NEW YORK—The continuing momentum of the market for contemporary Asian and Indian art was underscored by sales at Christie’s in London and Hong Kong last month. Christie’s London sale of modern and contemporary Indian art on May 21 realized £4.5 million ($8.8 million).
In Hong Kong a week later, sales of Asian contemporary art and modern and contemporary Southeast Asian art—part of a larger series of Asian art sales that included jewelry and classical Chinese paintings—fetched HK$325.6 million ($42.3 million). Several prominent Indian artists and three young contemporary artists—Subodh Gupta, Justin Ponmany and Talha Rathore—achieved record prices in the U.K. sale. In Hong Kong, auction records were set for ten Indian artists and one Pakistani artist.
In London the top lot was La Terre, 1985, by Indian artist Syed Haider Raza, which sold for £720,000 ($1.42 million) to an Indian private buyer (estimate: £400,000/600,000). Next came the painting Untitled, 1968, by abstractionist Vasudeo S. Gaitonde (1924-2001), which was acquired by an Indian private buyer for £490,400, or $967,559 (estimate: £450,000/550,000). Indian artist Maqbool Fida Husain, who was at the auction, saw his Untitled, circa 1960, sell for £132,000, or $260,436 (estimate: £100,000/150,000).
“The auction was packed and buzzing with numerous private and trade clients, some traveling from India for the sale,” reports Yamini Mehta, director of modern and contemporary Indian art at Christie’s.
Atul Dodiya Record at Hong Kong Auction
At the spring sale of Asian contemporary art in Hong Kong on May 27, a selection of 25 Indian and Pakistani works totaled $1.03 million. Says Mehta: “The sale reaffirms the vibrancy of the Indian contemporary art market, with new collectors bidding robustly across the globe, vying for top-quality works.” She notes that “the sale appeals to the international audience, as witnessed by record sales by Indian artists Atul Dodiya, T.V. Santhosh, and Jiten Thukral and Sumir Tagra.”
After spirited bidding Vishal, a 1989 oil on canvas by Dodiya, fetched HK$3.1 million ($405,600) from a private Indian buyer; and Santhosh’s Hundred Square Feet of Curses, 2005, earned HK$780,000 ($101,400) from a private Taiwanese buyer. Somnium Genero—Aeris 05, by Thukral and Tagra, 2006, took $85,800 from a French private buyer.
Among other records set: Portrait of the Artist and His Friends, 1991, by Chinese artist Yue Minjun (b. 1962), sold for HK$20.5 million ($2.66 million) to a private Asian buyer; Mask Series 1996 No. 8, by Zeng Fanzhi, fell for HK$12.6 million, or $1.64 million (estimate: HK$1/1.5 million)—another auction record; And Blue Sea, 1998, by Liu Ye (b. 1964), set a record when it garnered HK$7.9 million ($1.03 million).
The modern and contemporary Southeast Asian art sale also set two auction records: Women Around the Lotus Pond, 1950-51, by Belgian artist Adrien-Jean Le Mayeur de Merprès, brought HK$17.1 million ($2.22 million); and Street Musician, by Indonesian artist Hendra Gunawan (1918-1983), sold for HK$3.6 million ($468,000).
Ruoh-Ling Keong, vice president and head of the Southeast Asian pictures department at Christie’s Hong Kong, says the sale saw “vibrant and enthusiastic bidding . . . indicating a coming of age for contemporary Southeast Asian art. The robust results signify a continued rise in interest, with an unprecedented level of appreciation from collectors worldwide.”