Going, Going and Gone!
Art collectors and enthusiasts across the country are gearing up profusely for the much-touted event. Refrain from getting befuddled by the tag of sobriety that is usually attached with art. In the 20th year that Christie’s has been associated with the country, it makes it suitably dramatic.
Associate Director and Head of Sale for South Asian Modern and Contemporary Art at Christie’s Mumbai, and a curator at the auction, Sonal Singh give Verve the lowdown on the drama:
At the Christie’s auction
On December 11, Mumbai will once again take its place at the heart of the international art market as Christie’s holds its second auction in India. A total of 80 works by the leading names of India’s most important art movements, Vasudeo S. Gaitonde, the Tagores, Jamini Roy, Tyeb Mehta and Francis Newton Souza will be offered alongside 10 contemporary pieces donated by artists such as Subodh Gupta and Bharti Kher, sold to benefit Khoj, the artist residency programme established in India in 1997. The auction will also include significant works and items by some of India’s designated National Treasure artists, which are considered of such importance to the cultural development of India that they cannot leave the country.
The sale will without doubt attract as much interest as the first sale did, just a year ago.
The artwork that has broken all records
The first sale’s cover lot, Vasudeo S. Gaitonde’s, untitled work from 1979, sold for INR 23,70,25,000 (US$3,792,400), against a pre-sale estimate of INR 6,50,00,000-8,50,00,000. This was the highest price ever paid in India for a modern work of art and a world auction record for a work by the artist. The influence of Gaitonde’s abstract paintings on modern and contemporary Indian art cannot be over-stated and this work had been requested by the Guggenheim Museum in New York in 2013 for their ongoing retrospective of the artist, which opened September 2014.
3 items to watch out for
1. We are very proud to offer a remarkable pocket book belonging to the artist and philosopher Rabindranath Tagore. The journal, written in Bengali in Tagore’s hand, is a rare mixture of poetry, art and introspection. Covering the years 1889 to 1904, the pages reveal the private concerns of Tagore, from mundane land transactions and taxation, to a poem written as a guide for children learning to read. Tagore composed many of his major poems and songs in this book, including poems from the Sonar Tari (Golden Boat) series and 19 poems from the Swaran series. Nothing similar by the Nobel Laureate has been offered before for sale at auction in India, (estimate INR 40,00,000-60,00,000 / $65,200-97,800).
2. Tyeb Mehta’s mastery of composition and economy of line is evident in the painting Untitled (Falling Bull) which leads the sale. Showing the central figure of a bull on a rickshaw set against blocks of vivid colour, it showcases Mehta’s recurring motif: ‘For me, the trussed bull is a compulsive image’. The 1999 canvas is estimated at INR 8,50,00,000-12,00,00,000 ($1,385,500-1,956,00).
3. It is a special honour to offer one of the last works by the internationally recognised artist, Vasudeo S. Gaitonde, for sale just six weeks after the opening of a retrospective of his work at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. Offered by a private collector in India, it was painted in 1998, the last year he is known to have worked and only a few years before his death. Painted in vibrant hues of green, this painting is expected to sell for INR 5,50,00,000-7,00,00,000 ($896,500-1,141,000) and has never been offered for sale at auction before.
India on the contemporary art map of the world
Christie’s offers Indian Contemporary art across the continents: In America, Europe, Asia and in India with a stand-alone sale in Mumbai. India does a lot to promote their active art scene and artists with the Indian Art Fair, the upcoming Kochi biennale and more galleries showcasing Indian contemporary art at the major fairs, like Basel and Frieze. The Guggenheim retrospective of Gaitonde, the V&A museum in London showing the last works by Husain and New York galleries showcasing young Indian art. These are all important signs and steps of contemporary Indian art to be seen, admired and recognised by an international audience.
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