SELLS FOR inr 23,70,25,000 (us$3.7MILLION)




tOTALS INR 26,10,70,000 (us$4.1 MILLION)

Mumbai – This evening in Mumbai, Christie’s first auction in India totaled INR 96,59,37,500 (USD$15,455,000), doubling pre-sale expectations and selling 98% by lot. This auction marks an historic moment for Christie’s, building on a 20-year history in India, and a decade of global market leadership in Modern Indian Art through sales in New York and London.

At this evening’s auction buying came from around India, across Asia, the US and Europe, reflecting both the world-wide interest in this category and Christie’s global reach. The pre-sale exhibitions during the past two weeks in New Delhi and Mumbai attracted many visitors and interest from both new and existing clients was so great at this evening’s auction that an extra room had to be prepared to accommodate clients. The sale was held at The Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai.

It has been a true privilege to be in India where we have been honoured by the warm welcome. The response to our sale and events has been extraordinary,” said Steven Murphy, Chief Executive Officer, Christie’s. “Holding an auction in India for the first time is the realization of a long held dream for Christie’s. We are delighted to have welcomed several thousand members of the public and clients over the course of the month. Our mission remains to serve our clients with exceptional works of art and to serve artists and all those passionate about art by convening them with our global network. We hope to continue to share the vibrant creativity we have experienced in Mumbai with a global audience as we grow our operations here in India.”

The sale’s cover lot, Vasudeo S. Gaitonde’s (1924-2001), 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 has been requested by the Guggenheim Museum in New York for their retrospective of the artist to be held next year.

Tyeb Mehta’s (1925-2009) Mahisasura sold for INR 19,78,25,000 (US$1,918,903) and was the second highest selling lot of this evening. It is a seminal masterwork form the Mahisasura series painted in the 1990s and depicts the Devi in her most potent form as a lion locked in a struggle with the buffalo-demon. Painted in 1994, this painting exhibits Mehta’s mastery of composition and economy of line and colour. The acrylic on canvas was estimated at INR7,50,00,000-9,50,00,000.

Within the sale, the 52 lots of predominantly modernist works from the Estate of Kekoo and Khorshed Gandhy, Mumbai-based gallerists and among the most significant figures in the development of India’s modern art scene, collectively made INR 26,10,70,000 (USD$4,177,120) and were led by Tyeb Mehta’s Falling Figure which sold for INR 9,86,25,000 (USD$3,165,200).

Works by six of the nine modern Indian artists whose works are defined as ‘National Art Treasures’, deemed of such national importance to Indian culture that they are non-exportable, were also included among the 83 lots. Six artists from this group were represented  - Rabindranath, Abanindranath and Gaganendranath Tagore, Nandalal Bose, Jamini Roy and Amrita Sher-Gil and these works collectively sold for INR 7,70,00,000 (US$1,232,000).

The influence of Vasudeo S. Gaitonde’s abstract paintings on modern and contemporary Indian art is hard to overestimate. His minimalist landscapes, reminiscent in turns of Kandinski, Rothko and Malevich, were a bold departure in the history of Indian art, given what critic Geeta Kapur has described as his contemporaries’ “commit[ment] to augmenting its iconographic resources.” But he also exerted a direct influence as a teacher on many artists who would become important in their own right—artists like Nasreen Mohamedi, who refined Gaitonde’s minimalism to the sparest, cleanest gestures.

Gaitonde was famously private. He gave few interviews, wrote next to nothing about his art, and only produced five or six paintings a year. Very little is known about his personal life. As the late art critic Dnyaneshwar Nadkarni explained in 1983, “Gaitonde isolated himself very early in his career from everything in his environment which he considered irrelevant to [his] intensity as a painter."

A few details emerge: He received a diploma from the Sir J.J. School of Art in 1948, and was awarded first prize at the Young Asian Artits’ Exhibition in Tokyo in 1957, where he may also have traveled (experts are still unsure). What’s clear is that the American Abstract Expressionists made a significant impact on his artistic vision: In 1964 he was awarded a Rockefeller Foundation grant and spent several years in New York, where he was profoundly influenced by painters like Mark Rothko. In 1971, he was given the Padma Shri, one of India’s highest civilian awards. 

Gaitonde was born in Maharashtra, India, in 1924, and passed away in New Delhi in 2001. While he lived, his work appeared in solo shows in New Delhi, Mumbai and New York; posthumously, his work has appeared in dozens of group shows around the world, and, at the time this was written, was scheduled for a solo retrospective at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, in November, 2014.

In addition to the record for Vasudeo S. Gaitonde, 9 further records were broken including for Manjit Bawa, Nasreen Mohamedi, Ganesh Pyne, Bhupen Khakhar and Pochkhanawala.

Hugo Weihe, International Director of Asian Art and Sonal Singh, Head of Sale, at Christie's said: “With the two top works selling tonight for more than $3 million, this sale proves that Mumbai can already stand alongside London and New York in the global market for Indian art. Our first auction in India has illustrated the huge appetite domestically for works by Indian artists. The saleroom was packed out and buyers who came to the sale had to compete hard with bidders from all over the world, joining online and on the telephone. This is an extraordinary start for Christie’s in India and indicates there will be exciting times ahead for the industry as a whole and art enthusiasts everywhere.”

 Notes to editors:

*The previous record for a Modern Indian Work of Art was set by Sayed Haider Raza’s, Saurashtra

which sold for £2,393,250 GBP ($3,454,510 / INR 164,054,894) at Christie’s London in June 2010. The selling price for lot 63 by V.S. Gaitonde in today’s sale was higher in INR and US$ but not in GB£.

About Christie’s and Indian Art

Christie’s has consistently offered the finest Indian works of art since James Christie, the charismatic founder of the firm, offered ‘four fine India pictures painted on glass’ in his inaugural sale on 5 December, 1766. Growing interest in Indian Art led to the opening of Christie’s first representative office in India in 1994. The following year, Christie’s held its first stand-alone Indian Art sale in London. Today Christie’s holds regular sales in New York and London and is the market leader in all categories of Indian art. Collectors from India make an increasingly important contribution to the global art market across international categories. This year alone, Christie’s has lent its support and international reach to the India Art Fair in January and to the Homelands exhibition, organised by the British Council and exhibited in New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Bengaluru.

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