Rare self-portrait of Amrita Sher-Gil fetches record USD 2.9 million

Updated on Mar 20, 2015 05:07 PM IST

A rare self-portrait by Amrita Sher-Gil has sold for USD 2.92 million in Sotheby's New York auction, setting a new record for an Indian woman artist.

PTI | By, New Delhi

A rare self-portrait by Amrita Sher-Gil has sold for USD 2.92 million in Sotheby's New York auction, setting a new record for an Indian woman artist.

Sher-Gil's oil-on-canvas masterpiece fetched the highest total USD 2,920,000, well over the USD 1.2 - USD 1.8 million estimate for a South Asian Art sale at Sotheby's since 2007, auctioneers said in a statement today.

Born in Budapest to an Indian Sikh father and Hungarian mother, Sher-Gil painted the portrait in 1932 when she was 19. It is one of the very few of her canvases that are in private circulation outside India, where the artist is among artists declared as national treasures by government and whose works cannot be taken out of the country.

Sotheby's two sales of Indian Art on March 17-18, raked in a total of USD 16,632,875 comfortably exceeding high estimate.

Auctioneers said the Modern and Contemporary South Asian Art sale brought in USD 10,589,000, the highest total for a Sotheby's sale in the category since 2007 and a 60% increase on the equivalent sale last season, a result that was largely driven by the entry of several major new collectors into the market.

Yamini Mehta, International Head of Indian and South Asian Art at Sotheby's commented, "These sales were ground-breaking for Indian and South Asian Art at Sotheby's."

"...the appearance at auction of a work by Amrita Sher-Gil is an historic event and so it is fitting that it led our best sale result in a decade," she said.

Priyanka Mathew, Head of Sales of Modern and Contemporary South Asian Art at Sotheby's New York added, "It was thrilling to be the auctioneer for the historic Sher-Gil painting which fetched close to USD 3 million.

"The price is a record for both the artist and also for any Indian female painter. The spirited bidding on the 'Self-Portrait' came from three continents and lasted over ten minutes to result in a landmark price," she said.

At the same auction an oil-on-canvas by V S Gaitonde fetched USD 2,290,000 followed by an untitled work by Jagdish Swaminathan from his bird tree and mountain series, which went under the hammer for USD 2,290,000.

A Rabindranath Tagore self untitled portrait went to an European private buyer for USD 225,000.

"... The group of Rabindranath Tagore drawings which have been in same private collection since being purchased from artist was a further highlight and yet again demonstrated that collectors will extend well over high estimate for well priced works that have not appeared previously at auction," Mehta said.

The sale Indian, Himalayan and Southeast Asian Works of Art Including Property from the Estate of Dr Claus Virch fetched USD 6,014,625 with prices for Indian miniatures, Indian sculpture, and Himalayan works-of-art.

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