 140 works offered, including two lots that topped $1 million each.

The top lot at the most recent sale was Nations, 2007, a large acrylic-on-canvas triptych by N. S. Harsha (b. 1969) depicting dozens of flags, each representing a different country, draped on individual tables next to sewing machines. Estimated at $260,420/312,500, the work sold for $201,250. An untitled 2007 oil painting by Subodh Gupta (b. 1964) of the artist’s signature stainless steel pots sold for $158,700 (estimate: $187,500/250,000).

Among the modern offerings that brought strong prices, Vasudeo S. Gaitonde’s painting Two Faces, 1956, brought $129,375, surpassing the estimate of $80,000/100,000; and an untitled painting of a female musician by Maqbool Fida Husain was sold for $117,875 against an estimate of $80,000/100,000. Works by many of these same artists also dominated the Indian and Southeast Asian art offerings at Sotheby’s sale on March (see story, page 5).

Other top prices included the $132,250 paid for an untitled, colorful abstract landscape, 1994, by Akbar Padamsee, which was still under the estimate of $150,000/180,000, and the $106,375 paid for an untitled painting by Manjit Bawa (1941–2008) depicting a solitary male torso against a crimson background, which also missed its $125,000 low estimate.

“The results of the auction mirror our assessment of the art market,” Saffronart CEO and cofounder Dinesh Vazirani remarked after the sale. He went on to note “a renewed interest in works of high quality and provenance.”

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