The evolution, stabilization and expansion of the Indian art market

These “newer” names – new to the top of the market pyramid, but definitely established names that continue to be widely respected and cherished long after their demise – have been attracting a lot of interest from buyers for some time. Some of these names that have done extremely well in these sales are NS Bendre, Jagadish Swaminathan and Ganesh Pyne. Jehangir Sabavala, however, is no exception as he had become one of the top wholesalers even in his lifetime. It is heartening to see the names of KCS Paniker and Gulam Mohammed Sheikh in these lists as they are the masters who have long deserved to be here.

As we read this art analysis, Christie’s has just concluded its modern and contemporary South Asian art auction in New York and discussions have reportedly begun to put the sale to rest. But before we get to this seminal sale, we need to pause and analyze the two very important Indian art sales that have concluded in recent days, which, together with the Christie’s sale and the Sotheby’s Indian art sale of October 25, will set the tone for the market in the months to come.

Pundole’s Fine Art Sale was held in Mumbai on September 13 while Saffronart’s Evening Sale was held in New Delhi on September 17. At both auctions, the works were expected to go well before sales met expectations, either matching the highest pre-auction estimates or significantly exceeding them in some cases.

In terms of results, here are the top-selling works at Saffronart auctions:

1. FN Souza’s ‘Broken Head’, 1957, fetched Rs 12 crore (estimate: Rs 8 crore – Rs 12 crore)

2. NS Bendre’s ‘Untitled’, 1983, went for Rs 7.5 crore (estimate: Rs 5 crore – Rs 7 crore)

3. “Of Cloud and Air II” by Jehangir Sabavala, grossed Rs 7.2 crore (estimate: Rs 3.5 crore – Rs 4.5 crore)

4. Akbar Padamsee’s ‘Metascape’, 1975, fetched Rs 6.84 crore (estimate: Rs 2.75 crore – Rs 3.75 crore)

5. SH Raza’s ‘Jaipur’, 1976, went for Rs 6.6 crore (estimate: Rs 6 crore – Rs 8 crore)

6. MV Dhurandhar’s ‘Untitled’, 1934, went for Rs 4.8 crore (estimate: Rs 3 crore – Rs 5 crore)

7. MF Husain’s ‘Airavat’ went for Rs 4.5 crore (estimate: Rs 3.5 crore – Rs 4.5 crore)

There were quite a few canvases that fetched prices above Rs 1 crore, with signatures from artists such as Jagdish Swaminathan (Rs 3.60 crore), SH Raza (Rs 3.48 crore), Prabhakar Barwe (Rs 3.36 crore), NS Bendre (Rs 2.16 crore). crore) B. Prabha, MF Husain, Manjit Bawa, Jogen Chowdhury and Rameshwar Broota (each at Rs 1 crore+).

On the other hand, the most sold works at the Pundole auction were the following:

1. “And Wilt Thou Leave Me Thus” by Jehangir Sabavala, 1961, grossed Rs 4.2 crore (estimate: Rs 1 crore – Rs 2 crore)

2. Ganesh Pyne’s ‘Before The Pillar’, 1972, fetched Rs 3 crore (estimate: Rs 1 crore – Rs 2 crore)

3. NS Bendre’s ‘Untitled’, 1968, went for Rs 1.6 crore (estimate: Rs 60 lakh – Rs 80 lakh)

4. KCS Paniker’s ‘Words and Symbols Series’, 1968, fetched Rs 85 lakh (estimate: Rs 18 lakh – Rs 22 lakh)

5. ‘Himalaya’ by Nicholas Roerich, 1938, sold for Rs 75 lakh (estimate: Rs 40 lakh – Rs 60 lakh)

6. Gulam Mohammed Sheikh’s ‘Untitled’, early 1960s, fetched Rs 70 lakh (estimate: Rs 10 lakh – Rs 15 lakh)

7. Adi Davierwala’s ‘Head: Picasso’, 1953, went for Rs 65 lakh (estimate: Rs 20 lakh – Rs 30 lakh)

Both lists make one thing very clear – that the progressives are at their highest estimates, which are still higher than those estimated for any other artist/artist group, but it’s the newest names that now exceed their highest estimates. higher by a wide margin. For example, if we look at the results of Saffronart, it is evident that the progressives, or the reigning masters of modern Indian art, such as Souza, Husain and Raza, were not only the best lots before the sale at auction, but also managed to hit those price points. These are the other, more recent names that managed to exceed their estimates, both at Saffronart and Pundole auctions.

These “newer” names – new to the top of the market pyramid but definitely established names that continue to be widely respected and cherished long after their demise – have been attracting a lot of interest from buyers for some time. Some of these names that have done extremely well in these sales are NS Bendre, Jagadish Swaminathan and Ganesh Pyne. Jehangir Sabavala, however, is no exception as he had become one of the top wholesalers even in his lifetime. It is heartening to see the names of KCS Paniker and Gulam Mohammed Sheikh in these lists as they are the masters who have long deserved to be here.

Spotlight on NS Bendre

This column had spoken at length about the arrival of NS Bendre in the market spotlight on February 3, as the prices achieved by his works at auction this year – both at the seminal spring auctions and at current auctions – have established as the ‘artist’ to watch this year.

Works by the Indore-born artist (1910-1992) were also featured at the 2021 auction. In July 2021, at Saffronart’s Summer Live auction, his 1985 ‘Untitled’ oil on canvas had brought in Rs 1.67 crore; at Christie’s New York auction in September 2021, her ‘Untitled (Three Women)’ fetched Rs 1.6 crore; at Pundole’s auction in Mumbai in November 2021, his work ‘Jaisalmer Fort’ sold for Rs 5 crore, while three other works from the same auction sold for more than one crore each : “Kashmir Landscape” for Rs 3.8 crore, “A Bundi House” for Rs 3.5 crore and “Tarnetar Fair” for Rs 3.2 crore. In December 2021, at the Astaguru Modern Indian Art Auction, an ‘untitled’ oil by Bendre sold for the highest price ever for any of his works, selling for Rs 6 crore, on an estimate of Rs 1.5 – Rs 2 crore.

It would be interesting to keep an eye on this artist’s work as the market is clearly in love with the melodious simplicity of his work – his works have evolved over the decades of his career but whatever theme he painted on, his canvases carried a Bendre seal of lyricism. As a teacher and head of department at MS University, Baroda, Bendre also trained generations of Indian artists, who would grow up to carve out a place for themselves in the Indian art world in the future. Bendre painted across genres and themes, and is remembered for imbuing his art with a certain mood, which is perhaps the latest whim of the art market.

(The writer is a New Delhi-based journalist, editor and arts consultant. She blogs at www.archanakhareghose.com)

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