Amrita Sher-Gil's In the Ladies' Enclosure sets record, auctions for 37.8 cr

By | Written by Alfea Jamal, New Delhi
Jul 14, 2021 06:14 PM IST

Amrita Sher-Gil’s “In the Ladies' Enclosure” became the second most expensive Indian work of art sold globally, after fetching a whopping ₹37.8 crore at Saffronart’s recent Summer Live Auction.

Famed Indo-Hungarian artist Amrita Sher-Gil’s In the Ladies' Enclosure became the second most expensive Indian work of art sold globally, after fetching a whopping 37.8 crore at Saffronart’s recent Summer Live Auction and it set a world record for the highest value achieved by the artist in auction. The most expensive currently is a 1961 untitled work by V S Gaitonde that sold for 39.98 crores at another Saffronart sale earlier this year is the most expensive Indian art sold globally.

A 1938 oil on canvas by Amrita Sher-gil titled In the Ladies Enclosure. (Sourced)
A 1938 oil on canvas by Amrita Sher-gil titled In the Ladies Enclosure. (Sourced)

The oil on canvas created by Sher-Gil in 1938, a few years after her return to India, also set a world record for the artist. Amrita Sher-Gil was born in 1913 to Marie Antoinette Gottesmann, Hungarian-Jewish opera singer and Umrao Singh Sher-Gil Majithia, a Sikh scholar, photographer and aristocrat. Amrita went on to study art at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris in1929, and when she returned to India in 1934, her art and style had completely changed. She would now use her surroundings as inspiration and earthy tones would dominate her palette. The work was painted at the artist’s family estate in Gorakhpur and showcases a group of women engaged in myriad activities in a field.

Vivan Sundaram, Sher-Gil’s nephew and noted contemporary artist, is quoted on Saffronart's website as having said that the subjects of the painting were known to Amrita Sher-Gil and were members of the Majithia family who had been living in the family estate at Saraya for a long time. He also shared, “The bride’s profiled features are drawn schematically: on a pale pink skin colour, four notational lines for the eye and a tiny dot for the pupil. This is to de-romanticize the face—modern art’s agenda to get rid of the shackles of realist painting. Amrita’s flat application of paint and minimal drawing gives this person a remote presence, a quiet austerity.”

“The record-breaking sale of Amrita Sher-Gil’s seminal painting is a clear indication of her artistic merit and is a testament to her skill and talent. The work highlights her growth and development as an artist and is a culmination of years of coming into her own as an artist of repute,” said Saffronart CEO and co-founder Dinesh Vazirani in a statement. He added that the work was also a rare piece by the artist from that particular period to emerge in the art market.

Among other highlights of the sale that achieved a total value of 54.25 crore, were N S Bendre’s untitled painting from 1985, and F N Souza’s untitled work from 1956 that sold for 1.67 crore, and 5.04 crore respectively.

“It is the second-most expensive work sold by Bendre in auction. The highest work sold by the artist was for 1.98 crores at Saffronart’s Spring Live Auction earlier in March 2021,” the auction house said in a statement.

The sale also featured Ganesh Pyne’s ‘The Window’ (1997), which sold for over twice its lower estimate at 1.1 crore; S H Raza’s untitled watercolour on paper from the 1940s, which sold for over double its lower estimate at 33.51 lakh; B Prabha’s Untitled (1959), which sold for 26.46 lakh; and an untitled acrylic on paper by M F Husain which sold for 24 lakh.

(With PTI inputs)

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