Vaudeo Gaitonde, Raja Ravi Varma lead sale of Sotheby’s Asia auction which raised $55 million

Collectors go for high quality works.

Vasudeo S. Gaitonde’s Untitled (Courtesy of Sotheby’s)

By Sujeet Rajan

NEW YORK: Vasudeo S. Gaitonde’s ‘Untitled’ sold for $2,770,000, to lead all of Sotheby’s Asia Week New York auctions, which raised altogether $55,056,743. The auction of Indian and Southeast Asian art, including property from the estate of Dr. Claus Virch, raised $13,865,063; Indian, Himalayan and Southeast Asian Works of Art totaled $5,679,688, while Modern and Contemporary South Asian Art – despite a high number of works going unsold – raked in $8,185,375.

From Amrita Sher-Gil’s ‘Untitled’ (In the Garden) to a Western Tibet Thangka depicting Panjarnata Mahakala, collectors and visitors were treated to an impressive range of property spanning a thousand years over the course of the week-long exhibition at Sotheby’s New York headquarters.

Gaitonde’s ‘Untitled’ was commissioned by Air India to commemorate the addition of transatlantic flights to their schedule; this work of art is the largest-known canvas by the artist.

The Modern and Contemporary South Asian Art sale featured an extraordinary lineup of India’s Modern Masters, including works by National Treasure artists. An untitled portrait of a lady in a russet and gold sari by India’s earliest oil painter, Raja Ravi Varma, received extremely enthusiastic bidding, going for almost 2.5 times its estimate, selling at $586,000.

Bhupen Khakhar’s oil on canvas from 1970 ‘Church and Gardner’, which was estimated between $200,000-$300,000, sold for $490,000. Sher-Gil’s ‘Untitled’ (In the Garden) actually sold less than the estimated price, though.

Of the 111 lots up for sale in the Modern and Contemporary South Asian Art auction, 43 didn’t go under the hammer.

Yamini Mehta, International Head of Department, Indian and South Asian Art, Sotheby’s said, “Our sale built on the growing western interest in Modern and Contemporary South Asian Art with great results for artists such as Nasreen Mohamedi and Bhupen Khakhar who are soon to be the subjects of exhibitions at the newly-opened Met Breuer, and Tate Modern, respectively. They joined the likes of V.S. Gaitonde and Amrita Sher-Gil at the highest echelons of the auction market.”

With international participation, including active bidding from China, high quality works of art and from private collections performed exceptionally well. An 18th century gilt-bronze group depicting Vajrabhairava and Vajravetali from a private Californian collection doubled the low estimate of $300,000, selling for $790,000.

A polished black stone figure depicting a Jina, dated from 1096 C.E., formerly in the collection of Sir William Earnshaw-Cooper, was conservatively estimated to attract museums and institutions. It saw some of the most frenzied bidding both in the room and on the telephones, driving up the final price to $670,000 (estimate $20/30,000).

Other highlights of the sale included the cover lot – a circa 12th Century miniature shrine of the Buddha surrounded by scenes from his life, which sold for a total of $346,000 against a $100/150,000 estimate.

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