*Highest Modern & Contemporary South Asian Art Auction Total Since March 2017 in New York*
33% of All Sold Works Acquired Online
25% of All Bidders Age 40 or Younger
Pioneer Indian Abstractionist
Vasudeo S. Gaitonde’s Rare Painting
Sells for $1.8 Million
Raja Ravi Varma’s
Untitled (Swami Vishvamitra in Meditation)
Depicting Famous Sage in Indian History Brahmarshi Vishvamitra
Forerunner of Minimalist Abstract Art in India
*World Auction Record for the Artist*
WORKS BY NEO-TANTRA ARTISTS ARE 100% SOLD
ADDITIONAL WORLD AUCTION RECORDS ACHIEVED FOR:
Amarnath Sehgal PT Reddy Mohan Samant Benode Behari Mukherjee
NEW YORK, 17 March 2020 – Sotheby’s Modern & Contemporary South Asian Art auction totaled $4.8 million yesterday in New York – exceeding its $4.7 million high estimate, with a strong 91.1% of lots sold. The sale saw robust online bidding, with 33% of all sold works acquired online. Bidders from 13 countries competed in yesterday’s auction, with 20% of all bidders participating in a Sotheby’s sale for the first time.
Commemorating the 25th anniversary of Modern & Contemporary South Asian Art sales at Sotheby’s worldwide, this result marks the highest total for the category since 2017 in New York. Several notable auction records were established, including for pioneering Indian abstractionist Nasreen Mohamedi.
Manjari Sihare-Sutin, Head of Sotheby’s Modern & Contemporary South Asian Sales in New York, said: “We are extremely pleased with the results from today’s sale, which saw strong demand from international collectors and institutions – many new to auction – and reinforced the health of this market. A curated section on Neo-Tantra was 100% sold, and a diverse selection of works from the Bengal School of Art performed exceptionally well. Significant prices were achieved for works by the Progressive School bastion V.S. Gaitonde, Indian National Treasure Artist Raja Ravi Varma, and a rare canvas by Nasreen Mohamedi, highlighting the range of artists as the market continues to expand and grow.”
Yesterday’s auction was led by Vasudeo Santu Gaitonde’s Untitled from 1963, which achieved $1.8 million – surpassing its $1.5 million high estimate. Renowned as India’s pioneering abstract artist, Gaitonde painted only five or six works a year, with each painting representing a specific and dedicated relationship of form, color, and consciousness. Gaitonde began his career as a figurative artist, however, by the early 1960s, he began to work towards stillness in his paintings through a meticulous approach to line and color. Some of Gaitonde’s early non-objective paintings evoke the feeling of a landscape, especially his canvases of the early 1960s where gradations of color and geometric forms coalesce almost as a ‘horizon line’ as seen in the present work.
Indian National Treasure artist Raja Ravi Varma’s Untitled (Swami Vishvamitra in Meditation) fetched $860,000 (estimate $700/900,000). Formerly in the collection of German printer Fritz Schleicher, the present work depicts Brahmarshi Vishvamitra in meditation. A former king who renounced his throne to become a famous and much venerated sage in Indian history, Vishvamitra is credited with writing a significant part of the Rigveda, the oldest and most sacred collection of Vedic hymns composed in Sanskrit. In this painting, the artist melds the tenets of Indian mythology while incorporating the contrast, detailing and color palette of an Old Master painting.
The auction was highlighted further by Nasreen Mohamedi’s Untitled, circa 1960s, which reached $437,500 – well-exceeding its $300,000 high estimate. The work was originally acquired in Bombay by American patrons Peggy and Robert Matthews in 1963. Celebrated as a pioneer of minimalist abstract art in India, Mohamedi developed a form of abstraction while working within a community of artists in India, including V.S. Gaitonde. In its commitment to abstraction and composition, the present canvas reveals Mohamedi’s indebtedness to her mentor and fellow-artist Gaitonde.