Subodh Gupta’s work goes unsold at Sotheby’s — art frat divided over the implications.
Artists and critics
After celebrated artists such as Subodh Gupta, MF Husain and SH Raza went unsold at the Sotheby’s auction on Tuesday, many feel that they may have run their course. Talking about Gupta’s trademark use of utensils, art critic Alka Raghuvanshi says, “We find these utensils in all the galis of India. Who will pay so much for them. What is his contribution to these installations as an artist.” Artist Tarun Jung Rawat says Indians promote select artists without understanding what is in demand. “The bubble has burst,” he adds.“ Artists such as Husain and Raza sell because of their PR machinery, not because of their artistic merit,” says artist Pranava Prakash.
For Delhi’s art galleries, Subodh Gupta can do no wrong. Despite the auction shocker, they feel, he’ll remain among the highest selling Indian contemporary artists. “There are 4-5 auctions in June, so buyers are being picky. If a work is not sold it does not reflect on the artist. Even great artists such as Picasso and Damien Hirst have gone unsold in the past,” says Parul Vadehra of the Vadehra Art Gallery.
For Sunaina Anand of Art Alive Gallery, the problem is that auction prices are unrealistic. “Raza and Husain are legends. One auction cannot define their worth. Sotheby’s prices were unrealistic and over hyped,” she adds. “Auction is not a reflection on Gupta’s style. The artist has always maintained his level of creativity,” says Virender Kumar Jain of Kumar Art Gallery. “This is a transitory phase as buyers of contemporary art are low-key since the recession,” says artist Pooja Iranna.
No takers for Indian art at Tuesday’s auction
Hungry God, an installation by one of India’s most prolific artists — Subodh Gupta — went unsold at the Modern and Contemporary South Asian Art auction held by international auction house Sotheby’s on Tuesday night. The work was priced at a base price of Rs 89 lakh and was expected to fetch more than Rs 2.5 lakh, but saw no takers at all. That’s not all, even a work by MF Husain (The Sixth Seal) remained unsold. Though one painting by SH Raza (Rue Des Fosses St Jacques) sold for Rs 2.5 crore, another work of his (Bindu) had no takers. Among the artists who fared well were Jitish Kallat (his work Suffix fetched Rs 55 lakh), FN Souza (an untitled work sold for Rs 90 lakh) and Manjit Bawa (his work sold for Rs 1.1 crore)