Indian art auction house, Saffronart’s recent sale closed with several record-breaking prices and multiple artist records. With 97 per cent lots sold, the sale achieved a total sales value of Rs143.58 crores ($17.29 million). Among these, 74 per cent lots sold at values above their higher estimates. The Story Teller, 1937, by Amrita Sher-Gil sold for Rs61.80 crore ($7.44 million). The work broke multiple world records, making it the highest value work of Indian art sold at auction worldwide, and creating a record for the highest value achieved for a work by the artist in auction globally.
The painting, The Story Teller, belongs to an important formative period in Sher-Gil’s body of work that saw her European and Indian influences merge into a unique artistic language. The work is also significant for being one of the few works she painted en plein air (in the open air).
The Story Teller was a favourite of Sher-Gil’s herself, who frequently mentioned it in her correspondence as a work of particular importance to her. The auction also featured childhood works by Sher-Gil that refer to her remarkable talent and keen sense of observation even at an early age. Untitled (lot 16) sold for Rs90 lakh ($108,434), nearly two times its higher estimate; Untitled (lot 14) sold for Rs72 lakh ($86,747), over two times it’s higher estimate; and Untitled (lot 15) sold for Rs50.04 lakh ($60,723), also surpassing its higher estimate. “Saffronart’s Evening Sale 2023 was a resounding success with most lots selling for well above their pre-sale estimates. We are delighted to have set multiple artist records in this sale. Most notably, the record price achieved by The Story Teller, Amrita Sher-Gil’s painting from 1937, is testament to the artist’s immense skill and enduring legacy,” says Dinesh Vazirani, Saffronart CEO and co-founder. “The work is among her most honest and expressive figurative compositions, from a pivotal time in her brief oeuvre, and we are honoured to have played a part in creating a new benchmark for Sher-Gil with this auction,” he adds.
Other notable highlights of the auction included Earth, 1986, a monumental work by S.H.Raza that sold for Rs19.2 crore ($2.31 million); and Red Figure, an early Expressionist work by Tyeb Mehta from the 1950s, which sold for Rs9 crore ($1.08 million). Untitled, a rare work by Jamini Roy, reminiscent of Tibetan thangka paintings, sold for Rs1.68 crores ($202,410), nearly three times its higher estimate.
Another exceptional lot that went under the hammer were 16 significant works from the distinguished collection of Jane and Kito de Boer. Underscored by a profound passion for Indian art, the couple’s collection spans critical periods of Indian art history and is among the largest of its kind in private hands. Early works by F.N.Souza witnessed competitive bidding: Untitled (Lovers), 1963, sold for Rs81.61 lakh ($98,313), over three times its higher estimate; Untitled, 1958, (lot 17) a pen and ink landscape, sold for Rs26.4 lakh ($31,807), over five times its higher estimate; and Untitled, 1952, (lot 18) one of Souza’s iconic ‘heads’ sold for Rs22.8 lakh ($27,470), over four times its higher estimate. Paysage, a 1961 landscape by Akbar Padamsee (lot 24) sold for Rs4.08 crore ($491,566); and The Hand (Self-Portrait), 1998 by Ganesh Pyne sold for Rs1.56 crore ($187,952), each surpassing their higher estimate. Two rare 1960s works by M.F.Husain — Family, 1961, and Untitled (Varanasi), circa 1960s (lot 23) - sold for Rs1.68 crore ($202,410) and Rs1.44 crore ($173,494) respectively. Visions of Ramdev - Ahalya in Red, 2001, by A Ramachandran sold for Rs1.44 crore ($173,494), over double its higher estimate.
The auction also set a record for A Ramachandran with Autobiography of an Insect in the Lotus Pond, 2000 (lot 31) selling for Rs4.44 crore ($534,940), nearly four times its higher estimate, making it the highest price achieved by the artist in auction globally.
Artist records were also set for K.K.Hebbar, Antonio Piedade da Cruz, S.Nandagopal and J.Maggs. K.K.Hebbar’s Untitled (Market Place), 1959 (lot 43), sold for Rs2.64 crore ($318,072), more than seven times its higher estimate, setting a world record for the highest price achieved by the artist in auction globally. Untitled by Goan artist Antonio Piedade da Cruz sold for Rs28.8 lakh ($34,699), breaking previous records to earn the highest price achieved by the artist at auction globally. Bird by sculptor S.Nandagopal sold for Rs22.8 lakh ($27,470), the highest price achieved by the artist in auction globally. Portrait of a Parsee Boy, 1884, by J.Maggs sold for Rs6 lakh ($7,299), the second highest price achieved by the artist at auction globally. All in all a very vibrant sale of sorts.