Amrita Sher-gil’s painting second-highest priced Indian artwork to be auctioned
A 1938 oil on canvas by Amrita Sher-gil titled In the Ladies Enclosure, has become the second-most expensive work by an Indian artist after VS Gaitonde’s 1961 canvas, Untitled.
The 21.5 x 31.5” canvas fetched ₹37.8 crore ($ 5.14 million) at the summer live sale of Mumbai auction house Saffronart held on Tuesday. The amount, which was a little less than the higher bid limit of ₹40 crore, includes buyer’s premium.
The work broke multiple records; besides being the second-highest sum for any Indian artwork sold at an auction, it is also the highest sum fetched by the any of Sher-gil’s works at an auction till date.
According to Saffronart’s website, the provenance of the canvas was traced back to the Majithia family collection. It was acquired by the present owner (unnamed, who put it up for auction) in 2005 from the Vadehra Art Gallery in New Delhi.
A 1961 Gaitonde oil on canvas sold for ₹39.98 crore at a Saffronart auction held earlier this year in March; Arvind Vijaymohan, chief executive officer of art market intelligence and advisory firm Artery India confirmed that this record has not been challenged as yet in auction sales.
Sher-gil’s work, which depicts women and a girl performing different chores, was made after the artist returned to India after studying and practising art in Paris. Her emphasis on domesticity and the quotidian, particularly of the women inhabitants of a home, revitalised Indian art. The modern Indian artist is deemed a national treasure, which implies that her artworks cannot be taken out of the country.
“It is a rare work of the artist from that particular period to emerge in the art market and we are honoured to have played a part in creating a new benchmark with this auction,” Saffronart co-founder and chief executive officer Dinesh Vazirani said in a post-auction press release issued on Wednesday.