NEW YORK—London sales of South Asian modern and contemporary art, at Sotheby’s and Christie’s last week, presented a mixed picture of the market with widely uneven results.
At the Sotheby’s June 8 sale of South Asian modern contemporary art and Indian miniature paintings, just 37, or 42 percent, of the 88 lots offered found buyers. By value, the auction was 23.5 percent sold, one of the lowest such rates seen in any category. The sale realized a total of £546,800 ($844,915).
Sotheby’s specialist Holly Brackenbury said: “The Indian art market is undergoing a period of adjustment after the heights it reached several years ago. It is still developing and, at present, collectors are highly selective.”
She added that “there was strong pre-sale interest in many of the paintings and we anticipate that this will translate into post-sale offers for several key works.”
Still, most of the top lots met or exceeded estimates, including a work by modern master Francis Newton Souza, whose painting Goan Landscape, 1964, sold for £68,450 ($105,769), well above the £30,000/40,000 estimate; and A. Balasubramaniam’s fiberglass and acrylic sculpture titled Gravity, 2006, which sold for £43,250 ($66,830) on an estimate of £20,000/30,000.
An untitled oil painting by Sri Lanka-born artist George Keyt sold for £16,250 ($25,110), compared with an estimate of £8,000/12,000.
The remaining top lots, even those by the most prominent painters of this genre, fell within relatively modest presale estimates. Ram Kumar’s 1956 untitled oil sold for £55,250 ($85,372), on an estimate of £50,000/70,000, and Sayed Haider Raza’s oil Ville d’Avray, 1962, sold for £34,850 ($53,850).
At Christie’s South Asian modern and contemporary art sale, the house offered 112 lots. Of these, 86, or 77 percent, found buyers. The auction was also 77 percent sold by value.
The top-selling lot was Tyeb Mehta’s Untitled (Mahishasura), 1996, which sold for £1.4 million ($2.1 million) on an estimate of £1.2 million/1.8 million.
Raza also figured in the top lots here, with Clocher du Village, 1958, taking £481,250 on an estimate of £450,000/600,000, while another of his works, an untitled 1980 painting, sold for £121,250 ($188,544) on an estimate of £120,000/180,000. Also by Raza, Untitled (Crucifixion), 1957, sold for £103,250 ($160,554) on an estimate of £40,000/60,000, and Village au fond rouge, 1958, also cleared its £40,000/60,000 estimate to sell for £85,250 ($132,564).
Hugo Weihe, Christie’s international director of Asian art, said the sale “performed well across the board with works which were fresh to the market and from private collections securing strong prices.” Weihe said the auction “demonstrated the breadth of demand for this category with collectors, institutions and dealers from South East Asia, India, the Middle East to Europe and the United States bidding throughout.”
Among the more contemporary works, Bharti Kher’s Border in Red, 2009, comprised of bindis on aluminum panel, sold for £85,250 ($132,564), compared with an estimate of £50,000/70,000. Two works by Manjit Bawa also figured in the top lots, each selling for £85,250 ($132,564): Untitled (Goat with Aubergines), 1992, which had an estimate of £60,000/80,000; and Untitled (Acrobat), 1988, which had been estimated at £40,000/60,000.