Sotheby's first dedicated sale in New York of works by young Indian contemporaries, including works by Atul Dodiya and Jitish Kallat, fetched an astounding $1,818,780 - an all-time high.
The sale featured 58 lots by young cutting-edge artists in a variety of media and went far beyond the high estimate of $1.5 million.
Artists whose works set records were Jitish Kallat and Sudarshan Shetty. The sale was 97.7 per cent sold by value and 93.1 per cent sold by lot. Of the 58 lots offered, only four failed to find buyers.
"Today's results of our inaugural sale affirm that Indian contemporary art deserves its own spotlight in New York. The sale attracted participation from around the world from new and established buyers," said Zara Porter Hill, director and head of Sotheby's Indian and Southeast Asian department.
The cover lot of the sale, Atul Dodiya's "Mirage", an installation from his famous "Shutter" series of 2002, sold for $216,000 to the International Trade (estimated at $180,000-220,000). The work was produced on a shopkeeper's shutter, which is commonplace in the commercial districts of Mumbai and under normal circumstances bears advertisements for everyday products. The artist depicts Mahatma Gandhi on its corrugated exterior.
Shibu Natesan's "Existence of Instinct-4" (2004) brought $156,000 (est $120,000-180,000) from a private Indian collector. Characteristic of the artist's signature style, it was observed by Bhavna Kakar in Art & Deal 2005 as: "[Natesan] works through a particular method of startling photographic simulation of the real...He chooses to work as a realist using two strategies - directness and detachment. His details tie his subjects to a concrete reality but this perfection adds a certain detachment or emotional estrangement."
Ravinder G Reddy's iconic "Head-06", a gold gilded work painted on polyester resin fibre glass, fetched $156,000 (est $100,000-150,000), selling to a private Indian collector. Reddy's monumental female heads are inspired by the forms of classical Indian sculpture, yet their iconography is firmly rooted in the urban setting of contemporary India.
Works by Subodh Gupta also sold well. An Untitled work commanded $114,000 (est $35,000-45,000) and went to a private Indian collector, while "Feast for Hundred and Eight Gods" (2005), a sculpture that uses stainless steel utensils and is the first of an edition of three, sold for $72,000 to the American Trade (est $40,000-60,000).
Looking at both Christie's and Sotheby's sales in the past week, the figures tell a fine story. Following the record total for its Asian sales in New York achieved last season, Sotheby's once again led the New York Asian art sales, totalling $45.35 million (est $38.8-54.3 million).
Christie's Asia Week realised nearly $35 million, the highest total to date for an Asia Week that has not included exceptional single owner sales.
The buying cycle throughout the week for both houses indicated various dynamics but the traditional formula of top quality, rarity and provenance attracting multiple bidders still held firm ground.
The most notably vibrant markets were Chinese Art and Modern and Contemporary Indian Art, two categories that have witnessed important additions to the buyer base with the emergence of the overseas Chinese and Indian collectors.
With back-to-back sales both auction houses are arching for fine works, great prices and world records. Figures this time show Sotheby's having an edge over Christie's as a split sale of Indian art seems to have paid off high dividends.