Works of Tyeb Mehta, other modernists fetch premium at Mumbai auction
How much would you pay for Indian art? Last evening, Falling Bird, a 2002-2004 canvas by Tyeb Mehta, fetched Rs 6.96 crore. The late artist took three years to complete the painting — human-bird hybrid. It was one of 65 masterpieces auctioned at Saffronart’s Evening Sale. The auction took place at The Four Seasons hotel, Worli.
Going under the hammer were works by eminent modernists such as Jehangir Sabavala, Bhupen Khakhar, FN Souza and SH Raza. The paintings and sculptures were on display at the auction house’s gallery in Prabhadevi for 12 days.
While the winning bid for Falling Bird was made over the phone, prospective buyers bid in person and online from Kolkata, Bengaluru and New York.
“There has been a great level of interest in this sale,” said Hugo Weihe, CEO, Saffronart. “We’ve been able to source some exceptional works, which until now have only been part of private collections.”
Saffronart generated Rs27.6 crore through this auction. An untitled, signed work on paper by Jamini Roy was expected to fetch between Rs4 lakh and Rs6 lakh. But the bidding closed at Rs18 lakh. Most works, however, stayed within their estimated range.
Among prized paintings was Sabavala’s 1968 oil-on-canvas, The Star That Beckons. “This work drew me to this auction,” said Ushat Gulgule from Mumbai, who has been collecting artwork for the past 15 years. “I collect Sabavala’s works because they are rare.”
The stark, haunting landscape fetched Rs3.84 crore, against an estimated price of Rs3 crore.
Other works that generated interest were KG Subramanyan’s Janmashtami, a 2015 painting that celebrates birth of Krishna, which fetched Rs 1.74 crore. And SH Raza’s Rajasthan IV, a 1961 oil on board, that went for Rs 2.64 crore, over its estimate of Rs1.5 crore to Rs2 crore.
“A few years ago, art auctions only featured relatively known works and names. Now, it’s interesting to see that they’re focusing on lesser-known works. In this case, works by Tyeb Mehta and Meera Mukherjee. That’s exciting for me,” says Jesal Thacker, artist and founder, Bodhana Arts and Research Foundation, a non-profit that publishes books on art.